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The Magazine of the Missionary Society of St. Columban

February 2012

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The Faithfulness of Today’s Youth


ne of the most gratifying elements of my ministry with young adults is when we receive letters from our former interns and volunteers updating us on their latest academic, professional, or service endeavors. Recently I received two letters from former advocacy interns sharing their reflections on

what their time with us meant to them and how it continues to impact their lives. Amanda B. wrote to say, Christmas is less than a week away and I’ve been thinking about what I’m thankful for and my summer interning at the CCAO office has come to mind a lot. As a City Year teacher, I’m hoping to incorporate the things I learned over the summer about environmental justice into some of our discussions with the students. Even if it’s as small as just a brief overview of some of the major issues facing the environment, I think that could possibly have a big impact on some of my students especially if they have no idea what the issues are to begin with. Janelle A. shared, I hope everything is going well at CCAO. I was just missing my Columban family so I wanted to write and wish everyone in the office a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I am in the process of applying for an early graduate school and as I was writing my purpose statement, I began to write about my semester at the Columban Center and I really just wanted to take the time to

In So Many Words

say thank you again. I really learned a lot about migration, public policy and advocacy, but most importantly about how to

By Amy Woolam Echeverria

incorporate my faith into my work. Thank you again for such an amazing opportunity. What strikes me from these letters are two things; first,

“...we can see through their commitment to building relationships that they are indeed responding to their baptismal call to love and serve those who are pushed to the margins of society and are vulnerable to poverty, injustice and discrimination.”

that our interns and volunteers continue to seek ways to build the Kingdom long after they serve with us; second, that relationships formed during their time with us continue to grow well beyond the end date of their program. While many of the young adults that join our programs may be reluctant to consider themselves missionaries, we can see through their commitment to building relationships that they are indeed responding to their baptismal call to love and serve those who are pushed to the margins of society and are vulnerable to poverty, injustice and discrimination. As we enter the season of Lent, a time of recognizing and reconciling for the times we have failed to be God’s love in the world, may we be inspired by the stories in these pages that witness the faithfulness of today’s youth.

Amy Woolam Echeverria is the director of the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach in Washington, D.C.

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Education Amidst Violence The Columban Study Center in Anapra, Mexico

By Fr. Robert Mosher

I recently met the sparkling and energetic Cristina, who manages for the Columbans, a library and study center for 385 school-aged children in Rancho Anapra, the residential area covered by our Columban parish of Corpus Christi, on the outskirts of JuĂĄrez, Mexico. Columban supporters are familiar with her reports, posted on our website over the past several years, and have donated generous amounts towards the upkeep of the study center. 4

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Cristina is very proud of the students who have used the center over the years. Every year, a few of the students graduate from high school, most of whom go on to higher education. The study center consists of several large rooms attached to Cristina’s house and an outdoor patio for younger children to learn and play in. She carefully points out the laptop computer and the photocopier in a corner of one office-like space, fruits of donations, and tells me

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Fr. Denny O’Mara

that seven more laptops have been donated for the use of the older students. She waxes emotional in spite of her hardheaded approach to the challenges of running the afterschool program, Monday through Friday, throughout the academic year, in one of the poorest places in Mexico. One of the challenges is convincing parents to send their children to the study center. So many parents see prolonged education as a luxury they can ill afford, preferring to send their children to work and bring income to the family as early as possible. Cristina tries to show them how education is an inheritance for their children, something won for them by years of struggle, so that they needn’t face the hopelessness of temporary, dead-end jobs that the adults now have to put up with. It’s not easy to convince parents of the connection between an education and a better future for their children. Registration with the local public schools at the beginning of each school year, for each child, costs 600 Mexican pesos— about $44.00 in U.S. currency— for kindergarten, 1,300 pesos (U.S. $95) for primary school. However, thanks to the support

of Columban donors, the study center can partially pay for the school registrations of children of the poorest families in the area. On top of that, school uniforms and supplies are also required of each child, and the center helps with those expenses, as well, often contributing the writing and artwork supplies directly, with the help of funding from the U.S.

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also became compulsory. Escuelas (schools) is a term generally reserved for public schools, while colegios (similar to “colleges”) refers to private schools, which usually charge higher tuition fees. Public schools serve 87% of all students in Mexico. Public school teachers are often saturated by the sheer numbers of students in their classes, Cristina

Cristina tries to keep the violence out of children’s conversation, so as not to let fear dominate their lives. The Mexican public education system is slightly different from the U.S. system. Education is usually divided into three periods: Primary School (primaria), grades 1-6; Junior High School (secundaria), grades 7-9; and High School (preparatoria), grades 10-12. The first two periods are compulsory for Mexican citizens, although the third is not. In 2001, kindergarten, or a preschool year, (preescolar)

told me, and thus the study center fulfills an important role in their education, an auxiliary role that focuses on reinforcing the lessons of the day. When Cristina and her team of volunteer helpers treat each child with attention to their educational needs and challenges, they also help to overcome the problems faced by children at home, where poverty often forms the chaotic background to February 2012

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One of the challenges is convincing parents to send their children to the study center. So many parents see prolonged education as a luxury they can ill afford, preferring to send their children to work and bring income to the family as early as possible.

