Columban Fr Charles Duster RIP

Fr Charles Duster

(15 September 1934 – 7 March 2017)

Father Charlie was born on 15 September  1934 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, USA, where his parents Charles Henry Duster [‘DOOster’] and Cleo Catherine Handley Duster owned and operated a supermarket. He has an older brother William C. Duster (Audrey) of Littleton, Colorado, a sister Mrs Robert Enns (Katie) of Fort Pierce, Florida, and eleven nieces and nephews and their families. His older sister, Margaret Jeanne Duster, died in 1972.

Cedar Rapids, on the Cedar River [Wikipedia]

Fr. Charlie attended Immaculate Conception Grade and High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, (1952). After high school he attended Regis University, Denver, Colorado (1952-53) and Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (1953-1954).

After briefly considering medical school he instead decided to enter the seminary to become a Columban missionary priest in 1955. He studied at St Columban’s Seminary, Milton, Massachusetts. As an exchange student, he studied theology at St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, Ireland (1958 – ’61). He did his fourth year of theology at St Columban’s, Milton, where he was ordained a priest of the Missionary Society of St Columban on 21 December 1961. He celebrated his first Solemn High Mass at Immaculate Conception Church in Cedar Rapids on 31 December.

Immaculate Conception Church, Cedar Rapids [Parish website]

In 1962 Father Charlie was assigned to Japan where he spent the next six years. The first two of these were spent studying Japanese language in Tokyo, the third one as Acting Regional Bursar, and the last three years as Associate Pastor at Shingu Catholic Church, Wakayama Prefecture, in the Diocese of Osaka.

In Japan

In July 1967 Father Charlie visited the Philippines, accompanied by a Columban confrere. After spending some days with Columban colleagues on the island of Negros, they narrowly missed their flight from Bacolod City to Cebu on 6 July because the plane departed a few minutes ahead of schedule, due to severe weather conditions. The next morning they learned that the plane, a Fokker F27 Friendship, had crashed into a mountain and all 17 passengers and four crew members perished. Father Charlie wrote about this iA Close Shave in the May-June 2016 issue of

From 1969 – 1972, Father Charlie was the Columban Vocation Director for the Midwest Region of the USA based in Omaha. Afterwards, he continued a similar ministry while residing at the Columban house in Chicago. He then served a year in the Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis as chaplain at Hennepin County General Hospital in Minneapolis accompanied by studies in Clinical Pastoral Education.

With the late Archbishop Petero Mataca of Suva

In November 1974, Father Charlie was assigned to Fiji, Archdiocese of Suva. After initial language studies, he was appointed as Associate Pastor in Holy Family Parish, Nabala, Macuata, and a year later as Pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Solevu, Bua, where he served for six years. 

Following home leave in 1980 he did renewal studies at Notre Dame University. On his return to Fiji he became the Regional Vice-Director. He returned to the USA to undergo by-pass surgery in Houston, Texas, in 1982. Upon returning to Fiji later that year, Father Charlie was appointed Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Suva, and served in this position for four years.

Offices of the Archdiocese of Suva [Wikipedia]

In September 1986, he was appointed Rector of Collegio San Colombano in Rome where he was Superior of the sixteen-member community. During his eight years in Rome, he also earned a licentiate and doctorate in Canon Law at the Angelicum University, where he graduated Summa Cum Laude. Before being reassigned to the Fijian Region, he worked for six months in the Marriage Tribunal in the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa, in order to gain experience in matrimonial law. 

Father Charlie returned to Fiji in November 1994 and served for six years as the Coordinator of the Columban Lay Mission Program, while teaching Canon Law at the Pacific Regional Seminary. In December 1998 he returned to the USA to undergo by-pass surgery for the second time, but returned to Fiji seven months later to continue his ministry to Columban Lay Missionaries. In December, 2003 he was appointed Associate Pastor at Holy Family Parish, Labasa, where he served until returning to the USA in September 2005. This was prompted by the recommendation of his doctors that he should reside in a place where he could receive monitored medical attention, which was unavailable in Fiji. 

With old friends in Fiji

He was assigned to the Columban Magnolia house in Chicago where he worked on Mission Promotion and Vocations (2005 – 2011) and served as house Superior (2008 -2011). In 2011 he began work at the Omaha office in Planned Giving and Development, and later combined this ministry with Superior of the Omaha community (2012 – 2016).

Father Charlie’s warm and outgoing personality, many talents, and deep commitment to his vocation as a Columban missionary priest, drew many people to God in the various places where he ministered. Wherever he was sent, his ability to recognize and celebrate all that was good in the world around him made him a truly joyful messenger of the Good News.

