Inspired by missionary tales

This week we were reminded several times of the great work done abroad by Irish missionaries and lay volunteers over the years, an ongoing legacy we can be proud of.

On Today With Sean O’Rourke, RTÉ1 Tuesday of last week, two award-winning missionaries impressed. Sr Cora O’Richardson had lived a full life – had studied law and political science, but discerned a vocation to be a missionary sister. Her work as a missionary in South Africa during apartheid times saw her teaching by day in a white school and working by night with the black population, encouraging women in particular to stand up for their rights. Fr Hugh McMahon had joined the Columbans in Dalgan Park straight from secondary school and was learning Spanish for an expected Latin American mission when he found he was to be sent to Korea! The interviews were characterised by charm, insight and dedication, and O’Rourke regretted he hadn’t more time to chat.

On the Pat Kenny Show (Newstalk) on the Wednesday morning there was an inspiring item on the Alan Kerins foundation, a charity that works in Zambia. Newstalk reporter Naoimi Linehan told some stories from her time in the country and again there was no surprise when Irish missionaries and voluntary workers figured large. Sr Mollie (Sr Mary Moloney) from Tipperary, in Africa for 40 years, told of her work in a local orphanage it was great to hear the happy children singing. She was ‘Mamma Africa’ to them, sister, mother, nurse and midwife. Later Linehan also spoke to Sr Cathy Crawford who was doing superb work with disabled children at a Cheshire home – the stories of children’s resilience and support for each would melt your heart and both Kenny and Linehan were obviously moved. I loved Linehan’s comments about the musical gatherings the volunteers had with the children – “children with no hands found a way to clap, children with no legs found way to dance”. Kerins himself a former Galway hurler who was moved to set up this charity after a visit to the area was also on this trip, and thankfully the whole event will become a full Newstalk documentary later in the year.

Irish missionaries and volunteers were very much in evidence in the coverage of the typhoon disaster in the Philippines. Redemptorist priest Fr Aidan McMahon was one of those who contributed to many programmes including Today with Sean O’Rourke. He was also on Friday’s Morning Irelandthanking the Irish for their support but also describing the human suffering he was coming across. GOAL’s James Kelly also impressed with his contributions and throughout the week reporter Paul O’Flynn did a fine job on the ground, reporting nightly forRTÉ News.

Prime Time, Tuesday night of last week, covered the disaster in the Philippines in a suitably muted way. A series of still pictures spoke eloquently, and among the people interviewed were Fr Rene Esoy, who didn’t even know what had become of his own family and Jean Elises, one of many Filippino nurses in Ireland who had received good news about her husband surviving, but who also had tales of the sadness and suffering from home. She was grateful to the Irish Government and people for their speedy contributions.

Worryingly, that edition of Prime Time also included an item on the new campaign to allow termination of pregnancy ‘for medical reasons’. For once it wasn’t the emotion v. reason trap, as both panelists had difficult personal stories to tell. One was a father, James Burke, whose wife and himself had opted for a termination abroad in a fatal foetal abnormality case, and was now campaigning for that to be able to be available in Ireland. By contrast Clíona Johnston, of the One More Day group spoke of the shock of her diagnosis but also of the unexpected joy and special family moments as they allowed their baby to live briefly and die naturally.  The discussion went to the audience in a rather perfunctory way, with only two people contributing. Johanna Westeson from the euphemistically titled and US-based Centre for Reproductive Rights (imagine the uproar if a foreign group got involved on the Pro-Life side!) who completely ignored the baby, and Cora Sherlock of the Pro-Life Campaign who stressed the importance of special support facilities for women and babies in such circumstances. At least it was balanced.



Pick of the Week for Issue 21 Nov


Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings: A Catholic Worldview,

EWTN Sun Nov 24, 8pm (and Thurs 9.30 am)

Joseph Pearce uncovers the Catholicism found in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy.


The God Slot

RTÉ Radio 1 Fri Nov 22, 10pm

A special programme on CS Lewis at the 50th anniversary of his death. Among the guests discussing the work of Lewis is his stepson, Doug Gresham.


Songs of Praise

BBC 1 Sun Nov 24, 4:55pm

How authors like CS Lewis, JRR Tolkien and Michael Morpurgo inspire successive generations, with hymns and the Senior School Choir of the Year.