alcoholism, drug addiction and domestic violence. Recently, the wave of violence since the drug cartel wars began in Juárez in 2008 has drawn alarmingly close to Rancho Anapra. Just a few days before my visit, a young man was gunned down in cold blood in the middle of the day by a group of armed men in a speeding taxi, right in front of the main gate to the local primary school! Parents from all over the neighborhood descended on the school to whisk their children away, and chaos reigned for nearly an hour. Blood stained the sidewalk in front of the school for several hours after the young man’s body was taken away while the police arrived to photograph the crime scene and keep the area clear. Cristina tries to keep the violence out of children’s conversation, so as not to let fear dominate their lives. The growing presence of such illicit groups also makes the drug trade tempting for poor young people, who sooner or later weigh the choice between easy money and struggling for work in a period of high unemployment. “They taught me to read in the study center library!” a child will occasionally boast to his or her parents, which fills Cristina with pride. Her own education trained 6

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her in social work, with a specialty in economic law. “My children,” Cristina declares in a proprietary manner, meaning all the children in the program, “they come here clean, with decent clothing.” “I make sure they don’t lack shoes or uniforms,” she adds. Cristina is very happy with what she regards as an “opportunity” with which God has entrusted her. She raises the spirits and motivates children who may have lost a parent to violence, which is not unusual in the area, and treats them with special attention. “I’m strict, too,” she tells me, with a sharp look, somewhat softened by the friendly sparkle in her eye. “I don’t allow makeup or any of that nonsense on the older girls. Hair and dress are to be appropriate for their age!” She also insists that mothers and fathers need not be ashamed to ask for help. “There’s no shame in asking for help for one’s children,” she insists. Moral behavior is also strongly encouraged for both parents and children as the young girls and boys approach sexual maturity, and Cristina usually warns parents to pay more attention to their kids. “If you don’t want your daughter to end up pregnant, keep her from going to all those

parties at night! You must put some restrictions on your children, although they complain about it!” The reality of Juárez is that many young women have disappeared, and sometimes turned up in mass graves, over the past few decades, and the problem continues today. Cristina tries to head such crimes off early in a young person’s education but knows several cases of missing young women from the area. She always fears for the worst. She also tries to be fair, selecting only the most deserving families for financial and educational help for their children. “Not everyone is happy with me,” she admits. “I think that those families who have salaries coming in should leave their space to other families.” But with faith in God, she can make the hard decisions, whatever the personal consequences to her or her husband, who often helps maintain the facility. “You have to have faith in God,” she insists. CM Fr. Robert Mosher lives and works in El Paso, Texas.

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Columban Center for Advocacy & Outreach Do you want to work for peace and justice?

Serve with the Columban Missionaries! Internships Full time summer internships and part time spring and fall internships •

Analyze social justice issues and legislation through Catholic Social Teaching

Design engaging web material and meaningful social media content

Educate lawmakers and constituents to make a difference

Intern in Washington, D.C., or Omaha, Nebraska

Domestic Volunteer Opportunities Volunteer service of six months or more •

Work to tackle the structural causes of poverty and injustice

Discover the connections between faith and justice

Live in community with other volunteers

Volunteer in our nation’s capital, Washington, D.C.

International Volunteer Opportunities Extended volunteer service abroad •

Respond to the baptismal call to be missionary

Be a witness through service

Live in solidarity with those you serve

Experience a new culture in China, Taiwan and other mission locations

Service & Mission Exposure Trips One to two week exposure experiences at our mission locations •

Lead your student or university group to see our missions firsthand

Encounter Christ in others

Immerse yourself in a culture unlike your own

Visit Columban communities in Peru or at the U.S.-Mexico Border

To learn more about any of these opportunities, contact: Brian Radziwill • • 301-565-4547 To apply for any of these programs, please visit: CM FE12 007 final.indd 7

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Generation Next The Millennials By Amy Woolam Echeverria


or more than six years I have served in young adult ministry at the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, working with our Advocacy interns and full time Columban Volunteers USA (CVUSA) volunteers. Our interns and volunteers are primarily of the millennial generation and exhibit many of the characteristics attributed to them. According to a 2010 Pew Research study, Millennials:: A Portrait of Generation Next, those characteristics indicate that millennials are confident, connected and open to change. 8

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They are considered to be on track to becoming the most educated generation in American history, and they are also the most racially diverse generation this country has seen. The study goes on to outline in great detail many areas including: Priorities, Outlook, Technology and Social Media, Work and Education, Family Values, Lifestyle, Politics, Ideology and Civic Engagement, Religious Beliefs and Behaviors. Of this last category, the study indicates that while millennials are less likely to affiliate with any particular religion, they do tend to hold more traditional beliefs about things like life after death and miracles. For the millennials who are religious, the trend indicates a

preference for more traditional practices. According to a study released in 2009 commissioned by USCCB and conducted by the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate (CARA), Recent Vocations to Religious Life: A Report for the National Religious Vocation Conference, “Millennial Generation respondents are much more likely than other respondents to say that daily Eucharist, Liturgy of the Hours, Eucharistic Adoration, and other devotional prayers are “very” important to them.” The study also indicates that young adults entering religious life are attracted to living in large, institutional style communities and wearing religious attire. Another notable trend in relation to young adults is their

