Columban Fathers is the popular name for the St. Columban's Foreign Mission Society (SSC), founded in Ireland in October 1916. An influential committee, organized by the missionary Edward J. galvin and Rev. John Blowick, a Maynooth professor, requested the Irish hierarchy to approve the foundation of a seminary to train secular priests as missionaries for China; the bishops authorized the project, and Benedict XV approved it. The seminary (major) was opened January 1918, at Dalgan Park, Galway; in March it was placed under the patronage of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. On June 29, 1918, 17 priests took the oath of membership in this new society which chose St. columban, Irish missionary (d. 615), as its patron. It became a pontifical society in 1924.
At the invitation of Abp. Jeremiah Harty, the Columban Fathers established their first house in the U.S. at Omaha, Nebr., on Dec. 14, 1918. In 1920, two Columban Fathers went to Australia, where a year later Abp. Daniel Mannix of Melbourne blessed the first Columban house in his archdiocese. In 1929 Columban Fathers went to the Philippines in response to an appeal from Archbishop O'Doherty of Manila. In China the first area assigned to the Columban Fathers (1920) was Hanyang, where Galvin became first vicar apostolic in 1927, and bishop in 1946. The Communists expelled the bishop and the missionaries in 1952. In 1928 the society received a district in Jiangxi province, then the headquarters of the Communists. Father Patrick Cleary was consecrated the first bishop of Hanzhong, Jiangxi, in 1939. When Communism triumphed in China, at least 90 Columban Fathers were forced to depart from their mission stations where there were almost 56,000 Chinese Catholics.
The general headquarters of the society are located at Dublin, Ireland. The U.S. headquarters are at St. Columbans, Nebraska.
Bibliography: Archives, St. Columbans, Nebr. p. crosbie, March Till They Die (Westminster, Md. 1956). r. reilly, Christ's Exile: Life of Bishop Edward J. Galvin (Dublin 1958). b. t. smyth, ed., But Not Conquered (Westminster, Md. 1958). f. herlihy, Now Welcome Summer (Dublin 1948).
[d. a. boland/eds.]