Columban Sister Kathleen Melia: ‘Just one more on someone’s hit list’

Sr Kathleen Melia SSC [Sunday Examiner]

Columban Sister Kathleen Melia SSC, from County Leitrim, Ireland, was attacked outside her home in Midsalip, Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines, on the evening of Ash Wednesday. She is now recovering in Manila. Below is an article from the 19 March 2017 issue of Sunday Examiner, the English-language weekly of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong. It is slightly edited and used with permission.

OZAMIZ CITY (SE): ‘The wound in the people’s minds is deeper and more painful than the wounds in the body of Sister Kathleen Melia,’ Columban Father Sean Martin from Ozamiz City in the Philippines told the Sunday Examiner after the 70-year-old Columban Sister was bashed in her home on 1 March, Ash Wednesday.

Sister Kathleen has worked among the Subanen people in the hills of Zamboanga for over 30 years and the unexplained attack is being described by the people as one more step in the chain of evil that is maligning their lives.

Sister Kathleen returned home to Midsalip on the afternoon of 1 March. Around 9.30pm she went out to close windows when she was attacked.

A hand was clamped over her mouth and the other hand began choking her, but she was able to get at her attacker’s face and, in protecting himself, he took his hand off her mouth—she screamed. He then thumped her on the chest and she fell the 30 centimetres from the raised pathway, hurting her leg and losing consciousness. He then ran off.

Sister Kathleen lives in a compound of three houses, the other two are community homes for the Subanen people to gather and speak in their own language without being mocked, derided or laughed at by others. After 30 odd years she speaks their language well and the people came to help her, then the police arrived. As people wondered whether the attacker intended to kill or frighten her, the police sent security with her to a hospital in Ozamiz City.


Sister Kathleen needed a blood transfusion, but the search for a donor was arduous and time consuming, with a seminarian eventually having to travel the five hours from Cagayan de Oro to match her B negative blood type. (Fewer than one percent of Filipinos have RH negative blood).

Then a boat trip to Manila, as flying was problematic. The morning boat had not arrived by nightfall, but there was faith it would come eventually.

Fr Sean Martin

Father Martin, who spent many years in Midsalip, says that this is just one act of violence among many in the volatile area of the nation, where the politics of the gun reign, the rich plunder and grow richer and the poor are squeezed out of even the little they have. But this is how politics and industry operate in Mindanao and deaths related to conflict of interest among various groups does not come as a surprise.

Father Martin related that in the previous week, Rosing Arnosa, who ran in the election last May against the incumbent mayor, Leonida Angcap, was shot five times in front of his house in Midsalip around nightfall. Although badly wounded he did not lose consciousness and recognised the gunman, who is now the murderer, as Arnosa later died of his wounds in a hospital in Pagadian City around 1.00am. He believed that the barangay captain, Eduardo Selim, from Matalang, was angry because his son was arrested and charged with being a goon (violent enforcer) for Angcap. Bail was set at Php120,000 (US$2,400, €2,200).

Picketing area in Midsalip

In the small town of Midsalip alone nine people were killed in the run up to the elections in May last year. Four were goons, thugs or hitmen of another mayor and five worked for Conrado Lumacad, who also ran against Angcap.

Father Martin adds that although the mayor has two charges of plunder against her, it does not seem to concern her, even though President Rodrigo Duterte has used some rhetoric about the crime. He seems more intent on killing the poor and did not complain when the congress removed the charge of plunder from the ‘Kill Bill’ that was passed in the lower house on 7 March.

‘But in these remote areas, killing witnesses and scaring opponents is the usual way for powerful people to keep control,’ Father Martin explained. He also remembered that Angcap’s son killed five road workers while driving under the influence in the early hours of the morning in 2013, but it was hushed up and did not even make it to the newspapers. He still holds his job with the municipality.

‘Plunder, manslaughter with impunity is the name of the game in the world of the mayor and it just increases the brazenness,’ Father Martin reflected.

It is all a warning to Sister Kathleen not to stand in the way of mining and logging companies that come to rape the countryside, mostly illegally. She is just one more person on someone’s hit list.

Columban Father Vincent Busch, of Subanen Crafts and seen at the beginning of the video above, recently sent an update on Sister Kathleen’s situation. Here is the last part of his report.