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My experience of working daily with young people indicates that they are deeply spiritual and are thirsting to find spaces where they can explore what their faith means to them and how that translates into a life of mission and service. desire to commit to volunteer service, often after college graduation, which frequently stems from short term experiences such as alternative spring breaks in high school and college. When well organized and including accompaniment both before and after the experience, those first encounters with realities unlike their own can be transformative which leads to conversions of the heart, mind and soul. From the most recent survey of Catholic Volunteer Network (20092010), the leading national network of faith-based lay and volunteer service opportunities, we can see that increasingly young people are seeking ways to connect their faith with service. In just ten years, the number of lay missionaries and volunteers nearly doubled from 7,600 to 14,500. So how are we as Columbans responding to this reality of young adults seeking opportunities to live and deepen their faith through service? One way is through the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach (CCAO) which is dedicated to extending our mission invitation particularly to young adults. Our programs include short and long term service, as well as domestic and international. All of our programs are centered on solidarity, living simply, and

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being a witness to God’s love to those who are most vulnerable and marginalized. Since 2008 and the creation of the CCAO, more than 1,100 people have contacted us interested in service, with approximately 70% of those contacts between the ages of 18-30. My experience of working daily with young people indicates that they are deeply spiritual and are thirsting to find spaces where they can explore what their faith means to them and how that translates into a life of mission and service. Whether in our weekly faithsharing gatherings, in their blogs, or letters to members of Congress our interns and volunteers quickly make connections between their work for justice, peace and environmental sustainability and the Gospel message of caring for the least among us. In their own words, here are some reflections from former Advocacy interns and CVUSA Volunteers on their experience with us: Adriana Elgarresta: I have grown in my faith and my social awareness. Interacting at the CCAO with other college students about spiritual growth made me realize how much I missed reflection and prayer in my daily life. Bill Braun: I saw a whole new side of my spirituality and for the first

time realized that in addition to calling us to His table, Jesus also commands that we assist our fellow man. Being at the CCAO helped me to truly understand that this is necessary. Rosa Lee: I’ve also realized how important it is to me that my faith be involved in whatever my next step in life will be. I feel blessed that I’ve had this opportunity. I’m learning to be in the world in a much more present and active way. Participant of Korean Youth Group on Mission Exposure trip to the U.S. Mexico Border: My experience was enlightening and life changing. I learned to open myself to God and to open my mind and try to understand the situation of migrants. Each generation brings its own gifts to the ongoing evolution of the culture in which it finds itself. For the millennial generation, whether it’s the ease with which they use technology to advance a social cause, or their fearlessness in exploring new realities, or their capacity to give tirelessly of their time to make a positive difference in the world, I have been inspired by the relationships forged as a result of our invitation to mission. If you or someone you know would like more information about how to participate in the various programs the CCAO has to offer, please contact us at: or 301-565-4547. Please see our ad in this issue and find us on Facebook at Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach. CM Amy Woolam Echeverria is the director of the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach in Washington, D.C.

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he Burren, a unique rocky landscape in Ireland, became a classroom this summer for a group of Columban missionaries, lay associates and young adults from all over the world to explore the connections between their faith and ecology. Using an experiential approach to learning, the students combined field observations, lectures and informal conversations as a way to peel back the mystery of the universe. Brett Garland and Tracey Horan joined the group from the United States. Brett, currently a Theology major at Catholic University, was a former advocacy intern in our Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach in Washington, D.C. Tracey, a recent graduate of University of Dayton, is an elementary school teacher at St. Pius parish and school in El Paso, Texas, near our Columban Mission Center. Below is a reflection from each of them, sharing their wonder and awe at finding God in the cracks and crevices of the Burren.

Creation as Revelation Brett Garland

The Burren Wonder and Awe


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I have had the opportunity to experience one small part of the overwhelming beauty of God’s Creation. In these few days we have begun to recognize and appreciate the vast biodiversity of this seemingly barren place hidden in the rural west of Ireland. We have also examined the intricacies of the smallest of flowers like “eyebright” and “tufted vetch,” a process which has manifested to me the intelligent and creative presence of God. This past semester I took a Scriptural Theology class in which

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we read the Vatican II document Dei Verbum, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation. At the beginning of the week, Dr. Feehan, our presenter, challenged all of us to look at Creation as Revelation. This statement was truly extraordinary, and it has become a point of reflection for me throughout the week. In order to journey deeper into this reality I decided to look once again at Dei Verbum, where I found the following quote: “God, who through the Word creates all things (see John 1:3) and keeps them in existence, gives men an enduring witness to Himself in created realities (see Rom. 1:19-20).” Throughout my week in the Burren, I’d like to think that I’ve experienced something of the reality of God, in both the immensity and intricacy of His many “created realities.” It seems to me that this is a dimension of our faith experience that is all too often overlooked.

At Home in the World Tracey Horan

As we look at various issues and the Church’s response to them, the challenge for us is believing in a glorious afterlife while being fully present in the natural world.There are parts of our theological history where it is easy to see that Christians were taught to reject the things of this world­—and even our own worldly bodies—as intrinsically sinful. It is understandable that this focus would be partially responsible for our hesitancy to embrace creation as an expression of divine love. Just as it has taken time for the Church to develop a spirituality

