A letter from the Society Leader, Rev Tim Mulroy SSC
During this past year, as a result of the coronavirus crisis, our world has experienced profound and widespread suffering as well as extraordinary compassion and resilience. We have been reminded clearly and forcefully that, since all of us are interconnected across the globe, our daily actions and interactions have consequences far beyond our range of vision. This has led us to a deeper realization of the truth of our Christian faith: that all of us belong to one family and share a common home.
In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, people in many of our mission countries who live and work from day to day had no income to provide food for their families due to forced restrictions and lockdowns. For them, the fear of starvation became greater than the fear of becoming infected. Columbans in countries such as the Philippines, Peru and Myanmar were able find ways to respond to this nightmare by creatively and safely organizing community pots or by providing the support that people needed to grow their own food. As might be expected, many migrants and refugees were particularly vulnerable when they lost their jobs and could no longer pay rent and feed themselves. In desperation, some of them turned to their local church, and fortunately Columban missionaries in Korea, Japan and Chile were able to provide them with assistance. The story of the baby boy who was born in a newly-established home for vulnerable migrant women in the parish of San Colombano in Santiago, Chile has echoes of the story of the birth of Jesus – a reminder that God continues to send life and hope into the bleak corners of our world.
Tragically, far too many people were unable to receive the help that they needed. Faced with the stark choice of obtaining medical help or providing for their families, many chose the latter. As a consequence, many more became infected and large numbers of people died. For their families, these had been mothers, brothers, and breadwinners; for Columban missionaries, they were parishioners, neighbours and friends. Unable to gather with grieving families and the community, Columbans in many countries provided consolation by letter or phone, and facilitated online Masses and funeral services.
During this past year, news of the pandemic drowned out other stories of great suffering and of various efforts to provide relief and hope. For example, Columbans in Fiji and Pakistan were able to provide support to families that had been left destitute as a result of various natural disasters. Meanwhile, in Myanmar, Columban missionaries continue to walk alongside and support the suffering people of that country in the wake of a military coup in February of this year. Like the pandemic, these events remind us that people from different religious traditions are equally impacted, and that the suffering will be felt for many years to come. It remains important, therefore, that all of us continue to collaborate on finding the best path forward.
Despite the many challenges that you, our supporters, have experienced during this past year, Columban missionaries have been overwhelmed by your fidelity and generosity toward our mission. Your compassion, sacrifices and prayers have also traveled mysteriously to far-off cities and remote corners of the globe, enabling Columban missionaries to bring consolation, relief and hope to countless people. As a token of our gratitude, all of us Columbans missionaries – but particularly our elderly priests who were greatly confined throughout much of this past year – continue to lift up your intentions and needs to God in our prayers and Masses.