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Missionaries called to prioritize migration, climate change

As disciples of Jesus Christ, all Catholics are called to be a missionary, says Columban superior Tim Mulroy
Father Timothy Mulroy, superior general of the Missionary Society of St. Columban

Father Timothy Mulroy, superior general of the Missionary Society of St. Columban. (Photo: https://columbans.ie)

Published: March 22, 2023 10:11 AM GMT
Updated: March 22, 2023 02:20 PM GMT

Catholic missionaries across the globe need to prioritize migration and refugee issues, climate change and the coexistence of various cultures in their missionary works, says the head of the Columban missionaries.

These three things are important for missionary work in today’s world, said Father Timothy Mulroy, superior general of the Missionary Society of St. Columban, popularly known as the Columbans.

“Today, the world is facing the situation of migrant and refugee issues, climate change, and the coexistence of various cultures. God invites us to carry out missionary work in these fields,” he said. 

The 58-year-old Ireland-born missionary made the comments on the sidelines of the congregation’s ‘International Leadership Conference’ in South Korea being held from March 19-31.

The meeting drew heads and representatives of the Columban missions from various countries to discuss pressing issues in missionary works and to prepare for the order’s General Assembly next year.

This is “an opportunity to broaden the scope and perspective of the members by sharing the activities of the Columban missions around the world,” and “the process of discerning what kind of new invitation God is offering and finding a new direction for missionary work,” Mulroy said.

The priest noted that God calls on the faithful of this era to accept diversity as a gift and live with it.

The Missionary Society of St. Columban was founded in Ireland in 1917. The Vatican approved it a year later. The congregation is dedicated to Saint Columbanus, an Irish priest, and monastic of the 6th and early 7th centuries who is hailed as one of the greatest missionaries of his time.   

In the beginning, the society was mainly composed of Westerners, but it now has priests, seminarians, nuns, and lay members from various countries including Korea, the Philippines, Chile, and New Zealand.

To focus more on emerging missions the society moved its international headquarters from Ireland to Hong Kong in 2008.

In Asia, Columban missionaries are credited for pioneering work for the growth of Catholicism in several countries such as China, Taiwan, the Philippines, Korea, Japan, and Myanmar.

According to the order’s website, a total of 24 Columban missionaries lost their lives while spreading the Gospel in various mission countries around the world including China Korea, Myanmar, the Philippines, and Peru.

Father Mulroy pointed out that Father James Maginn, an American Columban priest, became a martyr in Korea during Korean War.

The missionary was arrested in June of 1950 after North Korean communist forces invaded the South. He was killed on July 4 of that year. He was 38.  

Father Maginn was the pastor of Samchok, on the east coast of Korea, some 50 miles south of the political boundary between North and South Korea, according to Korean Martyrs’ website. He refused to leave the church and the local Catholic community though he urged people to leave the area.

“I shall remain here and defend the Church until death. I shall bear witness to God to the Communists who deny Jesus Christ,” he said.

Father Mulroy said if martyrs like Father James can become saints “the believers of this era will be inspired and encouraged” as they “accepted death because of love.”  

As disciples of Jesus, all Catholics are called to respond to the missionary call, he added.

This report is brought to you in partnership with the Catholic Times of Korea.

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