There is one thing I ask of the Lord, 
for this I long,
    to live in the house of the Lord,
    all the days of my life,
to savour the sweetness of the Lord,
    to behold his temple (Psalm 27:4).
Some Personal Memories
With Fijian Columban Lay Missionary Serafina Vuda in Peru
Serafina died unexpectedly on 31 May 2014
I met Father Charlie at long intervals over the years. My abiding memory of him is that he was a joyful person, as the photos of him above indicate. I visited Rome for the first time in April 1988. My first full day there happened to be my birthday and he insisted on taking those of us in the house at the time to a restaurant to celebrate the occasion.
In 2007, if my memory serves me right, he gave a retreat to Columban priests in the Philippines at St Scholastica’s Center of Spirituality in Tagaytay City, south of Manila and much cooler than the latter because of its elevation. The retreat was truly a fraternal one, exemplifying what the psalmist wrote:
How good and how pleasant it is, 
when brothers live in unity (Psalm 133[132]:1).
My first time to meet him was in St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Ireland, during Easter Week 1961 when I went there to be interviewed and to have a medical examination before entering the seminary the following September. I went back to Dublin, where I lived, with a group of the seminarians going to the city for the afternoon. I remember him singing a parody on a popular song from 1911, I Want A Girl (Just Like The Girl That Married Dear Old Dad). I never heard Father Charlie’s version again until today when I found it on YouTube.
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:2-3). 
May Fr Charles Duster enter the place prepared for him by Jesus and may he add to the joy of the saints in heaven.


Columban Fr Thomas Parker RIP

Fr Thomas Parker

(28 March 1924 – 31 January 2017)

Thomas Parker was born in Glasson, County Westmeath, Ireland, on 28 March 1924. He was educated at Glasson National School and St Finian’s College, Mullingar. 

Glasson, County Westmeath [Wikipedia]

He entered St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, in September 1941 and was a member of the first class of Probationers in the new building. He was ordained priest on 21 December 1947. Due to the accidental death of one of his brothers in March 1948, he was not sent immediately to the missions but was assigned for a year to pastoral work in the Cathedral Parish in Galway. He was then assigned to Korea.

Kimiidera, Wakayama City, Japan [Wikipedia]

He arrived in Korea on June 1950, but with the onset of the Korean War he and other colleagues were assigned to Japan later that year. Those were very difficult years in Japan: parish congregations were tiny and huge efforts were made to reach out to people who had little interest in Christianity. For the next 17 years Tom served in Fukuoka, in Gobo, in Hashimoto, in Montana, in Kamogawa, in Shingu and in Wakayama City where he was Area Superior.

Supper at Emmaus, Hendrick Terbrugghen [Web Gallery of Art]

But they urged him strongly, saying, ‘Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.’ So he went in to stay with them (Luke 24: 29). 

‘Father Tom was an excellent host . . .’

In January 1977, he was assigned to the USA and to the General Mission Office in Omaha, Nebraska. Over the following twenty years he served in many of our houses including Quincy, MA, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Father Tom was an excellent host wherever he was assigned, and his friendly, open personality made him very effective on promotion work. When his health deteriorated he returned to Ireland, and entered the Dalgan Retirement Home in 2008.

Man Praying, Vincent van Gogh [Web Gallery of Art]

Father Tom was a dedicated missionary priest. Asked in an interview what kept him going over the years he replied, ‘Well, I suppose saying one’s prayers, and all the prayers offered for us by people at home and in many other places . . . you can’t explain what kept you going . . . a miracle, really, when you look back at it now’.

Father Tom died peacefully on 31 January 2017. He is survived by one brother, Brother Colman Parker, a Marist Brother. His funeral will take place on Friday 3 February in Dalgan Park.

May he rest in peace.

Hamabe no uta 浜辺の歌  Song of the Seashore

Composed by Tamezō Narita

Text by Fr Cyril Lovett, slightly edited here.

Columban Fr Charles Flaherty RIP

Fr Charles Flaherty

(15 January 1926 – 20 January 2016) [Source]

Fr Charles B. Flaherty, son of Catherine Bowen Flaherty and James F.F. Flaherty, was born on 15 January 1926 in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, USA.

Downtown Pawtucket across the Blackstone River [Wikipedia]

His grade school years were spent at St Joseph’s, Pawtucket, RI. Between 1940 and 1944 he went to high school at St Columban’s Minor Seminary, Silver Creek, NY, and in 1944-45 he did his Spiritual Year at St Columbans, Bristol, Rhode Island. From Bristol he transferred to St Columban’s Major Seminary, St Columbans, near Omaha, Nebraska, where between 1945 and 1951 he studied Philosophy and Theology. He was ordained on 23 December 1950 at St Joseph Cathedral, Buffalo, New York, by Bishop John F.  O’Hara.

St Joseph Cathedral, Buffalo [Wikipedia]

After his ordination, Father Charlie returned to St Columban’s Minor Seminary, Silver Creek, NY, this time as teacher, from 1951 to 1953, and then attended Catholic University of America, Washington DC, from 1953 to 1955 where he received an MA in Classics.

From 1955 to 1956 he served as Dean at St Columban’s College and Seminary, Milton, Massachusetts. There he also taught. In 1956 he became Rector of his old high school, St Columban’s Minor Seminary, Silver Creek, NY, and there, until 1962, he oversaw the greatest growth of the student body as well as the expansion and renovation of the seminary buildings. Through participation in the campus sports activities during those years he developed an excellent relationship with the student body.

