Fr Charlie Napier
Charlie – baptized Charles Columbanus – was born on the 29th of June, 1924 at 28 Wellington Park, Malone Road, Belfast. His primary education from 1929 to 1935 was at St. Brigid’s School, Malone Road. This was followed by his secondary studies from 1935 to 1942 at St. Columb’s, Derry, where he was a boarder. In 1942, Charlie entered Kiltegan and was among the first class to do the Spiritual Year in Humewood. Following his ordination in 1949 he was appointed to the then Prefecture of Ogoja where he ministered in Ikom, Abakaliki and Ohoazara.
In 1958, he was recalled to act as Spiritual Director in Kiltegan, a post he filled until 1962. In that year, he went to our new mission territory, Minna, where he would minister for 25 years. While there, he acted as Pro-Prefect under the Apostolic Administrator, Edmond Fitzgibbon and later as Vicar General to Bishop Abba when Minna became a Diocese in 1973.
His final station was Suleja, near the new capital city. However, ill-health in the form of severe malaria, caused him to be invalided home early in 1988. In September of that year Charlie replaced Fr. Peter O’Reilly, lately deceased, in the parish of Datchet, London. There he would remain until illness forced his return to Ireland.
He died on the 4th of October, 1995.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan
Fr Denis Joseph Newman
Denis Newman was born in Kenagh, Co Longford on January 1, 1925. He attended Kenagh National School and St Mel’s College Longford. In September 1942, he came to Kiltegan and less than seven years later, on April 17, 1949 he was ordained to the priesthood in St Mary's Church, Killamoat. His first appointment was to pursue further studies in Canon Law in Maynooth where he graduated with a Licentiate in 1951.
The Society took on a new mission territory in 1952 in the Highlands of Kenya. Denis was one of the first group of five Kiltegan priests to go to Kenya, arriving in the Port of Mombasa on December 29, 1952. After four years of mission work, he was withdrawn to serve in the Society’s student house in Douglas, Cork as Bursar and Spiritual Director. In 1962, he was elected to serve on the Superior General’s Council for a ten-year term. In 1968, while still on the council he was appointed Apostolic Administrator of the newly-established diocese of Nakuru and remained in that post until 1972 when he was replaced by an indigenous Kenyan, Bishop Raphael Ndingi. In that short time, Denis set up many of the diocesan structures. He acquired a diocesan farm at Molo with a view to setting up a badly needed training school for farmers. He also invited the Little Sisters of St Francis, from Uganda, to set up a novitiate in Nakuru for the training of Kenyan girls recruited for the order. Both these ventures have been successful beyond anything he could have imagined.
In 1972, Denis was appointed Regional Superior of the Society in East Africa. Although he was a much loved Superior, the responsibility weighed heavily on him. A number of young priests left the ministry during those years and he felt that he was failing them and thought, mistakenly, that a younger man might understand them better. He was relieved when his term of office ended in 1978 and was only too happy to return to Nakuru as a hands-on missionary working in the parish of Kericho. Six months later, he was asked to serve on the staff of Bahati novitiate – the very institute he himself had introduced to the diocese. He worked there until 1987 when he moved back to Kericho parish but only for two years. At that stage, his back was giving him serious trouble and he had to return to Ireland.
After treatment, Denis was appointed to the Society house in Datchet, England and two years later he returned to Kenya. For the next 10 years, he did parish work, served in the St Francis Sisters novitiate as Spiritual Director and teacher and also helped with the Diocesan Marriage Tribunal. Retiring in 2000, he spent the remainder of his life in the Society House in Nakuru. During his time there, Denis produced a valuable book consisting of historical notes on the first hundred years of mission in the diocese (1895-1995). Never a man to throw in the towel, Denis also gave regular classes in the Society formation house, nearby. He continued to take a keen interest in the Church in Kenya, in the Society and its work and in the everyday goings on in the diocese. He was a good correspondent and kept in close touch with family and friends by letter and by e-mail.
