On May 18, the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the Missionary Society of St Columban was celebrated at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome. The Columban founders, Fr Edward Galvin and Fr John Blowick, stayed at the Irish College in 1918 when they went to Rome to obtain approval from Pope Benedict XV for the new mission society, so celebrating our centenary at the Irish College highlighted this special Roman connection at the beginnings of the Society.
The ambassadors of Ireland, Australia, United Kingdom, Philippines, Korea, Chile, Taiwan and Canada, together with eight superiors-general and forty-five priests, joined with many Columban friends at the Mass celebrated by Columban superior-general Fr Kevin O’Neill. Among the bishops was Bishop Noel Treanor of Down and Connor. Bangor is in his diocese from where St Columban set out from Ireland on his missionary journey to Europe in 590. A major relic of our patron St Columban was brought for the centenary celebration from Bobbio in north Italy in a much-venerated silver reliquary dating from 1460.
The petitions during the Prayer of the Faithful were prayed in Gaelic, Mandarin, Urdu, Tagalog, Spanish, Korean, Parkari Koli, and Burmese and included the Hail May sung in Mandarin by six Chinese priests.
One of the chalices used at the Mass belonged to Fr Peter Leonard, a Columban missionary in China who was killed in 1929 because of hatred of the Faith. It was found in his burnt-out church and has been used for the celebration of Mass at Collegio San Colombano in Rome since 1935.
The centenary celebration continued after Mass with a reception and dinner at the Pontifical Irish College during a pleasant Roman spring evening. Several guests including Vatican officials recalled during the evening their relatives who had been Columban missionary priests or sisters.