During his time at Silver Creek Father Charlie was struck with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis. It was thought that he would never walk again. However, thanks to his own determination and the help of medical personnel he regained his mobility during a six-month stay in hospital. Some of those medical personnel became life-long friends.

Whitby Harbour, Yorkshire, England [Wikipedia]

Because of his expertise in running a successful high school, Father Charlie was called upon in 1962 to head up a new project, this time in England: a high school for boys in the town of Whitby, Yorkshire. While awaiting the opening of the new school he spent a year teaching Greek and Latin at St Laurence College – the Benedictine college at Ampleforth, Yorkshire – where he got to know the Abbot, Basil Hume. They became fast friends during that year and on Hume’s invitation Father Charlie continued to teach the classics there, one day a week, commuting from Whitby from 1963 to 1967. Their friendship continued long afterward and in 1976, when Hume was made Archbishop of Westminster, London, Father Charlie received from him an invitation to attend his inauguration.

Statue of Basil Cardinal Hume OSB

Newcastle upon Tyne, England [Wikipedia]

Two unforeseen circumstances brought the Whitby project to an end in 1967: first, the mansion purchased for the school was a ‘listed’ building, that is, its external structure could not be legally altered – a revelation that was not made prior to purchase. Secondly, the school’s restricted grounds were completely surrounded by public school property. Therefore there was no possibility of expansion, and without expansion little hope of a future for the school.

So Father Charlie was next appointed to the Columban seminary in Turramurra, New South Wales, Australia, where he taught from 1967 to 1971.

From 1971 to 1974 he was the Education Director for the whole Columban Society. This was a particularly important role in the Society during in the post-Vatican II era. After those years of educational guidance he served from 1974 to 1976 as Rector of St Columban’s Major Seminary, Milton, MA, and following that he served as a member of the U.S. Regional Council from 1976 to 1983. Almost concurrently, he was Vice Rector of St Columban’s Theologate and Director of Spiritual Year at 40 Mt Vernon St Cambridge, MA (1977-83). In June of 1980 he received an MAS degree in Spirituality from the University of San Francisco, California.

After all those years in academe he got an appointment to Vocation work in June of 1983, and worked out of the Columban house in Quincy, MA, where he lived until 1989.

Centre Street, West Roxbury [Wikipedia]

Prior to his retirement in 2001, he served as parochial vicar at St John Chrysostom Parish, West Roxbury, MA. After retirement he did weekend ministry in the same parish, where the content and style of his preaching continued to be appreciated. He developed close friendships with many people in that parish.

While there he helped to provide space for celebrations during reunions of Columbans and former Columbans with their wives and families. At the July 2000 reunion the organizers made him the honoree since he was then celebrating his Golden Jubilee.

With his passing, his welcoming smile and cheerful disposition will be missed by many. May he rest in peace.

St Columban, Bristol, Rhode Island, USA

The obituary was written by Fr Timothy Mulroy, Columban Regional Director, USA, and is slightly edited.

Columban Fr Michael Harrison RIP

Fr Michael Harrison

(21 March 1924 – 17 January 2017)

Michael Harrison was born on 21 March 1924 at Bunduff, Castlegal, County  Sligo, Ireland. He was educated at Castlegal National School and Summerhill College, Sligo. He came to St Columban’s, Navan, in 1942 and was ordained priest on 21 December 1948. 

Mullaghmore, County Sligo [Wikipedia]

This is near where Fr Harrison grew up

The following year he was appointed to graduate studies in the USA. He completed an MA in history at Fordham University, New York City, and followed this with training in journalism at the Denver Catholic Register.

In 1952 he was appointed to the Philippines as Far East correspondent of the National Catholic Welfare Conference, , the forerunner of today’s United States Conference of Catholic Bishops a post he held until 1956. He was then called back to work in the Central Offices of the Columbans in Bellevue, just south of  Omaha, Nebraska, USA, and travelled through Korea and Japan on his way home. He spent the next fifteen years in charge of the Mission Office where he was credited with organising the mail operation to new levels of efficiency.

St Columbans, Belleview, Nebraska [Source]

He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season, and whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper (Psalm 1:3, Grail translation).

From 1972 to 1975 he was editor of the magazine of the Columbans in the USA, now known as Columban Mission. In the years that followed he served in the Columban houses in West Chester, near Philadelphia, in Quincy, near Boston, in Philadelphia and in Westminster, California.  In 1984 he was appointed secretary to the Columban Central Administration in Ireland for three years. 

St Columbans, Belleview, Nebraska [Source]

Like the deer that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my  God (Psalm 42:1, Grail translation).

There followed appointments to Los Angeles and Omaha before being asked to serve as Superior of Collegio San Columbano in Rome in 1992. Health problems cut short this appointment and he was assigned instead to Bristol, Rhode Island, where he served as vice-superior and bursar. He left Bristol for Ireland in 2011, where, from his room  in St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, he relied on modern technology to stay in touch with a wide circle of relatives and friends.

