October 16, 2009

Fr. Michael Sinnott

I've reprinted an article here from Fr. Shay Cullen, who worked with Fr. Sinnott in the Philippines. It talks a little about the kind of work he has been involved in. Please continue to pray for his safe return. So far, the Columbans have not been contacted by the kidnappers and do not know who is responsible.

The Abduction of Father Michael Sinnott
(Fr. Shay's columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

Father Michael is a true dedicated self-sacrificing missionary. This is an appeal to all people concerned with the kidnapping of Father Michael Sinnott, my former professor at the Columban Seminary in Navan, Ireland and co-missionary here in the Philippines to pray for his safe release and return to his mission and the people he served for so many years.

He was taken as hostage by four men as he took an evening stroll in the garden of the Columban Missionary House in Pagadian last Sunday, 11th October 2009. Four men barged in, grabbed him and bundled him into a van that was outside the gates. Later it was found burnt and Father Michael was seen being taken away in a boat across the bay. No one has taken responsibility for the abduction.

Father Michael has a heart condition and needs his daily medication. At his age, 78, he will be greatly challenged by this terrible ordeal. We appeal to the people who abducted him to respect his dignity and medical condition, treat him with kindness and not harshly, and provide him with his medication. There is a wide search going on all across Northern Mindanao as I write this and we can only hope and pray he will be released unharmed. The outpouring of love and respect for him by the people all over the Philippines is overwhelming.

He is a totally committed missionary, a man of the people of the Philippines and especially those of the Pagadian area in North Mindanao. He has given his life faithfully and without complaint for over 45 years to the people of all faiths without distinction or discrimination, but with a love that has been shared equally to all.

He gave himself as a missionary to uplift the poor to work for justice and change this world to better the lives of the poor and to save the children from abuse and exploitation. He has a home for children with special needs that need him to return safely. In this apostolate, working for human rights and the dignity of the person, we can only hope that his rights and dignity will be respected too. Michael never hesitated to help anyone, least of all the victims of neglect and abuse.

So too the poor, deprived, abused and those crying for justice, he has a heart for them all. He has been their hope and pastor. He is a quite and gently spoken man but his words have always been wise and inspiring and encouraging to those struggling for justice and equality. He is an advocate of peace and non-violence and has been working for social reconciliation for all of his Missionary life.

He is a symbol of all that is good and decent in this world, but now he is taken as a hostage. Columban and many thousands of Missionaries, men and women, ordained and laity have given their lives over the past centuries to make real a new way of living together - the Kingdom of justice and love, truth and equality, respect and freedom. We pray and hope and plea that he will not be harmed. We appeal that his captors will respect his life's dedication and commitment to the dignity and rights of the Muslim and Christian people alike. I appeal to the authorities to do nothing violent if he is located with his captors but to negotiate a peaceful release and return.

These are the hazards and challenges that we missionaries face in this difficult and challenging life. In difficult missions, in order to serve the most needy the sick and the oppressed, we have to face the threats of people who oppose the work for justice and freedom. Being a missionary is the most challenging call these days. We all know here that we could face the same danger and ordeal and have to accept it with fortitude and strength of mind and heart and trust in God. The Gospel is the path to a more meaningful life, to care and help others without reward is the heart of it. Father Michael worked for such a world and may he come through this hardship and continue his life of service to those in greatest need. END

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