Misyon Online - March-April 2013

Pulong ng Editor

By Fr Seán Coyle

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A Close Encounter with the Columbans in the Third World

By Fr Jovito Dales

Fr Vito at Fr Murtagh's graveyard.

Father Jovito shares how his childhood wonder at the ‘huge house inhabited by white strangers’ in Ozamiz City led him ultimately to leave a good job in the bank and become a Columban priest in Peru. He is now back in the Philippines as vocation director. He will be very happy to hear from any young man interested in following his footsteps at seladmj@yahoo.com


‘I pray especially for you to have the gifts of the Spirit of Discernment and the Spirit of Mission.’ That was the prayer of Columban Fr Desmond Hartford when he confirmed me in January 1997 in the chapel of the Carmelite Sisters, Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. After finding no proof of my confirmation Monsignor Des, then Apostolic Administrator of the Prelature of Marawi, suggested that I be confirmed there. He looked for my baptismal godparents, whom I had never met. He eventually found them and brought them to the ceremony. That was an unforgettable event precisely because I was born and baptized in Marawi City in 1969, but grew up in Catadman, Ozamiz City, when we left the war-torn place in 1972.

Encounter with the White Strangers

My first encounter with the Columbans was during my elementary years. Going to school I passed by a huge house inhabited by white strangers. We called it ‘Ang Palasyo’, ‘The Palace’, as it was the biggest house in town. Those passing by were curious about the overwhelmingly big house, about those white men what they were they doing in our place. Their towering height seemed threatening to little kids like me. But I was not afraid of them because they were very nice. They tried to speak and ask questions in Bisaya, and would even laugh as they were corrected. I learned that they were missionary priests and that Ang Palasyo was the central house of the Columban Fathers in Ozamiz City. Most of the Columbans I met in Mindanao were people-oriented, lived a simple lifestyle, were very down to earth and courageous, and chose to stay despite the danger – things that captivated me as I was silently discerning my vocation.

‘Gracias a la vida que me ha dado tanto’

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Come and See Where I Lived

By Fr Daniel O’Connor

(Father) Michael Martin
Fr O’Connor at the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem.

The author is from New Zealand and was ordained in 1986. This article first appeared in the newsletter of the Pakistan Mission Unit of the Columbans. For many years he has been a long-distance runner.


As part of my Silver Jubilee sabbatical year I spent some time last June 2012 in the Holy Land. Descending out of the dark sky into the lights of Tel Aviv was symbolic. The next day
excitement increased as I boarded a bus for Nazareth. Being an adventurous Columban I had a wonderful, humble privilege of walking along the places that Jesus walked, called ‘Hiking the Jesus Trail’ and ‘The Jesus Marathon’.

As I walked through the alleyways and steps of the old city of Nazareth I reminisced that this was where Jesus played, walked, laughed, shed tears and worked for the first 30 years of his life on earth. Seeing children of olive-colored skin playing soccer on the side of the street reminded me that Jesus would have looked like them and played with his friends in those areas and drawn water from ‘Mary’s Well’.


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Learning Some of What I Don’t Know

By Siobhan McCaffrey

Pakistan Misyon Article
Siobhan with students

Some Challenges and Possibilities in Collaborating with Teachers in Schools in Lahore, Pakistan, from the brief experience of a Northern Irish Primary School Teacher. The author wrote this article during her second visit to Pakistan. Her first visit, nearly a year earlier, was to visit the grave of her Columban uncle, Fr Pat McCaffrey. We published her account of that visit, Following in Father Pat’s footsteps in November-December 2012.


Pakistan Misyon Article
Sacred Heart Cathedral, Lahore

My uncle, Fr Pat McCaffrey, a Columban missionary, died suddenly in Pakistan in May 2010. Along with my brother Niall, I came to Pakistan the following Christmas to visit his grave. I decided to return again in November 2011, so this is my second visit. This time, even though I speak no Urdu, I wanted to be more included in daily life so looked for the opportunity to work with teachers and children in local schools in a Columban parish in Lahore. I have been working in the schools for just over three weeks and the following attempts to describe and evaluate this experience.

