Cemetery Sunday 2018: Jastine Valdez remembered

Last Sunday, the regional director of the Columbans in Ireland, Fr Pat Raleigh marked Cemetery Sunday in Dalgan Park recalling all those Columbans “who journeyed with us” during the course of the Society’s 100 years of mission.

Greeting up to 400 relatives of deceased members of the Society on a warm summer’s day, Fr Raleigh explained, as he delivered the homily, that the names of every Columban who had died since the Society of St Columban started 100 years ago, were etched on the white marble walls behind him.

He revealed that he had taken time on Saturday “to come to this Sacred Place and to stop at each grave to give thanks to God for each one buried here” and he had remembered all other Columbans buried elsewhere in Ireland and overseas.

Addressing the assembled congregation, many of whom had travelled from as far away as Kerry, Cork and Northern Ireland, he told them, “You are all here today representing many of these men and little Andrew, the new born child of two former Columban Lay Missionaries. We also remember all Columban Sisters who have died as well as your family members and friends, particularly those who died recently.”

The men whom the gathering were honouring had touched the lives of many people in China, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Myanmar (Burma), Fiji, Taiwan, Pakistan, Chile, Peru, Jamaica, Belize, Brazil, England, Wales, Scotland, Australia/New Zealand, Ireland and also in other parts of the world.

“They generously answered God’s invitation to ‘Share the Gospel Joy’ with others,” Pat Raleigh said and highlighted that some of whom met violent deaths.

He also paid an emotional tribute to Jastine Valdez, the young Filipina woman brutally murdered some weeks ago near Enniskerry, Co Wicklow.

“As Columbans we have had a long association with the Philippines. This afternoon I would like if we give a special remembrance to Jastine Valdez. We especially remember her parents who must be inconsolable in their sorrow as she was an only child. We also pay tribute to the wonderful outpouring of solidarity of so many people, including the Irish Filipino Community who responded with such generosity.”

“It is so shameful that this horrific death took place here in Ireland of a young vibrant young woman out walking and with a very bright future ahead of her. We ask for forgiveness from the Filipino people.”

Fr Raleigh also remembered “the other young people who were brutally murdered recently, the two young teenagers who were drowned near Ennis, others who have died tragically as a result of accidents including Michael Fogarty, the cousin of Frs Sean, Alo and Finian Connaughton. We remember their families in prayer this afternoon.”

Returning to the contribution of the deceased Columban Missionaries, he said that in their lives they were very human and he had no doubt but that they made many mistakes along the way.

“In their missionary journey each one was touched by so many people from these various cultures and they were also touched by God’s love for them.”

The leader of the Missionary Society of St Columban in Ireland said it was important to remember that “ever before we Columbans set foot on these various countries God was there before our arrival. For the most part it was the ordinary people who shaped and nurtured us in our vocation as Columban Missionaries. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the ordinary men and women from these countries, many whose lives were difficult because of poverty (and this is still the case for many today). They were full of God’s compassion and love. This bond of friendship still remains.”

He noted that Fr Neil Collins, in his recent and excellent book, ‘A Mad Thing To Do’ (to coincide with the Centenary of the Society) puts it very well when he wrote “When we went on cross cultural mission it was our hosts who welcomed us and were patient with our cultural clumsiness. We shared with them our faith only to find that they had much more to teach us. Some of these faced ridicule, danger and even death for living out the gospel.”

On the Columban Centenary and its theme ‘Sharing Gospel Joy’, F Pat said 2018 was a very symbolic year for the Missionary Society of St Columban as it celebrated 100 years of Columban Mission.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the pioneering spirit of our Co-founders, Bishop Edward Galvin from Cork and Fr John Blowick from Mayo. We thank them for their foresight and vision in founding a new Missionary Society, ‘The Maynooth Mission to China’. To initiate a new venture like this in the turbulent years between 1916-1918 demanded a huge leap of faith and trust in God’s Providence (something we may not fully appreciate today). It was right in the middle of the First World War and within six months of the Dublin rising. Conditions for the Irish people were very difficult and hard as indeed they are today for many.”

“From the very beginning the generosity of people was extraordinary and it still continues today. We Columbans want you to know that we are very grateful for your continued support.”

Columbans Who Have Died Since Cemetery Sunday 2017

David Padrnos died on 17/08/2017 and was buried in USA
Bernard O’Connor died on 17/09/2017 and was buried in Ireland
Matthew Reilly died on 17/01/2018 and was buried in Ireland
Donal O’Farrell died on 22/01/2018 and was buried in Ireland
John Lagomarsino died on 13/02/2018 and was buried in USA
Michael McCarthy died on 05/03/2018 and was buried in Ireland
Patrick J. McGlinchey died on 23/04/2018 and was buried in Korea
Sean McGrath died on 27/04/2018 and was buried in Ireland
Thomas Kilkenny died on 07/05/2018 and was buried in Ireland
Frank Keaney died on 13/05/2018 and was buried in USA

 

FULL TEXT of CENTENARY SUNDAY HOMILY

 

Cemetery Sunday 2018

“Sharing Gospel Joy”

Introduction and Welcome

On this Cemetery Sunday here in Dalgan I warmly welcome all of you who have taken the time out to be with us in remembering those Columbans who Journeyed With Us. Compared to last year today we are blessed with beautiful weather which makes all the differenceSome of you have travelled long journeys. It is also an occasion when we especially remember you the families who have journeyed with them and continue to journey with us as a Missionary Society. I also warmly welcome our Columbans – priests, Sisters, Lay Missionaries, Co-workers and all our volunteers.