On 14 March Sister Kathleen’s operation began at 11am as scheduled. The surgical team was led by Osteopathologist Doctor Vicente Gomez. For two hours Dr Gomez tried to take out the old pin that was inserted in her leg during a previous surgery years ago. That pin is now obsolete and the instruments used to extract it were no longer readily available. The doctor knew that the previous pin was old so he asked the manufacturer of the pin for the proper instruments to remove it.  Even with the proper tools the doctor couldn’t remove the old pin.  

He tried alternative instruments but these instruments also did not work.   What he had planned to do was take out the old pin and replace it with a new and longer one. In the end, he inserted the new pin next to the old one.  The old pin had adhered to the bone.   Ordinarily it would have taken only 1 1/2 hours to fix the fracture; instead the surgical procedures lasted from 11am to 6pm.  Sister Kathleen will not be able to put weight on her repaired leg for three months.  She will need to use a walker until the leg and bone have healed and strengthened.

Through all these past three weeks Sister Kathleen has been aware of her situation. She was and remains calmly involved in her recovery.  While in

Ozamiz she had many Subanen visitors who have known and worked with her for decades, as well as visitors she knows from Ozamiz.  I visited her every day and on Sunday 5 March 5 celebrated Mass with her in the hospital, with the Columban Sisters of the Ozamiz City community present.

On the morning of 15 March Sister Kathleen had her first therapy session in which she managed to sit on the side of her hospital bed. 

This chronology presents the events following the attack on Sister Kathleen.  It reveals her calm resolve in facing her ordeal, and it brings to light the efforts of the Subanen Ministry and of Columbans, especially the Columban Sisters, to tend to Kathleen’s needs.

Sister Kathleen with friends in Midsalip

Misyon, now, the magazine of the Columbans in the Philippines of which I have been editor since October 2002, published an article by Sr Kathleen Melia in the May-June 1998 issue, Mining: Threat to our Tribes.

In an article by Mary Joy Rile, editorial assistant of, in the November-December 2011 issue, Hope for Midsalip, Sister Kathleen is quoted: If a Subanen cuts down one tree, he is charged for breaking the law. But what about the loggers who move freely? The Subanens have been oppressed in their own land. When mining is permitted, the companies will claim the land, the water, the trees and the rest. There is no justice here in Midsalip.

Rice land, Midsalip

God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.’ And it was so. God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good (Genesis 1:29-31).

Proposed drilling site, Midsalip

Columban parish in Peru cut off by devastating floods

March 24, 2017 Media Release –

Flooding in Peru. In wake of the unprecedented flooding in Peru, Columban Fr Kevin McDonagh in his parish in Samanco near Chimbote [420 kms north of Lima], has been cut off from the outside world. He is managing ok, but the situation is getting precarious for the people.

The worst is not quite yet over as rain is still expected over the next few weeks, with some of it moving south. The challenges ahead are enormous in terms of reconstruction, etc. There is little bottled water available, but fortunately there is water flowing again in Lima though with low pressure. It is worrying to think of so many people without clean water especially in the provincial areas.

So far there are 75 known deaths and over 100,000 people who are homeless. That figure will be multiplied when help reaches all the areas that have been incommunicado since the flooding began. It is mind boggling. We had bad flooding in 1982, and we all thought it was terrible. But that was child’s play in comparison to now. The question is how much more can the people take. Their response and solidarity so far has been nothing short of heroic. Even in the midst of all the suffering, we are seeing Peru and Peruvians at their very best. It is inspiring and heartbreaking all at once. These people are really heroic.

Please, we are asking for prayers and positive thoughts in solidarity with the people of Peru in these times of suffering, especially those most directly affected.

In Christ,

Fr Kevin O’Neill

Superior General

Missionary Society of St Columban 

Embassy of Pakistan in Rome celebrates Christmas

A Christmas Song from Pakistan

Columban Fr Robert McCulloch at Embassy of Pakistan, Rome

Fr McCulloch, an Australian, is Procurator General of the Columbans in Rome. He spent the early years of his priesthood in Mindanao, Philippines, and later spent 34 years in Pakistan, being one of the pioneering group of Columbans to go there in 1979.

Ambassador Nadeem Riyyaz of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan to Italy again hosted the annual Christmas celebration on December 14 at the embassy chancery in Rome. The celebration was attended by Pakistani seminarians, sisters and priests studying in Rome as well as members of the general councils of religious congregations who have foundations in Pakistan.

