September-October 2003

Stolen Childhood

By Father Shay Cullen SSC

Fr Shay Cullen of Ireland is a Columban Father working in the Philippines since 1969. He helps children imprisoned and abused by a corrupt judicial system. PREDA ( was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

Little has changed in the Philippine prison system since that day several years ago when I found a 6-year-old named Rosie behind prison bars clutching a drink can and crying her heart out for her mother. A dozen or so other street children were sprawled on the hard concrete floor, unconscious with exhaustion and hunger.

Meeting Mother Teresa

By Fr Michael Mohally SSC

The first time I was to have met Mother Teresa was in Hong Kong. I was asked to bring a package to her there from where she was to accompany Sisters into China to set up the first foundation of the Missionaries of Charity there. When I got to the convent I was told that the China foundation was on ‘hold’. Newspapers had got hold of the story and said that she was going there as the representative of the Pope. Rather than wait around Mother Teresa had gone to Hanoi to set up a new foundation there.

The First Time I Danced the Meke!

By Rowena ‘Weng’ Dato Cuanico

The following articles are by two Columban lay missionaries who have lived in each other’s country. Rowena is a Filipino lay missionary in Fiji. Paulo was a Fijian lay missionary in the Philippines. Read on.

I love to dance. So, when I arrived in Fiji in October 2000 as a Columban lay missionary, I became fascinated with the meke, a traditional Fijian dance that tells the stories of ancient legends.

Martyrs Of Love

By Father Seán Coyle SSC

This article is based mainly on a report sent to the members of the Missionaries of Charity by Sister M Raphael MC, regional superior in Amman, Jordan, in 1998.

Sister Mary Michael MC was born Victoria Espejon in the Philippines on 21 September 1961. Along with Sr M Zelia MC (Pancratia Minj) and Sr M Aletta MC (Albisia Dung Dung), both from India and just a little younger, she was shot dead in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, in the south of Yemen, on the morning of 27 July 1998.

Life In The Cordillera Of Chile

By Sr Sally Oyzon SSC

Sibaya, 2, 658 meters above sea level, is a four-hour drive over lowland and mountain deserts from the city of Iquique in northern Chile. It is in one of four inland pueblos in which I ministered in the 1990s. A once thriving community, Sibaya is now sparsely populated. The 35 or so families are those with children up to Grade Six and older ones whose adult children have moved away. As in otherpueblos in the Chilean Cordilleras, the people are of Aymara descent.

‘You Need New Shoes. . . Will I buy you a Black Pair?’

By Father Seán Connaughton SSC

A student for the priesthood in Ireland used to be recognizeable by his black suit, hat, tie – with white shirt – and shoes. While walking in a field with my father in the summer of 1955, he said to me, ‘You need new shoes. . . will I buy you a black pair?’ I knew that whatever opposition I thought he and my mother had to my desire to be a Columban priest was over. Maybe they’d never opposed the idea but there was no one on either side of the family who had ever become a priest and I didn’t see myself as particularly religious.

For a long time I had dreamed of being either a teacher or an accountant. A secondary dream was to be a horticulturalist, perhaps because of all the planting we did when I was a child during ‘The Emergency,’ the name given in Ireland to World War II in which we were neutral.

‘Maestra di Campagna’

By Sister Sonia Sangel FdCC

‘If everyone lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be!’

This is what my heart was singing as I began my mission in East Timor a few months after the war in 1999, my second mission ad gentes – ‘to the nations’ – after six adventurous years in Papua New Guinea. I wished to be one of many who might light just one little candle, particularly in the world of women. Women constitute 49.5 % of the population of East Timor. By their sheer number alone they can be looked upon as key economic and social agents in this newly born, struggling nation.

And Far Away…Some Children Smile

By Fr Anthony T Pizarro CICM

No, this is not a publicity campaign using the ever-admired slogan on the bumper stickers of the one million or so tricycles that the city of Tuguegarao is known for. This is the story of how my belovedalma mater, St Louis University of Tuguegarao, has come to the aid of some people here in Senegal, of how SLU has extended its social awareness across the world to the people of this west African country.

A Life With Criminals

By Paulo Baleinakorodawa

Paulo Baleinakorodawa worked for three years in the Philippines as a Columban lay missionary. He is now coordinator of Columban Companions in Mission in his native Fiji.

