In order to become more aware of what the life of a Columban missionary priest is like, here are some glimpses of the lives of seven fairly typical Columban Missionaries.
Can you see yourself living such a life?
Fr Tomas King - Pakistan
Fr Tomas King, a native of Ireland, rises very early to avoid the summer heat, which can be up to 48 degrees during the day in summer. After morning prayers and some rotis for breakfast, he is soon on his way, out into the desert in his Four-Wheel Drive jeep on a visit to one of the 25 villages that make up his parish. His parish is located in the remote and arid Thar Parkar Desert in south east Pakistan. His parishioners are comprised mainly of an impoverished and oppressed tribal group called the Parkari Kholis.
Fr Barry Cairns - Japan
When needing to visit a sick parishioner, Fr Barry Cairns from New Zealand drives his 600cc mini car around his parish in Hodogaya, one of the wards of Yokohama City, in Japan. He has been parish priest there since 2002. As well as the traditional pastoral work and liturgical celebrations of a busy parish priest, Fr Barry likes to grow crops of potatoes, tomatoes, onions and lettuce in his garden plot alongside his house. Most of all, however, he likes to spend time with his parishioners in the many social activities organized by the parish.
Fr Peter O'Neill - Taiwan
Fr Peter O'Neill from Australia arrives around 8:30am at the "Hsinchu Catholic Diocese Migrants and Immigrants Service Centre" where he is the Coordinator and diocesan chaplain. This Centre is an advocacy centre for the victims of labour trafficking by organizing court cases against the traffickers. Around 6.00 pm, Fr Peter returns to the Diocesan Shelter where he lives with 31 Indonesian, 4 Filipino, 3 Thai and 2 Vietnamese male victims of labour trafficking, who are awaiting the outcome of their court cases. He does everything possible to give the shelter a homely feel.
Fr Paul Prendergast - Peru
Until recently, Fr Paul Prendergast from New Zealand was parish priest of Yanoaca, a parish of 35,000 mainly Quechua speaking indigenous people, not far from Cuzco, the old Inca capital in Peru. It is situated a nearly 4000 metres above sea level in a valley high up in the Andes Mountain Range in south-east Peru. Fr Paul’s days were spent visiting the different villages scattered around the valley and mountains that make up his parish. There are few paved roads. Most of the people live in extreme poverty due to draught, floods, poor farming techniques and lack of machinery. Most are illiterate.
Fr Paul’s worked with catechists and religious sisters, supported a parish run technical school for local youth and developed a food kitchen for those in need. Fr Paul first came to Peru in 1966. He has now retired and lives in the nearby town of Sicuani, not far from Yanoaca.
Fr William Lee - Fiji and Chile
Fr William Lee from Fiji is parish priest of the parish of San Matias, a parish of over 90,000 people, comprising 9 Churches on the southern outskirts of Santiago, Chile. This is a poor area with many social problems including poverty, substance abuse, criminal gangs, mental illnesses, high unemployment rates and violence. When Fr William was growing up in Fiji, he always admired the work of Columban priests in his home parish. They had come from overseas to serve the people of Fiji. Now, Fr William offers his life as a missionary priest in another country, in the parish of San Matias, Chile.
Fr Kevin Mullins - Mexico
As parish priest of Corpus Christi parish in the City of Juarez, Mexico, Fr Kevin Mullins from Australia spends his days visiting his parishioners and organizing the normal activities of his busy and vibrant parish. At the same time, as the City of Juarez is located on the border between Mexico and the United States, it has the fame of being one of the most violent cities in the world, due to the illegal drug trade. Nevertheless, Fr Kevin continues to work hard to support his parishioners, many of whom are living in dire poverty amidst so much suffering and needless killing. He describes the parish of Corpus Christi as a beacon of hope in a world of so much despair and hopelessness.
Fr Brian Gore - Philippines
In the 1970’s and early 1980’s, Fr Brian Gore from Australia worked hard on the island of Negros in the Philippines to support poor subsistence farmers retain their land against forceful encroachments by large scale sugar interests. On account this, he and his companions were arrested on false charges in 1984 and spent 14 months in jail. Today Fr Brian continues this ministry of support for subsistence farmers through the Negros Nine Human Development Foundation. This foundation is primarily involved in helping subsistence farmers remain on their land through sustainable agricultural methods, the formation of a Farmers’ Cooperative to sell their produce, the development of a primary school for the education of the local children and in developing programmes to stop the trafficking of local people for their labour.