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By Fr Donal O’Dea
As I sat in the parish church of Dancalan, Ilog, Negros Occidental, I felt sleepy. A 5.30am flight from Manila to Bacolod and a three-hour drive to be on time had their effect. The fact that the Mass was in Ilonggo, which I didn’t understand, caused my mind to ponder on the occasion and to wander back to the day John Doohan had left The Hand, in Kilmurry Ibrickan parish, Mullagh, County Clare, to go to the seminary to become a Columban missionary. Today, 69 years later, we were celebrating his funeral Mass - two bishops, many priests, religious sisters and brothers and an overflowing congregation. It was a long journey, in time and distance, from Ireland to the Philippines, yet the banner over the church door, with his picture, said in large bold letters, ‘Welcome Home Father John’.
The farm house and land are no longer in Doohan hands, and the land at the foot of Mt Callan is planted with trees; yet it was home to nine children, all of whom brought that faith and dedication to whatever they did and wherever they traveled.
I felt privileged, as a fellow Clareman, a fellow student in St Flannan’s College with John and his brother, Father Michael, to have enjoyed the hospitality of that home in The Hand and now to share again in the genuine and open welcome he got on his return home to this, his last parish.
After primary school in Coor, John and others like him were day-boys in St Flannan’s, the diocesan college (high school). They stayed in boarding houses in Mill St, Ennis, and on weekends went home by trap or bicycle and returned with food and fuel.
They were used to hard work, and brought that ethic with them to the Philippines.
In 1950, the Columbans were asked to staff the southern part of Bacolod diocese in Negros Occidental and took over four parishes. These were difficult years, with many challenges, especially in the social conditions in this sugar-growing province. Yet to-day, those four parishes, are a diocese, with a local bishop and 50 diocesan priests, in 23 parishes. John’s sister Mary, who started the Little Way Association, was a big help in this. Philomena, their sister, served as a Columban Sister, in Myanmar, the Philippines and Chile.
To his surviving brother and sister, relatives and friends, we sent our condolences and thanks; to Father John, we said thanks again, and though far from the shadow of Mt Callan, he is resting in his new home, under the volcanic cone of majestic Mt Canlaon, 2,450 meters high. May he rest in peace. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam – may his soul be at the right hand of God.