People used to ask me in the Philippines why I hung around so much with criminals. It wasn’t easy to answer. Perhaps it was because of my love and compassion for them. But deep within me was a burning passion to help them know and feel that, despite their wrongdoing, God loved them in the same way He loved those in free society. Here the strength of the message of the Cross became real – God loves and accepts each one of us with no strings attached.

My Special Journey

By Father Ver Aro MSP

My appointment to the Western Province of Papua New Guinea was the start of my journey ad gentes – ‘to the nations.’  It was a kind of pilgrimage that led me to embrace the value of a very special vocation, to proclaim the Good News to a people and culture where Jesus’ words are unknown by most and when heard are often considered absurd.

I started to learn the local language, familiarize myself with the people I was serving, get acquainted with their culture and love the community.  I also caught malaria.  After only five months I was uprooted from the area because of an urgent need elsewhere.  My superior transferred me to the Diocess of Vanimo in Sandaun Province.

What Chance Does A Missionary Have In A Muslim Country?

An interview with Archbishop José Antonio Peteiro Freire OFM

Of Tangier, Morocco. By ZENIT (

The lack of religious liberty in some Muslim countries raises the question of whether a missionary can function at all in a nation dominated by Islam. In this interview on 3 February 2003 Archbishop Freire says the key to the answer is in witness.

Q: Let’s begin with the fundamental question: Is it possible to be a missionary in a Muslim country?

Archbishop Peteiro: St Francis sent five Italian Franciscans to Morocco. The Franciscans preached the Gospel openly and declared that Islam was a false religion and that Mohammed was a false prophet They went to the mosques in an insulting way, and this is why they were killed the following year, 1220.

In 1219 St Francis went to meet the Sultan in Damieta, near Cairo, and asked that Christians be allowed to visit the holy places. The fact that he went out to meet the Sultan was, undoubtedly, a prophetic action.

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Windows of Opportunity

By Lovelette B. Gonzaga

The sky was bright that Sunday afternoon as I was lying on our roof facing the beautiful velvet blue sky God was sharing with me. The leaves of the mahogany tree swayed to the rhythm of the gentle breeze that caressed my sleepy and stressful face. All this beauty unfolding before my eyes was enough to cheer me up and make me feel relaxed despite problems disturbing my brain.

Unwanted visitor

A young woman together with a man and a classmate from my high school days came to the house looking for me. Grandma yelled, ‘Candy, someone’s looking for you downstairs.’ At first I pretended that I didn’t hear and closed my eyes. But when Grandma continued calling and searching for me I ran down the stairs trying to hide from her. The three visitors had come to ask my help by inviting me to join their Choral Ministry, as they really needed a soprano.

‘I Will Walk With Faith’

By Alma Pangsiw

Alma is from the Mountain Province. She was a strong and healthy person, determined to reach her dreams for her family. But a sudden illness got in her way. Here she shares with us how she continued to walk with faith.

I am the eldest of five and was determined to finish college and find a stable job to help my brothers and sisters through school. Then fate walked in and closed that door.

August 18, 2000. I woke up and felt a sudden pang in my hips and waist. My hands were trembling and sweating. I tried to stand but couldn’t keep my legs from shaking. Yet I managed to get dressed and went to the high school where I was having my teaching practice. I couldn’t keep standing during the flag ceremony because of the throbbing pain. I could also feel both legs getting weaker. After one class I thought the pain would subside but it got worse. I couldn’t bear it anymore. I felt I’d collapse and asked permission to go home.

By Fr Joseph Panabang SVD

Labang Volleyball

Inimbitahan ng Our Lady of Fatima School and aking mga altar boys na maglaro ng volleyball laban sa kanilang women’s team. Di ako makapaniwala na natalo nila kami. “Ang daya nyo,” sabi ko sa kanila. “Nanalo kayo dahil ginayuma nyo ang aking mga altar boys.” Matinding tumutol ang mga babae, “Aba, hindi ah! Huwag kayong mamimintang, Father. Anong magagawa naming eh nagdasal kami. Ang mga altar boys mo nagdasal ba? Tignang nyo sila o.”