The variety of the tasks entrusted to Father Michael over the years are an indication of his many gifts, his discretion and his quiet competence. Congenial, wise and never judgemental, he was deeply appreciated by his colleagues and by the staff of the many houses in which he served. He transferred to the Dalgan Nursing Home at the end of 2015 and died suddenly there on 17 January 2017.

May he rest in peace.

Perhaps the best know person associated with Fr Harrison’s native county is poet WB Yeats (1865-1939). And perhaps his best known poem is Lake Isle of Innisfree.

Lake Isle of Innisfree

I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree,

And a small cabin build there, of clay and wattles made;

Nine bean rows will I have there, a hive for the honey bee,

And live alone in the bee loud glade.


And I shall have some peace there, for peace comes dropping slow,

Dropping from the veils of the morning to where the cricket sings;

There midnight’s all a glimmer, and noon a purple glow,

And evening full of the linnet’s wings.


I will arise and go now, for always night and day

I hear lake water lapping with low sounds by the shore;

While I stand on the roadway, or on the pavements grey,

I hear it in the deep heart’s core.

Isle of Innisfree, Lough Gill, County Sligo [Wikipedia]

Columban Fr Keith Gorman RIP. ‘Having breakfast with Jesus on the shores of eternity.’

Fr Keith Gorman
(21 January 1920 – 19 December 2016)
          Keith Francis Gorman was born in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, on January 21, 1920, an only son between two sisters. In 1937 he came to St Columban’s, Essendon, where he did his Spiritual Year and Philosophy. Then in 1940 he went to St Columban’s Seminary in Omaha, Nebraska, USA, to do Theology as WWII prevented him from travelling to Ireland. He was the first Australian Columban seminarian to do this but he was joined by others the following year. He was ordained in St Joseph’s Cathedral, Buffalo, New York, USA, on 18 December 1943 by Bishop John Aloysius Duffy. 
Church of the Assumption, Yakatamachi, Wakayama City [Source]
          In 1944 Father Keith returned to Australia and worked in a number of parishes until 1948 when he was appointed to China but this was changed to Japan after a few months in Shanghai. He studied the Japanese language in Yokohama and was then appointed as pastor at the parish of Chigasaki, Diocese of Yokohama. After vacation in 1955 he was appointed pastor at Yakatamachi in Wakayama City.
          Fr Barry Cairns, a New Zealander, writes about his experience as a young priest in Yakatamachi with Father Keith here.
          In 1964 Father Keith was appointed to the Australia – New Zealand Region, stationed at first at the Columban House in Toowong, Brisbane. Then he did parish supplies for three years and Columban promotion in the Archdiocese of Perth.  This was followed by a few years as Bursar at the seminary in Turramurra, New South Wales, and then as Vocations Coordinator in the state of New South Wales.
Father Keith the gardener
          In 1975 Father Keith began a ministry to the aged as chaplain at Nazareth House Aged Care, Turramurra. After a sabbatical and some studies in the subject of ageing he continued in this ministry as chaplain to the retired Presentation Sisters at Windsor in Melbourne.  Around the same time he helped to found ROTA – Religious of the Third Age – a social and spiritual organisation for retired Religious. During this period he wrote a number of articles on the theme of ageing, some of which were printed in The Far East.
Embracing the 21st Century
          Read Father Keith’s Old Age, a Gifted Time.
          Father Keith himself retired to St Columban’s, Essendon, a suburb of Melbourne, in 1997 and was a lively and cheerful presence there until a fall in September 2012 resulted in hospitalization and a subsequent move to Mercy Place Aged Care, Parkville.
‘A humble man with time and respect for everyone’

          He is remembered as a humble man who always had time and respect for everyone. He excluded no one. He was fun-loving and always ready to laugh, share a joke – even one on himself – and join in whatever was going on. In one of his articles he wrote that his idea of heaven was having breakfast with Jesus on the shores of eternity, following the scene in John 21.  May he be enjoying that breakfast now. 

Having breakfast with Jesus on the shores of eternity’ [1:57 – 2:50]
From The Gospel of John directed by Philip Saville.

          You may read some of Fr Gorman’s Reflections here.

St Columban’s, Essendon

          I met Father Keith on my first visit to Australia in May 1990 in St Columban’s Seminary, Turramurra, near Sydney, which is now closed. I was struck by his delightful personality and sense of humor. I remember him laughing when I quipped that he had been ordained so long ago – the year I was born – that the ceremony had been in Aramaic! I met him again in Essendon in 2009 when I was doing mission appeals in Melbourne. While I was there he won a very large TV in a raffle in a nearby Anglican parish and his delight was utterly childlike when it was delivered.

          And what a beautiful image of heaven he had: Having breakfast with Jesus on the shores of eternity

          The light of heaven upon Father Keith  – and may we all join him with Jesus for breakfast on the shores of eternity when our time comes!

