Columban Centenary Celebration in Kildysart Co Clare

Fr Pat Raleigh addressed the congregation in St Michael’s Church, Kildysart on Sunday morning after Communion. Here is a copy of his address and some images of the celebration.

Theme: Looking Back, Looking Forward

  • Good morning to you all and thank you so much for gathering together here in St Michael’s Church, Kildysart as we celebrate and give thanks for 100 years of Columban Mission.
  • Compared to yesterday and the heavy rain that fell we are truly blessed with a lovely sunny morning which makes all the difference.
  • Recalling memories and celebrating important events in our lives are very important.
  • When I was growing up in Co Limerick many years ago, on Sunday afternoons during the summer, my parents would take us for a drive along the banks of the Shannon by Foynes, Glin and on to Tarbert in Kerry.
  • Looking across the Shannon from the Limerick side to Co Clare we would notice a very big house. I often wondered what it stood for. It was Cahiracon. I hadn’t an idea who lived there.
  • Even at that very stage of my life I was curious and I prevailed on my parents to visit the place.
  • At at that time big houses, for the most part, were off limits to people. Driving quietly into the place I discovered it was the home of the Columban Sisters. I forget what Sister we met on the day but she was most welcoming and invited us in.
  • This was my first time meeting the Columban Sisters even though I had a cousin in the Columban Fathers.
  • Little did I think on that day many years ago that I would end up joining the Columbans, which has brought me to the Philippines and to Pakistan. Over the years I have had the opportunity to visit many of the countries in Asia and Latin America, where we work as Columban Missionaries- priests, Sisters and Lay Missionaries.



A day to Rejoice

  • This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it’. It is a special day to rejoice with you the parishioners of Kildysart, Coolmeen and Cranny and indeed with so many of you who have travelled long distances to be here this morning.
  • Personally it is a great joy for me to be present with many of my Columban Confreres, Columban Sisters, Lay Missionaries and friends.
  • On behalf of the Columban Missionaries, I sincerely thank you all for the long association we Columbans have had with not only the people of this area but also with the people of Co Clare. I thank you for wonderful generosity down therough the years.
  • Around this time in Rome today, the late Archbishop of San Salvador, Oscar Romero is being canonised a Saint, (together with the late Pope Paul VI) a worthy tribute to a great visionary and prophetic priest who was shot dead as he celebrated Mass in his Cathedral. The moment that changed his life was when one of his priests was brutally murdered. From that day he was fully immersed in speaking out for the poor whose basic human rights were being violated. Many of his people were being brutally murdered.
  • There is a lovely reflection attributed to him: ‘Prophets Of A Future Not Our Own’. Part of this reflection is in the leaflet you have prepared for today. In this reflection there are a some lovely sentences: ‘We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work….. We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We may never see the end results …. We are workers, not master builders; we are prophets of a future not our own’.
  • These words are indeed very relevant for this celebration today. You the people of Kildysart and Cahiracon can feel very proud of the fact that you planted the seeds for a new Missionary Society – the Missionary Society of St Columban and also for the Columban Sisters.
  • Columban priests and Sisters were an integral part of this area for so many years and many of your relatives would have struck up a very lasting relationship with them. I sincerely thank you.




Bishop Patrick Cleary

  • As a Missionary Society we were truly blessed by having Bishop Patrick Cleary as one of our very illustrious members. How appropriate that he was from Kildysart. I had the privilege of being ordained by him. I am delighted that many of his relatives are here with us today. I say a very sincere thank you on behalf of the Columbans for having gifted such a wonderful missionary to the Society. It is indeed very appropriate that a plaque in his honour will be blessed and unveiled later by Bishop Fintan.




Sr Cecily McMahon and the Columban Sisters

  • How very appropriate to have present with us today Sr Cecily McMahon, Columban Sister and a native of Kildyasrt. We thank you her family for gifting the Columabn Sisters and family with such a wonderful lady. Sr Cecily, before she went to Korea, looked after us so well in Dalgan.
  • It is also very fitting that Sr Mary Dillon, another Clare woman, is with us today to celebrate this great occasion. Sr Mary spent many years in Korea and in Myanmar (Burma) where she did such wonderful work with HIV/Aid sufferers.
  • I pay tribute also to all Columabn Sisters especially those from Co Clare. Sr Brid Kenny and Fr Paul would have loved to haven present with us today. They are with us in spirit.
  • We Columban priests owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Columban Sisters down through the years. They have done such valiant work in so many countries in the fields of medicine, nursing, education social work, interfaith dialogue and building faith communities.. Please convey our very sincere thanks to all in Magheramore.

