To Do God’s Will

This week Columbans have so much to be thankful for. On Thursday, we will give thanks for the feast day of our patron saint, St. Columban, as well as the birth of our Society's founder, Bishop Ned Galvin. We will also open our centenary year. Amy Echeverria, our Society's international JPIC Coordinator, invites us to reflect on this abundance of blessings as an opportunity to discern God's will for our lives.

by Amy Echeverria

Columban founder Bishop Galvin famously said to a young group of Columban missionaries only a few years in to the new mission, “We are not here to convert the Chinese, but to do God’s will.”

I often wonder how the young missionaries felt and what they thought upon hearing those words. I imagine that they may have felt stunned, perhaps even confused. After all, the missionary endeavor in those years was precisely understood as a time of winning souls for Christ.  I imagine the scene as they left the shores of Ireland, saying good bye to their families, uncertain if they would ever return home. There is a kind of heroic romanticism that plays out in one’s mind considering the context of times where spoken. But Bishop Galvin had a deeper invitation which was to set forth the task of mission as being close to people who were suffering and vulnerable, walk with them, and tend to their human and spiritual needs. In a book titled, Spirituality of Our Founders by James McCaslin, it is said that the cry of the poor was not in the ears of this or that Columban, but in all Columbans. 

Those traditions, in Bishop Galvin’s words, remain points of light to Columbans and indeed to all Christian faithful who hear them. Our task as missionary disciples by our baptism is not a matter of geography or conversion, but rather a faithfulness to God’s invitation to us to go outside of ourselves in love to serve the people who are vulnerable and the earth that has been wounded. 

This November 2017, the Society will open our centenary year. It is a time to give thanks, to celebrate, and most importantly, look to the utopian horizon that draws us to itself, as Pope Francis says in Evangelii Gaudium (p.222). In keeping our gaze on that horizon that is the horizon of justice, peace, love, unity, wholeness, and reconciliation, we remain guided by our founders to stay faithful to God’s will for all of Creation. We give thanks for the opportunity to share the missionary journey with you through prayer, civic participation, and together our ongoing conversion of the heart. 


Amy Echeverria is the international JPIC Coordinator for the Missionary Society of St. Columban. She has worked with the Columbans for over fifteen years. 

Weekly Reflections on Justice & Columban Spirituality are written by the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach staff, volunteers, interns, and visiting Columban Missionaries. We hope these reflections help to guide you on your own spiritual journey working toward justice, peace, and the integrity of creation.