Columban Fr Fintan Murtagh RIP

Fr Fintan Murtagh
(12 February 1940 – 23 December 2016)
Fr Fintan J. Murtagh was born at Moyvore, County Westmeath, Ireland, on 12 February 1940.  He was educated at Moyvore National School and at St Finian’s College, Mullingar, County Westmeath. 
Entrance to St Finian’s College, Mullingar [Wikipedia]
Father Fintan was one of many Columbans who had their secondary education in this school, which is owned by the Diocese of Meath.
He came to St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, County Meath, in September 1957 and was ordained priest there, on 22 December 1963 and died on 23 December 2016.
St Columban’s, Dalgan Park
Appointed to the Philippines, and to the Diocese of Iba, which covers the province of Zambales, he served initially in San Marcelino, and Botolan. He spent longer periods in San Antonio, before returning again to Botolan and later to Candelaria and to Olongapo City.
San Antonio Town Plaza [Wikipedia]
In 1972 Father Fintan became aware that he was suffering from Multiple Sclerosis. With his sunny temperament, he did not allow his condition to determine what he could or could not do, and he actually continued to play golf long after others would have given up. From 1985, he began to develop a systematic approach to parishioners of Candelaria with disabilities.

Father Fintan with friend

The result was Community Based Rehabilitation (CBR) for People with Disabilities and Families. By 2010 this organization was serving in thirteen parishes of the Diocese of Iba. In all, it was serving 1,037 members in a broad variety of programmes for persons with disabilities. It is serving those with cerebral palsy, stroke victims, those with Parkinson’s Disease, spinal cord injuries, and epilepsy.

With friends in Zambales

It also helps persons with learning disabilities such as those with Down Syndrome. There are programs too for the profoundly deaf, the blind and the partially blind, and a variety of other disabling conditions.

Friends of Father Fintan

You can read articles by Father Fintan about his his work here, here and here.

As he coped with his own disability, Father Fintan gave courage and hope to so many other families in the Philippines and elsewhere. When he could no longer cope he came home to Ireland, but a mechanized wheelchair, and a special vehicle enabled him to be part of everything that was going on until he suffered a major stroke earlier this year.

Father Fintan will be remembered as a man of humor, hope and indomitable courage, a witness to all of us on how to cope  with life’s difficulties.

He was buried in St Columban’s Cemetery on 27 December.

Solas na bhFlaitheas air! The light of Heaven upon him!

St Columban’s Cemetery, Dalgan Park

The students in Dalgan Park produced My Fair Lady for St Columban’s Day, 23 November 1962. If your editor’s memory serves him right, Father Fintan was one of ‘Eliza Doolittle’s’ Cockney companions in this number.

Columban Fr Maurice Foley RIP

Fr Maurice Vincent Foley
(2 February 1933 – 18 December 2016)
Castlefinn [Wikipedia]
Fr Maurice Foley was born at Castlefinn, County Donegal, Ireland on 2 February 1933. He was educated at Dunbeacon National School, Ballydehob, County Cork, Belvedere College Preparatory School and Belvedere College, Dublin, St Patrick’s College, Armagh, and University College Dublin. He entered St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Navan, in 1952 and was ordained priest there on 21 December 1958.
Appointed to Korea in 1959, Father Maurice was assigned to Ulchin and Chunchon after language studies. After the division of the Diocese of Chunchon, he was assigned to the new Diocese of Wonju and to the new parish of Tokgae. He ministered there for most of the remainder of his years in Korea during the difficult period of the military dictatorship.
Huancavalica [Wikipedia]
By 1977, it was clear to him that the Church in Korea was growing rapidly and producing enough priests to cater to its own needs. He asked the Superior General to be assigned to Peru; as he wrote himself ‘I saw space for my missionary zeal in the land of the Incas’. After language studies his initial assignment was to Huancavalica, working at high altitude in the Sierra, until he was advised that working at sea-level would be easier on his health.
Cathedral, Huancavalica [Wikipedia]
Assignments in the Lima area included the parishes of Santíssimo Redentor, Santa María de la Reconciliación and Nuestra Señora de la Paz. In all these areas he enjoyed a happy and successful ministry. He could come across at times as rather abrupt, and could be impetuous, especially when the poor were being treated unjustly. However nobody could doubt his goodness and kindness, and the love that he lavished on the people was repaid with interest.
High Altar, Cathedral, Lima [Wikipedia]
In 2012 his health had begun to deteriorate and he returned to Ireland. For a short period he had enough energy to ride his beloved bicycle but in recent months his illness confined him to his room. There he loved to welcome visitors.  Father Maurice was blessed with a childlike simplicity, a generous heart and a quality of being so genuine that his sincerity could not be doubted. We will miss his truly unique presence.
Father Maurice was buried in St Columban’s Cemetery, Dalgan Park, on 21 December, the 58th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood.

May he rest in peace.

Crucifix, St Columban’s Cemetery, Dalgan Park

Silent Night / Sumaq Tuta
Sung in Quechua, the mother-tongue of the majority of people in Huancavalica, where Father Maurice first worked in Peru.

