Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pagadianons meet, greet Fr. Mick

City residents publicly welcomed last Tuesday kidnapped Columban priest Michael “Mick” Sinnott after his five-week vacation in Ireland to visit his family following his release last Nov. 12.

He also celebrated his birthday there last Dec. 17 where he wished for Pagadian “to have peace and no more kidnapping.”

The 80-year-old Sinnott, who belongs to the Missionary Society of St. Columban, returned to the country last Jan. 15 and was staying in an undisclosed residence shortly after his arrival in Pagadian.

Sinnot said he’s “happy to be back” and looks forward to continue his ministry at the Hangop Kabataan Foundation Inc. (HKFI), the charity house he founded in 1988 for children with disabilities.

He, however, said that he is yet to get consent from his superiors whether he will be allowed to continue serving Hangop given his advanced age and delicate heart condition.

“I’d like to do the little bit I can for as long as I can,” he quips, as he expressed gratitude to all the Filipinos who prayed for his safety.

Last Tuesday’s reunion was led by provincial and city officials headed by Gov. Aurora Cerilles, Mayor Samuel Co, social workers, members of the Interfaith Forum for Solidarity and Peace, parents and children of HKFI who welcomed Sinnott at the Hangop center, a stone’s throw from the San Jose Parish, this city.

Both Cerilles and Co delivered their respective messages and handed the check of P400,000, the promised financial assistance counterparted by the provincial and city governments.

Half of the amount is supposedly the reward money for informants who could tell where Sinnott and his abductors were after the priest’s kidnapping last Oct. 11.

It was upon the request of Bishop Emmanuel Cabajar during the Crisis Management Committee (CMC)’s last meeting that the unused reward money be given instead to HKFI, which has been relying mainly on financial donations from generous organizations and individuals from the locality.

Cerilles, who created and chaired the CMC tasked to look for Sinnott, said she welcomed the priest’s release with a glad heart, adding everybody’s prayers for the clergy’s release was heard.

The governor then commended Sinnott for his love and compassion for special children, calling his deeds as an achievement by somebody who is a "Pagadianon by heart" although he is not a "Pagadianon by blood."

Co, in his message, also said that nothing is impossible when people pray to God. “That was all that the people can do at that moment, to look up to heaven with prayers in our lips for the safe release of a very caring priest even as the incident caused a very unspeakable sadness in our hearts.’

“Now, with the return of Fr. Sinnott, we cannot describe the happiness and joy in our hearts. We express our sincere thanks to Fr. Sinnott for considering Pagadian City as his home and continue serving the underprivileged children in Hangop Kabataan,” the mayor added.

For his part, Edgardo Alcachupas, chair of the board of trustees of HKFI, commented that the incident befalling on Sinnott, his safe release and his homecoming gave two moral lessons to the faithful in their everyday encounters.

“Ang unang lintunganay niini mao ang bunga sa kahiusahan sa tanang sektor sa komunidad ug ang nagpakabanang katawhan sa tibuok kalibutan kinsa nag-ampo ug naglihok aron mahibalik si Fr. Sinnott nga luwas,” he said.

Second, Alcachupas said, is the realization that Sinnott’s advocacy for the welfare of children with disabilities, especially those with hearing and learning difficulties, to lead productive lives, are made known to many.

“Nagpasabot kini nga ang special nga kabataan dili na mapasagdan kay maatiman na man kini sila. Dili na kita mabalaka sa panahon nga si Fr. Sinnott ibalhin na sa laing lugar sa iyang misyon,” he said.

Sinnott has since cleared the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) of involvement in his abduction, saying it was a “lost command” even as the PNP filed kidnap for ransom and serious illegal detention charges against three individuals and other unnamed MILF fighters who belonged to the 113th Base Command.

Sinnott added he never felt in any danger from his captives and they had told him they'd never kill a priest. His only fear was that he might be hurt if the military had tried to release him by force.