Harry was another of our priests whose life in the ministry was sadly a short one; hence the facts of his life are, necessarily, brief. Harry was born to Henry Joseph and Margaret Farmer in Cloonclare, Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim on the 8th of August, 1934. His primary education was in the C.B.S. Manorhamilton from 1939 to 1948. In September that year, he entered St. Macartan’s, Monaghan, completing his secondary education in 1953.
He entered Kiltegan in 1953 and he was ordained in 1961 and later that year he went to Ogoja Diocese where he taught in a secondary school at Ishieke in Abakaliki. Within a few months however, Harry died after a short illness at Anua hospital on the 29th of March, 1962. He is buried in Anua, Nigeria.
Place of Rest: Anua, Nigeria
Fr Billy Feerick
Billy was born on the 5th of September, 1939 in Cloverhill, Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. His primary education was at Creggduff N.S. and his secondary, from 1953 to 1958 was at Ballinrobe C.B.S. Having completed his secondary education, Billy worked with the Institute of Agriculture at research farms in various locations: from 1959 to 1964 in Creagh, Ballinrobe, from 1964 to 1967 in Muckross, Killarney and from 1967 to 1968 at Maam, Galway.
In 1968, Billy began his Spiritual Year in Kiltegan and was ordained in 1975. He was appointed to Chipata Diocese in Zambia and for many years was Diocesan Procurator. In 1989, he was recalled to Kiltegan to be at first Assistant Director and afterwards Director of Promotion in Ireland, a post he filled with great success.
He continued in this position until 1997 when he returned to Zambia. This time, he filled a pastoral position in Lusaka. He came home on leave in late 2004 and was appointed Bursar for the Region of Ireland. His health began to fail and he never took up the appointment. He died in Tallaght Hospital on the 1st of March, 2005.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan
Fr Paddy Finnerty
Paddy was born on the 19th of October, 1926 at Brideswell, Athlone, Co. Roscommon. After his primary education from 1932 to 1940 at the local National School he received his secondary education at Summerhill College, Sligo from 1940 to 1945, when he entered Kiltegan.
After his ordination in 1952, Paddy was appointed to Calabar Diocese, where he ministered in Urua Akpan, Ukana and Ifuho. Then following home leave in 1963, he was Manager of schools from that year until 1968. With the onset of the Biafran War, he left Nigeria and began his apostolate to seamen in New Orleans, which lasted until 1972. He then ministered in St. John’s Parish, Toronto, Canada until 1984, when he returned to Ireland.
He was appointed to the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin and worked in the parishes of Clonegal, Raheen and Abbeyleix. In 1997, there was a serious deterioration in his health and so he retired to Kiltegan and died there on the 12th of January, 2003.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan
Fr Tom Fitzgerald
Tom was born in Beaufort, Co. Kerry on the 30th of June, 1912. From 1916 to 1924 he received his primary education locally, after which he pursued secondary studies in St. Brendan’s seminary, Killarney until 1930. In that year he entered All Hallows College for philosophy which he completed in 1932. In that year he entered Kiltegan. Having completed his Spiritual Year he returned to All Hallows College for theology and remained there until 1936, the year Kiltegan began its theology course. Having completed theology, he was ordained in 1937, among the group of Four who were the first of our Society students to be ordained.
Tom did not go on the missions immediately. Instead he spent a year on Promotion work for the Society. Then, in 1938 he went to Nigeria and was appointed to the Prefecture of Calabar, from which the Prefecture of Ogoja had just been divide.
Initially, Tom ministered in Anua, then a very large parish, which would subsequently be sub-divided many times. Records indicate that Tom had what might be called a varied career. These show that he served in Anua twice, Ifuho, Urua Akpan – all missions. In the academic sphere, while in Sacred Heart Parish, Calabar, he taught in St. Patrick’s, Ikot Ansa. He was also in Queen of Apostles Seminary, Afaha Obong and St. Augustine’s teacher’s College, Urua Inyang. On the administration side, Tom also served as supervisor of Catholic Schools.
After the 1962 Chapter, when the office of Regional Superior was established, Tom was appointed to that post and was instrumental in setting up a new sphere of operation in Lagos. At the end of his missionary career, he was Vicar-General of Calabar Diocese. In May 1989, Tom was in Anua and became unwell.
Typical of the man, he drove himself into St. Luke’s hospital, Anua, where he died on the 17th of May, 1989. He is buried in Anua.