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Tracy Horan and Brett Garland at the Burren

that embraces the beauty of the human body, so too it will likely be difficult to convince ourselves to look for the glory of God on the ground around us rather than always looking up. I know that I sometimes struggle with this habitual mindset. One Columban expressed this today as our need for feeling “at home in the world.” I can say I’ve been up close and personal with this “at home” feeling on many occasions during this trip, and one of them occurred today on our walk through a local forest. As we ventured onto the trail, I could feel my lungs open and my eyes widen to the majesty of the stretching trees and sprawling ferns. My soul said, “I am home.” Each speck of color from each flowering plant caught my eye, begging to be seen, to be held, to be known. I must’ve had a goofy smile on my face — the kind that seems to happen for no reason at all but you just can’t shake — for the entirety of the hike. At one point, the cloud of my day dreaming lifted just long enough for me to notice that I wasn’t alone. All around me the others were gawking at tiny purple and yellow things with the same foolish grin! It was as if we had never seen the color

green before and were afraid we never would again. Laughter was magnified, and eyes twinkled. Any passerby would think we had all lost it! I couldn’t help but wonder how much more “at home” we might all feel in our own skin if we made more time and space to simply revel in God’s creation. Maybe we’d find a greater capacity to listen joyfully to one another. Maybe we’d find an ability to be spoken to. Maybe the answers we’ve sought with upturned heads would make themselves known in the colors of blossoms, the comforting shelter of branches overhead, or the rhythmic swaying of wild grasses. Maybe. Upon returning from the Burren, both Brett and Tracey have continued exploring the relationship between faith and ecology through their work and study in the classroom and beyond. As St. Columban once said, “If you want to know the Creator, know Creation.” CM To find out more about educational opportunities with Columbans at the Burren, please contact Amy Woolam Echeverria at or 301-565-4547.

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Handing on the Baton The Next Lap of the Columban Missionary Journey By Fr. Timothy Mulroy Taaremon Matuea and Fr. Charles Duster


uring Columban celebrations in Chicago, Illinois, in October 2011, there was a sense that we were embarking on the beginning of a new era. Columban seminarian Taaremon Matauea was making a bold new start by becoming a permanent member of the Columban Society and receiving the sacrament of ordination to the deaconate at the Korean Martyrs’ Church. That sense that one era was coming to an end and another was about to begin was captured at that moment in the ordination ceremony when the newly ordained Taaremon joined Bishop John Manz and veteran Columban missionary Fr. Charles Duster at the altar. Fr. Duster, a native of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, but based in Chicago for these past several years, was celebrating the Golden Jubilee of his ordination as a Columban priest on that same occasion. Before coming to Chicago, 12

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Fr. Duster had spent almost twenty years as a missionary in Fiji, the country in which Taaremon grew up. It was then as if Fr. Duster was handing over the Columban baton to Taaremon on that day and commissioning him to continue running with the Good News to the ends of the earth. During the past fifty years Fr. Duster has faithfully carried that baton to various places across the globe. After his ordination in 1961, he went to Japan where he spent the first seven years of his missionary priesthood. Upon returning home he was requested to spend the following years as vocations director by assisting young men who were trying to decide if they were being called by God to serve in mission fields. His next assignment was to Fiji in the south Pacific where he was engaged in parish ministry. Later he studied in Rome, but returned to Fiji afterwards where he continued with pastoral and administrative

work, and became a lecturer in the local seminary. In fact, Fr. Duster first came to know Taaremon as a Columban seminarian in Fiji, and then as providence would have it, they were both assigned to Chicago. In Chicago, Fr. Duster engaged in mission animation in schools and parishes; Taaremon studied theology at Catholic Theological Union while living at the Columban International Seminary. It seemed apt then that, after the ordination ceremony Fr. Duster left Chicago and went to live and work at the Columban house in St. Columbans, Nebraska, while Taaremon graduated with a Master of Divinity and returned home to Fiji, holding tight to the missionary baton that had been passed to him! Taaremon already understands well the responsibility involved in carrying that baton across the globe. Although he was born in Fiji and grew up there, his parents, extended family and WWW.COLUMBAN.ORG

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The deaconate ordination

Taaremon with friends and supporters

many neighbors live as migrants in that country. Their homeland is a small island called Banaba, which is located close to the equator in the south Pacific. The discovery of phosphate on Banaba, and its subsequent mining after World War II, led to their forced migration several hundred miles south to one of the Fiji islands, named Rabi. Since the language, culture and way of life of the Banaban people differs greatly from those of their adopted country, Fiji, Taaremon has learned from childhood to live between two worlds, thus developing an invaluable asset for his future missionary life. WWW.COLUMBAN.ORG

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Indeed, during the ten years that Taaremon has spent as a Columban seminarian, he has come to appreciate the importance of being able to negotiate different worlds, diverse cultures and various languages in order to live as missionary. While the initial years of his seminary training were in Fiji, he studied in the Philippines for one year and in Chicago for four years. Furthermore, he spent two years of his seminary training living and working alongside experienced Columban missionaries in Taiwan. Now, as he looks to his future, he is preparing himself for ordination to the priesthood in August 2012 with

the hope of returning to Taiwan as a fully-fledged Columban missionary priest. However, somewhere in the back of his mind, especially when he thinks of the many roads that Fr. Duster has traveled down over his fifty years as a Columban missionary, he knows that it’s God’s mission, not his own, and that the road ahead may lead to some surprising places. In his speech during the reception after Taaremon’s ordination, Fr. Duster admitted to having being led by the Lord to some surprising places, but also assured those gathered that there hadn’t been a single day during those fifty years in which he regretted his decision to become a Columban missionary. The presence at the ordination of Columban lay missionaries, seminarians and priests from various countries, the support and affection of many parishioners, friends and benefactors, as well as the spirit of faith, hospitality and celebration of that day gives Taaremon good reason to believe that Columban supporters worldwide will keep their hearts open to God’s mission across the globe for many years to come. He knows too that while his days as a seminarian in Chicago have come to an end, as the first Banaban to become an ordained member of the Missionary Society of St. Columban, God is starting something truly new and amazing. CM Fr. Timothy Mulroy temporarily lives and works in El Paso, Texas.

