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Columbans celebrate 100 years


A Mass commemorating 100 years of Columban mission throughout the world was celebrated in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on August 26.

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The Missionary Society of St Columban was officially founded on June 29 1918 after a group of Irish priests began the Maynooth Mission in China.

The Society now has an inter-cultural communion of missionaries – ordained and lay – working in 16 countries, especially in Asia and Latin America.

Events marking the centenary have been held in all countries where Columbans work, with the Mass in Adelaide providing an opportunity to recall what inspired the early Columban pioneers and what they achieved. It was also a time to reflect on how their successors coped with the monumental changes in Church and society, and to thank the hundreds of thousands of people whose sacrifices over 100 years made it all possible.

Several priests from the Adelaide Archdiocese who joined the Columbans were honoured at the Mass.

Fr Peter Gabriel was the first South Australian to become a Columban priest, joining the Society at the age of 35 in 1924. After his ordination he was appointed to China where his many skills were put to great use by Columban founder, Bishop Edward Galvin, in Hanyang. Fr Gabriel laboured tirelessly to assist the thousands of refugees made homeless by the 1931 great flood of the Yangtze River and also victims of a cholera epidemic. Eventually in 1936 he succumbed to chronic tuberculosis and in 1937 returned to Adelaide to rest and recover, but sadly died the following year.

Others Columban priests from Adelaide have included Fr Peter Kavanagh, Fr John Stratton, Fr Thomas Mulkerrin, Fr Hans Meyer, Fr James Mulroney, Fr Patrick McInerney and most recently, Fr Dan Harding who conducted mission appeals in the parishes of the Archdiocese.

Fr Dan has now returned to his former mission in Santiago, Chile, where he is in charge of the parish of San Colombano in a poor area that includes seven community chapels. A video of Fr Dan thanking the people of Adelaide for their support was shown after the Mass.


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