Services remember 14 dead missionaries

IRELAND’S brave missionaries were remembered yesterday at the start of a series of commemorative services for 14 priests, brothers and nuns who died violently abroad in recent times.

The services, organised by the Irish Missionary Union (IMU), took place in nine of the native dioceses of the deceased and continue over the next three Sundays for the remaining group.

The IMU represents 78 religious and missionary bodies. Their records show that of 800 Irish missionaries who died overseas during the last century, 49 died in violent circumstances.

Yet the IMU said the services, part of a month-long Mission Alive campaign, were intended as joyful occasions to celebrate the achievements of the missionary movement.

IMU president, Sr Miriam Duggan, said: “The purpose is not to look back in sadness at the loss of dedicated missionaries but to remember and acknowledge the great work that they were engaged in during their lifetimes.” Next Sunday has been designated Mission Sunday when special collections will take place at Masses throughout the country to support mission work.

Among those being remembered are:

Fr John Hannon, 65, from Clare, who died last year after he was assaulted during a robbery at his home in Kenya where he had served for 10 years after 25 years in Nigeria.

Archbishop Michael Courtney, 58, from Tipperary, Papal Envoy to Burundi, shot dead in 2003 in a suspected rebel attack in the war-torn region where he had served for three years.

Fr Declan O’Toole, 31, from Galway, shot dead along with two local colleagues in an apparent army ambush in Uganda in 2002. He had been outspoken about army brutality.

Fr Declan Collins, 50, from Louth, stabbed to death in 2002 in an apparent attempted robbery at his parish church near Johannesburg, South Africa. He spoke out against police brutality in Cape Town and led the campaign that resulted in the trial of a number of officers for torture and abuse.

Fr Rufus Halley, 57, from Waterford, murdered in 2001 in what was thought to be a botched kidnap for ransom attempt in the Philippines where he worked for 20 years fostering relations between Muslims and Christians.

Sr Sheila Corcoran, 75, from Kerry, who died in 2000 from injuries sustained when she was attacked while trying to rescue another sister being robbed outside a Dominican convent in Port Elizabeth, South Africa where she had served for 50 years.

Sr Teresa Egan, 73, from Laois, hacked to death in a machete attack on churchgoers during Mass in St Lucia where she was serving communion in 2000. She had been a teacher on the island for 30 years.

Br Larry Timmons, 48, from Westmeath, known for his work with the poor and his campaign against corruption, was shot dead in a suspected police operation in Kenya in 1997.

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