November 1st, 2017
Dear Columban priests, lay missionaries, students, priest associates and co-workers,
It gives me much joy, on behalf of the General Council and the Lay Missionary Central Leadership Team, to send you these greetings as we approach the Opening of the Centenary Year of the Society on the Feast of St Columban. During our Centenary Year we will, in a spirit of gratitude, give thanks for what has been, with passion celebrate our mission today, and with hope look forward to our unfolding participation in God’s mission into the future.
The theme for our Centenary is ‘Sharing gospel joy’. The missionary spirit of God burns in the hearts of all of us wherever we live across the world and so together with all those who have supported us over the years, the Columban sisters, our benefactors, those among whom we live and serve, our partners in mission, family and friends, we celebrate our call to be missionary disciples of Jesus sharing gospel joy in our world today.
Since the first invitation for the people of Ireland to participate in the new mission enterprise of our founders, Frs Edward Galvin and John Blowick, the Society has been forever grateful to the very generous spirit of our benefactors, without whose prayers and financial assistance we would not be celebrating our Centenary. And since the first hearty welcome into the dioceses across Ireland the Society has been welcomed into numerous dioceses around the world as we helped to establish local churches, fostering in these churches an awareness of their missionary responsibility, principally in the areas of justice, peace, and care for Creation, while promoting dialogue between Christians and those of other religious traditions, and facilitating interchange between these churches, especially those from which we come and those to which we are sent. With forever grateful hearts we thank all those in the local churches and communities who have always warmly welcomed and supported us over the past 100 years.
On going to China, Edward Galvin said: ‘It was a mad thing to do’. He also said “We are not here to convert the Chinese but to do the will of God”. With God’s grace, and God’s gift of missionary imagination, all involved in Columban mission over the past 100 years have listened to the word of God, have discerned the ‘signs of the times’ through the movement of the Holy Spirit in the life of the church and in the world, and responded courageously and creatively to do the will of God.
St Columban reminds us that a ‘Life unlike our own can be our teacher’. As pilgrims for Christ we have been blessed to enter into different cultural contexts around the world, sharing life with the people among whom we live and serve. We have, and continue to, locate ourselves among the poor and those most in need, striving to live in solidarity with them, empowering them, and walking with them on their faith journey, and in their struggle to change the unjust structures that keep them poor and on the margins of society as together we care for the Earth, our common home. As Pope Francis says in his encyclical Laudato Si, we seek to listen to and heed the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor.
We thank all those who have been a part of the Columban story, our former Columban priests, students, lay missionaries, priest associates, co-workers and staff around the world. Many continue to contribute to Columban mission still today.
The missionary spirit of Edward Galvin and John Blowick, and all Columban missionaries and benefactors who have gone before us, inspires us and fills us with hope as we continue to respond generously to God’s call as missionary disciples of Jesus, sharing gospel joy in our world today. We pray that people will continue to respond to the Holy Spirit’s invitation to join us on mission as Columban priests, lay missionaries, co-workers, benefactors and volunteers.
The Centenary Pilgrim Altar Cloth, made up of pieces that have come from each of the countries where Columban missionaries serve, holding the signatures of many who represent all those who are, and have been, a part of the unfolding story of Columban mission over the past 100 years, will be used in our celebrations across the Society. This special Cloth symbolizes our communion as missionary disciples ‘sharing gospel joy’.
The Feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29th, 2018 will be a special day for us. It marks the 100th anniversary of the Foundation of the Society, the day on which we received formal approval from Rome for the establishment of the Society.
We ask our Patron St Columban to pray for us in a special way during our centenary as we celebrate our participation in God’s mission for the life of the world.
With best wishes