A Time in History (December 12 – January 9)

December 12




FR. EAMONN BYRNE was born in Crumlin, Dublin, Ireland on July 23, 1929. He was ordained on December 21, 1953. Appointed to the Philippines he was assigned to Labrador, Pangasinan. From 1957 he was Chaplain at University of the East and Far Eastern University, Manila. He spent periods as Director of Student Catholic Action in Manila, and in 2007 he published a history of that dynamic movement under the title, “Columbans in Student Catholic Action, Philippines 1937-2007”. In 1974, for three years, he worked to develop the Columban apostolate to the Filipino community in the US. Returning to Pangasinan in 1977 he worked in the parishes of Lingayen, Naguelguel, Labrador and Sual until 1988 when he became Columban Director of Vocations in Luzon, followed by six years on Mission Awareness. His last appointment in the Philippines was to the Parish of Malate, Manila, where he served from 2000 to 2007, when he returned to the Retirement Home at St Columbanʼs, Navan. A man of great charm and good humor, he was a popular pastor and worked very well with young people.  As long as his health permitted, he was an enthusiastic member of the retired Columbans in Dalgan, ever willing to lend his support and encouragement to any new initiative. Fr. Eamonn died in St Columban’s Nursing Home, Dalgan Park on December 12, 2015.




Fr. Eamonn F. Byrne talking to a ‘Kutsero’ (Calesa Driver)
Pangasinan, 1956

 photo credit: churcharchives.ie (Association for Church Archives of Ireland); photo was enhanced from its original version.


December 13







FR. AUGUSTINE O’LEARY was born in 1910 at Lickeen, Kilfenora, County Clare, Ireland. He died on December 13, 1993 at St. Columban’s, Singalong, Manila. Having completed his secondary studies at St. Mary’s College, Galway, Ireland Fr. Gus entered Dalgan in 1928 and was ordained priest there on December 21, 1934. In 1935 ill health prevented him from assuming his assignment to Hanyang, China. Instead he was assigned to promotion work in Ireland from 1936 to 1953. In 1954 he went to the Philippines and worked in the Ozamis area for most of forty years before retiring to St.Columban’s, Singalong, Manila. Fr. Gus is buried in Baliangao, Misamis Occidental, Philippines.



Fr. Gus during a ground-breaking ceremony



Fr. Augustine O’ Leary’s funeral


Tombstone of Fr. Gus in Baliangao



December 15





FR. EDWARD ROBERTS died peacefully at Grace Nursing Facility on December 15, 2012. He had been in failing health for some time. Born in Quincy, Massachusetts, USA on August 31, 1931, Fr. Ed was educated in Boston High School and graduated in 1949. He went to Bristol and the Columban Major Seminary in Milton where he was ordained on December 21, 1960. He was assigned to the Philippines in 1961 and worked in Mindanao and Negros (Diocese of Bacolod) before he received permission to enter the Chaplain’s Corps. After graduating from the Naval Chaplain School in Newport, Rhode Island, USA, he was assigned to the U.S. Naval Stations in the Philippines from 1969 to 1976 after which he returned to the Naval Station in Mayport, Florida. He was promoted to Commander four years later. In 1982 he resigned his commission in the navy and returned to North Pembroke, Massachusetts, as associate pastor in St. Thecla’s parish. His health took a downturn two years later when he had a cancerous kidney removed. He retired to Florida but continued doing mission appeals from Maine to Florida throughout the year until he suffered a stroke.


December 18






FR. JOSEPH F. COYLE was born on 28 February 1937 in Derry, Ireland.  He died on December 18,1991 in the Makati Medical Center, Manila. He entered the seminary at Dalgan, Ireland in 1955 and was ordained priest at there in 1961 and appointed to the Philippines in 1962 where he worked in Negros. From 1979-81 he did promotion work in England. Prior to returning to the Philippines in 1982 he went to Canada to further his studies of sign language thus enabling him to continue his ministry to the Hearing Impaired and handicapped. He set up “Welcome Home” as a centre for them in Bacolod City. Fr. Joe is buried in Bacolod.