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Malizup Women Weavers

Preserving Their Heritage By Fr. Eamonn O’Brien


he project Malizup Women Weavers began four years ago in February 2008. Malizup means the “confluence” which simply refers to the meeting place of Nmai and Mali rivers which together form the famous Ayarwaddy (Irrawaddy) river in Myanmar (formerly Burma). The


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river is located twenty-seven miles from Myitkyina. Columban Sister Mary Ita organized this small group of local Jinghpaw women, a Kachin tribe from the Northern Province of the Kachin State living in Myitkyina, to form the Malizup Women Weavers. Weaving is the special skill of the

Jinghpaw people, which even today deeply influences their way of life in a world which is changing and moving forward to much more advanced ways of producing goods. The Malizup Women Weavers (M.W.W.) are very happy and determined to share their beautiful and unique culture and traditions which they have inherited from their parents. Each pattern has its own distinctive meaning. Some demonstrate the close relationship of the Kachin people with nature e.g. flowers, birds and animals, while other patterns express some part of their story and tradition. The M.W.W. are believed to be the first group among the Kachin Catholic Community to have come together and unite as one with great commitment and enthusiasm in the production of the Jinghpaw textiles. Weaver Lu Jan 62, says “I joined the M.W.W. in 2008, and I am very proud to be part of this group.” Mrs. Lu Jan, who produces six small bags a week, learned this tradition and skill from her mother at ten years of age. As well as the six small bags, she usually weaves three beautiful shawls each week on her back strap loom at home. With a big smile she said, “Now I realize that this small step not only promotes my own tradition, but with my own skills I also earn extra money to support my family.” Generally Kachin people proudly wear their traditional dress for special occasions such as weddings, traditional festivals and religious celebrations. Today, most of our young people prefer contemporary designs and styles.

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Amazingly, M.W.W. produce textiles such as small bags, slim bags, shawls which incorporate innovative patterns and new designs combining contemporary interpretations of traditional styles. Because of this combination, one of M.W.W’s main targets is to promote interest among young people in our own traditional styles as well as to nurture the value and beauty of our own traditional weaving. Teresa Kareng, the manager of M.W.W., said “Most of our customers are not only local but also from Yangon and other distant areas, such as London and Beijing. Customer service is very convenient because customers can order our products by phone or email.” Daw Doi Bu, one of the M.W.W. members, was very emotional and said with a smile “I am so happy and proud to find other people appreciate and value our work.” Mrs. Bu is a middle aged mother who has many children. With her eyes sparkling, she continued, “I do not need to go away from my home and my children. It is a great opportunity to have a job at home and can support my family with extra money.” Of course, most Kachin women are housekeepers and busy with their household tasks which means that they usually have to depend on their husband’s income alone. Weaver Daw Ndawng Kaw, age 65, said “I can work indoors and earn extra money to support my family. Also by this weaving, financially I can support my son who will graduate from university

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“We hope this undertaking will also inspire our young people to appreciate and respect the beauty of our culture and tradition, which expresses the wonderful heritage of Kachin identity.”

this coming year.” Mrs. Kaw learned this weaving on a back strap loom from her mother since her parents believed a girl must learn how to weave clothes while she is very young. But Mrs. Jan who is one of the pioneer members of M.W.W. worried about the future of Kachin hand loom weaving and said, “If our young women do not learn this tradition and custom of Kachin loom weaving from us, we might lose our heritage.” By producing textiles with new patterns and which follow contemporary styles, the M.W.W. today are trying to encourage and nurture Kachin young women towards treasuring their own identity as well as learning their traditions and customs. Modern Kachins prefer mechanical looms, but they also need to preserve their own identities and the traditional hand done weaving on back strap looms.

Finally, Mrs. Jan gives advice to those who want to learn this kind of traditional weaving by saying, “It is a prerequisite that a handloom weaver must be patient and have a peaceful heart, because she has to deal with cotton and wool after all.” The M.W.W. association president Teresa Khon said, “The success of this enterprise depends on each of the members taking responsibility for her own work as well as for the success of the entire project. We emphasize quality production rather than a large quantity of under-standard material.” She continued,“We hope this undertaking will also inspire our young people to appreciate and respect the beauty of our culture and tradition, which expresses the wonderful heritage of Kachin identity.” CM Fr. Eamonn O’Brien lives and works in the United Kingdom.

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World Youth Day 2011 Meeting God in the Mess By Fr. Patrick Colgan


elieving that I was the only Columban to have had the privilege/challenge of attending the Jornada Mundial de la Juventud (World Youth Day 2011) in Madrid, Spain, it had been on my mind to jot down a few reflections on that Madrilean experience. I went with a group of seventeen Fijians, comprising one diocesan priest, two members of religious orders, three singles (i.e. youth from 16 to 25) with the majority of the group married people in their 40s to 60s. Hardly a “youth group” you might say! I had no particular spiritual preparation or long knowledge of the group, only getting to know their names for the first time in Nadi (Fiji) airport! My jumbled memories of World Youth Day 2011 are encapsulated in the following words: chaos, fun, frustration, welcome, humbling, hope, unreality and puzzlement. It was clear that many in our small group experienced significant culture shock. They didn’t easily 16

