Fr Michael Cuddigan reflects on 50 years of priesthood

Columban missionary Fr Michael Cuddigan belongs to the Chinese Mission Unit in Hong Kong. He was ordained on Easter Sunday 11th April 1971 in the college chapel in Dalgan. Here are some of his thoughts on 50 years of missionary priesthood.

This is indeed a very happy day for me as I celebrate my golden jubilee of ordination to the missionary way of life. Not least as our Columban Missionary Society was founded for mission in China. It’s an occasion to ponder and celebrate how good is the mercy and love of God as I experienced it over fifty years ago.

When I was still in elementary school, I first thought of being a priest in Australia as my uncle, also Fr Michael Cuddigan, was stationed there. The seed was set, you might say, in my heart. I forgot about it as life moved on.

In my final year in high school I had a very strong sense of God loving me. I was drawn to offer myself as a priest to Him. Earlier I had been thinking of becoming an engineer or a radio officer on a ship.

Thank God I have no regrets with my decision. As the years passed I continue to be grateful for his call to me and enabling me to say “Yes” to this God of love I knew in my heart.

In 1971, I was ordained at the Columban seminary in Dalgan. The years that followed brought their own challenges of loneliness and living in new countries and cultures.

Yet I have been blessed with many great friends who have supported and enabled me in my mission to try new possibilities of ministry and to grow in my own humanity. In a way my journey of missionary priesthood has been a dance of life between who I am as a person and of my priesthood. Both interacting and enriching on each other.

I remember in my second year of priesthood, walking to the villages in the southern Philippines, I asked myself if this was all that I would be doing for the rest of my life. It was an occasion of recommitment at a deeper level of my being if I was to remain faithful to my calling. God did not let me down. He had many wonderful surprises waiting for me that I had not factored into my life.

In the following years I spent time in Australia, in Ireland and now it is my good fortune to be here in Hong Kong at the cathedral and the Catholic Centre. During these eight years I have been involved in parish ministry and Christian ecumenical radio broadcasting.

Fr Michael Cuddigan with his family on the day of his ordination. He is currently a member of the Chinese Mission Unit in Hong Kong.

Earlier I spent years in forming our students in our seminary. I had opportunities to do retreat work both in the Philippines and in Ireland, where I also did mission education and vocation recruitment.

In a word I have had a very interesting and meaningful life interacting with people of many cultures and involvement in different forms of ministry.

I even had a soldier with a machine gun living with me for a little due to concerns that I would be kidnapped, as one of our Columban priests had just been kidnapped prior to that time.

The underlying element in my life over these fifty years has been that God has been generous in loving of me and has never let me down.

I have no regrets in having chosen to live the missionary way of life as a Columban Father proclaiming the Good News of God loving us – not least loving me. I remember in my heart the words of Isaiah 43. “I have called you by name and you are precious in my eyes.”