Rev Michael Anthony "Rufus" Halley SSC
Michael Anthony Halley was born on January 25, 1944, in Killoteran, Kilmeadan, County Waterford, to Maxie and Imelda Halley. He grew up as a parishioner in the Parish of Saint Mary's (Church of the Nativity Of The Blessed Virgin Mary), in Butlerstown, County Waterford. His primary education was at Waterpark College, in Waterford, County Waterford, and Coláiste na Rinne (Ring College), in Ring, County Waterford. He completed his secondary education at Glenstal Abbey School, in Murroe, County Limerick, run by the Benedictine Monks. He joined the Missionary Society of Saint Columban, at Dalgan Park, in 1962, and was ordained in 1969.
In 1969, Father Michael (mostly known as Father Rufus), was assigned to the Philippines, with the exception of two years in Britain (1991-1993). In the Philippines, he ministered in the Manila area and Jala-jala, a remote town in the Province of Rizal. A gifted linguist, he spoke excellent Tagalog.
In 1980, following a visit to Mindanao, in the south of the Philippines, Fr Rufus requested assignment to the Diocese of Marawi. Marawi is the center of Muslim life in the Philippines. He learned to speak both . In 1980, he moved to Mindanao and volunteered to engage in the Columbans' dialogue with Muslims. In a bid to break down the mutual distrust and mistrust, he integrated with both Christian and Muslim communities by learning the two local languages, Cebuano and Maranaw. He worked many years in a Muslim owned store, selling rice and corn. He spent his remaining years working for reconciliation amidst the strife and violence of Marawi and Malabang. He was affectionately called Father Popong, by these people he served.
On Tuesday, August 28, 2001, returning from a Christian-Muslim meeting, Father Rufus was stopped by a heavily armed group, members from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, who attempted to kidnap him. This event occurred just outside of Malabang, Mindanao, Philippines. In an attempt to evade his Muslim would-be captors, he was shot and killed. He died at the age of 57.
On Saturday, September 1, 2001, an estimated 2,000 people, attended the Mass of Christian Burial, at Xavier University Church of the Immaculate Conception, in Cagayan De Oro City, in the southern Philippines. Several Muslim women sat alongside Father Halley's five brothers, John, Walter, Eamon, Gerry and Emmett, who travelled from Ireland and Greece. Both Muslims and Christians packed into this university church. Many of the Muslims who attended the service had travelled five hours by road from Father Halley's hometown of Malabang to be there.
During the Funeral Mass, a special message from Pope John Paul II was read. He offered his "heartfelt condolences" to Father Halley's family. The Pope said he was confident that the memory of Father Rufus would inspire those he had served to attain "a greater fidelity to Christ and more intense commitment to the cause of peace". He described the County Waterford born priest as a man who had tried to mend cultural differences among Christians and Muslims in war-torn areas of Mindanao. The head of the Columban missionaries in the Philippines, Rev Colm McKeating SSC, and a close friend of Father Halley, a Muslim school principal named Connie Balindong, also paid tribute to him during the Mass.
Interment followed in the Columban plot, at Divine Shepherd Memorial Gardens, in Cagayan de Oro. As the coffin was lowered into the ground, one of Father Halley's brothers, Walter, placed a blue corsage, made by their mother, on top of the lid.
His gravesite memorial in Cagayan de Oro, Philippines is located at Divine Shepherd Memorial Gardens.
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