A Time in History (December 13-31)

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, Manila. Having completed his secondary studies at St. Mary’s College, Galway, Ireland, Father Gus, as he was called, entered Dalgan seminary 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. Father Gus is buried in Baliangao, Misamis Occidental, Mindanao, Philippines.



Fr. Augustine “Gus” O’Leary, Sapang Dalaga, Misamis Occidental, 1970



Father Gus in action – ground breaking



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


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


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, Father Ed was educated in Boston High School and graduated in 1949. He went to Bristol and the Columban major seminary in Milton, USA 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 in the US.  After graduating from the Naval Chaplain School in Newport, Rhode Island, 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 February 28, 1937 in Derry, Ireland. He died on December 18, 1991 at the Makati Medical Center, Manila. Before entering Dalgan seminary in 1955, Father Joe had studied at C.B.S. Juniorate, Ledshaw, Cheshire, England [1953-54], and at Mungret [Jesuit] College, Limerick, Ireland [1954-55]. He was ordained priest at Dalgan seminary 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. Father Joe is buried in Bacolod City, Negros Occidental.



FR. JOHN VINCENT GALLAGHER was born on December 24, 1923 at Maryhill, Glasgow, Scotland.  When he was 4 months old the family moved to Dunlewey, County Donegal, Ireland. His father was killed at work in America leaving her mother, Hannah, to rear three small children.  Father 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 humour 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. Father 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. MICHAEL DOUGLAS was born in 1904 at Oberstown, Skryne, County Meath, Ireland.  He died in Dalgan, Ireland on December 19, 1983.  He received his secondary education at St. Finian’s College, Mullingar (1918-23), before entering St. Senan’s College, Cahiracon.  He was ordained priest in Dalgan in 1929.  His first appointment was to the teaching staff at St. Columban’s Silver Creek (1930-37).  After a short period with the Cistercians at Valley Falls, Rhode Island, USA, he went to China (1938) and the Philippines (1939).  He was assigned to promotion work in the US (1940-52) and then appointed to the teaching staff at St. Columban’s Nebraska.  He retired to Dalgan in 1971.  Father Michael is buried at Dalgan Park.




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, Father Frank went to Dalgan seminary 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 2. 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 Father Frank remained on in Buffalo until he suffered a stroke in 1993. He retired to Silver Creek where he is buried.



FR. EDWARD T. McKENNA was born at Cohasset, Massachusetts, USA 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 Father Ned, as he was known to many, had completed his secondary studies at St. Kieran’s College, Kilkenny, he entered Dalgan seminary 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 Park 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. Father 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, Father Luke came to Dalgan seminary and was ordained in 1944. His brother, Father John, was also a Columban, ordained in 1951. Assigned to China, Father 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, Father Luke has left us a reservoir of his experiences, both overseas and at home. He is buried at Dalgan.



December 23



FR. MARK KAVANAGH was born in the Pro-Cathedral parish in Dublin, Ireland on January 27, 1926. From O’Connell Schools he entered Dalgan seminary in 1944 and after ordination on December 21, 1950 was appointed to the Philippines. He had many pastoral assignments in Negros including Biscom Sugar Central, Kabankalan, Binalbagan, and Cauayan. As district superior in the difficult early 70s, young Columbans always found him supportive of new apostolic initiatives – that support often expressed in a wisecrack. His wisdom, humour and human kindness helped to hold the group together. A decade later during the trial of the Negros Nine he constantly visited them and when possible was present in the front row in the court. He retired to Ireland in 1997 and chose to live with his sister Breda and her husband Michael until illness necessitated a move to the Columban Nursing Home. He died in Blanchardstown Hospital on December 23, 2014 and is buried in Dalgan.



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 Father Fintan and parishioners rebuilt them. Even when he was forced to retire to the Dalgan nursing home he was out in all weathers on his wheelchair, greeting visitors. He died peacefully in the Dalgan nursing home on December 23, 2016.



