BY PAUL BURNELL
THE SUPERIOR of Britain's only homegrown order of missionary priests has spoken of the signs of hope since one of his priests was martyred in Uganda two months ago.
Fr Jac Hertsen, the Superior General of the Mill Hill Missionaries was speaking at the Association for the Propagation of the Faith (APF) Mass in the North West of England, thanking the Red Box mission box collectors for their work.
In March, Irish Mill Hill Fr Declan O'Toole, 31, and two local catechists were murdered in Uganda. The priest had been an outspoken advocate for justice. especially for nomadic Karamajong people in the Karamoja of eastern Uganda..
"Being a missionary may mean following Jesus of Nazareth in shedding your blood for the Kingdom of God," said Fr Hertsen, after the Mass, which was one of four held in different parts of Britain each June.
"My prayer and hope was that his blood was not shed in vain. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. A sign of hope I received was during the first week after Fr Declan's death two of our Mill Hill Missionaries offered themselves as volunteers to go back to the difficult and dangerous area," he said.
Fr Hertsen recalled his last visit to the young priest from Galway less than two weeks before his death.
"Declan believed in peace and reconciliation and he dedicated a lot of his time to bring about peace between various tribes.
"He also believed in the disarmament programme. I was with him when he went to the local authorities with the backing of the bishop and the justice and peace commission to protest about the beatings people were receiving from the soldiers and his own beating was a pretext to protect the people of one of his own small Christian communities.
"Declan spoke with enthusiasm about the way he saw his mission with more clarity."
Fr Hertsen added: "Eleven days later we heard he had been killed with two catechists Patrick and Fidelis."