Members of the diplomatic corps including the ambassador of Italy to the Holy See, chancery staff and Pakistanis working at FAO and other international organizations based in Rome were also present. The celebration including singing of Christmas carols in Urdu, Punjabi, Italian and English.

Fr Robert McCulloch, Procurator-General of the Missionary Society of St Columban, thanked Ambassador Riyyaz for hosting the Christmas celebration and extended greetings both for Christmas and for the Muslim feast of Eid-e-Milad-ul- Nabi which had been celebrated several days earlier. Fr McCulloch noted that this was the fifth celebration of Christmas at the Pakistan embassy which had been begun by Ambassador Tehmina Janjua, currently the Pakistan ambassador to the UN in Geneva. Both ambassadors received their education at Catholic schools in Pakistan, Ambassador Janjua from Jesus and Mary convent schools and Ambassador Riyyaz from the Patrician Brothers at St Anthony’s High School in Lahore.

Fr McCulloch thanked Ambassador Riyyaz for his outstanding gesture of friendship which manifests the commitment both of the Pakistan Embassy in Italy and of the Government of Pakistan to work towards religious harmony. 

A Christmas Song from Pakistan 

Murder of barangay captain in Bonifacio, Misamis Occidental, Philippines

Fr Sean Martin

This story was published in the 20 November 2016 issue of Sunday Examiner, the English-language Catholic weekly of the Diocese of Hong Kong, edited by Australian Columban Fr James Mulroney. Fr Sean Martin, quoted in the story, is a Columban from County Meath, Ireland, who has been in the Philippines for more than 40 years. I have made one or two minor corrections about the location of the incident.

‘He was one of our best barangay captains and a great servant of the people,’ Father Sean Martin said from his parish in Liloan, Bonifacio, Misamis Occidental, of Jovani Romo, who was shot 14 times by unknown assailants and died on the road just 30 metres from his home in Barangay Kanokano on July 29. [Note: The barangay is the smallest administrative division in the Philippines.]

Romo’s is one of the faceless deaths in a Philippines swamped in a frenzied daily attack on the poor being carried out by the state under the guise of a war on drugs. He is one of the victims of the regular round of murders of human rights advocates, journalists and indigenous leaders protecting their land that has been going on for decades, whose murders now struggle to even get reported let alone investigated in the midst of the drug-related frenzy of bloodletting.

The silence surrounding their deaths is chilling, as what is being covered up by the curtain of silence that has been pulled across the steady flow of political murders, together with the rule of fear instigated by the current president, Rodrigo Duterte, becomes more and more difficult to uncover.

‘Romo was not involved in drugs,’ Father Martin attests, ‘but he was deeply involved in protecting the forests of Mount Malindang, a unique and beautiful park, which has already been depleted by some 30 per cent.’

Romo had crossed swords with vested interests in the area through his work with the Department of Energy and Natural Resources aimed at stopping the logging and protecting the wildlife in the area which houses some of the richest varieties of fauna and flora in Asia.

‘That is one possibility,’ Father Martin told the Sunday Examiner. ‘But the reason could have other political overtones, as he was in line to become the chairperson of the Association of Barangay Councils in Bonifacio, as the incumbent has completed three terms and must step down.’

Father Martin said that he cannot unearth any information about the reason for Romo’s death, as the atmosphere of fear is still so prevalent in the area.

‘Celebrating the funeral Mass was a profoundly moving event,’ the Columban missionary said. ‘He was only 34-years-old and had made great improvements in the barangay.’

However, the longtime missionary believes that the motive for the crime, as well as the identity of those who ordered and carried out the  murder will never be known.

‘The court system is so weak and so many officials are compromised that the problem will never be solved by relying on them, so we can only try and minimise the killings as best we can,’ he lamented.

Mount Malindang []

Father Martin added in an email to me: ‘[Jovani] did a lot of work and had good projects for the people.  He was encouraging the people to plant flowers.  It would have been successful because the barangay is so high up on Malindang and the hills are so steep.

‘It took me a good while to adjust to the fact that Jovani had been killed so violently.’  

New Regional Director for the Columbans in the Philippines

L to R: Frs John Leydon, Paul Glynn and Reynaldo D. Raluto

Fr Kevin O’Neill, the Hong Kong-based Superior General of the Missionary Society of St Columban, has appointed Fr Paul Glynn Regional Director of the Region of the Philippines and Fr John Leydon as Vice Director. They will begin their three-year term on St Columban’s Day, 23 November.