Fr. Fintan Murtagh with some of his friends and collaborators

(picture: Far East 2011)


December 24



FR. PEADAR CASSIDY was born at Swinford, County Mayo, Ireland in 1921. He died at Dalgan on December 24, 1980. Father Peadar received his secondary education at St. Nathy’s College, Ballaghaderreen, Ireland before entering Dalgan seminary 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.  Father Peadar is buried at Swinford, County Mayo, Ireland.












FR. THOMAS REVATTO was born on November 9, 1924 at Guileen, Whitegate, County Cork, Ireland.  He came to Dalgan Seminary in 1942 and was ordained priest on December 21, 1948.  In the following year, he was assigned to the Philippines, one of ten Columbans who took over a rather remote block of parishes in the center and south-west of Negros Occidental.  There were no parish schools, and in many cases, churches and parish houses had to be built from the beginning.  Father Tom would spend the next 52 years there: twelve years in Payao, eight in Sipalay, eight in Dancalan, seven in Biscom, and the remainder in Binalbagan.  A quiet, conscientious man, Father Tom worked hard in all his assignments, and like all the Columbans of his generation, he saw huge developments in Negros during the years that he served there.  By the time he retired to Ireland in 2001, Negros had flourishing parishes, a highly developed school system, and a large group of Filipino priests, many of whom owed their vocation to the encouragement and help of individual Columbans.  Despite a stroke, Father Tom remained serene until he died on December 24, 2018.




FR. KIERAN WHITE was born at Bennettstown, County Kilkenny, in 1910. He died suddenly of a heart attack at his home in Bennettstown on December 24, 1985. Father Kieran was educated at C.B.S., Kilkenny, before entering Dalgan seminary 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.  Father 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 on Christmas Day 2001.  Having completed his studies at Summerhill College, Sligo, he came to Dalgan seminary 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, Father 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.



President Carlos P. Garcia welcomed by Fr. Michael Breen, Ozamiz City, 1958-59



 FR. JOHN STRATTON was from Adelaide, Australia where he was born in 1932. He died on Christmas Morning 2005 at Epworth Hospital, Melbourne, Australia. Having received his secondary education at Goodwood Technical School, he worked for three years in the Public Service and Department of Agriculture. In 1954-’55, he studied Latin in the Diocesan Seminary with a view to priesthood. Having completed his studies at Sassafras, Wahroonga and Turramurra, Father John was ordained in 1962. Appointed to the Philippines, he worked mainly in Negros “living a simple lifestyle, committed to the poor, a man of compassion and understanding.” Indifferent health throughout his life forced him to move to Manila and in 2000 he returned to Australia.  Father John is buried at Melbourne General Cemetery.



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, Ireland. Having completed his secondary education at St. Jarlath’s College, Tuam, he entered Dalgan seminary in 1944 and was ordained there in 1950. Assigned to the Philippines in 1951, Father 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, Father John was assigned to Ireland in 1990, following 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. Father John is buried at Dalgan.



December 28



FR. PETER CAMPBELL was born at Clonoe, Coalisland, County Tyrone, Ireland in 1915. He died at Blanchardstown Hospital, County Dublin on December 28, 1987. Father Peter was educated at St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon, and St. Patrick’s College, Armagh, Ireland before entering Dalgan seminary in 1935. He was ordained priest there in 1941. He did temporary parish work in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, UK from 1943 to 1946. He was assigned to China and worked in Nancheng from 1947-51.  Father Peter was appointed to promotion work in the U.S. [1951] where he worked in Brooklyn, New York (NY); Silver Creek, NY; Bayside, NY; and West Chester, Pennsylvania, USA. 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. Father 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 in Negros, Philippines.  Father Jerry entered Dalgan seminary in 1940 having completed his secondary studies at St. Nathy’s College, Ballaghaderreen. 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 a hospital in Himamaylan, Negros.  Father 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 15 October 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. Father Geoff was a quiet, dedicated, patient man who rarely complained as his health deteriorated and the simplest activities demanded huge effort. Father 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 28th December 2015.


Fr. Geoff Revatto, Negros, 1956