Fr Jim Higgins Celebrations

Jubilee celebrations in St. Patrick’s parish, Cable Point, Asaba

Fr Jim at 85
There was a great spirit of celebration around St. Patrick’s SMA Parish, Cable Point, Asaba on Sunday, 15th March, 2009 when a huge crowd joined Fr. James Higgins SMA to celebrate his 85th birthday and the Diamond Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood. Presiding at the Mass was Most Rev Emmanuel Otteh, the Bishop Emeritus of Issele-Uku diocese.

Fr Tim Cullinane, Bishop Otteh and Fr Jim

The chief celebrant was Fr Higgins and the concelebrants were Fr Tim Cullinane, SMA (Regional Superior, Nigeria South), Fr Basil Soyoye, SMA (Superior of the Bight of Benin District-in-Formation), Fr Joseph Chege, SMA, Parish Priest, St. Patrick’s), Fr Noel Musa, SMA, (Assistant priest, St Patrick’s), Fr Mattie O’Connell (St Thérèse parish, Akure), Fr James Owosu-Yeboah, SMA (St Joseph’s, Gowon Estate), Fr. Richard Wall (SMA House, Uromi), Fr Colum Nilan, SMA (SMA House of Formation, Ibadan), Fr Bernard (Holy Cross Cistercian Monastery, Illah), Fr Eric Yapi Yapi, SMA (Assistant priest, St Patrick’s) and Fr Peter McCawille, SMA (St Andrew’s, Benin City). Sunday obligations prevented Bishop Michael Elue (Issele-Uku) and many local priests from attending the Mass but they all came later to pay their respects to Fr Higgins. The sermon was preached by Fr Timothy Cullinane.

Tributes to Missionaries: Holy Ghost Fathers and SMA
At the end of the Mass Bishop Otteh paid glowing tributes to both the SMA and the Holy Ghost Fathers for the great sacrifices they made in bringing the faith to that part of Nigeria and he prayed that successive generations of priests would endeavour to emulate their example in the years ahead.

Fr Jim Gives Thanks
In his valedictory address at the end of Mass Fr Higgins asserted that all the thanks for his having reached this milestone in his life were due primarily to almighty God who blessed him with good health throughout every day of his nearly 60 years in Nigeria. So good was his health that he had never once spent a day in hospital. He continued to acknowledge his gratitude for the many people who had helped him along the way: his SMA family, Archbishop Patrick Ekpu, Bishops P J Kelly, Anthony O Gbuji, Emmanuel N Otteh and Michael O Elue who all inspired him to greater heights, a whole host of local priests who had been such a source of encouragement to him, teachers and pupils in the various schools in which he worked; the different congregations that he had served in parishes even when he was teaching. He made special mention of the wonderful work done by the various catechists in the parishes throughout the country, calling them the unsung heroes of evangelization.

Reception
After the Mass a grand open air reception was laid on with a great display of cultural dancing and other events all designed to mark this special day. Special mention should be made of the little children, popularly referred to as the de Brésillac Babes, who moved delightfully throughout the Mass and gave a special dancing display during the reception.

Bishop Elue, Fr Jim and Parish Priest, Fr Joseph Chege SMA

Blessing of Rain
The day was brought to a premature end by a huge shower of rain which sent everybody scurrying in all directions and which was interpreted as a clear sign of further divine intervention in the life of Fr. Higgins, leaving the people convinced that this unexpected downpour was in itself a promise that continued blessings would be showered not only on Fr. Higgins in the years ahead but on all those with whom he had come in contact throughout the length and breadth of the mid-west over the past 60 years and hopefully for many years to come.

Fr Jim and Bishop with Sisters present

Peter McCawille, SMA.
St. Andrew’s Church,
Benin City.