In a packed St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne on Sunday 24th June, Columban benefactors along with Fr Kevin O’Neill, the Superior General, Fr Brian Vale, the Regional Director, Australia and New Zealand, 10 Columban and two diocesan priests concelebrated a Mass of Thanksgiving with the Archbishop of Melbourne, Most Reverend Denis Hart.
Joining the Solemn 11 am Mass were the St Patrick’s Cathedral Choir under the direction of Dr Daryl Barclay with Judith Dodsworth as the cantor and organist Dion Henman.
Before the commencement of the Mass, Archbishop Hart incensed a relic of St Columban, placed in a reliquary at the base of the sanctuary steps.
In his welcome address, Archbishop Hart pointed out that the day’s feast, the Feast of St John the Baptist, had a beautiful parallel in the life of St Columban himself. He said "The order of missionaries founded in his name 100 years ago, a missionary order which seeks to do precisely as Columban and John the Baptist did, to go before the Lord proclaiming his coming and his salvific power."
In his homily, the Archbishop again referred to the work of the Columbans. "They do what John the Baptist did", he said and told the story of the initial fundraising of the fledgling Order in Australia, kick-started with a gift of 100 pounds from then Archbishop of Melbourne, Daniel Mannix. "Thus did our long association with the Columbans begin," reminisced His Grace. "It is a connection, and a wonderful connection, that continues between our Archdiocese and the Columbans to this very day."
In his remarks at the conclusion of the Mass, Superior General Fr Kevin O’Neill acknowledged the constant support of the Archdiocese of Melbourne for the Columbans. He thanked all the benefactors some of whom had travelled far to be part of the celebrations.
The centenary pilgrim altar cloth which covered the altar for Mass was made up of pieces of cloth that have come from different countries where Columban missionaries work with each piece of cloth holding signatures of people from those countries.
A large crowd of Columban supporters enjoyed refreshments at Cathedral Hall where Fr Tony Cox had created a magnificent display of Columban history. Columbans, Frs Kevin Mullins and George Hogarty shared their missionary stories during the festivities.
In a spirit of celebration, guests spent the rest of the afternoon interacting with Columbans, , enjoying refreshments and viewing the exhibition area showcasing the work of Columbans in the last 100 years.