Fr. Neil Carlin claims it’s the largest group of missionaries Ireland has ever hosted in the one place at the one time. In all 62 missionaries have so far ‘signed up’ for the ‘Welcome Home to Missionaries’ weekend which begins this evening at the Iosas Centre in Muff.
Speaking with the Journal yesterday Fr. Neil, who wants as many local people as possible to come along over the weekend, said Ireland’s rich history in missionary work was something unique and something we should be rightly proud of.
He said: “Historians right across Europe have pointed to the role Irish monks played in the golden age of enlightment around the 6th/7th and 8th centuries. For example, there were 600 Irish monks in Bavaria alone involved in evangelising Europe after Columbanus; little wonder Ireland was then known as the ‘island of saints and scholars. It’s only right we commemorate and celebrate the work of these people who followed in Columbanis’ footsteps. It’s something we should be very proud of.”
The new Archbishop of Armagh, Dr. Eamon Martin, in his first official engagement in the Derry diocese since his appointment, will give the introductory address this evening when he kicks the weekend’s events off at 6.p.m. The fact that Dr. Martin has massive personal links with the Muff area is particularly fitting.
One of the main speakers tonight will be Fr. Shay Cullen, the Columban priest based in the Phillipines, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize on three occasions.
A fearless champion of human rights Fr Cullen told the Journal: “I would contend that we have to go back to basics - that the faith is more important than the institution. We have all got to stand up for human rights without compromise, and as a church we have to take a stand on that.”
He will be followed by Derek Roulston, a farmer from Newtowncunnigham, who is a married lay missionary from the Presbyterian Church. He will tell of his experiences in Kenya where he and his wife Linda are involved in promoting sustainable farming projects.
On Saturday and Sunday there is a full programme of events including ‘The Return of Colmcille’ street pageant which will take place at various venues in Derry while on Sunday’s events will get underway with Mass at noon in St Columba’s Church, Long Town. Events will then shift to the Iosas Centre in the afternoon.
For those wishing to find out more details of this weekend’s events you can telephone (0)74-9384866 or www.facebook.com/welcomehometomissionaries. Thanks to IDP and IBP for suppport.