CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Celebrating a Columban century: Everyone is a missionary

HONG KONG (SE): “All of us then are missionaries, whatever our path in life, or whatever our stage of life, or whatever country we live in,” Father Tim Mulroy, the new superior general of the Missionary Society of St. Columban, said at a Mass to conclude the centenary celebrations of the Missionary Society of St. Columban at the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception, Caine Road, on November 23, the feast of St. Columban.
The Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung of Hong Kong, together with John Cardinal Tong Hon and over 10 Columban priests including Father Mulroy; regional director of China, Father Dan Troy; Father Joseph Houston; Father Patrick O’ Beirne and others.
In his homily, Father Mulroy, who took over from Father Kevin O’ Neill a month ago, said that Hong Kong, the international headquarters for Columban priests and lay missionaries, has been a significant place for the society’s mission work throughout all of its history. He noted that while the Columban sisters left Hong Kong a few years ago, their legacy continues to be cherished by thousands of people whose lives were enriched by them.
Father Mulroy recalled the determination of Father Edward Galvin, who founded the mission organisation in 1918 to spread the gospel in China, and the crucial role of another co-founder, Father John Blowick, who supported the missionary work from his home country of Ireland to make sure that his Columban colleagues in other countries received the support and resources they needed. 
Father Mulroy said the latter should also be considered a missionary as he sacrificed himself to the same extent as others who ministered in distant lands. 
“Father Blowick understood that what matters most is not where one serves God, but how we serve God,” he said.
Father Mulroy said the lives of Bishop Galvin and Father Blowick are reminders that there are different ways to participate in God’s mission. “Indeed, every baptised person has the privilege of sharing the Good News of God’s love for all his children, wherever we are sent, or wherever we find ourselves,” he explained.
In his own remarks, Bishop Yeung expressed his agreement with Father Mulroy that every one should be a missionary bringing the Good News to the poor and healing broken hearts.
He recounted that, in his 42 years as a priest, he could not forget hearing the confession of a former prisoner who had just been released with no home to go to. He said as a priest, he had a job to help these people feel the consolation of God and he urged all to share the same mission.
Father Troy said at the start of the Mass that China had been the focus of the Columban mission over the last century and this would probably be the case into the next century as well. 
He also expressed his gratitude to all who contributed and came for the Mass, particularly the Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary from Hanyang, in Wuhan City, China, who brought a poem, written out in calligraphy, to be hung next to the altar. The sisters’ community was founded by Bishop Galvin in 1939.
In the poem, the sisters compare the work of the Columban missionaries in Hanyang to a renowned five-century-old Ginkgo tree there, as both have witnessed the long history of the region.
Sister Clara Zhang Jinping explained to the Sunday Examiner that the tree is mentioned in the poem because it now overlooks their church and a hospital in Hanyang, which was set up by Columban missionaries in 1923. She said she was grateful for the concern about the people in China shown by the celebrants during the Mass, which made her feel that her heart was connected with everyone.
In the prayer of the faithful, religious sisters, lay missionaries and others, prayed in Mandarin, English, Japanese, Tagalog and Korean for the sick, the poor and missionary work all over the world. 
Father Patrick O’ Beirne who is based in Beijing, told the Sunday Examiner before the Mass that he has a deep love for the Chinese people and that the key for missionaries is to respect the ground they walk upon. 
“(We) Ourselves must be changed so that we can see the image of God already in the face of the Chinese people. Our job is just to confirm it and affirm it,” he said. 
To mark the centenary, a book titled, Columban Missionaries in Hong Kong, written by Father Joseph Houston, was launched during a ceremony at the Irish Consulate on March 15 (Sunday Examiner, March 25).

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