To commemorate the 1400th anniversary of the death of St Columban, a 3-day pilgrimage was organised in 2015 to visit the sites where the early Columban Missionaries had worked in China in the 1920s and 1930s.

The Columban presence in China includes ministries to people in Hong Kong and mainland China. These ministries form part of the Universal Church's expression of hope for all the people of China, the largest population of any nation in the history of humanity.

Columban history in China

The first Columban Missionaries (including co-founders, Fr Edward Galvin and Fr John Blowick) first arrived in China in 1920. The political turmoil in China at that time, with open hostility between the warlords and the Nationalist Party of Sun Yat-Sen, as well as the growing strength of the Communist Party, made life difficult for those early missionaries. Anti-foreign sentiments swept the country and Catholic priests and nuns were often abused and insulted when they appeared in public. In the following (early) years, China suffered many tragedies which the Columbans shared. Floods, famine, epidemics of cholera, typhoid and malaria, as well, war and persecution but this did not stop the work of the Columbans. The Columbans continued in their mission efforts for the Chinese people through the Japanese invasion, World War II and civil war. Columban Fr Edward Galvin, then a Bishop, was dubbed the most bombed Bishop in the world. It was however, the rule of the Communist Party, which came to power in 1949, that spelled the end of the work of the Columbans in China. After a brief period of bitter persecution all missionaries were expelled from China in the 1950s.

In the 1990s, the Columbans returned to China and today, the worldwide leadership of the Missionary Society of St Columban is based in Hong Kong after the Superior General of the Columban Fathers and his Council transferred the Society’s headquarters from its traditional home in Ireland to China on 1st May, 2008, becoming what is believed to be the first Western missionary congregation to locate its leadership team in Asia.

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