Faith Matters

Fr Tim Mulroy to lead Columbans into new century of mission

The new Columban general council, pictured left to right, Fr Tim Mulroy, Fr Joseph Kang, Fr Brian Vale and Fr Alvaro Patricio Martinez Ibañez

AN Irish priest has been elected to lead the Missionary Society of St Columban as it embarks on its second century of international service.

Fr Tim Mulroy, originally from Meelick, Swinford in Co Mayo, was named as the Columbans' Superior General at the missionary society's general assembly, which held its two-week meeting in Taiwan.

The Missionary Society of St Columban was founded in 1916 as the Maynooth Mission to China, and was granted formal Vatican approval two years later.

"As Columban Missionaries conclude the celebration of the centenary of our founding and at the same time prepare for a new century of mission, I feel both humbled and honoured to be given this leadership position," said Fr Mulroy.

The 54-year-old comes to the society's top post after six years as regional director of the Columbans in the United States.

Fr Mulroy attended Meelick National School and St Patrick's Secondary School in Swinford before going on to become a primary school teacher.

"Coming from Mayo, I am conscious that I am walking in the footsteps of Fr John Blowick from Belcarra, one of the founders of the Columban Missionaries, who led this international organisation during its infancy years," said Fr Mulroy.

He joined the Columbans in 1987 and was ordained at Our Lady Help of Christians Church, Swinford in 1995.

Fr Mulroy then worked in parish ministry in Japan from 1995 until 2002, when he went to the US as director of formation at the Columban International Seminary in Chicago, a role he held for nine years.

Afterwards he served in parish ministry at St Pius X Parish in El Paso, Texas before he was elected Regional Superior of the Columbans in the US.

The Columbans is a missionary society of secular priests, and therefore is not a religious congregation.

There are presently 381 Columban priests and 50 lay Columban missionaries working in areas such as justice and peace, interfaith dialogue and care for the earth.

They can be found all over the world, with a presence in Ireland, Britain, Fiji, Taiwan, Japan, Philippines, Korea, China, Myanmar, Pakistan, Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand and the US, among others.

Their work brings them to the margins of society and often into danger - 24 Columbans over the past 100 years have died violently while on mission.

"Columban Missionaries include women and men, married and single, lay and ordained from various countries, who strive to build bridges across our divided world and promote the unity of all God's children," said Fr Mulroy.

"As I look at Columban mission around the world, from Mexico to Myanmar, as well as from Peru to the Philippines, I am inspired by those people who remain committed to living out their faith in difficult circumstances.

"They remind me that the joy of the Gospel is far greater than the world's problems and suffering."

With the society entering its second century of mission, Fr Mulroy said it would "continue to promote greater understanding and collaboration among people from different religious traditions".

"We will also continue to emphasise the importance of caring for our planet earth, so that succeeding generations will enjoy God's blessings," he said.

The Columbans also elected three priests to their general council to assist Fr Mulroy: Fr Brian Vale from New Zealand, Fr Alvaro Patricio Martinez Ibañez from Chile and Fr Joseph Kang from South Korea.

Fr Vale - whose grandfather was from Tralee, Co Kerry - is also the new Vicar General of the society; Fr Kang studied theology at Maynooth and Fr Ibañez spent time in Ireland learning English.

Fr Mulroy succeeds Australian Fr Kevin O'Neill.

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