Denis came home on leave in June 2009 staying as usual with his sister, Nuala, in Dublin. A few days later he died of a heart attack. He will be remembered as a missionary priest who was totally committed to his vocation, a man of absolute integrity who was deeply appreciated by his colleagues and a pioneer missionary who played a leading role in the history of St Patrick’s Missionary Society.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan
Fr Ciaran Needham
Ciaran Aloysius was born on the 8th of June, 1924 in Gurteen, Co. Sligo. He received his primary education from 1928 to 1936 in Mullahroe N.S. and then proceeded to St. Nathy’s College, Ballaghaderreen for secondary studies, before coming to Kiltegan in 1941 to begin his Spiritual Year. After ordination in 1948, he studied in Maynooth where he obtained a Doctorate in Theology in 1951. He then returned to Kiltegan where he taught dogmatic theology until 1956. In January, 1957 he went to Kenya and was appointed supervisor of schools and was based in Nakuru.
However in 1960, he was withdrawn from Kenya to serve on the staff in Kiltegan as Rector and Professor of theology. In 1962, an interesting development occurred for our Society in the form of a new missionary undertaking in São Paulo, Brazil. Ciaran was chosen to lead the first team of priests to the new mission. For the next forty years, his missionary activities extended to parishes with the exotic names of Cotia, Vila Gomes, Rio Pequeno and Jardim Jussara; he also initiated a somewhat unconventional type of seminary whereby aspirants to the priesthood worked by day and did their priestly studies in the evenings and at weekends. In 2003, Ciaran’s health deteriorated and he returned to Kiltegan. He made a brief farewell visit to São Paulo in the summer of 2004. He died in Naas Hospital on the 3rd of October, 2005.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan
Fr James Patrick Noonan
James (Jim) Noonan was born to Timothy Noonan and his wife Anne (née Sheehy) of Mount Trenchard, Foynes, Co Limerick on the 26th of April, 1937. He attended Loughill National School from 1942 to 1950 where his father was the principal teacher. He then enrolled in St Patrick’s Secondary School, Glin, and cycled to school daily until he sat his Leaving Certificate in 1955. In September of that year he came to Kiltegan for the Spiritual Year after which he moved to Cork to study philosophy in St Patrick’s College, Douglas. He returned to Kiltegan for theology studies in 1958 and was ordained in St Mary’s Church, Killamoat, on Easter Sunday, the 22nd of April, 1962, by Bishop Patrick Cleary, Bishop of Nancheng, China.
After ordination Jim and his classmate, the late Fr Jerry Kiely, were appointed to the Prefecture of Minna, a vast territory in Northern Nigeria, about the size of Ireland with a population which was 95% Muslim. It had been entrusted to the Society a short time before their arrival at the end of 1962. Minna was to be Jim’s home for the next forty-seven years except for a year (1966) spent studying sociology at the Institut Catholique, Paris, and a sabbatical he took at Gort Muire (Dublin) in 1990 which was followed by a short pastoral placement at Rosses’ Point Parish in Co Sligo. Jim ministered in many parishes in Minna and even worked in some parishes on more than one occasion. Among the places where he laboured were: Zuru, Gwada, Erena, Gussoro, Kontagora, Paiko, Beji and Fuka. He was also Finance Director of the Diocese for over fourteen years.Jim liked nothing better than the challenge of being sent out to a remote area to preach the Gospel to a people who were hearing it for the first time. Wherever he went he immersed himself totally in the lives of the people, learning their language and customs, familiarizing himself with their culture, eating their food and conversing with them in their native tongue. He was in his element sitting in the market place chatting with the people as they came to buy and sell. He was a gifted linguist and was fluent in several local languages including Hausa, Dakarkari and Gwari in a number of its dialects. He established many churches, presbyteries, schools, convents and clinics. He helped build the MMM convent at Gussoro with his own hands, drawing sand in his pick-up from the local river.
Jim left Minna in early 2010 after over forty-seven years of loyal service and went on to fulfil a long held dream of finishing his days in his native Diocese of Limerick. He was appointed to the parish of Shanagolden, Foynes and Robertstown and lived in Foynes, a little over two miles from where he was born and reared. Jim was much loved in the parish and showed the same qualities there that marked his ministry in Minna: a keen interest in people, an ability to converse with the young and the old alike and a deep faith in the mercy of God. Jim was diagnosed with cancer in mid-October 2015. With each visit to the doctor the prognosis became less hopeful. After ten days in Tallaght Hospital in late December he moved to the Care Unit at Kiltegan on the 1st of January 2016. He knew that the end was near. He faced his death with great courage and serenity. He said that his philosophy all through life had been “to play the cards he had been dealt”. He was not one to complain. He died peacefully on Tuesday, the 19th of January surrounded by his family.May he rest in peace.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan