Centenary Pilgrim Altar Cloth

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The Columban Centenary Pilgrim Altar Cloth has been created as a symbol of the worldwide Columban family. Signed by Columbans, lay missionaries, coworkers, supporters and friends in each Columban mission region, it is travelling the world in 2018 as part of the celebrations for our Centenary Year.

The Cloth is formed from 16 pieces of Irish linen representing the 16 countries where the Columbans are present today. In 2017, each piece was populated with names before being returned to Ireland and sown together, with the Society’s centenary slogan – ‘Sharing Gospel Joy’ – sown around its edge in the three languages most prevalent in the Society today – English, Spanish and Korean. 

In Britain, the names on the Cloth include parishioners of St. Mary’s parish in Harborne and Blessed Robert Grissold parish in Balsall Common, the religious of Birmingham Diocese, Columban friends at a Laudato Si Day in Sheffield, and members of the National Justice and Peace Network.

The Symbolism of the Centenary Pilgrim Altar Cloth

The Altar Cloth symbolises the Columban mission family and celebrates 100 years of sharing Gospel Joy under the patronage of St. Columban. The Cloth brings together the unity and diversity of the Society: missionary situations identified by the names of the countries and the diversity of language.

The Altar Cloth celebrates our coming together around the same Eucharist table. Whether we celebrate in great cathedrals or in small barrio chapels or on a quiet hillside, 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 in which we are called to partake. It brings us together, rouses a response, and creates conversation. The Altar Cloth reminds us that no one is excluded from the table of the Lord. It represents the Society’s reaching out to greet migrants, our engaging with other cultures and religions in interfaith dialogue, and our welcoming the poor and marginalised to our table.

We hope the symbolism and the effort which went into the making of this cloth will inspire many other people throughout the world to reflect on Christ’s mission and to support the Columban’s in exercising their call to be part of this mission.

A Pilgrim Journey

The pilgrim journey of the Centenary Altar Cloth began in Dalgan Park, Navan, home to Columban Missionaries in Ireland on November 23, 2017, and is making its way through all the Columban missions until it reaches its destination in Chile on November 23, 2018.

In Britain, it was present for a Mass of Thanksgiving to open the Centenary Year in Birmingham on 25 November 2017 and it will be present again at another Mass of Thanksgiving at St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark on 30 June. 

In between this, the Altar Cloth has travelled to the USA, Fiji, the Philippines, Korea and Australia and it will go on from Britain to Ireland, Pakistan, Myanmar, Taiwan, China, Japan, Peru and, finally, Chile.

The arrival of the Centenary Altar Cloth in our community is an invitation to give thanks for the Story of Columban Mission and for our connection with the work of Columbans throughout the world. It is a time of prayer and recollection. It is a time for remembering faces, names, places, and events as we tell our stories and recognise the Hand of God in it all. It is a time for looking forward and praying that others will come forward to take the Centenary Pilgrim Altar Cloth into the next chapter of Columban life.



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