At the heart of the Columban mission is cross-cultural exchange, the belief that God speaks to us through the experiences of others, particularly those who are marginalized or living in poverty, and that we should open our hearts to learn from those experiences. As St. Columban puts it: “a life unlike your own can be your teacher.”
Fr. Tomas King offers mass in Pakistan
Columban Fr. Tomas King accompanies the Parkari Kohil tribal people of Pakistan. He sees firsthand the corrosive effects of poverty, corruption, and violence on his neighbors. In Pakistan, one out of every fourteen children die before the age of one and this wouldn’t be so, Fr. Tomas asserts, if a large fraction of the country’s financial resources weren’t wasted on corruption and unnecessary military spending.
Activist on Gureombie, Jeju Island (courtsey Massachusetts Peace Action)
On a Sunday afternoon in February 2012, Columban Fr. Pat Cunningham got ready to attend Mass on the rock of Gureombi, a volcanic rock plateau on Jeju Island, South Korea. The rock “had sacred significance for the villagers,” said Fr. Pat, “as it was a ‘living rock’ and therefore intimately tied up with [the] identity [of the] village people – a place where people from the 400-year-old village used to celebrate their ceremonial rites.”
Baby sleeping in a shelter at an IDP camp in Kachin State, Myanmar
Columban Fr. Neil Magill helps run a “Higher Education Center” in Myanmar (formerly, Burma) that trains young adults living in Internally Displaced People (IDP) camps to be teachers and development workers. That’s where he met Patrick in 2017.
Pope Francis with a recovering drug addict, Rio de Janeiro, 24 July 2013 [Wikipedia]
On a Sunday afternoon in October 2016, after Columban Fr. John Kennan had finished celebrating mass in a shantytown in Manila, a couple invited him to bless their house. “Filipinos will not sleep in a house where a murder has been committed until it has been blessed.” Fr. John heard from the couple that a police officer killed their brother as part of the Philippine government’s “war on drugs.”
Le Massacre des Innocents, P.P. Rubens (1577-1640)
During Advent, God makes us a promise: “I will make a just shoot spring up for David; he shall do what is right and just in the land. In those days Judah shall be saved and Jerusalem shall dwell safely; this is the name they shall call her: ‘The Lord our justice.’”
Maryknoll delegation to the US - Mexico border sharing a meal at the Columban Mission Center
I have just returned from the US – Mexico border, on a journey of accompaniment sponsored by Maryknoll and hosted each year by the Columban Mission Center in El Paso, Texas. I have been to the border many times, but this time in particular was especially heart-breaking and painful. There we met immigrant parents and children who had been detained and cruelly separated from each other for two months; there we witnessed their joyful but often painful reunion at a refugee shelter; there we prepared and shared a meal with them at the Columban Mission Center.
*Capitol Dome close up; (c) John Brighenti, Flickr
Columbans have lived and served in Korea since 1933. Our history in the Korean peninsula spans major wars, foreign occupation, dictatorships, and the militarization of the region.
Throughout this history, Columbans have been committed to the people of Korea and to lasting peace in the region. Through work like pastoral ministry, programs for the intellectually impaired and elderly, and solidarity action with South Koreans resisting the militarization of their country, Columbans, along with many others, have worked for peace for decades.
Copyright © 2019 Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, Washington, D.C.