Irish Missionaries on the Road to Sainthood

August 7, 2014
Seven Columbans promoted by Korean Church

The first group of Columbans assigned to Korea in 1933.


Korean Church leaders are set to lobby the Pope during his visit for the cause of five Irish Columban priests, and two more of Irish descent, who are included in a list of 84 modern day martyrs which the Church there is promoting for beatification.

The seven men were stationed along the border with North Korea at the outbreak of the Korean War in June, 1950 and were killed during the early days of the Communist invasion.

Fr Donal O’Keeffe, Regional Director of the Columbans in Korea, said the  move is “a validation of the contribution of past Columbans to the spreading of the Christian message and the establishment of the Church in Korea”.

“One of the gratifying things is that this process has been initiated by the two dioceses in which the seven men worked,” he told The Irish Catholic.


Commenting that the news has brought “a great sense of joy and pride” to the society, particularly in Ireland, Fr O’Keefe said; “more importantly, I see it as an invitation to us all to be true to the Gospel, and to show the same level of faith and commitment in today’s world”.

Also speaking to The Irish Catholic this week, Fr Pat Raleigh, Regional Director of the Columbans in Ireland, said the fact that the Church in Korea is promoting the priests’ for sainthood is a “great honour” for the society and a “tribute” to their work.

“These men met violent deaths as a result of their extremely brave work under extraordinarily difficult conditions. It is a great honour and a tribute that their mission is being appreciated in this way.”

The seven Irish Columbans are: Fr Anthony Collier (Louth), Fr Patrick Reilly (Westmeath), Fr Thomas Cusack (Clare), Fr John O’Brien (Roscommon), Fr Francis Canavan (Galway), Fr James McGinn (USA, of Irish parents) and Msgr Patrick Brennan (USA, of Irish emigrant parents).

Their cause has been acknowledged and welcomed by the Irish Bishops Conference who asked the faithful to remember them in their prayers.

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