Place of Rest: Anua, Nigeria
Bishop Edmond (Ned) Fitzgibbon
Bishop Edmond (Ned) Fitzgibbon was born in Ballylegan, Glanworth, Co Cork in 1925. He and his twin brother Jim were the last born in a family of ten boys whose only sister Margaret had died in the great flu epidemic of 1918, at the age of three. Ned joined the Presentation Brothers but decided within a year that he had a vocation to the missionary priesthood. He came to Kiltegan in 1943, having failed to gain admission to the Missionary Society of St Columban who considered him too frail to face the rigours of the Far East. It was a poor judgement on their part as Ned went on to be ordained for Kiltegan, in 1950, and, afterwards, to enjoy fifty-five years of rude health in Nigeria.
His first appointment was to the port town of Calabar where he made a name for himself as a football manager, training the local team to win the prestigious Governor's Cup in 1954. He became a household name in the South East of Nigeria and there is a street in Calabar named after him. Ned was transferred to Lagos in 1960 as Press Officer for the Nigerian Bishops and was entrusted with the task of setting up the Nigerian Catholic Secretariat. He did this very efficiently and became the first Secretary General.
During this period Ned made many contacts. He was a close confidant of Archbishop -later Cardinal - Pignedoli, the Apostolic Delegate. He got to know many of the leading politicians of the time as well as a number of literary figures and journalists. He was excited by the possibilities of a sovereign Nigeria and by the truly indigenous Church that was emerging. He had great rapport with Nigerian people. African bishops, priests and laity trusted him and he was once described in a newspaper as "the white man with the black heart". He was a man of simple tastes who kept the most basic of tables and placed little value on personal comfort or possessions.
The Prefecture of Minna was entrusted to the Society in 1962 and Ned was appointed Prefect two years later with the title Monsignor. Situated in the Muslim North of the country, the new prefecture was the size of Ireland, a semi-desert area almost entirely bereft of health and education facilities. In the early days, Ned was too demanding of his priests but, following an approach from the Society leadership, he became more benign and caring. Then, the Civil War started and there was wholesale slaughter of Ibos in Minna, many of them pillars of the Church. In spite of the chaos that followed and many other difficulties, Ned handed over a well developed prefecture to an African bishop in 1973. It had a strong pastoral emphasis with deep respect for the local culture and it provided the people with good health and education facilities.
In 1974, Ned was appointed Apostolic Administrator of Port Harcourt diocese. He was made a titular bishop the following year but never became Bishop of Port Harcourt, a prestigious diocese which would be more fittingly governed by an indigenous bishop as it had been since it was set up in 1961. In 1981, while still in Port Harcourt, Bishop Ned was made Apostolic Visitor to nearby Warri where there was a lot of tension and division. He went on to administer the diocese of Warri for ten years and became its Bishop in 1991. He resigned from that post in 1997.
Ned continued to minister in Nigeria, working as chaplain to the shrine of our Lady in Maryland, Lagos. Ill health forced him to return to Ireland in 1995 and he retired to Kiltegan soon afterwards. His last five years were peaceful and would have been idyllic but for an underlying anxiety that raised its head ever more frequently as time went on. He laid aside all the symbols of Episcopal authority and lived a very simple life, making few demands. He took part in all community activities and had a ready smile for everyone. He kept in close touch with his family especially with the family of his twin Jim, a legendary pharmacist in Limerick, whom he outlived by two years.
Bishop Ned's death on April 17, 2010 in St Patrick's, Kiltegan, at the age of eighty-five, drew the curtain on an heroic missionary life which saw a shy, reticent man reach across religious, racial and cultural barriers and make meaningful connections that have promoted and extended the reign of God.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan
Fr Brian Flanagan
Fr Brian Flanagan was born in Gortin, Omagh, Co Tyrone on March 1, 1936. He attended Glenmacoffer National School and St Columb’s College, Derry and came to Kiltegan in 1953. He was ordained to the priesthood on April 2, 1961.
Ill health prevented Brian from being assigned to the African or Latin American missions of the Society. His first appointment was to the Society house of studies in Douglas, Cork where he held the post of Dean for five years. He then studied sociology in Fordham University, New York before returning to Douglas where he served for three years as Rector. He was then transferred to Kiltegan and appointed Rector of the Theological seminary there. From 1973 to 1980, Brian was Society Superior in the USA and lived in the Society house in Cliffside Park, New Jersey. On completing his six-year term, he was transferred to the Society house in Saratoga, California.
He returned to Ireland in 1982 and did parish work in the Diocese of Ardagh and Clonmacnois. In the late 1980s, he went back to the USA and worked in parishes in the Diocese of Paterson and the Archdiocese of Newark. He retired to Kiltegan in 2001. His retirement was marked by fairly constant ill-health although he did manage to visit the USA (which he loved) nearly every Summer.