Those Who Journeyed With Us

Behind me are the names of every Columban who have died since the Society of St Columban started 100 years ago. Yesterday and this morning I took the opportunity to come to this Sacred Place and to stop at each grave to give thanks to God for each one buried here and I also remembered all other Columbans buried elsewhere in Ireland and overseas. You are all here today representing many of these men and little Andrew, the new born child of two former Columban Lay Missionaries. We also remember all Columban Sisters who have died as well as your family members and friends, particularly those who died recently.

Those we remember

These men whom we remember fondly this afternoon, some of whom met violent deaths, touched the lives of so many people in China, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, Myanmar (Burma), Fiji, Taiwan, Pakistan, Chile, Peru, Jamaica, Belize, Brazil, England, Wales, Scotland, Australia/New Zealand, Ireland and also in other parts of the world. They generously answered God’s invitation to Share the Gospel Joy with others.

Jastine Valdez

As Columbans we have had a long association with the Philippines. This afternoon I would like if we give a special remembrance to Jastine Valdez, the young Filipina woman brutally murdered some weeks ago near Enniskerry, Co Wicklow. We especially remember her parents who must be inconsolable in their sorrow as she was an only child. We also pay tribute to the wonderful outpouring of solidarity of so many people, including the Irish Filipino Community who responded with such generosity. It is so shameful that this horrific death took place here in Ireland of a young vibrant young woman out walking and with a very bright future ahead of her. We ask for forgiveness from the Filipino people.

We also remember the other young people who were brutally murdered recently, the two young teenagers who were drowned near Ennis, others who have died tragically as a result of accidents including Michael Fogarty, the cousin of Frs Sean, Alo and Finian Connaughton. We remember their families in prayer this afternoon.

The People Journeyed with them

In their lives as Columban Missionaries they were also very human and I have no doubt but that they made many mistakes along the way. In their missionary journey each one was touched by so many people from these various cultures and they were also touched by God’s love for them.

It is important to remember that ever before we Columbans set foot on these various countries God was there before our arrival. For the most part it was the ordinary people who shaped and nurtured us in our vocation as Columban Missionaries. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the ordinary men and women from these countries, many whose lives were difficult because of poverty (and this is still the case for many today). They were full of God’s compassion and love. This bond of friendship still remains.  Fr Neil Collins, in his recent and excellent book, ‘A Mad Thing To Do’ (to coincide with the Centenary of the Society) puts it very well when he says: ”When we went on cross cultural mission it was our hosts who welcomed us and were patient with our cultural clumsiness. We shared with them our faith only to find that they had much more to teach us. Some of these faced ridicule, danger and even death for living out the gospel (as they do today in many parts of the world). (Copies of Fr Neil’s Book and other Columban Publications are available at the Reception desk in the College)

You their families have journeyed with them.

To you their families we owe a huge debt of gratitude. When they came home on vacation, your parents, brothers and sisters were there to meet and welcome them. For this we are most grateful.  You have been an integral part of their lives and indeed of all Columbans present. You have made many sacrifices and I do know that you have always taken a key interest in their stories and lives and indeed in our work today.

Our Centenary: ‘Sharing Gospel Joy’

As you all know 2018 is a very symbolic year for the Missionary Society of St Columban as we celebrate our Centenary, 100 years of Columban Mission. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the pioneering spirit of our Co-founders, Bishop Edward Galvin from Cork and Fr John Blowick from Mayo. We thank them for their foresight and vision in founding a new Missionary Society, ‘The Maynooth Mission to China’. To initiate a new venture like this in the turbulent years between 1916-1918 demanded a huge leap of faith and trust in God’s Providence (something we may not fully appreciate today). It was right in the middle of the First World War and within six months of the Dublin rising. Conditions for the Irish people were very difficult and hard as indeed they are today for many.

From the very beginning the generosity of people was extraordinary and it still continues today. We Columbans want you to know that we are very grateful for your continued support. In the Mission Exhibition Centre in the College there is a quotation there from an Irish Bishop to our late Co-founder Fr John Blowick which still holds vey true today. Referring to the College he said -”Built for you by the generosity of people who couldn’t afford it”. An example of this generosity is the late Matt Talbot. He was a poor man who sent a donation for £2. We still have copies of that handwritten note that he sent with his donation. We sincerely thank you for supporting our various enterprises including the Irish Mission League and the Far East Magazine. Through the Far East we have the privilege of communicating with you and sharing our stories as Columban Missionaries.

