What the Pilgrims Say

Short Reflections on the Pilgrimage

Some of the pilgrims

The experience was surreal. I felt sad yet honored, privileged, and blessed to have walked the floors that Fr Francis Vernon Douglas walked, touched the pillar where he was tied up and tortured, entered through the doors where he welcomed my fellow Filipinos, climbed the stairs where he was dragged out, and just being in the space where he once was. He is truly an inspiration.  Mrs Mavic H. Mercene, Secretary, St Columban’s Lay Mission Center and of AITECE-Philippines.

I found the sharing of the two witnesses very moving and inspiring. Although they were young when they witnessed Fr Vernon's suffering it impacted on their lives, and enriched their faith. Meeting them and listening to their sharing enriched my own faith and helped me make the connection with this great Columban.  Fr Raymond Husband, Vice-Director, Region of the Philippines, and Rector, Columban House of Studies, QC.

God's will comes in surprises. Believing and trusting God's providence, willingness to serve and sacrifice, the patience to wait, the goodness, cooperation and uniqueness of  His people, and coming together walking with love, spirit and surprises in the direction of finding the true meaning of life is wonderful. We have nothing to worry about even unto death.  I for one couldn't hold my tears, because God and Fr Douglas  were  with us, happy and joyful. Even the traffic in Manila and rain along the way couldn't stop us.  Miss Thelma Patapat, Assistant Archivist, St Columban’s, Manila. Thelma is from Pililla.

Usa sa akong ginapuy-an nga versikulo gikan sa Matthew 20:26, ‘Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant’. Mao kana ang mga pulong nga akong ma-connect sa kang Fr Vernon upon hearing the testimomies sa mga katawhan. Nga samtang siya gitorture, anaa lamang siya sa kahilum samtang nagrosaryo. Diha sa kahilum, mas daghan pa kita’g mahunahuna nga mga bulawanong butang nga angay ikapa-ambit sa uban, sama sa atong mga talento ug gasa, aron daghan ang mabulahan. Daku kung kalipay nga nakasalmot sa gipahigayon nga pilgrimage isip pagbalik lantaw sa kinabuhing misyonero ni Fr Vernon. Usa ka maayong ehemplo nga pagasundon ug pagapuy-an sa atong inadlaw nga pagpakabuhi.  Malipayon nga nakauban pud ang ubang mga Columbano.  Jhan Yecyec, Columban Co-worker, Cagayan de Oro City.

It was a great opportunity for me to have joined the Pilgrimage to Pililla and Paete. To be in the places where the drama of Francis Douglas's martyrdom unfolded was both sad and inspiring. To personally hear the testimonies of the two ladies who saw him tied to the post created a more visual reality that gave flesh to the stories I had heard from other people. The more touching the experience became when his nephew expressed his gratitude on behalf of the Douglas family and saw how they were touched by the way people in Paete honored their uncle  all through the years. May Francis's life continue to inspire all of us and encourage us more to value the dignity and sanctity of our individual and collective vocation as Christians.  Fr Jovito Dales, Bursar General, Hong Kong.

I was deeply moved by the testimonies of Mrs Aurelia Cadapan and Miss Dominga Bayocot who, as youngsters, witnessed the torments of Fr Vernon Douglas.  While they were bringing food to their relatives who were also imprisoned in their church Aurelia and Dominga remembered seeing Fr Vernon tied to a pillar that supported the choir loft.  He was bruised and bleeding from a head wound. In telling their stories the two women, now in their late 80’s, mentioned details that attested to the accuracy of their memories. Dominga remembered that her mother made her wear tattered clothes so as not to attract the attention of the soldiers.  Aurelia remembered how deeply she had to bow to the Japanese guards before passing into the church.  They gave their testimonies before we visited the church where Fr Vernon was tortured.  Upon entering we saw the pillar to which Fr Vernon had been tied.  Next to it a tiny candle kept vigil over that sacred place.  Fr Vincent Busch, Ozamiz City.

I had known about Fr Douglas since I had worked in eastern Rizal in the 1990s but it was mostly on an 'informational' and individual level. The pilgrimage to Pililla and Paete in a Columban group that was multi-cultural, multi-generational and in the company of his immediate relatives brought home to me the sacredness of his sacrifice and how relevant and alive is his witness in the context of Columban mission today.  Fr John Leydon, Malate Parish.

The pilgrimage awakened my awareness of the multiple possibilities in my life as a missionary, depending on what the situation calls me to do. It was both a privilege and a joy that my faith in God was nourished. And my belief that the calling that have I responded came from God and not from myself was deepened. For this, I would like to ask Fr Vernon to help me to be faithful, just as he was, to the mission regardless of the possible consequences.  Jerry Lohera, Columban seminarian from Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental.

The pilgrimage was so special, you all shared our pain and joy. This has been the greatest journey I have ever made. Without your planned pilgrimage it would not be the same. I feel Uncle Vernon smiling on us all, I feel he can surely rest in peace now. Thank you all for this wonderful experience. God Bless.  Verne Rose, Fr Douglas's niece, with her husband Cliff Turner, New Zealand.