Fr Frank Meehan SMA – Obituary

The death of Fr Frank Meehan SMA took place at Marymount Hospice, Cork at 11.15am on Friday, 18 August 2017. Fr Frank had been in the Hospice since 27 June. His niece, Mairéad McAndrew, and Fr Lee Cahill SMA were with him when he died.

During his time there he was visited, not only by his SMA confreres, but also many relatives and friends from other parts of the country. His senior brother John had visited him a few days before his death.

Francis Joseph Meehan was born in Lisduff, Ballindine, Co Mayo, on 17 June 1929 to Julia (née Hernon) and William Meehan. He was baptised and confirmed in his home parish of Kilvine in the Archdiocese of Tuam. Frank was one of nine children. He was predeceased by his brothers William, Jim, Paddy and Michael who died in infancy. He is survived by John and his twin sister Mary Mullahy, Ina McDonagh and Agnes Bannagher.

Frank attended Primary School in Irishtown (famous for its association with Michael Davitt, the Founder of the Land League). For his secondary education, 1943 – 1948, he attended the (SMA) Sacred Heart College at Ballinafad, Belcarra, Co Mayo and the African Missions College in Wilton, Cork. He then formally entered the SMA training programme and spent two years for his Novitiate programme and Philosophy studies at Cloughballymore, Kilcolgan, Co Galway. Frank took his first oath of membership in the SMA on 29 June 1950.

His theology studies were undertaken at the African Missions Major seminary in Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. He became a permanent member of the SMA on 15 June 1953 and was ordained a Deacon in Dromantine College on 6 September of that same year. He was one of twelve ordained a priest in St Colman’s Cathedral, Newry on 15 June 1954 by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty.

The newly-ordained Fr Meehan travelled on the MV Accra from Liverpool to Lagos, stopping at Freetown, Sierra Leone, where the priests had an opportunity to visit and pray at the grave of the SMA Founder, Bishop Melchior deMarion Brésillac, who died there of Yellow Fever on 25 June 1859. On arrival in Nigeria in September 1954, Fr Frank was sent to Jos diocese, over 1,000 kms north-east of Lagos.

Throughout his forty-one years in Jos he was particularly noted for his tremendous rapport and gentleness with all the people. He was especially close to the Birom people. He served in mostly rural parishes, including Zawan, Shendam, Kwa, Kwande, Akwanga and Pankshin. From the latter parish he developed a new parish, St Francis, Mangu. His final posting was to St Moses’ parish, Tudun Wada, on the edge of Jos Town. He replaced another well-known Jos SMA, Fr Joe Maguire (RIP, 2016).

In recent years both Shendam and Pankshin were created as dioceses with many parishes in both. Fr Frank was happy to attend, in 2007, the Centenary of the arrival of the first missionaries in Shendam. The Governor of Plateau State was a Mass server to Fr Frank and, on learning that his former Parish Priest, was in the congregation he insisted that Fr Frank be singled out for attention.

Due to ill health, something which he lived with throughout his life, Fr Frank returned to Ireland in 1995. After recovery he was appointed to the SMA House in Dublin as part of our Mission Promotion team. For some years he travelled all over Leinster visiting supporters. When we established a Promotions Office in Ranelagh, Dublin, Fr Frank helped out there as well as continuing to help out in the area when requested, visiting the sick in hospital or at home, attending funerals etc.

In 2012 he officially retired to the SMA House, Blackrock Road, Cork. With the care he received in St Theresa’s Nursing centre, Fr Frank had five very happy years maintaining contact with his family in Mayo and many friends all over the country and in Nigeria. He loved Mayo, the land, its people and…. the Mayo football team. It was ironic that his remains were brought home to his beloved home parish of Ballindine on the day that Mayo drew with Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final. At his removal it was remarked that he hadn’t got Mayo over the line in the match to which a niece retorted, “he doesn’t know them well enough in heaven yet, but he will by the time of the replay!

Fr Frank was laid to rest in the New Cemetery, Ballindine on Monday, 21 August, next to his nephew John who died four years ago following an accident. God rest you Fr Frank.

Read Funeral homily for Fr Frank Meehan SMA.