Fr Niall O’Brien

Fond Memories Bring the Light

By Fr Niall O’Brien

This article was written by the late Fr Niall O’Brien, founding editor of Misyon  for The Visayan Daily Star, a daily newspaper published in Bacolod City, where he had a weekly column. Father Niall died on 27 April 2004.

‘Fond memories bring the light of other days around me.’ So go the words of a 19th century Irish melody by Thomas Moore. That’s the way I feel when I remember Christmas as a child.

In my family there were strictly no presents given throughout the year, except birthdays and Christmas but particularly Christmas. I had many maiden aunts and bachelor uncles and they added their presents to those of Santa Claus so there was quite a pile waiting for us we new awoke at dawn on Christmas morning.

I recall not being able to sleep with the excitement. My parents could hardly go to bed at midnight before we would wake up. They used to leave three wineglasses and a tiny trace of sherry in the bottom of each glass to show that they had had a drink personally with Santa Claus. That third glass was proof that he had been there and it certainly convinced us.

I recall skating on the road outside our house at 2:30 am on my new roller skates on Christmas morning. I wonder what the tired neighbors thought because roller skates in those days were metal and made a terrible noise.

Make The World A Lighter Place To Live In

By Fr Niall O’Brien

More than thirty years ago when I arrived first in the Philippines and was learning the language in Kabankalan I was called out one night on a sick call. A young man had been stabbed. I can’t remember now what I did. I suppose I anointed him. But I do remember that as soon as it was clear that he was dead, his brother cried out to the heavens with a terrifying voice swearing that he would have revenge. I was profoundly shocked. Maybe I wouldn’t have been if I had known a little more about my own ancient Celtic heritage. Now I know that in the pre-Christian Irish tradition and even many years after St. Patrick Christianized Ireland, revenge was considered almost a sacred obligation.


Photo: Benjo Rulona

Marathon Missionary

by the editor, Fr. Niall O'Brien

There are various ways to do mission – some true and tried, some original and creative. The following article tells of a missionary who is truly creative and indeed successful in his approach to mission. Read on.

The recent World Cup soccer finals in Korea and Japan have turned all minds in Asia to sport.  The Philippines unfortunately was not represented as football is not our thing but athletics are and that gets me to thinking of a certain person.  You probably have not heard his name.  When it comes to sport he is one of the most successful sports coaches in Negros and maybe the Philippines.  A couple of years ago his little group of athletes won 6 golds, 5 silvers and broke 2 national records at the National Open Track and Field Championship in Manila.  Many top class Asian athletes competed at these games.  So that made the victory all the sweeter.  It was a fitting climax to a string of successes over many years.


Fr. O'Halpin with young athletes during the Centennial Palarong Pambansa in Bacolod City

Mission Is Alive And Well

By the Editor, Fr Niall O’Brien

One of the dreams I had when I was a student in St. Columban’s Seminary was a picture of myself on horse back riding over distant hills as I brought the Mass and the sacraments to people who had not had a priest for years. Dreams come true because that was exactly what I did and enjoyed so much in my first few years in the island of Negros in the Philippines. And indeed in some parts of the world, missionary priests are still doing precisely that, though in the island of Negros now young Filipino priests have taken over, roads have been built and the scene has quite changed.

Tears Were Shed In Candoni

By Fr Niall O’Brien MSSC

When I came first to the island of Negros, nearly forty years ago now, Candoni was one of the remotest towns in Negros. It was a grueling two-hour journey into the mountains from Kabankalan. You had a choice: to go via Salong and Tapi or via Dancalan and Tabo. Either way it was a long journey and a hard road which reminded one in parts of pictures of the surface of the moon. The young priests have it a lot easier nowadays. I recall going there by bus and frequently deciding to travel on the roof, seated on sacks of rice or fertilizer rather than the cramped quarters inside. The only problem was that when we passed under trees we sometimes had to lie out flat lest we be swept off the roof by a low lying branch. As we approached a townlet we had to climb in through the windows while the bus was still moving because it was illegal to be traveling on the roof. My short stay in Candoni was caused by the fact that Fr. Eugene McGeough, the parish priest, was away on holidays in Ireland and I was to take his place.

