Wednesday 4 January 2017: Rev Donal Bennett: Reflections on New Year
Rev Donal, a native of Omagh, is a missionary priest who spent 40 year in the Philippines before returning to his home town in 2001. In his talk to Probus Rev Donal reminisced about events as people gathered to see in the New Year. He recalled being in the plaza outside his church when the local Governor arrived accompanied by well armed body-guards in two jeeps. As the bells rang out to welcome in the New Year the soldiers celebrated with several bursts of automatic gunfire, making everyone in the square dive for cover. It was during a period when local governors and their militia were virtually a law unto themselves, a time which he hoped had passed but which showed signs of returning in the modern era with summary executions of alleged drug users and traffickers. Seared in his memory is the road traffic accident to which he was called out in the small hours of a New Year’s morning. Six bodies lay strewn across the road, one decapitated by the force of the collision. In early January the Philippines often experience severe weather in the form of typhoons blowing in from the Pacific Ocean. During the years of his ministry many people died in floods on land and in storms at sea as ferries moved between the islands of the archipelago. Yet in the face of loss and suffering Rev Donal found the people to be more willing to look forward than look back, sustained by faith and their own gentleness of character and culture.