Columban Fr Michael Duffy RIP

Fr Michael Augustine Duffy

(1931 – 2016)

St Mary’s Church, Navan [Wikipedia]

Father Michael died peacefully in Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, on 21 November 2016. Born on 28 November 1931 in Johnstown, County Meath, Ireland, he was educated at Loreto School, Abbey School, St Patrick’s Classical School, all in Navan, and at St Mary’s College, Rathmines, Dublin. He came to St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, in September 1950 and was ordained priest there on 21 December 1956. During his student days he was outstanding at sports and regularly played for the Dalgan team against visiting teams in Gaelic Football, Hurling, Soccer and Rugby. Dalgan Park is very near Johnstown, where he grew up. He was a younger brother of Columban Fr Fergus Duffy who died in 1983.

St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish [Wikipedia]

Father Michael was appointed to post-graduate studies  at St Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada, where he obtained an MA in Social Studies; this was followed by studies in Journalism at Denver in 1959 while awaiting a visa to Burma. In May 1960, when his request for a visa had been refused, he was assigned to promotion work in the US from Westminster and San Francisco houses. In 1962, he was appointed to the college staff at Milton, MA and in 1963 to Silver Creek.

Zambales Mountains, San Narciso [Wikipedia]

In 1966 he was appointed to the Philippines. He spent 18 years in Zambales in the parishes of San Narciso, San Antonio, San Felipe, Castillejos, Poonbato, and Botolan. In 1984 he was appointed the College Formation Program in Cebu City and in 1988 was sent to Manila where for three years he worked on Justice and Peace issues from a base in Tondo.

In 1989 he was appointed to the Region of Britain where he served until 2003. During those years he worked on Mission Promotion and served several terms as  Vice-Director of the Region from 1995 to 2003.

River Boyne, Brú na Bóinne, County Meath [Wikipedia]

The Boyne flows by St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, by Johnstown and through Navan.

Appointed to Ireland in 2003, he served as editor of the Regional Newsletter until deteriorating health confined him to the Dalgan Nursing Home. Father Michael was a gentle, quiet man with a self-deprecating sense of humor. He deeply appreciated the care that he received during his years in the Dalgan Nursing Home. 

May he rest in peace. 

Blessing of St Columban’s Formation House, Cebu City by Archbishop (later Cardinal) Ricardo J. Vidal of Cebu, 23 November 1984, St Columban’s Day.
L: Fr Seán Coyle, R: Fr Michael Duffy

A Philippine Folk Dance in San Narciso, Zambales

Thanks to Fr Patrick Raleigh, Regional Director, Ireland.

Columban Fr Bernard Toal RIP

Fr Bernard E. Toal
(17 October 1915 – 14 November 2016)
The greeting above was for his 100th birthday on 17 October 2015. He was the first Columban to reach that age.
Fr Bernard E. Toal died at St Elizabeth’s Manor, Rhode Island, on November 14, 2016.  Please remember him in your Masses and prayers. 
Fr Toal was born on 17 October 1915 in Gloucester, New Jersey, USA.  There he attended the local parish school. Thinking of becoming a missionary priest, he entered St Columban’s Minor Seminary, Silver Creek, New York, for high school studies in 1931. After graduating in 1937, he entered the Columban Fathers spiritual formation program in Bristol, RI. Back in Silver Creek he studied Philosophy 1938-1940. He completed his theological studies in St Columbans, Nebraska, and was ordained a priest on 18 December 1943 at the Cathedral of St Joseph in Buffalo, NY.

A baptism in Ozamiz City
Because of World War II he did not immediately go to the missions but did parish work in California and Arizona. At the end of hostilities in 1945 he went to the Philippines where, in Ozamiz City, he taught in the parish high school.
In 1951 he returned home for vacation. He was then appointed as Spiritual Director and Bursar of the seminary in Bristol, RI. In 1957 he became Director of Probationers there, a position he held until going to Lima, Peru, in 1968.

Fr Toal (L) with Columban seminarians in Bristol, 1962-63
Fr Toal worked in Peru for eleven years and spent most of that time in the parish of ‘The Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary’ in Reynoso, Callao. Before he left, he had just completed a new parish church and rectory and had built up a thriving parish community.

In Peru
Returning to the USA in April 1979 he was appointed assistant pastor in Blessed Sacrament Parish, Westminster, California. After seven years there he was assigned to Immaculate Conception parish in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Then, in the summer of 1992, he was assigned to Immaculate Conception in Grand Prairie, Texas, where he served with Columban Fathers, Dennis O’Mara and Gerald Wilmsen.

In Fontana, CA
In 2001, Fr Toal was asked to move to Los Angeles while waiting for his assignment to St Mary’s Parish in Fontana, California.  He enjoyed serving at St Mary’s for almost ten years and was beloved by the parishioners. In the fall of 2011 he moved to the Columban House in Bristol, RI. In the last few years he suffered from declining health. He was cared for at St Elizabeth Manor in Bristol, where he remained cheerful and did not complain. He was 101 when he passed away. 

