NJPN Comment in the Catholic Universe: Altar Cloth of stories


Ellen Teague

One initiative of the Columban missionaries to celebrate their Centenary has been the Centenary Altar Cloth. Made up of 16 panels signed by Columbans, lay missionaries, coworkers, supporters and friends in each country where Columbans work, it has been on many altars at celebrations internationally. It was carried to one Mass in Fiji by a makeshift boat on a turbulent river, but arrived dry and safe to a huge welcome by the community.

The Cloth will cover the altar at this Saturday’s Columban Centenary Mass in Southwark Cathedral.  Signatures on the British section include the religious of Birmingham Diocese, Columban friends attending a Laudato Si Day in Sheffield, and collaborators of the National Justice and Peace Network.

It has great symbolic value as it represents the interweaving of stories which make up the Columban journey over 100 years. The Cloth brings together the unity and diversity of the Society: missionary situations identified by the names of the countries and a diversity of languages seen on the cloth. It celebrates coming together around the same Eucharistic table. Whether we celebrate Mass in great cathedrals or in small barrio chapels, we share in the One Bread and partake of the same Cup of Blessing. It is a tangible religious symbol of the Columban missionary journey which draws others in. The Cloth represents the Columban Society’s reaching out to greet migrants, engaging with other cultures and religions in interfaith dialogue, welcoming the poor and marginalised to our table, and supporting care of creation.

All are welcome to join the Columbans at a Mass of Thanksgiving at 12.30 pm on Saturday 30 June 2018 at St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark. The main celebrant is Archbishop Peter Smith of Southwark. The Mass will include a special Offertory procession marking various aspects of Columban mission, such as remembering the 24 Columbans – including one Columban sister – who were martyred while on mission in China, Korea, Myanmar, Philippines and Peru.

In a letter to Columbans missionaries, Pope Francis has paid tribute to them and urged them to see the anniversary as an opportunity to reflect on “the great good accomplished”. He thanked them for their “tireless efforts” past and present in the areas of justice, peace and care for the Earth.

After the Mass a major date on the Columban calendar will be the 20-22 July annual Justice and Peace national conference in Derbyshire. Places are still available.

https://www.justice-and-peace.org.uk/conference/ and www.columbans.co.uk