Father Paul first came to the Philippines as a seminarian on his two-year First Mission Assignment. He was ordained in Ireland in 1994 and has worked for many years in Mindanao where he has been very involved in inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

Father John was ordained in Ireland in 1973. He has been part of the team in Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, Manila, for many years, some of them as parish priest. He has been involved with the Center for Ecozoic Living and Learning (CELL) in Silang, Cavite, and was one of those who established it in 1999.

Father Paul succeeds Fr Daniel O’Malley while Father John succeeds Fr Raymond Husband. The Columbans are a society of apostolic life, not a religious order or congregation. The terms ‘Region’ and ‘Regional Director’ are the equivalents of ‘Province’ and ‘Provincial’ among religious. 

Please pray for Fathers Paul and John as they take up their new responsibilities.

Fr Reynaldo D. Raluto in the photo above is a priest of the Diocese of Malaybalay and Dean of Studies at St John Vianney Theological Seminary, Cagayan de Oro City. The photo was taken at a forum on Laudato Si’ last February, one of a number of activities marking the 25th death anniversary of Archbishop Patrick Cronin, a Columban pioneer in Mindanao, first Bishop of Ozamiz and later Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro.

A Columban Centennial on 10 October

Frs Edward Galvin, John Blowick, Owen McPolin

 China 1920

Fr McPolin led the first group of Columbans to Korea in 1933

One hundred years ago on 10 October the Bishops of Ireland gave their blessing to a new venture known as the Maynooth Mission to China. On 29 June 1918 this venture became the Society of St Columban, in the Diocese of Galway, Ireland. The Missionary Society of St Columban, as it is now known, is already preparing to celebrate its Centennial in 2018.

Fr Edward Galvin in China

Sometime between 1912 and 1916

As I see it, 29 June 1918 was the date when the Society was ‘baptized’. It had been ‘conceived’ in China between 1912 and 1916 when Fr Edward Galvin, ordained in 1909, and three or four other Irish diocesan priests working there saw the need for a mission of the Irish Church to China. It was ‘born’ on 10 October 1916 when the Irish bishops, approached by Fr Galvin and Fr John Blowick, ordained in 1913 and already a young professor at St Patrick’s, Maynooth, the national seminary for Ireland, gave their assent to what quickly became known as ‘the Maynooth Mission to China’.

Frs Owen McPolin, John Blowick and Edward Galvin 

China 1920

Frs McPolin and Blowick were ordained in 1913 for the Diocese of Dromore  and the Archdiocese of Tuam, respectively, and Fr Galvin in 1909 for the Diocese of Cork.

Fr Edward Galvin in China

In a letter dated 5 October the Superior General of the Columbans, Fr Kevin O’Neill, an Australian, sent a letter to all Columbans and Columban Lay Missionaries in which he wrote, One hundred years ago, on 9 October 1916, in a ground-floor room of the main college building at Maynooth [St Patrick’s College, the National Seminary of Ireland], the 28-year-old Fr John Blowick had the nerve to face the Standing Committee of the Irish Bishops and to present his and Fr Edward Galvin’s scheme for a new mission. After about half an hour’s talk with the bishops, [Michael] Cardinal Logue [Archbishop of Armagh] said that they were prepared to grant their approval for the two things Blowick requested, namely, the making of a collection in the country and the foundation of a Mission College in Ireland.

The ‘memorial’, drawn up by a committee of prominent clerics was laid before the full body of the bishops on the 10 th October, 1916 informing them that: ‘ . . . a vigorous movement, of which the heart is Maynooth College, has grown up among young Irish ecclesiastics to go forth and carry the light of the Gospel to the Chinese . . . The bishops were rejoiced and thankful to God for this new and striking evidence of the continued life of the ancient Irish missionary spirit.’ After careful consideration the bishops approved the project and issued a statement to the press.

