Leo, baptized Leo Malachy, was born on the 7th of November, 1935 at Reclain, Castlecaulfield, Dungannon, Co. Tyrone. Following his primary education locally he studied at St. Patrick’s Academy, Dungannon from 1949 to 1954, the year he entered Kiltegan. After his ordination in 1961, he went to Kenya and was appointed to Eldoret Diocese, where he worked until 1966. In that year, he was appointed to Lodwar and so began a period in his life dedicated to the betterment of a marginalised people. Turkana was then an area with very little infrastructure in the form of roads, schools, medical facilities and so on; Leo played a very important role in remedying that situation.
In 1983 a greater challenge emerged when the Society extended its mission to the Diocese of Torit in Southern Sudan. Not alone did it have the same problems as Turkana, but these were compounded by a civil war which had continued with little intermission, since independence in 1956.
Leo was with the pioneer group of six, who took up the challenge; three of them went to Kapoeta and the remaining three to Palataka. Leo found himself in the city of Juba and later in Torit. During the period 1988-1989, Torit was a town under siege from the rebel side. When the town was taken, Leo with two other priests and the Bishop of the Diocese, Paride Taban, were held in a prisoner-of-war camp for 100 days.
After his release, Leo came home for a rest and was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, cancer of the blood and bone. After treatment he returned to Sudan to serve the very people who had incarcerated him and he did so for ten more years. In June 1999, he was in such a weak state that he had to be air-lifted to Nairobi – and very reluctantly – home for treatment. For the last few months of the year - and of his life - he was cared for by the Medical Missionaries of Mary Sisters in Drogheda, some of whom had worked with him in Turkana. While undergoing treatment at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, Leo died on the 27th of January, 2000. The words of the homily at his funeral Mass encapsulate his life – 'Leo believed that life was full of the goodness and kindness of the Lord'. I think that is what we all sensed in him. He is buried in Reclain, Co Tyrone.
Place of Rest: Reclain, Co Tyrone
Fr Brian Twomey
Brian Joseph Twomey was born on the 28th of April 1935 to Jerome Twomey and his wife Hilda (née Marsden) of Crofta, Croesfaen, Pontyclun, Cardiff, Glamorgan, South Wales. He was the youngest of a family of six children, one of whom died in infancy. He received the earlier part of his primary education at De La Salle Primary School, Cardiff. In 1942 he went to Gilling Castle in Yorkshire for the remainder of his primary education (A Prep School for Ampleforth College). From 1946 to 1948 he attended the Junior House of Ampleforth College. He completed his secondary education at St Bede’s House, Ampleforth, graduating in 1952. He joined St Patrick’s Missionary Society in September 1952 and completed the Spiritual Year in June 1953. He then went to St Patrick’s, Douglas, Cork and studied at University College Cork where he graduated with an honours degree in Philosophy and French in 1956. Brian was sent to Rome for his theological studies in September 1956. He lived at the Irish College and attended the nearby Lateran University. He was ordained a priest in the Lateran Basilica on the 12th of March 1960. The ordaining prelate was Archbishop Luigi Traglia, the Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome.
After ordination Brian was appointed to the Diocese of Ogoja, Nigeria, where his sister Sr Deirdre MMM was already working as a missionary doctor. He spent the first three months in parish work in Izzi with the late Jackie Boylan and then began a long teaching career in secondary schools. His first appointment was as Principal of Ikom County Secondary School. He then spent a short time with Ciaran O’Flynn at Iboko before moving to Boki Boys Secondary School, Okundi, where he taught with Michael Browne. He obtained a Graduate Certificate in Education from the University of London in 1970. His next appointment was to the Staff of St Patrick’s College, Buchlyvie, Scotland where he taught English Language, English Literature. French, Geography, Latin, Plainchant and Drama. He returned to the Diocese of Ogoja in 1975. He was immediately seconded to the newly created Diocese of Abakaliki to serve as rector of St Augustine’s Junior Seminary, Ezzamgbo. He taught at Ezzamgbo until 1983 when he returned to Ogoja Diocese. From 1984 to 1990 Brian found himself once again in the classroom. He taught in various secondary schools in the Diocese including St Brendan’s, Iyamoyong and Ugep Technical School.
In the early 1990s Brian launched into a new ministry. He began to specialize in spiritual direction and student formation. To prepare himself for this new ministry he participated in the Religious Formation Ministry Programme at Loreto House, Dublin and also did courses in spirituality and spiritual direction. He returned to Nigeria and was appointed to the Formation Team of St Paul’s Missionary Society at the National Missionary Seminary in Abuja. He served as spiritual director there from 1992 to 1997. When St Patrick’s Missionary Society decided to welcome students from Africa and Brazil, Brian was an obvious choice to be part of the pioneer team at the Society’s newly established formation house near Ijebu-Ode, Nigeria. Brian, Tom Ryan and Martin Eke MSP welcomed the first Nigerian students in 1997. He worked in the formation ministry of the Society in West Africa until 2004 when he left Nigeria. In May 2005, Brian took up residence in Stirling, in the Archdiocese of St. Andrews and Edinburgh and spent the next ten years assisting the late Joe Millar by helping out at Holy Spirit Church. After retiring from parish work in 2015 he continued with his ministry of spiritual direction, retreat giving and mentoring.
Brian’s peers admired his ability to adapt so easily to the frugal life in Kiltegan after the splendour and comfort of Ampleforth and of his home in Cardiff. He came from a different culture to the majority of his fellow-students. This aspect of his personal experience made Brian particularly suitable for formation work. One of his former students who is now a priest member of the Society will never forget Brian’s message to him and to his classmates: “we are not going to turn you all into black Irishmen!” Brian had a great respect for difference and for the uniqueness of every person. He wanted everyone to reach their true potential. He was a deeply spiritual man. He came from a very close knit family where the Christian virtues were deeply ingrained. He was prayerful, sensitive, firm, courageous, intelligent and eloquent. He encouraged the students entrusted to him to be open, prayerful, respectful, cultured and sensitive to others.
Brian was forced to retire from active ministry due to ill health in 2016. He continued to live in Stirling where he was cared for by his life-long friend Ms Carolyn Wallis. Brian died peacefully on the 23rd of July 2020 after a long illness borne with patience and fortitude.