In Testament to Fr Nick Murray’s Kindness
By Mavic Mercene
Staff, Columban Missionaries
I joined the Columban Vocation and Promotion team in Luzon for their mission appeal at the Basilica Minore de Sta Ana in Taguig City in November 2022. We received a warm welcome from Fr. Orly Cantillon, the parish priest, who promised a second collection for the Columban Mission. I was moved when he said that he admires the Columbans for the many altruistic acts they do to lift the lives of people living in the margins of society and their continuous fight for our environment.
We also felt the parish’s generosity and hospitality. Food was prepared from breakfast to dinner. Nelia Bonao, the parish cook, was jolly and accommodating. As soon as we were seated for lunch, Nelia happily shared that she was one of the many scholars of Columban Fr. Nick Murray (+) at San Isidro de Labrador parish in Novaliches, Quezon City. She met Fr. Nick Murray in the 1980s through one of the active parishioners who was also a Columban employee. She recalled that two of the requirements set by Father Nick for the scholars were to continue their church service and their faith formation. She remembered how Father Nick would attentively listen and share his time with the people in the parish. By doing so, Father Nick has participated in the people’s struggles, shared their hopes and joys, and celebrated their triumphs.
With misty eyes, she said, “If only Fr. Nick Murray was here, I would personally tell him how thankful I am, how thankful we all are, for his help. Despite not being a Columban parish, he adopted San Isidro de Labrador Parish as part of his mission work and extended his generosity to many of us. After graduating from the two year secretarial management course, more options were opened for me. I chose to be a cook because I love to cook. If not for him, I would not be where I am now.”
She added, “When I heard that the Columbans were coming, I got excited. I can’t wait to tell you my story. I am so grateful to Fr. Nick and to the Columbans.”
So through her hospitality, her warm smile, and delicious food, I felt that Nelia was paying forward the kindness she received from Fr. Nick Murray.
Fr. Nick Murray was assigned to the Philippines in 1963 and spent the next twenty-two years working in some Luzon parishes (including Novaliches), and later as Chaplain and Director of Student Catholic Action in the Archdiocese of Manila. He became the Director of the Philippine Region in 1981 until 1985, then the Superior General from 1988 to 1994.