Lives Remembered

Fr Michael Sinnott: Missionary kidnapped for 32 days in Philippines was 'man of utter integrity'

FR Michael Sinnott was approaching his 80th birthday when six gunmen stormed his home near the city of Pagadian in the southern Philippines and kidnapped him.

The Islamic militants brought him first to a swamp area, before forcing him to walk into the mountains despite a serious heart condition.

After 32 days in captivity, and with his abduction making headlines around the world, the Columban missionary was finally released.

Despite the ordeal he had suffered, Fr Sinnott in all interviews repeatedly thanked his kidnappers for their efforts to make him comfortable.

On finally leaving the Philippines three years later, he also spoke of the privilege of serving its people - saying he had learned "more than he gave" through their goodness and faith.

Born in Clonard, Wexford in 1929, Fr Sinnott joined the Columbans in Navan after leaving school and was first appointed to the Philippines in 1957.

He returned to Ireland in the late 1960s to be rector of the order's seminary but was reassigned in 1976 and gained a reputation as a fearless defender of people and their rights.

Covering a huge area, he was vocal in his criticism of military abuses and corruption and praised for setting up a foundation for children with special needs.

Based in an old Japanese jail and open to children of all faiths and none, it picked up around 60 children every morning and brought them to a rehabilitation centre, as well as visiting others confined to their homes.

The regional director of the Columbans in the Philippines, Fr Pat O’Donoghue, described him as “a man of utter integrity who doesn’t see himself as being brave but who will do what he believes has to be done without fear of the consequences”.

Fr Sinnott was the third Irish Columban targeted in the Philippines, with Fr Rufus Halley shot dead during an attempted abduction in 2001.

He retired to Ireland in 2012 and died in Navan on November 23 last year, the feast of St Columban.

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Lives Remembered