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understand that a country can function without English, that people have coffee alone for breakfast, and that the churches are full of old ladies and older statues. With my faltering Italian and a Spanish phrase book, I was thrust into the role of translator while still battling jet lag. Then our kindly host Padre Zacarias from the diocese of Zaragoza (where we had spent the first four days) sadly had an unceremonious heart attack and died on day two throwing our already tenuous plans into freefall and necessitating a hastily arranged but elaborate funeral. I happened to be carrying a piece of Fijian bark cloth (meant for lay missionaries in Korea on our return) and, as would be Fijian custom, draped his coffin with it, to the high bemusement of the Spanish. It seemed to give us Fijians a way to be associated with this man who had asked me at Madrid airport if Fiji happened to

be near the Great Wall of China! The clerical attendance at the funeral was surprisingly huge, priests spanning every age, type of clothing and no doubt theological bent. It was fascinating to watch, at no stage the Bishop (or anyone else) ever referring to Padre Zacarias, but simply as “our friend Zachary, friend of the poor, friend of the stranger.” When we got to Madrid a few days later, no one was at the parish to meet us. We wandered around for a while and checked out the internet cafes run by Pakistanis who had little English either, but we managed in Fiji Hindi. Once again we ran into a language and then bureaucratic barrier of filling our forms, contracts and more. Highly amusing and extremely inconvenient was the fact that we had no showers in the parish center, so we had to line up each morning (and late at night) ringing the bells of various adjoining apartments to ask if we could use their showers!

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My jumbled memories of World Youth Day 2011 are encapsulated in the following words: chaos, fun, frustration, welcome, humbling, hope, unreality and puzzlement.

Anti-papal graffiti went up on the wall opposite where we were staying, and I decided not to explain it to our group, who included a number of hefty former athletes. The liturgies were on the whole bewildering for our people, mostly in Spanish or Latin, with a sprinkling of other European languages and—surprising me— Chinese. There was intense stage management and hierarchism of seating arrangements, pumping us up with pre-show DVD footage of “The Pope of the Youth,” John Paul II, and urging us to shout our devotion and welcome for his successor. Esta es la Juventud del Papa (This is the Pope’s Youth) was a popular chant. Large parts of me were unmoved by all this, but there were other almost accidental scenes that struck deeper chords, like the tall and skinny Australian aboriginal boy sporting a toy kangaroo being helped by his teacher; young

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people spontaneously swopping or giving each other flags, shirts off their backs, etc.; the storm that erupted on the Saturday night in the airfield causing us all to flee into the chapels for shelter, to be told by ominous (young) clerics that we were “forbidden to crouch down in a place of prayer;” the fire engines hosing us down in the plus 113 degree Fahrenheit heat of the same afternoon; the shock of the cancellation of Communion for the one million plus pilgrims on Sunday because of the storm (by then ten hours come and gone); the wild abandon when Pope Benedict, almost inaudibly, announced that the next WYD would be in Rio, Brazil; the written instructions given to concelebrants to remove all hats at all times (remember, it was plus 100 degrees), never to stand on top of their chairs while taking photographs, and always to go to the deacon—never to a priest—to receive Communion!

It all seemed so foreign to my own experience as a Columban that I was wondering if I actually belonged to the same Church! But one only had to turn around and see the million plus youth, black, white, yellow, brown, laughing, praying, and sharing to be assured that yes, it is a big family, it is still worthwhile belonging to, and the Holy Spirit is, as usual, totally unconfined by any clerical, ecclesiastical, or technological restraints we may create. I don’t think I’ll be in Rio for the next WYD, but if you have two weeks and a few dollars in your pocket, do go. You will meet God in the mess. CM

Fr. Patrick Colgan lives and works in Fiji.

February 2012

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A Wish Fulfilled To Stand Up and Go to School By Fr. Don Kill


his is the story of Edward Macabio. Edward was born June 22, 1992. When the school year began in June 2011, Edward entered grade four of elementary school. He had just started going to elementary school in first grade in June 2007. Edward is the oldest of three children in his family. Edward’s parents were both alcoholics and never took care of their children. Edward has a very mild case of cerebral palsy, part of the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome. It only affected his ability to learn to walk when he was very young. Due to his parents’ alcoholism, Edward never had the help he needed to learn to walk. Edward crawled around on the ground from the time he was small. His legs became stiff, the


February 2012

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joints froze, and the muscles and ligaments retracted. Eventually, he could no longer straighten his legs. Edward became very depressed as he grew older. All he could do was crawl in the mud by the seashore where he lived. Eventually, Edward’s father abandoned the family leaving the children with their mother and her parents. Two years later, Edward’s mother told her parents she was going to go to Manila to find work so she could help support the children. She was never heard from again. Physically challenged and very depressed, abandoned by both of his parents, Edward saw no hope in his life. One day the grandmother heard of a program called “Community of Hope.” This program was set up and is directed by the Columban

Sisters in the Philippines. It helps young people with severe cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome and autism by training the children in certain repetitive action jobs that not only give them some small income, but also and perhaps more importantly, teaches them that they, too, have dignity as children of God. Edward’s grandmother, seeking freedom from part of her burden of raising the children, brought Edward to the Community of Hope program. When the Sisters interviewed Edward, they found that he was far too bright and far too able to fit into their programs. Because the Sisters knew of my work with bringing hope and salvation to children of alcoholics and drug addicts, they suggested that the grandmother should bring Edward to me. My home is

