By Fr Shay Cullen
Columban Father Shay Cullen of PREDA, www.preda.org, ordained in 1969, has been working in Olongapo for many years now with children and women who have been sexually abused. His weekly Reflections are published in newspapers and magazines in a number of countries and appear each week in www.misyononline.com/misyonforum under Father Cullen’s Corner. Your comments there will be most welcome. On 13 September he received the International Irish Person of the Year Award in Dublin in a nationally televised ceremony which each year since 1975 celebrates ‘Irish talent, bravery and fortitude’.
Fr Shay Cullen
By Fr Shay Cullen
By Father Shay Cullen SSC
Fr Shay Cullen of Ireland is a Columban Father working in the Philippines since 1969. He helps children imprisoned and abused by a corrupt judicial system. PREDA (www.preda.org) was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.
Little has changed in the Philippine prison system since that day several years ago when I found a 6-year-old named Rosie behind prison bars clutching a drink can and crying her heart out for her mother. A dozen or so other street children were sprawled on the hard concrete floor, unconscious with exhaustion and hunger.
The mission of Merly Hermoso
By Fr Shay Cullen SSC
One day, 28 years ago, I walked into a small dingy office in Manila to collect some documents and met someone who was to become a dedicated companion in mission and who helped change the history of the Philippines. Her name is Merly Ramirez Hermoso, a woman of extraordinary faith, courage and determination and who fulfilled a challenging and difficult mission for Jesus Christ.
Great events begin in small ways. In 1973, I was planning to set up a recovery center for the young people of Olangapo City so exploited by drug dealers, sex tourists and pedophiles. I wanted social workers of strong faith for this challenging mission, which I knew would be dangerous and difficult. There were few available during martial law when the military ruled the land with a cruel heart and jackboot tyranny. Merly Ramirez was the first to say yes. As a graduate in business studies, she was an unlikely candidate for a tough mission but I saw her courage as a sign from God.
By Fr Shay Cullen MSSCFr Shay Cullen is known in Olongapo and throughout the world for his work with children and his attempts with his team of lay leaders to rehabilitate them after their horrific experience of being abused. Children have become targets of pedophiles and drug pushers and in recent years have, even at the tender age of nine, been forced into armies in Africa or as couriers in various ways. As a result Fr Shay himself has become a target by those people whose nests he has disturbed. Here he shares with us his vocation story.
When people ask me to write something about being a missionary priest I look to some special experiences that help me understand my mission as a Columban priest and discover human and social realities that challenge me to live a more meaningful life to help others.
When I first became interested in becoming a missionary priest with the Missionary Society of St. Columban I was still in high school. Before I made a decision to go to the seminary I left Ireland, became an overseas worker and got various jobs in England. The first job was in a food-processing factory, then in a hotel and later in a restaurant. A few months later I decided to follow my dream of living a more interesting and adventurous life, doing good for others in a distant land wherever that might be.
By Fr. Shay Cullen, MSSC
Fr. Shay Cullen is known throughout the world for his work in rescuing child prostitution and in charging the international law to make children safer. Less known is the other work of his PREDA Foundation in Olongapo which runs a Fair Trade Program, here is a simple story to keep you understands what fair can do for those on the margins of life. After all isn’t that what mission is about: bringing good news to those who hungry.
Sold like Slaves
Juanito de la Paz was a poor hard-working man who lived in a small bamboo and grass house on the hillside of Olongapo City. His children played outside the perimeter fence of what was then the largest military base in Asia – Subic Bay. He earned just enough for the bare necessities of life, like millions of our people in the world today who live in squalor surrounded by plenty. I said the ‘was’ poor and ‘did’ lice in poverty because that has changed, and I want to tell you why and how. That military base and hundreds like it swallowed up vast amounts of the Philippines natural resources and created wealth for a few families who has contacts with the military or owned clubs and bars where women and children were sold like slaves in a cattle auction.