Fr. Joseph Coyle communicating in sign language





FR. JOHN VINCENT GALLAGHER was born on December 24, 1923 at Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland of John Gallagher and Hannah Mulhern.  When he was 4 months old the family moved to Dunlewey, County Donegal, Ireland.  His father was killed at work in America leaving Hannah to rear three small children. Fr. Vincent was ordained on December 21, 1944 and there were bonfires all round Dunlewey that night. Appointed to the Philippines he served in several parishes in Luzon before bringing his capacity for relating with young people and his sense of humor to Student Catholic Action for the next fifteen years. From 1978 he was in Morong and Jala-Jala parishes. He became pastor of Malate in 1984 where he established a ministry to street children. In 1990 he was assigned to Mission Promotion in Ireland and used his extraordinary memory for names in Operation Handshake. Fr. Vincent returned to Malate in 1995. He was re-assigned to Ireland in 1998 and worked until retiring to Dalgan where he died on December 18, 2015.


December 19









FR. FRANCIS McCULLAGH was born in 1913 in Belfast, Ireland.  He died on December 19, 1994 at St. Columban’s, Silver Creek, New York, USA.  Having completed his secondary education at St. Columb’s College, Derry, Ireland Fr. Frank went to Dalgan in 1931 and was ordained priest there on December 21, 1937. Appointed to the Philippines in 1938 he was a member of the first group of Columbans to serve in Misamis. The Japanese detained him for a time until they had gained control of the country in World War II. In 1957 he was appointed to promotion work in the U.S. and in 1972 he undertook parish work at St. Joseph’s Cathedral, Buffalo, New York.  Even after losing his eyesight Fr. Frank remained on in Buffalo until he suffered a stroke in 1993. He retired to Silver Creek, New York, USA where he is buried.






FR. EDWARD T. McKENNA was born at Cohasset, Massachusetts, U.S.A., in 1926. He died unexpectedly in Glasgow, Scotland on December 19, 1998. At the age of two his parents returned to Ireland and lived at Castletown, Mountrath, County Leix. When Fr. Ned had completed his secondary studies at St. Kieran’s College, Kilkenny, Ireland he entered the seminary at Dalgan where he was ordained priest on December 21, 1949, and appointed to the Philippines. After a long history of service to Zambales, he was assigned to Ireland in 1986 and assumed the task of superior and bursar at Dalgan which he filled with his customary dedication and energy. In 1995 he was assigned to Britain where he was Superior at St. Columban’s, Glasgow. Fr. Ned is buried at Dalgan.



December 21






FR. LUKE LYNCH was born at Carnaross, County Meath, Ireland in 1919.  He died in the Dalgan Nursing Home on December  21, 2007, the 63rd anniversary of his ordination. When he completed his secondary studies at St. Finian’s College, Mullingar, Fr. Luke came to Dalgan and was ordained in 1944. His brother, John, was also a Columban priest, ordained in 1951. Assigned to China, Fr. Luke worked briefly in Huzhou.  Forced to leave in 1952, he was assigned to the Philippines in 1954 and worked in Iligan and Oroquieta until illness forced him to return to Ireland in 1961.  Despite indifferent health he undertook pastoral assignments throughout Ireland and England. Gifted with penmanship and a good memory, Fr. Luke has left us a reservoir of his experiences, both overseas and at home. He is buried at Dalgan.


December 23





FR. FINTAN MURTAGH was born on February 12, 1940 in Moyvore, County Westmeath, Ireland. He joined the Columbans and was ordained on December 22, 1963. Assigned to the Philippines he studied Tagalog before going to the Diocese of Iba, Zambales where he worked in the parishes of San Marcelino, Botolan, San Antonio and Candelaria. In 1972 he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis but didn’t let it interfere with his life style. Instead he became increasingly interested in people with disabilities. Meeting Melody, a young parishioner in Candelaria, in 1985 was like a new beginning for him. She showed him a world of struggle, pain and endurance and he embarked on a programme to help disabled people, first in Candelaria and eventually in all thirteen parishes in the diocese. When his church and school burned down, the indomitable Fr. Fintan and parishioners rebuilt them. Even when he was forced to retire to the Dalgan nursing home he was out in all kinds of weather in his wheelchair, greeting visitors. He died peacefully in the Dalgan nursing home on December 23, 2016.


December 24






FR. PEADAR CASSIDY was born at Swinford, County Mayo, Ireland in 1921.  He died at Dalgan on December 24, 1980. Fr. Peadar received his secondary education at St. Nathy’s College, Ballaghaderreen, before entering seminary at Dalgan in 1939. He was ordained priest there in 1945 and appointed to Huzhou, China [1946-49]. He was assigned to the Philippines in 1949 where he remained until ill health forced his return to Ireland in 1958. For the next six years he did pastoral work in Ireland. Continuing ill health compelled him to retire to Dalgan. Fr. Peadar is buried at Swinford, County Mayo.






