Michael (‘Mal’) was born in Clonard, Wexford on 17 December 1929 and educated in the CBS and in St Peter’s, Wexford.
He joined the Columbans in Navan in 1948. Following his ordination in December 1954 he finished postgraduate studies in Rome before being appointed to the Philippines in 1957.
Michael’s first term in the Philippines was spent in Iligan in Mindanao before he was appointed to the seminary staff in Ireland. He became rector of the seminary in 1967 just as the turbulent tide of change was reaching Dalgan Park.
He remained on the Dalgan staff until 1976 and then returned to the Philippines and Mindanao. For the next ten years he worked in the Pagadian area where he gained the reputation as a fearless defender of people and their rights.
He was vocal in his criticism of military abuses and local corruption and then brought the same energy to Manila during his a four year term as Vice Director of the Philippine Region.
Rather than returning to parish ministry he decided it was time to attend to another need that was not being met anywhere in Mindanao at that time. He began the Hangop Kabataan (The Children’s Shelter) foundation for children with special needs in 1998.
He worked away quietly for years until the spotlight was focused on him by events beyond his control. One of these was when he had to undergo a quadruple by-pass operation and his blood type was not available anywhere.
Another was his kidnapping by Islamist group in October 2009 when he was held for thirty-one days before being released.
He was glad of a few months at home after that ordeal but he had no intention of staying in Ireland. “I want to do the little bit I can, for as long as I can”. That’s what he said at the time and that was what he did.
He returned to Ireland finally in 2012 but he remained as determined as ever as he pushed his walker around Dalgan, even if it was just to find a TV showing Heineken Cup rugby.
Michael was taken ill after lunch and died in Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan in the afternoon of 23 November, the feast of St Columban. We have been blessed to have him as a friend and companion.
May he rest in peace.