As the Missionary Society of St Columban begins its second century, a new general council has just been elected at the general assembly in Taiwan which will draw together expertise from US/Ireland, New Zealand/Australia, South Korea and Chile.
Irishman Fr Tim Mulroy has been selected as the new Superior General.
Responding to the news Fr Tim said, “As Columban Missionaries conclude the celebration of the centenary of our founding and at the same time prepare for a new century of mission, I feel both humbled and honoured to be given this leadership position.
A former primary school teacher, he has been regional director in the US for the past six years.
Originally from Meelick, Swinford, Co Mayo, Fr Mulroy attended Meelick NS and St Patrick’s Secondary School, Swinford.
He became a Columban seminarian in 1987 and was ordained at Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Swinford in 1995.
The 54-year-old worked in parish ministry in Japan from 1995 until 2002, when he went to the US as director of formation at the Columban International Seminary in Chicago, a role he held for nine years.
Afterwards he served in parish ministry at St Pius X Parish in El Paso, Texas before he was elected Regional Superior in November 2012, a role he continued in until 2018.
He succeeded Fr Arturo Aguilar, who became Columban Vicar General in 2012.
“Coming from Mayo, I am conscious that I am walking in the footsteps of Fr John Blowick from Belcarra, one of the founders of the Columban Missionaries, who led this international organisation during its infancy years,” Fr Tim commented.
“Today, a century later, Columban Missionaries include women and men, married and single, lay and ordained from various countries, who strive to build bridges across our divided world and promote the unity of all God’s children.”
“As I look at Columban mission around the world, from Mexico to Myanmar, as well as from Peru to the Philippines, I am inspired by those people who remain committed to living out their faith in difficult circumstances. They remind me that the joy of the Gospel is far greater than the world’s problems and suffering.”
The incoming superior general said that, “As Columban missionaries look towards the future, we will continue to promote greater understanding and collaboration among people from different religious traditions. We will also continue to emphasize the importance of caring for our planet earth, so that succeeding generations will enjoy God’s blessings.”
The new Vicar General of the Society is Fr Brian Vale from New Zealand, who is currently serving as Regional Director in ANZ. He has worked in Japan
Brian Gerald Vale, second son of Jim and Mary Vale (both deceased), was born in New Plymouth, New Zealand where he was taught by Sisters of the Missions and De La Salle Brothers.
His grandfather was born in Tralee, Co Kerry and his mother Mary was a Bourke with relatives also in Kerry.
He has an older brother (deceased) and a younger sister in NZ.
The De La Salle Brother’s secondary school Brian attended was Francis Douglas Memorial College, named after a local curate who later joined the Columbans and was captured, tortured and martyred by the Japanese in the Philippines during World War Two.
Brian’s father was coached in sports by Fr Francis Vernon Douglas and Brian grew up playing cricket on their back lawn using a cricket bat given to a young Jim Vale by Fr Douglas.
Brian attended St Columban’s College, North Turramurra, Sydney, Australia from 1969 until 1975.
He was ordained on 17 May 1975 in New Plymouth, did pastoral work in NZ early 1976 then took up his appointment in Japan August 1976.
After two years language study he worked in parish work, in 1981 was appointed Justice and Peace Coordinator for Japan region, did a MA in Cross Cultural Studies at Sophia University, Tokyo.
He was then OTP Coordinator for Columbans students in Japan, did training in Spiritual Direction in Chicago in 1985-6 before being appointed to St Columban’s College, Sydney on the staff as Spiritual Director from 1986-1991.
In 1992, he returned to Japan and was chaplain/collaborator for Tokyo YCW and lived in a Worker’s House until he was appointed Regional Director of Japan 1994 until 2000.
He enjoyed working with a young fresh-faced Fr Tim Mulroy when he was appointed to Japan. He did some retreat work in Japan later New Zealand.
After a sabbatical in 2000, he returned to parish work in Japan until 2003 when he was appointed Superior of New Zealand Columbans at Lower Hutt 2003-2009.
In 2009, he took up an appointment at Columban Mission Institute, Sydney in Christian-Muslim Relations from 2003-9.
He kept up some spiritual direction and helped run an acculturation course for overseas priests and Sisters coming to work in Australia.
In November 2009, he was appointed Regional Director for ANZ region and moved to Melbourne.
Fr Joseph Kang, Vice-Director in Korea, has been elected second councillor. He studied theology in Maynooth and spent six years in Peru.
The other councillor is Chilean Fr Alvaro Patricio Martinez Ibañez. He is the youngest son in a family of ten children.
Fr Alvaro joined the columbans in 1994. Between 1995-1996 he studied philosophy at the Major Seminary in Santiago (Chile).
Then in 1997, he spent a number of months in Ireland studying English before he went to Fiji in 1998 to do his FMA.
Between 1999-2002, he studied Theology at CTU (Chicago) and was ordained a deacon in November 2002. He returned to Chile in 2003 where he was ordained to the priesthood in May of that year.
Between 2004-2011, Fr Alvaro acted as co-ordinator for vocations and headed up the formation house in Chile. In May 2011, he was appointed as regional director for Chile and he continued in this role until 2017.
He had been due to take up a new assignment in the US region but will now take up his position with the general council in Hong Kong.