A Time in History (December 8-16)

December 9

FR. RICHARD GRIMME was born in 1915 at Altoona, Pennsylvania, USA.  He died on December 9, 1994 at St. Columban’s, Silver Creek, New York. Having studied at Altoona Catholic High School he went to St. Columban’s Bristol in 1934. He studied philosophy in Silver Creek, theology in Nebraska and was ordained priest in 1940. His appointment to China in 1941 was not fulfilled due to war conditions, so he did promotion work in the Midwest until his appointment to the Philippines in 1945.  With the exception of brief assignments to the U.S. Region, Father Dick, as he was called, ministered in Mindanao until 1971 when he was appointed to the U.S. He retired to his sister’s home in 1983 and to Silver Creek in 1990, where he is buried.



December 11

FR FRANK O’KELLY  was ordained priest on 21st December 1960 and was appointed to the Philippines, particularly in the province of Zambales. He served in Olongapo, Subic, Castilejos, and Palaung. This was followed by a four-year appointment in Coto Mines, and a ten-year period in Sta Cruz. He was assigned to Cabangan in 1991-1992 when Mount Pinatubo erupted and he was deeply involved in efforts to help the people after that disaster. He served for a long period in Candelaria beginning in 1993 before being assigned to the Central House in Zambales. There he did much valuable work visiting prisoners in the local jail in Olongapo. Because of health concerns, he was reassigned to Ireland where he worked with prisoners, celebrating the Sunday Eucharist in both the men’s and women’s prisons; he cherished this ministry and was much appreciated by the prisoners. He loved to sing and had a remarkable tenor voice. Kind, generous, and gracious, he suffered patiently from ill health in his later years. He was confined to the Nursing Home from 2016 until his death on December 11, 2023.


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, Ireland.  A man of great charm and good humour, 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.  Father Eamonn died at St Columban’s Nursing Home, Dalgan Park, Ireland 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. Augustine “Gus” O’Leary, Sapang Dalaga, Misamis Occidental, 1970



Fr. Gus during a ground-breaking ceremony



Columban Fathers: (L-R) William Hennessey, Augustine O’Leary and Francis Chapman


Fr. Gus O’Leary’s funeral in Baliangao, Misamis Occidental, Philippines

 orealyFr. 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.