Category: Archive

Priest Ambushed

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Fr. Martin Keveny was riding a public bus in Brazil’s Amazon region when it was hijacked by two men armed with automatic pistols.
Keveny and members of his parish from the town of Colinas were returning from the city of Belem at the mouth of the Amazon.
They had been attending a conference on mission work.
The bus was being driven in a rural region at the Southern fringe of the Amazon rain forest when the robbers boarded the vehicle.
It was 4 a.m. and most of the 45 passengers on board were asleep.
“They began shouting that it was a holdup,” the Sligo-born Keveny told the Echo Tuesday in a phone interview from Colinas.
The rude awakening in what was a marathon 18-hour journey was only the beginning of a nerve-jangling hour during which the thieves remained on board the bus while robbing people of their money, jewelry, identity documents and cell phones.
The robbery took place close to the place where, and just a year and a day after, American nun Dorothy Stang was shot dead by gunmen hired by a local farmer angry at Stang’s efforts to protect the rainforest from logging.
Keveny said he thought of Sister Dorothy during his robbery ordeal.
“I decided from the outset to give them what they wanted,” said Keveny, who served as a ground-breaking immigrant chaplain in the Bronx in the late 1980s.
And he did.
But in a surprise move the thieves gave Keveny back his identity documents after a woman sitting beside him chided them for robbing a priest.
“They did keep my money,” Keveny said.
“Then one of them asked me to pray for him.”
He said that bus hijackings were common in the area where the robbery occurred but while it was the fifth such incident experienced by the bus driver, it was the first time the priest himself had been a victim.
Thieves in the region, Keveny said, often use stolen identification papers to carry out further crimes.
While stressing he wasn’t a weapons expert, Keveny said that the men were armed with automatic pistols that had cartridge clips.
“No shots were fired but the men waved the guns around a lot,” he said.
“We were lucky. They were professionals and didn’t panic but we did say our prayers and many people on the bus were traumatized,” Keveny added.
After an hour, the men stopped the bus at a taxi rank in a town and made their getaway.
“If I saw them again I would remember them,” Keveny said.
But he doesn’t reckon that will happen.
The two men were between 25 and 30 and made no attempt to wear masks or disguise themselves.
Highway bandits in Brazil tend to live short and violent lives, Keveny said.
“I have been praying for them and will continue to pray for them.”
Keveny has been working in the town of Colinas in the state of Tocantins for 11 years. His mission is sponsored by the diocese of Killala in County Mayo.
He was in New York before Christmas where a fundraiser for his mission was held at Rory Dolan’s in Yonkers.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese