Our annual Christmas appeal letter

In his first written letter to supporters, our new Columban Director in Britain, Fr. John Boles explains how, now residing in Britain, he is grateful to God for the opportunity "to say 'thank you' in person to so many of our marvellous benefactors", having "witnessed how the kindness of Columban supporters has touched the lives of the poor and needy".

Dear Columban friends,

“Ven, ven Senor, no tardes, Ven, te esperamos, Ven, ven Senor, no tardes, Ven pronto, ya, Jesus !”

“Come, come Lord, don’t delay,  Come, we await you, Come, come Lord, don’t delay, Come soon, Jesus, now !”

This popular folk hymn is sung throughout South America during the Season of Advent, hastening the coming of Jesus and heralding Christmas and the year’s end. And what a year it has been. Yet again, an extraordinary year marked by lockdowns, vaccinations and uncertainty.

For me, it has been an even more extraordinary year. Like all of you, I have been affected by the pandemic and its consequences, while on a personal level I was surprised to learn that I’d been appointed Regional Director of the Columban Missionaries here in Britain. I am the successor to Fr. Peter Hughes, who is retiring from the position after six years of sterling service.

This unexpected change in my life has given me the welcome opportunity to work as a priest in my own country for almost the first time. While I was born, brought up and ordained in Stockport, Greater Manchester, I have spent nearly all my 25 years of priesthood in South America, mainly in Peru. For 25 Advents I have been singing the hymn that appears at the top of this letter. Now, from the Feast of Saint Columban on 23rd November and for the next three years, I’ll be able to serve you here at home and try and give back something to my own people in return for all the wonderful generosity you’ve shown me, my fellow Columbans and the folk we accompany out there on the missions.

I am grateful to God for the chance to say “thank you” in person to so many of our marvellous benefactors. Over the last quarter of a century I’ve witnessed how the kindness of Columban supporters has touched the lives of the poor and needy.

I think of David, a severely disabled young man who lives with his low-income family on a barren hillside perched high above Peru’s capital, Lima. Donations allowed us, not only to provide him with an orthopaedic bed and wheelchair, but also to rebuild the family home in bricks and mortar (replacing the original flimsy shack they’d been sharing).

Or Andrea, a woman of similar age, almost completely paralysed since birth. We were able to furnish her with all the home comforts up until her dignified death, and continue to provide medical assistance to her family.

Miracles such as these have only come about because of your generosity, and this makes me feel able to call on you to maintain this spirit of giving into the future and particularly during Christmas time. In this way, at least to some of those who with feeling cry, “Come, come Lord, don’t delay”, we can truly say, thanks to Columban supporters, “He has come to you”.

Be assured you are always in our prayers. Sincerely I thank you and wish you all a Blessed and Happy Christmas.

Yours in the peace of Christ,

Fr. John Boles SSC

Columban Director in Britain

Jesus, my friend

Lord, in this season of goodwill help me to show kindness to my family and friends, to the stranger in my midst, to those I don't get on with, to those who dislike me.

I wish them all well, because you showed me friendship first, before ever I thought of you as a friend.

Thank you, Lord.

Amen.

Fr. Pat Sayles, The Prayer Trust

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