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 After four years of mission work, he was withdrawn to serve in the Society’s student house in Douglas, Cork as Bursar and Spiritual Director.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