Fr Toal (R) 26 September 2015
Thanks to his gentle spirit and genuine interest in all those who crossed his path, Fr Toal touched the lives of a great number of people and maintained personal contact with many of them for several decades up until the end of his life.

100th Birthday Mass, 17 October 2015, with Fr Charles Lintz
Funeral Mass will take place at 10:30am on Friday, 18 November at St Columban’s Retirement Home (65 Ferry Rd, Bristol) in Rhode Island. After lunch, burial will take place at the cemetery of St Mary’s, Bristol.  May he Rest In Peace.

Thanks to Fr Timothy Mulroy, Columban Regional Director, USA.

The great Russian-born American songwriter, Irving Berlin (1888 – 1989), like Fr Toal, lived to be 101. The year the latter was born Berlin wrote When I Leave the World Behind. This version, sung by Al Jolson, is from a radio broadcast in 1943, the year Fr Toal was ordained.

Columban Fr Daniel Fitzgerald dies at the age of 100

Fr Daniel Patrick Fitzgerald

(28 June 1916 – 9 August 2016)

Father Dan celebrated his 100th birthday on 28 June, a celebration in which he delighted, and died peacefully exactly six weeks later.

With Fr Patrick Raleigh and Columban Sisters after Mass on his 100th birthday

Fr Patrick Raleigh, Regional Director of the Columbans in Ireland, wrote about the celebration. Here are some extracts.

Fr Dan was born in the city of Cork on 28 June 1916. He grew up with the beginnings of the Society of St Columban. His great hero was Bishop Edward Galvin, Co-founder of the Society. Fr Dan was educated by the Christian Brothers at Sullivan’s Quay in Cork and entered the old Dalgan Park in Shrule, on the Galway – Mayo border in 1933. He was ordained there in December 1939.

Images of Cork city shortly before Fr Fitzgerald was born

When he was asked about the influences that drew him to the priesthood he spontaneously pointed to the influence of his parents who were daily Mass goers. The family Rosary was said each night in the house. Time and again he has expressed his deep gratitude to his parents for all that they did for him. Here in the Nursing Home in Dalgan Park the words ‘thank you’ are always on his lips. He is very much appreciated by all the staff in the Nursing Home. They left no stone unturned in making sure that everything would go well for the day. They put a huge effort into decorating the place beforehand.

Early years as a Columban

His first appointment was to the Philippines in 1940 but because of World War II he never got there. In the early 1940s he served as chaplain to the Maria Reparatrix Sisters in Cork. At this time he took up golf, a sport in which he became quite proficient. He has said on many occasions that to keep his mind off exile and not knowing the day or the hour he would be called he would hit golf balls in the golf course in Douglas in Cork.

Where Father Dan played golf [Source: Douglas Golf Club website]


In 1946 he set sail for China with five Columban priests and five Columban Sisters. Sr Damien Rooney, Columban Sister and now living in the Columban Sisters Home in Magheramore, County Wicklow, was one of those. It was indeed very symbolic that she was able to attend the Ceremony in Dalgan. While Father Dan was the centre of attention, Sr Damien made a great impression on those who attended. She is now in her 96th year. In a strong and very clear voice and without a microphone she read out the special message that she had prepared for Fr Dan. I’m very happy to be here today to celebrate the 100th birthday of Fr Dan. Fr Dan has been a life-long friend since we first met in Hanyang, China in 1946. That was a very difficult time in China; a time of great destruction during the communist regime. Through it all Fr Dan was always calm – a source of strength and consolation for all of us. For all my life Fr Dan’s friendship and his faithful life as a Columban missionary, has kept me going. We are both a little advanced in age now, but we are still on the way. We are both on the road with Jesus as our constant companion, and who could have a better companion than Jesus !

A young Fr Edward Galvin in China, 1912-1916

During his six years in China the political situation was quite chaotic. Nevertheless, for Fr Dan it was a great privilege to work in the diocese with his great hero and friend, Bishop Edward Galvin whom to this day he has held in such high esteem. His first impressions of China were of the heat and mosquitoes. The Diocese of Hanyang was roughly the size of Munster. Only one per cent of the population were Catholics.

Bishop Edward Galvin and Fr Dan Fitzgerald were forced to leave China in 1952

In 1952 he left China but he left it with a great love for the Chinese people which continues to this day. He says that they were like a sheep without a shepherd. It was indeed very fitting that Dan received a number of emails from China including emails from Columbans there.

After China

After his years in China Father Dan worked in Australia where he spent seven years. There was a lovely email from Fr Pat Baker in the Philippines to Fr Dan thanking him for all the help and encouragement he gave him as his Spiritual Director in Turramurra back in the late ‘50s and ‘60s. Fr Pat said that Fr Dan was an inspiration to the students and he was delighted to have the opportunity to thank him. Fr Dan also worked on Promotion in Australia with the late Frs Gerry O’Collins and Pat Hennessy. In his email Fr Pat refers to them as the ‘Dream Team’. Wonderful stories circulated about Fr Dan’s experiences in some of the parishes he visited, especially his feats on the golf course.