FR. KIERAN WHITE was born at Bennettstown, County Kilkenny, Ireland in 1910. He died suddenly of a heart attack at his home in Bennettstown on December 24, 1985. Fr. Kieran was educated at C.B.S., Kilkenny, Ireland before entering seminary at Dalgan in 1929. He was ordained priest by Bishop Galvin in December 1935. His first assignment was to promotion work in Australia [1936-39]. He went to the Philippines in 1939 where he worked in Luzon. His last appointment was as chaplain to the Medical Center, Manila, a position he held until his death. Fr. Kieran is buried at Dalgan.


December 25







FR. MICHAEL BREEN was born at Athlone, County Westmeath, Ireland in 1923 and died at Bristol, Rhode Island, USA on Christmas Day 2001. Having completed his studies at Summerhill College, Sligo, he came to Dalgan in 1941 and was ordained there in December 1947. Appointed to the Philippines, he ministered in Tangub, Clarin and Ozamis City. In 1969 he was appointed to the U.S. Region. A dedicated promoter of the Columbans and mission, Fr. Mick travelled widely from the West Coast to Texas to New England for over thirty years and finally to retirement in Bristol in March 2001. He is buried at Malden, Massachusetts, USA.



December 26




FR. JOHN CURRY was born in the parish of Knock, County Mayo, Ireland in 1927. He died on December 26, 2008 at Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan. Having completed his secondary education at St. Jarlath’s College, Tuam, he entered Dalgan in 1944 and was ordained there in 1950. Assigned to the Philippines in 1951, Fr. John spent most of forty years in that mission during which time he served as Superior of the District of Zambales. Popular with his fellow-priests and with the people whom he served, frequently in indifferent health, Fr. John was assigned to Ireland in 1990, following a heart surgery. Wishing to be of service to the Columbans and to people, he undertook assignments in Dalgan, in his home-archdiocese of Tuam and in the diocese of Meath. Fr. John is buried at Dalgan.


December 28





FR. PETER CAMPBELL was born at Clonoe, Coalisland, County Tyrone, in 1915. He died at Blanchardstown Hospital, County Dublin, on December 28, 1987. Fr. Peter was educated at St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon, and St. Patrick’s College, Armagh, before entering Dalgan in 1935. He was ordained priest there in 1941.  He did temporary parish work in the archdiocese of Birmingham from 1943 to 1946. He was assigned to China and worked in Nancheng from 1947-51.  Peter was appointed to promotion work in the U.S. [1951] where he worked in Brooklyn, New York; Silver Creek, New York; Bayside, New York; and West Chester, Pennsylvania. He went to the Philippines in 1969 and was chaplain at Makati Medical Center. Returning to Ireland in 1971 he was appointed chaplain to Lourdes’ Hospital, Drogheda [1971-76]. He then did pastoral work in the Archdiocese of Armagh until the time of his death. Fr. Peter is buried at Dalgan.








FR. JEREMIAH O’CONNOR was born at Crimlin, Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland in 1922. He died on December 28, 1983 at Negros, Philippines. Fr. Jerry entered Dalgan in 1940 having completed his secondary studies at St. Nathy’s College, Ballaghaderreen, Ireland. He was ordained priest in 1946 and assigned to China where he studied Chinese at Peking. He left China in 1949 and went to the Philippines where he worked in Mindanao and in Negros. He died on his way to hospital in Himamaylan, Negros. Fr. Jerry is buried in the grounds of the church in Ilog, the parish where he was pastor when he died.






FR. GEOFF REVATTO was born on October 15,1925 at Guileen,Whitegate, County Cork, Ireland.  Ordained on December 21, 1949 he was assigned to Negros in the Philippines where he spent the next twenty-seven years in La Castellana, the isolated parish of Sipalay, Ma-ao Central, Dancalan, Binalbagan and Biscom. From 1978 to1980 he was on mission promotion in Ireland before returning to Negros as District Bursar in Batang and then as pastor in Cawayan. Back in Ireland in 1988 he worked in the “Far East” offices, even as he gradually lost the use of his legs. By the year 2000 he had to give up that activity also. Fr. Geoff was a quiet, dedicated, patient man who rarely complained as his health deteriorated and the simplest activities demanded huge effort. Fr. Geoff enjoyed a joke, the company of fellow-Columbans and always found ways of contributing to the life of the community. He died peacefully in the Columban Nursing Home, Dalgan Park on December 28, 2015.