Dublin city centre after Easter Rising 1916 [Wikipedia]

In Easter Week 1916 an uprising against British rule in Ireland took place, mainly in Dublin. The country was still part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and Irish regiments of the British Army were fighting in the Great War (1914-18), mainly in Belgium and France. Nearly 30,000 of them died during that conflict. There was widespread extreme poverty in Ireland, particularly in the cities. 1916 did not seem a good time to start such a foolhardy venture as sending Irish priests to preach the Gospel in China, a country very few Irish people knew anything about.
Fr O’Neill mentions the influence of the the ‘Easter Rising’, as it is often called, on the new mission: Shortly after the Irish Bishops’ approval for the new Society, professors from Maynooth, together with priests from religious orders and almost every diocese in Ireland, helped in the nationwide appeals to raise funds for the new Society. The young band of newly formed missionaries avoided publicly taking sides in the nationalist politics of the day in their contact with the clergy while on their parish appeals for funds. But Fr John Blowick is on record as saying, ‘I am strongly of the opinion that the rising of 1916 helped our work indirectly. I know for a fact that many of the young people of the country had been aroused into a state of heroism and zeal by the Rising of 1916 and by the manner in which the leaders met their death. I can affirm this from personal experience. And accordingly, when we put our message before the young people of the country, it fell on soil which was far better prepared to receive it than if there had never been an Easter week.’

But the Irish bishops said ‘Yes’ to the Maynooth Mission to China. And the people supported it, as they have continued to do down the years. Fr Blowick once said that the pennies of the poor were more important than the pounds of the wealthy. But he welcomed both.

Commemorative medal 1968

Golden Jubilee of the Missionary Society of St Columban

Obverse side

The vision of a mission of the Irish Church to China broadened to a more international one. After the Society of St Columban was set up – all the founding members were Irish diocesan priests and seminarians – priests were sent to the USA and Australia to establish roots there, especially among the large Irish diaspora. Irish-American Archbishop Jeremiah Harty of Omaha, Nebraska, USA, invited the Society to set up shop there. He had been Archbishop of Manila (1903 – 1916), the first non-Spaniard to hold that position.

The first group of Columban priests went to China in 1920. Fr Blowick went with them but didn’t stay as he was Superior General and was needed in Ireland to direct the new Society.

Bishop Edward Galvin

First – and only – Bishop of Hanyang, China

Expelled in 1952

Over the years the Columbans have taken on missions in Korea, Burma (now Myanmar), Japan, Chile, Peru, Fiji, Pakistan and Taiwan. They have had missions also in Argentina, Belize, Brazil, Guatemala and Jamaica.

Fr Leo Distor, first Filipino parish priest of Malate, Manila

Most of the younger Columban priests are from countries the older men had gone to from the West.  Fr Leo Distor, the first Filipino Columban parish priest of Malate, is a symbol of the changing face of the Society. After serving in Korea he spent many years in Chicago and in Quezon City in the formation of future Columban priests from Asia, the Pacific and South America.

This year there are Columban seminarians from Fiji, Peru, Myanmar, the Philippines and Tonga in the formation house in Cubao, Quezon City and on the two-year First Mission Assignment (FMA) overseas, the latter including one from China. There is a seminary programme in Seoul, Korea, and students in formation in Chile and Peru.

The young Fr Edward Galvin (1882-1956), later Bishop of Nancheng, China, and the young Fr John Blowick (1888-1972), not to mention the Irish bishops in 1916, could not have foreseen how the Maynooth Mission to China would evolve from being a purely Irish venture into the international Society it is today with Priest Associates from dioceses in Ireland, Korea, Myanmar and the Solomon Islands, and Lay Missionaries from Chile, Fiji, Ireland, Korea, Philippines and Tonga currently involved in its mission.

Fr Leo Distor (4th from left) with Filipino Columban priests

Starting yesterday, 9 October, and until 22 October Columban priests and lay missionaries under the age of 50 are meeting in Tagaytay, south of Manila. Please keep them in your prayers as these are both the present and the future of the venture blessed by the Irish bishops 100 years ago today.

Thank God for the birth of the Maynooth Mission to China on 10 October 1916.

Graves of Fr John Blowick and Bishop Edward Galvin

St Columban’s Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland

Also read Pulong ng Editor in the September-October 2016 issue of

Columban Fr Shay Cullen wins 2016 Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award

Fr Shay Cullen

Sarah Mac Donald, 26 August 2016. 

Columban missionary has uncovered and exposed widespread child sexual abuse and human trafficking involving children as young as 9 years abused by US personnel and sex tourists including local men.

Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty (1898 – 1963) 

from the website of the Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Society.

