By Fr Patrick J. Baker
Since the Columbans first went to the Province of Zambales in 1951, around 70 of them served for varying lengths of time. The area became the Prelature of Iba in 1955 and a diocese in 1982. Columban Bishop Henry Byrne was bishop from 1956 until 1982. The last two Columbans to staff a parish there were Frs Fintan Murtagh and Donal O’Dea. They turned over the parish of the Immaculate Conception, Barretto, Olongapo City, to the Diocese of Iba on 20 May this year. That leaves just one Columban remaining in the Diocese – Fr Shay Cullen in the Preda Center.
The turn-over ceremony, with the installation of the new parish priest, Fr Rodel San Juan, took place within a Mass in Barretto parish church. It was a very well prepared ceremony, with Bishop Florentino G. Lavarias presiding and most, if not all of the priests of the diocese, attending. Many tributes were paid to the Columbans who had served in Iba for the past 60 years. The Regional Director, Fr Pat O’Donoghue, expressed the gratitude of the Society for the welcome, acceptance and cooperation that the Columbans had experienced during those years.