I approached the principal of one of the parish schools and asked her how I might contribute. She asked me to explain the basics of English grammar to the teachers, and also work with some of the older classes in the school. So, I spent the first week preparing a one-day seminar on the topic for 30 teachers.


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My Life with the Columbans

By Virgenia Oral Vidad

my life story
The Beneficiaries

Virgie’s involvement with the Columbans started when she was in college. She used to go with Fr Don Kill in selling and promoting Misyon on Sundays. She joined the Columban Familia Misyon under Columban Sister Tammy Saberon. It was an organization of college students who volunteered to visit children with disabilities in Ozamiz City in their homes. She now works with the Pedaling to Live community set up by Columban Fr Oliver McCrossan.


my life story
Father Oli with children in the community.

I come from a very poor family in Ramon Magsaysay, Zamboanga del Sur, my father being a farmer. He worked very hard to provide us with food. He usually woke up at 4am to work. My mother took care of us while we were studying. Sometimes she would help my father on the farm. At weekends my brothers and I would help him, especially during the planting and harvesting seasons. I can’t imagine how I survived the heat of the sun during the planting season.

When I was eleven I left home and went to Buug, Zamboanga del Sur, with my brother and was in Grade Six in Buug Elementary School. That was my first time to sleep without my mother beside me, a very painful year that helped me to grow more mature. I finished high school as a working student in Sominot National High School. I stayed in the house of one of my teachers so I didn’t have to spend for daily transportation. In spite of these difficulties in my elementary and high school years, I was determined to pursue college.

In June 1993 I enrolled for a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science at Immaculate Conception College, Ozamiz City (now La Salle University). I graduated as a working scholar in October 1997 and the following month started as a secretary of the President of the school.

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Shahbaz Bhatti: 'I know what is the meaning of Cross'

By Fr Tomás King

Two years ago on 2 March Clement Shahbaz Bhatti, a Catholic and the only Christian member of the Cabinet in Pakistan, was assassinated in Islamabad just after he had left his mother’s house. Recently Fr Tomás King, Coordinator of the Columban Mission Unit in Pakistan, met Gerard Bhatti, a brother of Shahbaz, and wrote this article.


Shahbaz Bhatti
Shahbaz Bhatti
(9 September 1968 – 2 March 2011)

Shahbaz Bhatti was the youngest in a family one sister and five brothers. They were born in the Catholic village of Khuspur, near the city of Faisalabad in the Punjab. Khushpur means ‘Happy Land’. It was named after its founder, Father Felix, a Capuchin missionary, his name being the Latin for ‘happy’. The village was founded in 1900. It is one of 53 such villages founded throughout the country by various missionary congregations, mostly before the partition of 1947. The founding of these villages made a huge impact on the sense of dignity and self-worth of an oppressed group of people. Khushpur has produced two bishops and many priests and sisters. It is also the home of the National Catechists Training Centre.There are 300 families in the village.

Grerard Bhatti

Jaclyn, the only sister, was the first-born, followed by Paul, who was appointed Federal Minister for Minorities Affairs after the death of his brother, Peter, Gerard, Sikandar and Shahbaz, whose Christian name was Clement. The family owns four acres of land, now farmed by Sikandar. His mother is still alive while his father, Jacob, died only weeks before his martyrdom. Christian or ‘Western’ names were usually given by the missionaries. The two youngest children being given Sub-continent names maybe reflects the need to fit in as the country gradually became more Islamised.

Despite being implored to the contrary, in his 20s Shahbaz decided not to marry so as to devote his life to the struggle for human rights of the oppressed and for justice and peace, which wa a very counter-cultural commitment to make.

His only sister, a brother, nieces and a nephew speak about Shahbaz Bhatti.

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