Cemetery Sunday in Dalgan is a very important day in the Columban calendar. It is celebrated on the first Sunday or second Sunday of June depending on when the Bank holiday falls.
On Cemetery Sunday, we not only remember Columban priests, sisters and lay missionaries who have died but we in Dalgan and in the Region of Ireland see it as a hugely symbolic day to meet up with the relatives and friends of deceased Columbans. It is the day when the bonds of friendship are renewed.
A sacred space
Not all Columbans who have died are buried in Dalgan. A sacred space is prepared around the Crucifix in the cemetery and the relatives of Columbans who are buried overseas gather around this space while the relatives of Columbans buried in Dalgan gather around the individual headstone of their deceased relative.
An international flavour
There is also an international flavour associated with Cemetery Sunday with the various flags of the countries where Columbans work today erected in front of the main College building.
People keep coming back each year for Cemetery Sunday, travelling from all parts of Ireland. This year around 700 attended. Many say they are very proud of the contribution to mission by their deceased Columbans, often in very difficult circumstances.
Columbans journeyed with the people
The Columbans remembered on Cemetery Sunday generously answered God’s call to preach the good news of Jesus in many different cultures.
They 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, the USA, Australia/New Zealand, Vanuatu, Ireland and elsewhere.
Some of the Columbans we remember on Cemetery Sunday died violent deaths. They journeyed with the people of these cultures, sometimes in very difficult conditions.
The people journeyed with the Columbans
On Cemetery Sunday, reflecting back on the lives of deceased Columbans, it struck me that we owe a huge debt of gratitude to the people from the various countries where they served.
In their missionary journey, every Columban was touched by so many people and by God’s love for them. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the very ordinary men and women who Columbans were privileged to serve.
It is so very important for us to acknowledge that before we set foot on any place God was there before our arrival. For the most part it was the ordinary people who gave us a deeper sense of God in our lives.
The families of Columbans
Cemetery Sunday is also a wonderful occasion to give thanks to God for the families of deceased Columbans but also for the families of Columbans still on cross cultural mission today. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to our families.
When Columbans came home on vacation it was the families who were there to welcome them and continue to do so today. Very often we forget that families also made huge sacrifices as well as taking a very keen interest in the work of Columbans. This continues today.
Debt of gratitude
Cemetery Sunday is a very good reminder of the debt of gratitude we owe so many people. St Columban’s, Dalgan Park, built between 1937-1941 was “built for us by the generosity of people who couldn’t afford”. We sincerely thank the families and all our benefactors for their continued support over the years.