RTÉ’s Joe Little to launch new book on two Columbans

A new book about two Columban missionaries who did pioneering work building trust between Christians and Muslims in the Philippines, but paid a heavy price, will be launched on Thursday 18th July by RTÉ’s Joe Little.

‘Murder in the Missions’ by Jean Harrington is a study of the lives of Fr Des Hartford and Fr Rufus Halley. It is published by Mercier Press.

RTÉ’s Religious and Social Affairs correspondent, Joe Little, will launch the new book on Thursday 18th July at 6:30pm in Dubray Books, 36 Grafton Street, Dublin.

Columban, Fr Donie Hogan, who worked in the Philippines with the two missionaries, explained to Columbans.ie how in August 2001 Jean Harrington read an article in the Irish Times about the killing of Fr Rufus Halley in the Philippines.

Fr Des Hartford after his kidnappers released him in November 1997 in Mindanao in the Southern Philippines.

The article also mentioned that Fr Des Hartford had been kidnapped in the area a few years previously.

“She was intrigued with the story of the two men. In 2003, she discovered that Des was living in Dalgan Park. She phoned him and asked if they could meet. She did not know that Des, at the time, was terminally ill with cancer.”

“She came to visit and asked if she could write about his life and work. Des hesitated and asked for time to discern. He called her up a couple of weeks later and said yes, but that they would need to do it immediately as his time left was short.”

“They met often and Des, having decided to cooperate, did not hold back. He shared deeply and personally about his work in Marawi, Philippines on Christian/Muslim dialogue and the dangers involved. As he shared, his fellow Columban and close friend Rufus Halley came more and more into his story. This led to the book telling the story of Rufus and Des during their 20 years in Marawi.”

Fr Rufus Halley died on 28 August 2001. He was shot and killed on his way home to his parish. He was mourned by both Christians and Muslims in Mindanao in the Philippines. Both communities kept vigil by his coffin.

Jean Harrington interviewed many Columbans, together with the families of Des and Rufus and their close friends for ‘Murder in the Missions: A True Story’.

“Jean believed their story needed to be told to a wider audience. In pursuing this goal she travelled to the Mindanao in the Philippines and even risked a visit to Marawi.”

“As she had never met Rufus, the Halley family and close friends of Rufus shared personal letters from him. The end result is a moving human story of the two friends as they faced the risks involved in the work they were committed to,” according to Fr Donie Hogan.

“We see Des and Rufus in their strengths and weaknesses – two human beings acknowledging their fears and anxieties, and being sustained by their faith and the support of friends and family.”

In her Introduction to the book, Jean Harrington writes: “My hope is that this book will allow others to know Des and Rufus, and the many others who are working for peace in the Philippines.”

Fr Des Hartford SSC

Having read ‘Murder in the Missions’, Fr Donie said, “We who knew them both for many years come away from this book with a deeper knowledge of our two companions and friends.”

Inter-religious dialogue is a priority of the Columban Missionaries.

“Columbans and their co-workers are involved in this work in many countries – Pakistan immediately comes to mind but also here in Ireland and the UK. This book will help our friends and supporters become more aware of who we are and what we are attempting to do.”

“With all the violence being done in the name of religion in our world today, dialogue between Christians and Muslims is truly an urgent need.”

Fr Rufus Halley SSC

Writing about ‘Murder in the Missions’ in the Far East magazine, Fr Cyril Lovett comments, “Des and Rufus represent the Columban missionaries of today. As Jean Harrington tells their stories they come across as dedicated men who were quite open about their own fears, limitations and difficulties. Both blessedly free of any hint of clericalism, what comes across in this book is their sheer humanity and vulnerability.”

The launch takes place on Thursday 18th July at 6:30pm in Dubray Books, 36 Grafton Street, Dublin.

Those who wish to attend the launch by RTE’s Religious and Social Affairs correspondent Joe Little of ‘Murder In The Missions: A True Story’ must register here: https://www.eventbrite.ie/e/jean-harrington-launches-her-new-book-murder-in-the-missions-a-true-story-tickets-64159892967

The book will also be launched in Dalgan on Sunday 21st July at 11am by Fr Cyril Lovett and the event will be hosted by Columban Regional Director, Fr Ray Husband.

A further launch will be held in Butlerstown, Co Waterford (Rufus Halley’s home parish) on Sunday 18th August at 11am.

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