By Matthew Lau
“Let us live for Christ and not for ourselves” – St Columban’s motto.
The Perth Missionary Society of St Columban celebrated its centenary to a full Como Parish congregation on 3 November by welcoming former Superior General Fr Kevin O’Neill as the principal celebrant of the Mass.
Concelebrating the Mass at Holy Family Church were Columban Fathers Paul Carey, Peter Toohey, Kelvin Barrett, and Peter O’Neill, along with various other diocesan and religious priests.
The Columbans are a Catholic Missionary Society of Apostolic Life, founded in Ireland in 1916 and approved by the Vatican in 1918. Columban missionaries comprise of priests, seminarians, and laypeople.
In 1962, after 30 years of having Columbans from Perth participating as missionaries across the globe, the Society decided to establish a residence in the WA capital, with the permission of then-Archbishop Redmond Prendiville.
Fr Kevin O’Neill gave a reflection on 100 years of Missionary life in his sermon, and showed his gratitude toward the Perth Archdiocese for its ongoing support of the Columbans.
“This Eucharist of thanksgiving to celebrate the centenary of the Missionary Society of St Columban is a joyful occasion for all of us to give thanks to God for His steadfast love and fidelity, for the many blessings received over the past 100 years,” the former Superior General said.
“We gather, united across the world, with all those engaged in Columban mission, with our benefactors and friends, with those among whom Columban missionaries live and serve.
“During this centenary year, in a spirit of gratitude, we give thanks for what has been, with passion we celebrate our mission today, and with hope look forward to our unfolding participation in God’s mission into the future,” Fr O’Neill expressed.
Perth Superior Fr Kelvin Barrett, during the reception after Mass, thanked those who have partaken in the Columban Society’s journey over the past century.
He paid particular homage to Fr Frank Chapman, Fr Peter O’Sullivan, Fr Kevin O’Mahony, Fr Patrick Hickey, Fr Lynn Whitely, Fr Paul Carey, and Fr Brian Gore, who each played an integral role in the WA Columban story.
Fr Barrett also emphasised the prominence of three WA Columban lay missionaries: Kevin and Jo Bell, and Julie Williams.
“Those I have singled out are only the tip of the iceberg of this great spiritual venture. Driving this iceberg is all of you here and all the families you represent,” Fr Barrett added.
“You who live out your baptismal call to mission, sometimes unheralded, are the core of Columban mission. The Columbans as a society do not exist without you. You are our strength, you are our hope.”
While the Columbans foresee an uncertain future ahead, he said, its Society will continue to tackle the mission day-by-day through the grace of God.