Well known Irish Columban missionary Fr Shay Cullen has been selected as this year’s winner of the Hugh O’Flaherty Humanitarian Award. Fr Cullen has worked tirelessly over his lifetime in the Philippines battling for the rights of children to be respected and trying to stem the depredations of child traffickers, paedophiles and the sex industry.

The award was set up in honour of Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, an Irish prelate, who was based in the Vatican from 1938 until 1960, and who courageously helped save the lives of 6,500 Jews and Allied soldiers from the Nazis via the Rome Escape Line.

In 1974, Fr Cullen set up the PREDA Foundation to help child victims and trafficked women who were being exploited in the sex trade that flourished alongside the huge United States Naval Base on Subic Bay in Olongapo City and at the US Clarke airbase in Angeles City. He uncovered and exposed widespread child sexual abuse and human trafficking involving children as young as 9 years abused by US personnel and sex tourists including local men. Believing that poverty, violence and child abuse are barriers to peace and give rise to extremism, he strives to eliminate child abuse and promote respect for children’s rights.

He works for peace by working to change the unjust economic political and social structures and attitudes that allow such abuse. His mission for justice and peace is ecumenical; open to people of all faiths. It is based on taking a stand for human rights and protecting the dignity of every person, in particular exploited women and children.

Announcing the Hugh O’Flaherty Memorial Committee’s decision, chairperson Jerry O’Grady said, “Fr Shay has given his life to protecting the human rights of oppressed and exploited children and has fearlessly challenged those who were not prepared to shoulder their responsibilities, including local vested interests, local and national government in the Philippines and the USA Government.”

Fr Cullen said the award was a recognition of the children PREDA has rescued and “those human rights workers who, like Monsignor Hugh [O’Flaherty], continue to work for the unjustly imprisoned, the refugees trying to escape from Isis and war and those risking their lives to help them escape.”

This year’s award will be presented to Fr Shay Cullen by Councillor Brendan Cronin, Mayor of Killarney on Saturday evening November 5th 2016 at a ceremony in the Killarney Avenue Hotel.

Preda Handicrafts

Fr Shay and Preda has been nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has received the Ireland Meteor Award, Irish Personality of the year award, German City of Weimar and Italian city of Ferreira Human Rights awards and is an internationally recognised human rights and child rights advocacy organisation for social justice, peace, dialogue and human dignity.

The People’s Recovery Empowerment and Development Assistance (PREDA) Foundation is an active social development organisation today with 54 professional Filipino paid employees implementing projects that save children from sexual abusers, human traffickers and from life in the brothels and sex bars frequented by Filipino men and foreigners of all nationalities. It provides residential care with therapy education, empowerment and legal action for the children in two centres one for abused girls in Subic, Zambales and one for the boys rescued from jails and detention centres situated in Nagbayan, Castelljos, Zambales.

Preda social workers save children from jails and detention centres and give them a new life of dignity and self-esteem. The Preda boy’s home offers protection and therapeutic homes and services for the child victims and operates a therapeutic community for boys saved from jails, ages 7 to 15 years of age. They are victims of abuse and neglect in government jails and detention centres called Bahay Pagasa.

The Preda boy’s home in Catellijos, Zambales is an open home community and family in a farm setting without fences or walls. Children are free to choose to stay or leave. Most choose to stay. They receive full support, therapy and education at the Bukang Liwayway home. There is an average of 35 children there with a full staff of 15 therapists and social workers and qualified male nurses.

Hundreds of children have been rescued from sex bars and clubs and sex abusers of all kinds: paedophiles, child rapists, cybersex bars, abusive parents and relatives. There are as many an average of 44 girls victims’ of sexual abuse and commercial exploitation 8 to 17 years-old in the Girls home in Subic, Zambales.

The Preda Girls Home in Subic provides a therapeutic home in a natural environment for children raped, sexually and physically exploited and the therapeutic life style gives full therapy, recovery, healing and educational support and family reconciliation and reintegration with supportive relatives when possible.

An Awareness and Reporting System has been activated. A hot phone line alerts Preda to a child in need and Preda rescue team is sent to rescue the child with the help of the government social worker and police if needed.

For more information see: and

Fr Michael Sinnott

The first Hugh O’Flaherty International Humanitarian Award was given in 2009. The second recipient, in 2010, was Columban Fr Michael Sinnott. On 11 October 2009 he was kidnapped just outside the gate of the Columban house in Pagadian City in western Mindanao. He was released, unharmed, on 12 November that year. He was 79 at the time. He is now retired and in good health at St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, County Meath, Ireland.

