A Time in History (April 24-30)

April 25

FR. ROBERT JOSEPH “Bob” CLARK was born in Boston, USA, on February 12, 1939. His Columban studies took him to Bristol, Milton, and Dalgan, and on December 18, 1965, he was ordained priest in Milton. He was assigned to the Philippines, to the lakeside parishes of Binangonan, Cardona, and Morong, Rizal. In 1970, he returned to the US to work in St. Agatha’s Parish before moving to Vocations work in Chicago and the West Coast. In 1983, he received an M.A. in Theology from the University of San Francisco. Commissioned in the U.S. Naval Reserve Chaplain Corp in 1984, he served in Omaha while continuing as National Vocations Director. In January 1986, he transferred to active duty with the Navy. He volunteered to go with the Marines in 1994 and from a base in California served in Kuwait, Iraq and Somalia. When he left the service in 2000, he and Barney Toal went to St Mary’s Parish, Fontana, California, until he retired in 2006. In March 2019, he moved to Bristol. He died on April 25, 2020 after a short illness and was buried with his family in Dedham, MA.


April 26


FR. WILLIAM DUFFY was born at Finney, Claremorris, County Mayo, Ireland in 1908. He died at Dalgan on April 26, 1978 after a long illness. Father Bill, as he was called, did his secondary studies at St. Jarlath’s College, Tuam, before coming to Dalgan, Ireland. He was ordained priest in 1936. He was appointed to Hanyang, China, and worked there until 1948. After a holiday in Ireland he was appointed to promotion work in Australia. In 1950 he was re-assigned to the Philippines. Ill health forced him to return to Ireland in 1960 where he was chaplain at Gortnor Abbey, Crossmolina, County Mayo, Ireland until his retirement to the Priests’ Home at Dalgan in 1974. Father Bill is buried at Dalgan.



April 27


FR. NIALL O’BRIEN died on  April 27, 2004, in Pisa, Italy, while undergoing treatment for a rare blood disease. Born at Blackrock, County Dublin, Ireland in 1939 and educated at Sion Hill and Blackrock College, Father Niall was ordained in 1963 and assigned to the Philippines. There he served the poor of Negros by defending their human rights and being active in lay formation, retreat work and in providing the first liturgical texts and rituals in the local dialect, in which he excelled. He emerged in 1984 from a term in jail as a member/leader of the Negros Nine with renewed commitment to justice through non-violence, as revealed in his books, “Seeds of Injustice” and “Revolution from the Heart.” He was the first editor of Misyon, a Columban magazine which focused on Filipino missionaries. A creative and joyful missionary, a man of prayer and an eloquent advocate of peace, Father Niall had requested that his ashes be taken to Negros, his “Island of Tears, Island of Hope,” for burial.




The ashes of Father Niall are placed in this grave in Kabankalan, Negros



Father Niall with some of the sugar cane workers


 FR. SEAN McGRATH was born on June 15, 1930 in Clonoe, Country Tyrone, Ireland.  After ordination at Dalgan seminary on December 21, 1954, he went to the Philippines where he served in Ozamiz City before setting up the new parish of Corpus Christi in Iligan.  In 1974, he did promotion work in London and became superior of the District of Britain.  Father Sean was spokesman of the team that opened a new mission in Belize in 1986.  Continual robberies made the old rectory at St. Ignatius Parish, Belize City a scary place and one of his first tasks was to replace it.  When the Belize mission closed in 1996, he transferred to Los Angeles to work among the Filipino community on Mission Awareness and fundraising for training and sending Filipino Columban missionaries, ordained and lay.  With his enthusiasm and good humour his fiestas and raffles earned amazing sums of money.  As ever he was ‘a big man, a big heart, a big smile’.  When his health deteriorated, he returned to Ireland and the Dalgan Nursing Home in 2014 where he died on April 27, 2018.



Fr. Sean McGrath with a Filipino family in Mindanao



Father Sean with workers making hollow blocks in his parish in Ozamiz City



April 30

lilisFR. JAMES LILLIS was from Carrigaholt, County Clare, Ireland where he was born in 1920. He died suddenly at St. Columban’s, Dowdstown, Navan, on April 30, 1976. After his secondary education at Mount St. Joseph College, Roscrea, Father Jimmy, as he was known to many, came to Dalgan seminary in 1937. He was ordained priest in 1943 and did temporary parish work in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England, until it was possible to go to China in 1946. He left China in 1948 and spent the next 14 years [1948-62] in Mindanao, Philippines, becoming Superior there in 1959. He was a delegate to the 1962 Chapter at which he was elected to the Superior General’s Council. After studies in accountancy in the U.S., he was appointed Regional Bursar at St. Columban’s, Navan, in 1973. Father Jimmy is buried at Dalgan park.



                                                                                                            Columban Fathers Tom Murphy and Jim Lillis