He Taught Us How To Love

By Niall O’ Brien mssc

Fr. Eddie Allen died at the Columban Headquarters in Batang, Himamaylan on Saturday the 3rd of March at 8:30 in the morning after a long illness in bed. He was 94 years old age and had worked in the Philippines for the last fifty years. I am sad that I was not in Negros and able to attend his funeral, as I was in Ireland getting a medical check up.

A Mystery

There is a little mystery about Eddie. He never learned to drive or at least he never drove here in the Philippines; he never built any churches or organized schools; he lived quite life in the Convento, going out when called but he was ever into initiating any evangelizing projects or social projects. Yet, he was the most popular and sought after Columban priest in Negros. I don’t think the word popular is the right word. He was not interested in popularity, maybe I sold say the “love”. The most loved Columban priest.

Something Good From Cebu

By Fr. Niall O’ Brien mssc

Last year my superior called and asked me would I speak at the Jubilee Mission Congress which took place in Cebu at the end of September. I would have like to refuse. But the request had come from the bishops to him. If it had come directly to me, I would have been able to give home in Ireland and it wouldn’t be easy to get back in time to prepare. But by coursing it through my superior it was difficult for me to refuse. I am glad now that I didn’t.

Will We Ever See His Like Again?

By Niall O’ Brien mssc

On Monday, October 9, at 7:00 pm at Daytona Beach in Florida, while crossing the road, Fr. Eamonn Gill was hit by a truck and killed instantly.

Fr. Aemonn spent nearly half a century here in the island of Negros. In a few days time he had planned to come back to the Philippines. Eamonn first came here in 1950. He was appointed to the parish of Ma-ao Central. The young, dedicated, active priest was immediately loved by the people and to this day families like the Hilados, the Wrights, the Aranetas, Coscolluelas and Hagads know him and love him.

Requiem For A Rainforest

A word from the Editor Fr. Niall O’ Brien mssc

Recently I read a very beautiful book called Vanishing Treasures of the Philippines. In 1907 we had a rainforest cover of 70%.  By 1992 it was down to 8%. And the sound of chainsaws still goes on. There are also maps of the island of Negros, equally depressing, showing a few tiny green spots in the north and in the far nothing else. Sad, sad. And still they chop with government approval. A future generation will surely weep over this and wonder what was wrong with us.

The First Belen

By Fr. Niall O’ Brien mssc

Christmas belens – big and small –will appear everywhere to remind us in a simple way of birth of Jesus. The first to introduce this devotion was none other than Francis of Assisi whose story we tell below.

Town of Assisi

The little hill town of Assisi is one of the most beautiful places in the world. It is a tourist destination but it’s always a special tourist who goes there. One who is at least half on pilgrimage because they are going to see the birth places of St. Francis and St. Clare. Not only the birth places but he places also where they lived their extraordinary lives, worked their miracles and died their holy deaths.

His biggest fear

St. Francis was born in Assisi in 1182. As a young man Francis wanted to become a knight in shining armor. He joined the battle between Assisi and Perugia only to be captured, ransomed back and get seriously sick. That illness was the beginning off a change in Francis’ life. Francis now turned towards God. One thing that Francis feared most of all was lepers. Whenever he saw a person with leprosy he kept his distance. Now that his heart was turning towards God he knew there was something wrong in the way he avoided them. So one day, as he was coming along the road he saw a leper. His first reaction was panic. But overcoming his panic, he walked up to the man and subduing his revulsion he embraced him and even kissed him. Francis looked into the leper’s eyes and said, “Peace and good.” And the leper replied, “Peace and good.” And that moment was a special moment in Francis’ journey towards God.

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