Columban Fr Daniel Fizgerald: 100 years old today!

Fr Daniel Fitzgerald
100 years old, 28 June 2016
Congratulations to Fr Dan Fitzgerald, born in the city of Cork, Ireland, on 28 June 1916 and ordained on 21 December 1939. He is the first Irish Columban to reach the venerable age of 100 and the second Columban to do so. Fr Bernard Toal from the USA. 
May God continue to fill the hearts of both with joy.
Ad multos annos! to many years! 
Collect for Priests
O God, who made your Only Begotten Son eternal High Priest,
grant that those he has chosen
as ministers and stewards of your mysteries
may be found faithful in carrying out
the ministry they have received.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Columban Missionaries standing by Pakistani Christians, despite violence

Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lahore [Wikipedia]

The Irish Catholic has as its front-page story, written by Mags Gargan and dated 31 March: Irish missionaries vow to stand by Pakistani Christians despite upsurge in violence.  

The missionaries quoted in the story are all Irish and are all Columbans. However, not all Columbans in Pakistan are Irish. Fr Dan O’Connor is from New Zealand. There are three Columban seminarians whose two-year First Mission Assignment is ending about now, Chung Beong-Rool Joachim from Korea, Pat Visanti from Fiji and Louie Ybañes from the Philippines. There are also four Columban Sisters. Since 1990 Sisters from Ireland, Korea, Philippines and Scotland have worked there. Columban priests first went to Pakistan in 1978-79. Columban Lay Missionaries, mostly from the Philippines but also from Fiji and Ireland, worked in Pakistan for more than 20 years, though there are none there at the moment.

St Anthony’s Church, Lahore 

Featured in the CNN report below [Wikipedia]

CNN features a report today, 4 April: Life as a Christian in Pakistan. While the report clearly focuses on discrimation against minorities, particularly Christians,  Simah Mohsin points out the fact that more Muslims than Christians were killed in the Easter Sunday bombing. As one of the Columban priests  requested in an email after that evil event: We also feel it is important not just to focus on the Christian victims, as there are many other innocent victims of violence, the majority of whom are Muslim, so we need to keep them all in mind and prayer. The majority of the victims were women and children. It might be enough to ask Columbans to keep all here in prayer.

Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad [Wikipedia]

One of the Columban priests in Pakistan sent this press release by the National Commission on Justice and Peace of which Bishop Joseph Arshad of Faisalabad is the chairperson.

Condemnation of the bombing in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, Lahore

The city of Lahore once again had to face the harsh and tragic outbreak of the extremist forces in a deadly and brutal attack on innocent families visiting the park to celebrate the spring season and the festival of Easter. A few days back the government took an initiative to declare Holi (Hindu festival) and Easter (Christian festival) as holidays. While the non-Muslim community of Pakistan were rejoicing and appreciating the efforts of the government, on March 27, 2016, Easter Sunday, a suicide bomb in Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park killed over 70 and left more than 300 injured. Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan JamaatulAhrar has claimed responsibility for the blast stating it had intentionally targeted the Christian Community on Easter. The National Commission for Justice and Peace, a rights based organization of Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, strongly condemns the tragic attack on innocent people in a public park.

His Lordship Bishop Dr Joseph Arshad, Chairperson NCJP and Rev. Fr Emmanuel Yousaf (Mani) National Director NCJP in a joint statement said that killing innocent people, in particular women and children, in the name of religion is unacceptable. While the motive was to target the Christians, yet so many of our Muslim Brothers, Sisters, Children and families who were also visiting the park on account of Sunday holiday fell victim to this brutal attack. We pray for all the victims of this attack, as they were all Pakistanis. While the Prime Minister of Pakistan and the Army Chief have strongly condemned the attack, the commission calls upon the government to bring the perpetrators to justice and to tighten its measures for protection of all citizens including minorities and vulnerable communities.

They further stated that the government while addressing the extremist elements through the military operation needs to also address the root causes of this intolerance. It must conduct a large-scale operation to eliminate such elements that are prevalent in the province of Punjab and other parts of the country, which are operating and blatantly challenging the writ of the state.

Bishop Dr Arshad and Fr Yousaf further stated that the uncertainty of life is becoming more obvious in Pakistan. We thus pray to our Lord Jesus Christ that as a nation He may grant us wisdom, tolerance and peace. May God give strength to the families of the victims to endure the loss of their loved ones.

