Celebrating 100 Years of Mission in the Philippines
by: Arlenne Villahermosa
With gratitude to God in our hearts, the Missionary Society of St. Columban launched the year-long Centenary Celebration in November 2017 and will culminate in November 2018. The Columban Society was founded on June 29, 1918 by two young Irish diocesan priests, Fr. Edward Galvin and Fr. John Blowick, who answered the invitation of Christ to: “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Mt. 28:19).
As we celebrate our centennial year, we give thanks to all the people who have journeyed with us through the years – for their generosity, support, friendship, care and faithfulness, without which we would not have come this far. This celebration is to rejoice with each of them who walked with us in the mission as we give thanks and praise to God for all the wonders He has done.
In the Philippines, the celebrations were done in the different parts of the country where the Columbans used to work and continue to work up to the present.
In Negros, the launching of the centennial celebration was held on November 19, 10:00am at San Columbano, Batang, Himamaylan, Negros Occidental with a Mass, followed by the launching of the Hiligaynon version of Laudato Si’ animation video. The centenary bracelets were given to the Mission Partners as a way of thanking them for the significant contribution they have given to Columban mission.
In Luzon, a simple Mass was held on November 23 at 5:00pm, the feast of St. Columban, to open the centennial celebration. This was followed by a meal shared with the Columban sisters, lay missionaries, students, staff, invited guests and priests. A multi-cultural concert culminated the celebration to the delight of all. Bishop Antonio Tobias, Bishop of Novaliches Diocese, graced the occasion.
In Mindanao, a Eucharistic celebration was held on November 24, 6:30pm at St. Augustine Metropolitan Cathedral, Cagayan de Oro City. The Mass was presided by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, concelebrated by the Columban priests and priests coming from other arch/dioceses in Mindanao. It was attended by the religious, mission partners and friends from different parishes. The following day, November 25, a lecture on “Renewing our commitment to care for Mother Earth” was given by Rev. Fr. Reynaldo Raluto, PhD of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, followed by the launching of the Cebuano version of the Laudato Si’ video. Also, a photo exhibit of the journey of the Columban Missionaries was on display and the book “Salamat” was launched in celebration of 25 years of the Columban Lay Missionaries. To close the event, the “Growing 100 Rainforest Trees in Higaonon Tribal Domain” project was launched in partnership with the Higaonon Tribe to commemorate the 100 years of the Society. The centenary bracelets were given to all those who were present during the occasion as a token of appreciation and gratitude. This celebration took place at Dynasty Court Hotel in Cagayan de Oro City. It was a moment of joy and gratitude renewing one’s commitment to participate in the mission of Christ as well as an occasion to celebrate the bonds of friendship forged through the years.
The regional-wide centenary celebration was held on June 28 in Malate, Manila. The atmosphere was festive; banners about the Columban mission hang around the compound of the church; flags of the different countries where the Columbans were/are on mission were on display inside the church; and a drum and bugle corps welcomed the guests while waiting for the Mass to start. The Eucharistic celebration was held at 9:30 am presided by His Eminence Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales at Our Lady of Remedies Parish, Malate, Manila. The centenary altar cloth was offered and used at mass. It was graced by the presence of the Papal Nuncio Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia, bishops, priests, religious, friends and guests from the different arch/dioceses in the country. A big number of the mission partners, supporters and benefactors coming from different parishes, schools and organizations were greatly evident. From Malate church, the people were ushered to Palacio de Maynila where the meal and cultural presentation were to take place.
At Palacio de Maynila, banners showing the mission of all the regions/mission units where the Columbans are working were on display at the lobby; a photo booth was made available for those who wanted to document memories on pictures; and products from the various income-generating projects and books written by Columban Missionaries were available for sale. The Columban Mission Special Edition newsletter, the book “Remembering Fr. Niall O’Brien” and other items were given for free to those interested.
The guests were entertained by the cultural presentations of the Columban missionaries – priests, lay and students. The Tagalog version of the Laudato Si’ video was launched during the occasion. All those who were present received the centenary bracelets as token of appreciation. The affair ended with gladness and joy, giving thanks to the Creator and to all who were present.
On July 3, the Columban Missionaries celebrated the centenary with a mass with the people of Zambales. The event was hosted by Iba Diocese as a way of showing their gratitude to the Columban Missionaries for the contributions the latter had made to the diocese and her people. The mass took place at St. Columban Parish, followed by the blessing of the columbarium, located at the side of the church, where the bodies of the six Columban priests who died in Zambales were placed, and the blessing and unveiling of the statue of St. Columban at the church compound. Then the people were treated to a sumptuous meal and entertained by the cultural presentations of the Columban lay missionaries and students and the Philippine folk dances by the students of St. Columban College.
There are many reasons to celebrate 100 years of mission, and many more reasons to celebrate love, life and friendships in the mission.