A “deep and earthy spirituality” of inclusiveness and hospitality marks the Missionary Society of St Columban, said auxiliary Bishop Terry Brady last Sunday.
Bishop Brady was the chief celebrant at a thanksgiving Mass for the Society’s centenary attended by Columban benefactors and supporters at the Mary MacKillop Chapel, North Sydney.
Columban Superior General Fr Kevin O’Neill, Fr Patrick McInerney, and Fr Charles Rue also celebrated the Mass.
In welcoming the congregation Fr McInerney SSC, who is the director of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations in Sydney, said it was “delightful” to have an opportunity to “give thanks for all that God has given the society over the past 100 years”.
In his opening address Bishop Brady said it was fitting to celebrate the milestone at the start NAIDOC week because of the Columban priests’ deep connection with Australian Indigenous peoples.
Later he praised them for their unique spirituality and “great respect for different religions and cultures”.
“Through you, people are touched by Jesus himself,” he said.
“I love that there is no pretentiousness or pecking order among you. You are wonderful example of a really grassroots Church and many parts of our Church in these times can learn from you.”
The missionary society of priests work in 16 countries including: Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Britain, Ireland, China, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Philippines, Taiwan, Pakistan, Chile, Peru, Brazil, and the United States.
It was founded in 1918 and takes its name from St Columban, Ireland’s sixth century missionary to Europe.
Columban Fathers work in cooperation with lay people and Columban Sisters in solidarity with the poor and to promote justice and care of creation.
At the celebration dinner Fr O’Neill discussed the history of the Society and its patron saint, while Fr McInerney explained the Columban’s long-time presence in Sydney, from the Columban seminary opening in Wahroonga in 1952 to the opening of the Columban Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations in Blacktown.
Their apostolates across Sydney and NSW encompass ethnic, school, university and hospital chaplaincies, Asian students, the Aboriginal apostolate, Catholic Mission, Catholic EarthCare, Propagation of the Faith, L’Arche, Pax Christi, PALMS, Matt Talbot, Catholic Bushwalkers and more, he said.
“Columbans have collaborated with many religious congregations across Sydney, as well as those of other churches and other faiths, and also secular society,” said Fr McInerney.
“We’ve partnered in events, conferences, projects, peace forums, protest marches, advocacy, prayer vigils – in fact, there’s hardly a place in Sydney where an odd Columban (and I use that adjective advisedly!) might not pop up, including mosques, especially in places that are ‘edgy’, on the margins, among people, concerned about the big issues of our day.”