Feast of Saint Patrick: Missionary Work In the Face of Danger

Today’s Word:

Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)

On March 17, 461 AD, Saint Patrick died in Ireland at age 76. Born in Great Britain, he was kidnapped at age 16 by Irish raiders, taken to Ireland, and forced into slavery as a shepherd.

Enduring hard work and harsh climate, loneliness and poverty, Patrick learned to rely on God in prayer. After six years in captivity, Patrick escaped. He made his way to the coast and sailed for home.

After returning home, Patrick had a dream in which he heard the Irish people say to him, “Come back and walk with us once more.”

missionary work

Abbot Bernard Pennings, O.Praem.

He became a priest and bishop, and returned to Ireland where he served for 30 years as a missionary, often in great danger.

Patrick died at the site of his first church.

On March 17, 1955, Abbot Bernard Pennings, O.Praem., died in Green Bay, Wisconsin at age 93. Like Saint Patrick, Abbot Pennings was a missionary.

Abbot Pennings arrived in America on November 13, 1893 at age 32. One hour after arriving, he wrote home to Holland, “Thanks be to God, we are safe and sound on land again. …All morning we have been admiring the beautiful shore line.”

Abbot Pennings made the risky business decision to purchase the Raskobs’ Delaware River Estate for $300,000 where he founded Archmere Academy in the spring of 1932.

missionary work

John J. Raskob Estate, September 1927

Missionaries such as Saint Patrick and Abbot Pennings embody the spirit of Saint Paul as heard at Mass today, “Forgetting what lies behind but straining forward to what lies ahead, I continue my pursuit toward the goal, the prize of God’s upward calling, in Christ Jesus.”

– Father McLaughlin