St Mary of the Rosary Church, Nenagh [Source: Parish website]

After his time in Australia, he was assigned to Scotland from ’73 to ’81.When he returned to Ireland he worked in many different places including being Chaplain for eight years at the Care Home run by the Bon Sauveur Sisters in Carriglea, Dungarvan, County Waterford. When most people would have considered retiring Dan in his seventies set out on a new Mission to the Diocese of Killaloe. He spent a short time in Sixmilebridge, County Clare before moving on to Nenagh. 

He immersed himself wholeheartedly in the life of Nenagh and its people. Over the years in Nenagh Dan spent many hours every day praying in St Mary of the Rosary Church. As the people of Nenagh dropped in to the Church to say a prayer Fr Dan could be seen praying before Our Lady’s Altar. He built up many very genuine and strong rapport with everyone with a special attachment to Hospital visitation. During his time in Nenagh he visited the Hospital every night. Almost every family in Nenagh and in North Tipperary has some story to tell about meeting Fr Dan and his kindness to them. His nightly visits to the Hospital were eagerly looked forward to by not only the patients of all creeds but also by their families and the staff in the Hospital. His words of encouragement were always very much appreciated. 

His daily Communion rounds to the sick are legendary. Fr Dan has often said that the people of Nenagh are a very decent people. When in Nenagh he spent many hours in the Confessional. During his time there he brought something very special to the people.. When the time came for him to return to Dalgan Park to the Nursing Home the people made every effort to keep him there and had organised a rota of nurses to look after his medical needs. As Columbans we owe a huge debt of gratitude to so many people in Nenagh, too numerous to mention. He continues to receive visitors from there on a weekly basis.

A visit from Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA of Cashel and Emly, previously Bishop of Killaloe

His endearing presence

Since his return to Dalgan he has endeared himself to so many. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the very caring staff in the Nursing Home here in Dalgan for the very special way that they minister to his needs.

After the celebration of the Eucharist people were very anxious to gather around him to greet him and have their photo taken with him. He certainly rose to the occasion and was very effusive in his words of gratitude. Everybody enjoyed an excellent meal after Mass in the College dining room. 

St Columban’s, Dalgan Park

Columban Fr Sean McDonagh, from Nenagh, spoke in his homily at the 100th birthday celebration of how Fr Fitzgerald had served the people of the parish of St Mary of the Rosary.

His daily communion rounds were legendary. He brought my own mother communion every day for the last six-and-a-half years of her life when she was housebound.

During his 23 years of service, Fr Dan visited the hospital every night. Almost every family in North Tipperary has some story to tell about meeting Fr Dan on nightly rounds. I remember my own mother being rushed into Nenagh hospital. I received a call to come home as they thought my mother was dying. When I reached the hospital it seemed that she was dying. It was only after Fr Dan’s visit that I wondered whether her potassium levels had fallen. In fact, her potassium levels had fallen. The procedure to address that helped save her life.

Not alone the patients, but all the hospital staff valued Fr Dan’s contribution to healing in the hospital. In an email to Fr Donal Hogan (who at the time was the Columban Regional Director) in March 2012, Fr Pat Malone, the parish priest of Nenagh, wrote: ‘Fr Dan is deeply loved, highly respected and greatly valued by the whole community.’ He wrote that 21 nurses were willing to organise a rota to look after Fr Dan’s medical needs.

Fr Dan also spent many hours in the confessional serving the needs of people. His pastoral presence at the Christian Brothers School was deeply appreciated by both the staff and the students.

Fr Pat Raleigh concluded his article about Father Dan’s 100th birthday celebration with these words: The occasion would not have been complete without the singing of the The Banks and with great gusto everybody joined in the singing.

(‘The Banks of My Own Lovely Lee’, usually referred to colloquially as ‘De Banks’, is the anthem of Cork people, especially those from the city. It was sung again after the lunch that followed the funeral Mass and burial of Father Dan on 12 August.)

Father Dan died in the evening of 9 August. That afternoon he prayed the Rosary for the last time. In his homily at the Mass on Father Dan’s 100th birthday and at the funeral Mass Fr Sean McDonagh spoke of the great devotion of this holy priest to our Blessed Mother. As the people of Nenagh know very well – any time you would visit the Church to say a prayer, Fr Dan could be seen praying right before Our Lady’s Altar . . . I   wondered   whether there was anything akin to a   Guinness   Book   of Records in Heaven. If there is Fr Dan would certainly be close to winning the prize for the person who has said the most rosaries in his life.

Nenagh is in County Tipperary, as is Clonmel, where the late Irish tenor Frank Patterson was from. In this video he is singing this hymn to our Blessed Mother, not as a performer but as the man of faith he was.


Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam uasal. May his noble soul be at the right hand of God.

Thanks to Frs Cyril Lovett, Patrick Raleigh and Sean McDonagh.