1932 - Foundations
The first three members were: Fr PJ Whitney, who was appointed Superior General, his cousin Fr Patrick Francis Whitney, who had worked in Nigeria and Fr Francis Hickey, a priest who had spent some time in Australia. They took the oath of membership on St. Patrick's Day, 1932, the day that Ireland was celebrating the 1,500th Anniversary of the coming of St Patrick to Ireland.
The initial concentration of the Society men was in Calabar and soon after in Ogoja, in the South East of Nigeria. Over the years the numbers of priests increased greatly. The particular concern of the priests was primary evangelization, the preaching of Christianity to those who had not heard of it before. There was also a strong commitment to the work of education and, in cooperation with the Medical Missionaries of Mary, care for those suffering from leprosy. James Moynagh was appointed Bishop of Calabar in 1947. Thomas McGettrick was appointed Bishop of Ogoja in 1955 and Bishop of Abakaliki in 1973. Ned Fitzgibbon became Prefect Apostolic of Minna, in the north of Nigeria in 1964. In these years the Society flourished in Nigeria.
The secession of Biafra in 1967, and the subsequent war with Federal Nigeria, were dark days for the country. Members of the Society stayed throughout the war and suffered alongside the people, which was much appreciated: a very authentic Christian witness.
In recent years, as the Society ages, the number of men working in Nigeria has declined. At the same time Nigeria remains very important to the future of the Society, as it is one of the centres for the formation of future members of the Society. The initial formation house was established in Ijebu-Ode in 1997. To date thirteen young Nigerians have been ordained as members of St Patrick's Missionary Society and have ministered in Nigeria, Kenya, Brazil and South Africa.
Over the years, Diocesan volunteer priests have made a huge contribution to the work of the Society in Nigeria, providing a close link with the origins of the Society.
In 2016, members are still working in the Archdioceses of Lagos, Abuja and Calabar, in the Dioceses of Bauchi, Calabar, Ijebu-Ode and Minna and in the Apostolic Vicariate of Bomadi.
Pat Whitney and Frank Whitney with family members at High Park, Kiltegan, 1930s.
John Hughes Jnr
Mr John Hughes Snr
Afikpo Hospital Construction
St Patrick's Day 1935
St Patrick's, Huts, Kiltegan
Ordinations Kiltegan 1950
Msgr Pat Whitney with volunteers, 1931.
High Park House, Kiltegan
Fr Pat Whitney, High Park, Kiltegan
First Ordinations in Kiltegan, March, 1937.
First Society group to go to Nigeria, 1938.