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called “Balay San Columbano,” the House of Saint Columban. Its whole purpose is to give children of alcoholics and drug addicts a chance to have life, not just birth, to have love and respect and to learn to share the love of God with others. When I heard Edward’s story, I knew immediately that he would fit in our home. I also saw that Edward was a very gentle and loving person. He had no great dreams that could not be fulfilled. When I met Edward in 2005, I asked him what he would like me to do for him. He told me, “I would like to be able to stand up so I can go to school.” That was all he wanted out of life. That was almost seven years ago now. I took Edward into the home and cared for him along with more than 20 other children at that time. Later, I arranged for Edward to have an operation on his legs so Edward could make them straight again and so that, eventually, he could walk. That operation entailed cutting Edward’s legs in three places on each leg. The doctors stretched Edward’s muscles and tendons. He was hospitalized for two months in a body cast. He was released from the hospital but was sent home to rest for two more months in our home. I had arranged for a care giver to work with Edward from the time of the operation until he was able to stand up and use a walker. His caretaker was Margie, who was one of the former students who lived in our home before she graduated from her course as a Care Giver. She became Edward’s surrogate mom as well as his care giver. Once the cast was removed, I had to buy braces for Edward’s legs and shoes large enough for his feet

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to fit inside along with the foot of the braces. Edward was so proud when he put on his new shoes that first day. It was all a dream coming true for him, a very nice dream. However, before Edward had his dream truly fulfilled he had yet to undergo another operation to connect his thigh bone to his hip bone. For the second time in a year, Edward found himself in the hospital in a cast. Once again I called on generous Columban benefactors and friends to help pay for the needed operation. The generosity of the doctors who performed both operations and cared for Edward was inspiring to both Edward and to me. None of them charged even one cent for their services. They even arranged for the hospital to be completely free. All we had to pay for was Edward’s transportation, the medicines that were used and the food for his care giver, Margie, another blessing from God in the life of Edward. If Edward was filled with joy and pride when he first stood up in his shoes and braces, he was even more proud and filled with joy the day he went to school for the first time. He was now nearly 15 years old and starting grade one in elementary school. The school was too far for Edward to walk to so I arranged for him to be taken to school every day by one of the older students in a small minivan. Edward is very happy that I listened to his grandmother when she asked if I could help him. Living at Balay San Columbano is so much better for Edward than living in the village by the seashore. He now has his walker and even a wheelchair. Recently, a friend donated an electric wheelchair for

Edward in memory of a friend who had died. When the weather is nice, he can take the wheelchair to school. At Balay San Columbano we live as one big family. We share the good times and the difficult times. Edward was sad last year when I had to ask some of the older kids to stop going to school because there was not enough money. He even offered to stop attending school if it would help, but it does not cost nearly as much for him to go to school as it does for those who are in college. Even though Edward is much older than his classmates he fits in with them because of his gentle character. They respect him like an older brother, and the teacher often calls on Edward when she needs help in spite of his physical limitations. Edward has no problem being with the younger children. He hopes to continue going to school at least until he finishes high school. As he draws nearer to graduating from elementary school, he has begun to think about going to college. Only God knows if he will be able to do that. I thank all of you who have helped me to give life to Edward, to bring him hope and to show him that God truly loves him. He has become such a gift to me and to the others in our home. May God continue to bless you and to bless Edward! CM Fr. Don Kill lives and works in the Philippines.

February 2012

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Pedaling to Live Green Shelter Project

An Update from the Field By Fr. Oliver McCrossan and Virgie Vidad


hanks to the generous and continued response of Columban benefactors, the Pedaling to Live Housing Project which launched on December 9, 2010, is off to a very strong start. Building in the truest sense of the word on the success of the Pedaling to Live Pedicab Project, the housing project provides affordable housing for the pedicab operators who have successfully repaid their loans for the cabs. The project began with two houses. In the past ten months, we have completed ten houses. The houses have been built using local materials, a mixture of clay, rice hull and rice straw, for 20

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Columban Fr. Sean Martin and Virgie Vidad with program participants

the walls. Because we are using the local materials, the building process takes longer than usual to complete, but the added bonus is that the houses are in harmony with the environment. We also try to ensure that the houses are well built to withstand extreme weather conditions such as heavy rains and wind. Recently we finished another two houses. The families of eight drivers have moved into their new houses, and they are adjusting well. We held a series of meetings with the drivers to discuss policies, rules and regulations for the community. Before moving into their new houses, each family was given an

orientation regarding their duties and responsibilities as members of the community. We are seeking to build harmonious relationships between all the families. To achieve this we have conducted what we are calling “Recollection� days each month. These days are times for the families to pray together and reflect on their lives in the light of the Gospel reading for that particular day. Not too long ago, we conducted training in raising pigs using methods learned from Korean pig farmers. Ten families attended the training. We are trying to develop sustainable livelihoods for the wives

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We are seeking to build harmonious relationships between all the families. To achieve this we have conducted what we are calling “Recollection� days each month. These days are times for the families to pray together and reflect on their lives in the light of the Gospel reading for that particular day. of our pedaling drivers to help augment their household incomes. In addition, we continue to develop and improve our organic vegetable garden. Every Saturday, all the families gather together with their children and plant some vegetables in their backyards and

Participants at the organic vegetable garden

plant some fruit trees throughout the development. Every day people from neighboring areas come to buy vegetables. The income from the vegetables helps to pay for the children’s education. We are very pleased to inform you that all families in the community are very

happy in their new homes. Elected homeowners are active in the day to day running of the project. CM For more information about this project and others, please visit

Program participants stand before a home that is under construction.