What we have to offer you in return for your generosity is very little to what you give us. I do want you to know that you are remembered each morning at our Community Masses. Each day we receive many letters from people, like the one handwritten by Matt Talbot,  asking for our prayers and enclosing a generous donation.

Mission Today

A number of Columbans have met violent deaths over the years. Their photos are in the back of the College Chapel, including the photo of Columban Sister Joan Sawyer, who was murdered in Peru. We particularly salute and honour them today. We are so pleased that many of the relatives of these men are here with us. Thank you. Over the course of history many more suffered great hardships and some were imprisoned.

We have experienced and continue to experience many changes in our understanding of Mission over the years. We have tried to adapt to the changing situations and the challenges that each decade brings, of course always recognising the centrality of the person, message and mission of Jesus and his love and compassion for all

As we reflect back over the years we can feel proud that we have always tried to follow in the footsteps of the Lord by reaching out to the poor and the most vulnerable. Today we also recognise that an integral part of mission, not only for us Columbans, but for all of us, is caring for the earth and the environment. We have worked and continue to work in many cultures where Christianity is a minority religion, alongside Buddhists, Muslims and people from other religious traditions or none.

The changing face of Ireland

The Ireland of today is very different to the one in which I and many of us grew up. This has become very evident from the results of the recent Referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment. Irrespective of the result of the Referendum we should always have a deep respect for the unborn and for life itself. In spite of the apparent prosperity in the country there is a growing percentage of the population who are experiencing difficult times. Homelessness is an issue that needs urgent attention.

On the positive side Ireland has become a more diverse and multicultural society. People from other cultures have greatly added to the richness of who we are as a nation. Here in Ireland, which is indeed a locus for mission, we now have the opportunity to engage in a very real and meaningful way with these people representing various religious traditions.

A Mad Thing To Do?

Fr Neil Collins, has left us a great legacy in his recent publication titled – A Mad Thing To Do – A Century of Columban Missions, 1916-2016. Today as we are gathered here we Columbans might ask:  Was this whole new venture initiated by Bishop Galvin and Fr John Blowick a Mad Thing To Do? It probably was but history will show that God has been full of surprises. Over the past 100 years as Columbans we have made a difference and have made small inroads and footprints into people’s lives and for this we are grateful. Our numbers are now smaller but we have been truly blessed in now having members from Asia, Chile, Peru, Fiji and Tonga as well as Columban Lay Missionaries from these countries. It is to these we will pass on the torch as we move into a new era of mission. We place the future in God’s hands.

The Good News of Jesus

The good news of Jesus was all about compassion, mercy and forgiveness. This we see in today’s readings from Scripture. In the first reading from the Book of Genesis both Adam and Eve found themselves in exile and they experienced distance from God. We could even say they were the first refugees. From the beginning there was the exile. But God did not abandon them. The question he asks, “Where are You?”, is not meant as a threat but as a help. God takes pity on them and promises to send a Saviour where a new intimacy with God will become possible.

God has become human in Jesus, and this where the transformation of creation begins. Everything he did was motivated by love. He is not a remote or dispassionate figure, looking on from a distance. He is moved with compassion for us. He too was misunderstood as we see in today’s Gospel from St Mark. He had to face rejection. It is part of the cross he had to bear. Our God in the person of Jesus is a ‘world loving God’. He opened up new horizons for people and his message was not for any one group but for all. We learn to follow in the footsteps of Jesus through the beauty of God’s creation and in our relationships with one another, in our concern for the poor and the needy and in our efforts to build bridges of hope with people of other religious traditions and none.

Bearers of Hope

As we gather here today, in this our Centenary year, to remember our dead, we give thanks to God for their lives and for your faithfulness and generosity.  May the words of Pope Francis in his inaugural homily five years ago continue to be a source of inspiration for each one: ‘Today amid so much darkness we need to see the light of hope and to be women and men, (young and old) who bring hope to others.’ The men buried here in this cemetery and outside of Dalgan and indeed your own relatives buried in different parts of the country were people who did bring hope. Our faith tells us that they are not dead. They have merely changed worlds. They are not far from us. They do not come back. We go towards them in the sure hope that we will see them again. We hold their memory dear.

Sharing Gospel Joy

We have no idea what the future holds for any one of us. We have no idea what the future holds for our Society. We continue to plant seeds of hope that one day will grow. Today and always our prayer should be; ‘May your love be upon us O Lord, as we place all our hope in you.’

It is very fitting that the theme for our Centenary celebrations is ‘Sharing Gospel Joy’, a theme very close to the heart of Pope Francis. Pope Francis in his message to us Columbans on the occasion of our Centenary asks ‘that we deepen our commitment to finding new ways of bringing the newness of the Gospel to every culture and people and that we do so with joy.’ We place the future of the Society and our future in God’s care. We give thanks to God.

Thank you

Pat Raleigh