Brian was a great missionary without ever working on the missionfield. He made a big contribution to student formation at a time when vocations were still plentiful and students were many. His efforts to build up the mission promotion programme in the USA have been of great benefit to the Society. He had a very sociable nature and was well known for his kindness and compassion. He died on September 9, 2009.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan
Fr John Flanagan
John Joseph Flanagan was born on the 20th of April 1925 to Owen Flanagan and his wife Mary Catherine (née Nugent) of Rathcarbery, Keady, Co Armagh. He received his primary education at the Poor Clare Convent School, Keady, (1930-1932) and later at the De La Salle Brothers’ School, Keady, (1932-1939). For his secondary education he studied at Armagh CBS from 1939 to 1941 before transferring to St Patrick’s College, Armagh, where he was a boarder from 1941 to 1943. He joined St Patrick’s Missionary Society in September 1943 and did the Spiritual Year at Humewood Castle. He studied philosophy at St Patrick’s, Kiltegan, between 1944 and 1946 and then pursued a four year course in theology at St Patrick’s. He was ordained along with thirteen classmates on the 9th of April, 1950 (Easter Sunday) in St Mary’s Church, Killamoat. The ordaining prelate was Bishop John W Heffernan CSSp, the retired Vicar Apostolic of Zanzibar.
After ordination Fr John was appointed to the Diocese of Calabar, Nigeria. He worked there for eighteen years. He began in Essene with Matt Magrath and then went to work in Oron with Vin Hannigan. His next appointment was in Urua Akpan. This was followed by some years in Eman Uruan where he built the Father’s House and a fine church. He spent a couple of years in Ireland on promotion work in the early 1960s. He returned to Nigeria in 1964 and ministered at Ikot Nseyen. One of his hobbies was fishing. He loved to fish in the Cross River at a place called Ikot Offiong. He was displaced by the Nigerian Civil War and was forced to return to Ireland. In 1969 he took up an appointment in the Diocese of Down and Connor at Ahoghill, Co Antrim, and worked there until 1972. He had a great desire to work in his home Archdiocese of Armagh and this wish was granted in 1972 when he was appointed to the parish of Tandragee. He lived at Markethill. After ten years he was transferred to Cookstown Parish where he ministered at The Rock. This was to be his home for the next thirty years.
Fr John is remembered by the people whom he served as a friendly, self-sufficient man, interested in farming, hedging and cutting logs. As one parishioner noted: “Fr John was always happy with a chainsaw in his hands!” He was a very zealous pastor who loved his people and served them with all his heart. While he was personally of the strict observance he showed great compassion to those who experienced difficulties in life. Fr John was very much a man for getting things done. He had a great ability to rally support for his projects and was never without a willing and competent workforce when it came to deliver. He was very Christ-like in the way he reached out to the members of his flock. He impressed everyone by his dedication to prayer and to the spiritual life. He made the sick and housebound his special care, especially in his later years.
Fr John enjoyed very good health for most of his life. In July 2012, at the age of 87, he became seriously ill and needed full time nursing care. He and his family decided that he would go to Fairfield Care Centre in Cookstown rather than come to Kiltegan. It meant he was near the people among whom he lived and whom he served for over thirty years. In early May his condition deteriorated and he died peacefully on Wednesday, May 23rd.
Place of Rest: Keady, Co Armagh
Rev Eamon Flynn (Deacon)
The biographical facts of Eamon’s life are few. He was born in Dublin on the 16th of October, 1926 and educated at St. Finian’s College, Mullingar, entering Kiltegan in September 1943.
Sadly, on the customary 4th Divine’s outing to Dublin, he suffered a brain haemorrhage while cycling near his home. He fell from his bike and was rushed to hospital where he died nearly two weeks later on St. Patrick’s Day 1950, three weeks before he was due to be ordained.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan
Fr Leonard Forristal
Leonard Forristal was born to Andrew Forristal and his wife Elizabeth (née Treacy) of Ballyconway, Thomastown, Co Kilkenny on the 28th of November, 1934. He attended Chapel Hill National School from 1940 to 1943 and Thomastown Boys’ National School from 1943 to 1948. He went to St Kieran’s College, Kilkenny in 1948 and came to Kiltegan after getting his Leaving Certificate in 1953. He did his Spiritual Year in Kiltegan and went to Cork in September 1954, where he studied at UCC until 1957 when he was awarded a B.A. degree. He returned to Kiltegan for theology studies and was ordained on Easter Sunday, the 2nd of April, 1961 by Bishop Patrick Cleary SSC, Bishop of Nancheng.