Fr. Geoff with some workers


January 4






PILAR TILOS was born in Hinoba-an, Negros Occ., Philippines, in 1940. Baptised by a Columban priest, Pilar was a member of the 1990 Lay Mission Group, the first Filipino group to be assigned to Pakistan. Hard-working and full of life and humour, Pilar died in her sleep at St. Columban’s, Lahore, on January 4, 1996 and is buried in Lahore, Pakistan.





Mission-Sending mass of RP 1 (first Filipino group of Columban lay missionaries sent to Pakistan)

(L-R) Pilar Tilos, Emma Pabera, Gloria Canama


January 5




FR. PETER LEONARD was born in Belcoo, County Fermanagh, Ireland in 1933. He died unexpectedly at Ozamiz, Philippines, on January 5, 2003. Having attended the local primary school and St. Macartan’s, Monaghan, he came to the seminary at Dalgan in 1951 where he was ordained in 1957. Appointed to the Philippines, he worked in various parishes in Mindanao until his ministry took a new direction to lay leadership and Basic Christian Communities. He directed the first Faith and Mission programme in Dalgan. Returning to Ozamiz in 1980 he taught at the new regional seminary of DOPIM (Dipolog, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Iligan, Marawi) until 1990 when he helped to establish and direct the Columban House of Studies in Quezon City and later initiate a programme for formators.  Quiet, gentle and amicable, Fr. Peter is buried at Ozamiz.



L-R:  Sr. Breda Noonan, SSC, Dr. Murallon, Tim Ruben and Fr. Peter Leonard


Fr. Peter with Cardinal Jaime Sin


Tombstone of Fr. Peter in Ozamiz







FR. SEAN NOLAN was born in Cork City, Ireland in 1923. He died on January 5, 2002 in Castlebar Hospital, County Mayo, Ireland after a short illness. Fr. Sean received his early education from the Christian Brothers, Cork. In 1944 he joined the Columbans and was ordained priest in December 1950. Assigned to the Philippines, Fr. Sean worked in Mindanao for almost thirty years and then returned to Ireland. His home in Cork is named “Mindanao”! From 1981 until his death he ministered in Bunnacurry, Achill Island, County Mayo. Fr. Sean is buried at Dalgan.




Fr. Sean Nolan in Dinas


January 8









BRO. PETER RYAN [Brother Colman] was born at Warrenpoint, County Down, Ireland in 1903. He died at Dalgan on January 8, 1971. He was a salesman before coming to Dalgan in 1928. He learned building and construction, and went to Hanyang, China in 1933. There Bishop Galvin put him in charge of an industrial school. When he was forced to leave China he was assigned to the Philippines in 1950. His most notable achievements were the construction of Ozamis Cathedral, the Diocesan Seminary and Immaculate Conception College, both in Ozamis. Seriously ill, he returned to Ireland in November 1970. Brother Colman is buried at Dalgan.


Bro. Colman in action


Bro. Colman with some workers


January 9






FR. DAN BARAGRY was born on May 11, 1930 in Tipperary, Ireland.  An uncle and granduncle were Redemptorist Fathers but Fr. Dan, wanting to be a missionary, joined the Columbans and was ordained on December 21, 1954. His brother, Frank, followed three years later.  Fr. Dan spent 45 happy years in the Philippines, the first 35 in nine parishes in Mindanao. A rugged, mountainous place like Anakan demanded prodigious energy with 83 small scattered communities. When Tandag was taken on Fr. Dan was one of the first to volunteer, even though it was an eight-hour drive from the Columban House in Cagayan de Oro. In 1989, as assistant director in the Columban Formation House in Cebu, he worked part-time in the Southern Islands Psychiatric Unit caring for those most neglected by society. Failing health forced him to return to Ireland in 2001. He did book-keeping in the farm office until confined to the Dalgan Nursing Home where he died on January 9, 2015.  Fr. Dan was a quiet, dedicated, loyal Columban with a gentle sense of humour.



Fr. Dan with a group of women in Cebu