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February 2012

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Sustain a Servant Support a Project Supply a Need Join the Columban Fathers’ Faith Foundation The Columban Fathers’ Faith Foundation, the monthly giving program of the Missionary Society of St. Columban, is an important way to make a monthly gift and provide reliable support for mission work. Monthly giving is simple, secure, convenient and one of the best ways you can support the work of Columban missionaries worldwide.

Why should I join?

With a monthly gift, you are providing reliable support to some of the most disadvantaged and ignored peoples around the world.

It’s convenient!

You choose the amount you give each month and keep your bookkeeping simple.

It’s easy!

Setting up your monthly donation is quick and effortless and gives peace of mind for you and the people you help.

It saves money!

You won’t need to drive to the post office or purchase stamps. And, it helps us reduce our fundraising expenses so that more of your donation goes to help those most in need.

How it works:

Once you determine the amount of your monthly donation, we conveniently and securely transfer money from your checking account or charge your credit/debit card each month. Your membership will automatically renew each year, but you have the option to increase, decrease or suspend your gift at any time. Every member of the Columban Fathers’ Faith Foundation receives a copy of our monthly e-newsletter providing interesting and inspiring stories of Columban missionaries and our work in seventeen countries around the world and Columban Mission magazine featuring articles and project updates about our work in the United States and internationally.

Any amount will make a difference!

Sign up online today at and and start changing lives tomorrow!

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For more information about the Columban Fathers and our various ministries, please visit our website,

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God’s Invitation to Love and Serve the World


ministry that I have always found full of hope is our work with youth and young adults. Often in their insights and questions we see the gift of the Spirit that is the gift of wonder and awe. They often live their baptismal call to be missionary in a way that is intuitive by forming friendships that cross boundaries of culture, religion or social class. Recognizing the spark of faith that can ignite in their young hearts, the Church and Pope John Paul II began in 1985 convoking an international gathering known as World Youth Day (WYD). After nearly thirty years, it has become a witness to the faithfulness of Catholic youth around the world drawing millions of participants. The most recent WYD held in Madrid, Spain, August 2011, had as its theme, Rooted and Built Up in Jesus Christ, Firm in the Faith (Col 2:7). Nearly two million teens

From the Director By Fr. Arturo Aguilar and young adults from every continent flooded the streets in joyful pilgrimage to proclaim to the world their love of Christ and to be transformed by the relationships forged and strengthened there. For many attendees, a highlight of the week is to receive the papal blessing. On the occasion of this 26th WYD, Pope Benedict XVI shared this message, Dear young people...People of God.the Church depends on you! She needs your lively faith, your creative charity and

“In our diversity we are united in God’s love for all.”

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the energy of your hope. Your presence renews, rejuvenates and gives new energy to the Church. That is why World Youth Days are a grace, not only for you, but for the entire People of God. We can be sure that the week-long WYD is neither the beginning nor the end of a person’s faith journey. For most participants, the preparations for the pilgrimage begin months if not years before they set foot in the host city. In the same way, at the end of the week’s pilgrimage, the participants are commissioned back to the world to continue their lives of faithful discipleship, hopefully changed by the encounter. In these gatherings we see the universality of the Church. In our diversity we are united in God’s love for all. In our Eucharist, we are joined as sisters and brother across boundaries of all kinds. In closing, I share with you a few words from my nephew Aaron from Austin, Texas, who had the joy and privilege of attending the most recent WYD in Madrid. Seeing millions of Catholics from around the world coming together to praise the Lord was simply breathtaking. There were people from all walks of life, all races, and all languages. The only thing each and every one of us shared was our faith. Making the pilgrimage to Mass with the Pope was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. What kept me going was just seeing the millions of Catholics around me doing the same exact thing. Part of the pilgrimage was to spend the night under the stars and await the coming of the Pope that following morning. Night time brought freezing weather. It also brought a hurricane. In the cold with rain beating down on us, the only thing we could do was pray. While praying, I felt a sense of warmth. I knew it was the Holy Spirit answering our prayers. I cannot help but feel proud not only of my nephew but also of all the youth who respond to God’s invitation to love and serve the world.

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Journey with Jesus Journey With Jesus is a supplementary Catholic mission education curriculum for grades preschool through eighth grade from the Columban Fathers. Five lessons per grade containing: • Opening and closing prayers • Video presentations • Original songs on CD • Activities • At Home Connections • Posters Journey With Jesus is available free on loan or for purchase. Visit the Columban Mission Education website at: for more information and how to order the program.

An Invitation Calls for a Response We are but clay, formed and fashioned by the hand of God.

That is to say, we are weak and vulnerable but with God’s grace we are capable of great generosity and idealism. Is God calling you to spread the good news? To a life of ministry among those who are less fortunate and more vulnerable than you are?

We invite you to join this new generation by becoming a Columban Father or Columban Sister. If you are interested in the missionary priesthood, write or call…

If you are interested in becoming a Columban Sister, write or call…

Fr. Bill Morton National Vocation Director Columban Fathers St. Columbans, NE 68056 877-299-1920 Email: Website:

Sister Virginia Mozo National Vocation Director Columban Sisters 2546 Lake Road Silver Creek, NY 14136 626-458-1869 Email: Websites:

Japan + Korea + Peru + Hong Kong + Philippines + Pakistan + Chile + Fiji + Taiwan + North America

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Columban Mission Magazine, February 2012  

Columban Mission Magazine, February 2012 from the COlumban Fathers.

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