After ordination Len was appointed to the Diocese of Calabar and worked in the area which in 1963 became the Diocese of Ikot Ekpene. He taught in Holy Family College, Abak, St Mary’s Teacher Training College, Ediene, Holy Child Teacher Training College, Queen of Apostles’ Seminary and ministered at St Vincent’s Parish, Ikot Ekpene and St John’s Parish, Abak. He was also chaplain to the prisons in Ikot Ekpene, to St Joseph’s Rehabilitation Centre at Ukana Iba and was involved in the St Vincent de Paul Society at a national level. Because of the Civil War Len had to return to Ireland in 1968. He did the H.Dip.Ed. in Maynooth and then went to Nakuru Diocese in Kenya for a short time and taught in Kituro. He returned to Ikot Ekpene Diocese in 1970. When the Society decided to withdraw from Ikot Ekpene in the early 1980s Len took a sabbatical. He studied in the School of Ecumenics in Dublin and afterwards was awarded an M.A. degree by the University of Hull. Although his thesis was on the Anang Churches of Nigeria he showed equal enthusiasm for inter-faith dialogue in Ireland and formed deep friendships with members of various Christian Churches. He also kept up correspondence with members of the Presbyterian Church in Akwa Ibom all his life.
In 1986 he was appointed to promotion work in Ireland. From 1988 to 1992 he was the Superior for Ireland, based at Kiltegan. He was then appointed to the newly established Society mission in the Diocese of Bamenda in Cameroon and worked there until 2000. He ministered in the parishes of Mankon, Fundong and Fuanantui and gave workshops on ecumenism throughout the diocese. When he returned to the Irish Region in 2000 he was appointed parish priest of Balfron near Buchlyvie in Scotland and he ministered there and in Blanefield until he returned to Kiltegan in 2007. While based in Kiltegan Len worked in the promotion office and in Slí an Chroí and became the unofficial chaplain to the Cheshire Home at Ardeen, Shillelagh.
Len was a fíor Gael. He was passionate about hurling, especially Kilkenny hurling. He was also a great champion of the underdog and the outsider. Wherever he lived he kept an eye out for those on the margins, those in prison and those in the poorer quarters. He was a strong advocate and supporter of the St Vincent de Paul Society in Africa and at home in Ireland. He was very committed to Ecumenism and he put it into practice in a very practical way around Kiltegan through his easy interaction with clergy and parishioners of the local Church of Ireland parishes. In late 2012 Len was diagnosed with cancer. He lived a very full life while undergoing treatment and he never gave up hope. As he gradually got weaker he moved to the Care Unit. He continued to partake in all activities in the house. Fr Len died peacefully on Tuesday, the 12th of January.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan
Fr Augustine (Gus) Frawley
Father Augustine (Gus) Frawley was born to John and Delia (née O’Halloran) Frawley of Knockerska, Kilshanny, Co Clare, on the 15th of July, 1937. He received his primary education at Moymore National School from 1943 to 1951. He then proceeded to St Mary’s College, Galway, as a boarder, and sat the Leaving Certificate in June, 1956. He joined St Patrick’s Missionary Society in September, 1956 and completed the Spiritual Year in Kiltegan in June, 1957. He studied philosophy at St Patrick’s College, Douglas, from 1957 to 1959. He pursued his theological studies at St Patrick’s College, Kiltegan, from 1959 to 1963. He was ordained along with fifteen classmates in St Mary’s Church, Killamoat, on Easter Sunday, the 14th of April, 1963, by Bishop Patrick Cleary SSC, exiled Bishop of Nancheng, China.
After ordination Gus was appointed to the newly established Diocese of Ikot Ekpene, Nigeria. He worked for a short time at St Anne’s Cathedral, Ifuho, and was then transferred to Urua Akpan. He remained in Urua Akpan until 1969 when he was displaced by the Civil War (1967–1970). In 1970 Gus was appointed to the Society’s newly established mission in Malawi. He was appointed first to the Diocese of Mzuzu where he ministered in Mzambazi, Katete and Nkhata Bay. In 1983 he moved to the Diocese of Chikwawa in the south of Malawi where he remained for the rest of his life. He worked in the parishes of Chikwawa, Misomali, Ngabu and Molere.
Gus was taken ill during a Society meeting in Chipata, Zambia at the end of January 2017. He was hospitalised and required major surgery but developed complications from which he did not recover. Fr Gus died in the presence of Frs Frank Taylor and Pat Byrne, Fr Cosmas Chasukwa, Fr Alfeo Boloma, Fr Lazarus Maloya, Fr Felix Bzyakulima, Fr Samson Kayuni (Chikwawa Diocesan priests) and Sr Juliana Kaombe on Tuesday evening, the 7th of February, 2017.
Gus spent all his years as a priest in Africa. He lived a very simple life. He was always involved in parish work. He was very close to the people whom he served and he had a great love and respect for them. He had hoped to retire from parish work in May 2017. Plans were in place for a farewell celebration with the people of Molere whom he had served so faithfully for many years.