Francis Douglas (1910-1943)

Columban Missionary to the Philippines:

Frank Douglas came from a close, lively, Catholic, working-class family in Johnsonville, a suburb of Wellington. He was tall, robust, dark-haired, sports-loving, and strong-minded. He had a fine sense of social and religious duty.

After high school he thrived in the strict and austere seminary regime at Mosgiel. After ordination (1934), he spent two years in the parish of New Plymouth. Frank then volunteered for foreign mission, and joined the Columban Mission Society.

Assigned to the Philippines, he was sent as pastor of Pililla, a rural township near Manila. It was not an easy assignment. He needed to learn a difficult language and come to terms with unfamiliar local traditions.

Life became more difficult after the Japanese occupation in January 1942. He was arrested by the military in July 1943, under suspicion that he was spying for the resistance forces. He was interrogated and tortured for three days before being taken away, never to be seen again. It is believed that he died in Longos, Laguna, as a result of the beating in Paeta.

A report in 1945 stated that what Father Douglas suffered made a deep impression on the people of the town. The Filipinos said that he seemed to be like our Lord Himself, as he stood tied to a post in the church, constantly beaten and ill-treated, but always with unquestionable patience.

They expressed the belief that what he suffered made him a kind of saviour.

From that time no Filipino received ill treatment. On him all the anger and hatred of the Japanese was concentrated.

As later generations honour him for his steadfast devotion to his duties, we are indebted to Patricia Brooks who went to great lengths to research and publish (1999) the story of Frank Douglas - "With No Regrets". It is a story powerful in its simplicity. It is a story of the quiet idealism and authentic heroism of an ordinary New Zealander.

Fr Michael Gormly SSC is based at St Columbans, Lower Hutt, New Zealand.

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