NCJP Media Cell

Gulshan-i-Iqbal Park, Lahore [Wikipedia]

Pope Francis on Easter Monday:

I wish to express my closeness to all those affected by this cowardly and senseless crime, and ask you to pray to the Lord for the numerous victims and their loved ones.

I appeal to the civil authorities and to all the social components of [Pakistan] to do everything possible to restore security and peace to the population and, in particular, to the most vulnerable religious minorities.

I repeat, once again, that violence and murderous hatred lead only to pain and destruction; respect and fraternity are the only way to achieve peace. The Passover of the Lord inspires in us, in an even more powerful way, prayers to God so that he stops the hands of the violent, who spread terror and death; and makes it possible for love, justice and reconciliation to reign in the world.

Easter Sunday killings in Lahore, Pakistan

The following report was emailed yesterday, 28 March 2016, by Columban priests in Pakistan. The Columbans have been in Pakistan since 1979. Columban Sisters serve there and Columban Lay Missionaries have been assigned there.

On Easter Sunday at about 6.30pm, there was a suicide bomb attack at a popular park in Lahore, Gulshan-i-Iqbal park in Allama Iqbal Town. The park is about one kilometer from the Columban house. The park was particularly crowded, due in part to many Christians out celebrating Easter. Many feel that Christians were the main target of the attack though the District coordination Officer (DCO) of the district government has denied that Christians were the target of the attack.

As of now, the official death toll is given at 70 with about 250 injured, the majority being women and children. The city hospitals were completely over-stretched and an emergency was declared at all government hospitals in the city; there were urgent appeals for people to donate blood.

The attack has been claimed by a group calling themselves Jaamat ul Ahrar, a splinter group of the Pakistan Taliban, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). This is the same group which claimed responsibility for the suicide bomb attacks on two churches in Lahore on March 15, 2015.

The Punjab government announced three days of mourning. The Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Raheel Sharif, chaired a high-level meeting late Sunday night with intelligence and military agents to begin the process of apprehending those responsible, saying these “inhumane savages will not be allowed to overrun our life and liberty”. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also chaired a meeting at the PM house, Islamabad, where he was briefed on the Lahore situation by his security staff.

A separate incident earlier in the day in Islamabad, which is likely not unconnected to this attack, is also very worrying. About 10,000 gathered to attend the chelum (40th day after the death) of Mumtaz Qadri, the former Punjab police commando who was hanged last month for assassinating the man he was assigned to protect, Governor Salman Taseer of Punjab on Jan 4, 2011. He shot him because of the Governor’s call for reform of the so-called ‘blasphemy law’. About 2,000 of the crowd took the law into their own hands by staging a sit-in within the Capitals Red Zone, near to Parliament house and presented a charter of demands to the government. These include: -the implementation of Shariah law in the country, the unconditional release of all Sunni clerics and leaders booked on various charges including murder and terrorism, the declaring of Qadri as a martyr and the execution of blasphemy accused Christian woman, Asia Bibi, the woman Governor Salman Taseer was killed for defending.

This is another dark day for Pakistan, where the security situation now seems out of control and people are forced to live in an atmosphere of fear, with no real hope of any change. The message of Easter is hard to keep alive in such a situation.

This request came with the report: 

We also feel it is important not just to focus on the Christian victims, as there are many other innocent victims of violence, the majority of whom are Muslim, so we need to keep them all in mind and prayer. The majority of the victims were women and children. It might be enough to ask Columbans to keep all here in prayer.

Governor Salman Taseer

(31 May 1944 – assassinated 4 January 2011) [Wikipedia]

Shahbaz Bhatti

(9 September 1968 – assassinated 2 March 2011) [Wikipedia]

Governor Taseer was a Muslim. Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic, was the first ever Christian to be appointed to the cabinet in Pakistan and the first Federal Minister for Minority Affairs. Both were opposed to Pakistan’s Blasphemy Law.

UCANews (Union of Catholic Asian News) has a report dated 27 March, Church condemns Easter bomb attack in Lahore, here and one dated 28 March, Pakistan mourns Lahore park massacre victimshere. The first report notes that Dr Attiya Mehboob of Sheik Zaid Hospital said that they had received both Christian and Muslim bomb victims.

UCANews 28 March 2016