Columban Lay Missionaries

  • For over thirty years we have been privileged to have working in partnership with us Columban Lay Missionaries from the Philippines, Latin America, Fiji, Ireland, Britain, USA and Korea. It is very fitting the Kyung-Ja Lee, Columban Lay Missionary from Korea is with us today. We are very grateful to our Lay Missionaries for the work they do in promoting God’s mission.


Fr Neil Collins

  • Fr Neil, from Co Derry and Missionary in the Philippines has left us a wonderful legacy in writing the History of the Society in his Book; ‘A Mad Thing To Do’ – A century of Columban Mission, 1916-2016. It is good that Neil is present with us today and he will be happy to meet and chat with you later and sell you a copy of his Book.
  • It is the story of an extraordinary Missionary Movement which began in Ireland in 1916. It was right in the middle of the First World war and within six months of the Dublin rising. At that time conditions for the Irish people were very difficult as indeed they are for many today not only in Ireland but in many parts of the world.
  • In his dedication at the beginning of his book he sums up very well the meaning of Mission: ‘When we went abroad our hosts welcomed us and were patient with our cultural We brought them our faith only to fine that they had so much to teach us. Some of them faced ridicule, danger, and even death for living out their faith’ This continues today’.
  • Over the course of the past 100 years, twenty-three Columban Priests and one Columban Sister, Joan Sawyer, have met with violent deaths. We refer to them as our Columban Martyrs. We owe them a huge death of gratitude. Two of those who met with violent deaths were from Co Clare: Fr Thomas Flynn, from Kilkishen murdered in the Philippines in 1950; Fr Tom Cusack from Ballycotton murdered in Korea in 1950. It is indeed very appropriate that Fr Tom Cusack’s niece, Stephanie McNamara, aand other relatives are with us today. Stphanie is part of the choir. It is our hope and wish that our Columban Martyrs will be canonised one day. To the relatives of these martyrs we say many thanks.
  • Over the course of our Columban history many more suffered great hardships. ‘One of the hallmarks of these great men and women was their fidelity and their commitment to work with the poorest, the most needy and oppressed. Their fidelity to the people was characterised by a willingness to stay with them through wars, revolutions and natural disasters’.

Sincere gratitude from the Columbans

  • On behalf of all Columbans I sincerely thank you all for making this occasion very special. I have no doubt but that a huge amount of work went into the preparations for this day. Thank you so much.
  • I thank Bishop Fintan for taking time out to be the Celebrant of the Eucharist today. There has indeed been a very long association between the Columbans and the people of your former Archdiocese of Tuam. One of our Co-founders, Fr John Blowick was from the Tuam Archdiocese.
  • Bishop Fintan, I would like you to convey our gratitude to your fellow Bishops for their very kind words at your recent Autumn gathering in Maynooth: ‘In this their Centenary year, the Bishops acknowledged with prayerful gratitude the great worldwide contribution of the Missionary Society of St Columban which was founded as the Maynooth Mission to China in 1918.The Bishops praised the work of the Columban Missionaries who were at the forefront of teaching about reconciliation and justice, caring for the earth, our common home and pointing out how the poorest people of the world suffer most from the throwaway culture of greed and waste.’
  • A very special thanks to you Fr Albert for the huge effort you put into the preparations for today. You left no stone unturned. Thank you so much for your very warm welcome. Please convey our sincere gratitude to the teachers and children from the various schools in the parish who welcomed Fr Gerry Neylon to their schools. I have no doubt but that in true Clare fashion Fr Gerry entertained you very well and would have taught you a few words in Chinese.
  • To everybody who was in any way involved in today’s preparations a very sincere thanks.
  • A special thanks to my fellow Columban, Fr Michael O’Loughlin, from Ennis for his very inspiring Homily. Very greatly appreciated.
  • Our thanks to the Choir who greatly enhanced and enriched the Liturgy for today.


Sharing Gospel Joy

  • The theme for our Centenary celebrations is ‘Sharing Gospel Joy’.
  • Over the past years we are living in a very changed Society where everything is being questioned. Yet so many good things continue to happen. We are now smaller in numbers as a Society.
  • We place the future of our Society in God’s hands and also in the hands of committed lay people. May we continue to exude the Joy of the Gospel not only in Africa, Asia and Latin America but also here in Ireland. May we continue to be inspired by Pope Francis to be people who continue to bring light and hope to others
  • Thank you all so much especially for being part of our story and the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.
  • Thank you all for making this a very special day.