Fr Desmond Morrison passed away in Big Hearts Care Home, Parañaque, Manila, after a long illness. He had spent 66 years of his missionary life in the Philippines.
He was born in Dublin on 28 February 1925 and grew up in Derry where he attended Waterside Primary School and St Columb’s College, Derry. He graduated from University College Dublin with a degree in Civil Engineering in 1945.
Des joined the Columbans in Dalgan Park in 1945 and was ordained on 21 December 1951. After ordination he did postgraduate studies and obtained a doctorate in Canon Law in 1955 from St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.
In that same year and continuing into 1956 he spent time with the well-known architectural firm, Corr and McCormick, in Derry City. This enabled Des to get a lot of experience in building methods and procedures. He had been encouraged to do so by the Superior General at the time, Fr Tim Connolly, so that he would be better prepared to help with the building churches and schools when he went on mission.
Des was appointed to the Philippine Region in February 1956. He corresponded with Bishop Paddy Cronin about the design of the proposed Cathedral in Ozamiz ahead of his arrival in the Philippines in late October 1956, when he was put in charge of church planning in the new diocese. He was largely responsible for the design and construction of Ozamiz Cathedral which remains an impressive building to this day.
Des was involved in the design and construction of many cathedrals and churches in Mindanao over the next decade as well as schools and presbyteries. His skills and expertise in this area were widely appreciated. He also had a number of parish assignments in Mindanao including Malabang, Jimenez, Oroquieta, Kolambugan, Aloran, Dumalinao, Baroy, Tubod, Baroy and Corpus Christi, Iligan.
During this time Des also became very much involved in the Family Life Apostolate, specifically with promoting the Billings method of natural family planning. This apostolate became his main focus from 1979 onwards. He was appointed full-time to this ministry while continuing to live in Corpus Christi parish Iligan City.
In 2003 he moved to the Columban House, Patag, Cagayan de Oro where he continued his Family Life apostolate which was funded in part by the Society.
Des’ other expertise in Canon Law did not go to waste as he also found time to help in the Marriage Tribunal in Cagayan de Oro archdiocese and was also involved in the Marriage Tribunal in Manila. He had a reputation for being very compassionate and practical in any advice he was asked to give in relation to marital problems.
He also had a real concern that canon law was not saying enough about the need for the sacrament of reconciliation to be understood, first and foremost, as embodying the mercy of God.
Des died on 23 November 2022. He was 97 years old. His funeral took place on 28 November 2022 at Loyola Memorial Gardens, Sucat, Parañaque. He was laid to rest in a plot adjoining the ones where the five other Columbans were also buried there.
May he rest in peace.