19 November 2007
Fr Cornelius (Connie) Griffin SMA
Fr Connie Griffin SMA passed away unexpectedly in Abuja, Nigeria, in the afternoon of Monday, 19 November, 2007. He was being treated for malaria for a few days before taking a turn for the worst and died in hospital in Abuja. He was 60 years of age.
Connie was a native of West Colla, Schull, Co Cork where he was born on 1 September 1947. He received his primary education in Schull and his secondary education at Farranferris College, Cork. He came to SMA House at Cloughballymore, Co Galway for a Spiritual Year in 1967. He became a temporary member of the Society of African Missions in 1968 and a permanent member on 22 April 1973. He studied philosphy at SMA House, Dromantine and for theology was based at SMA House, Maynooth. He was ordained priest on 15 June 1974 at the Church of the Real Presence, Curraheen Road, Bishopstown, Cork, by the late Bishop Cornelius Lucey.
In 1975 he was assigned to missionary work in Nigeria where he spent his entire missionary career. He worked in the Archdiocese of Kaduna 1975-1996 and 2005-2007. From 1996-2005 he was based at Kagoro in the neighbouring Kafanchan Diocese.
He was predeceased by his brother, Michael, and sister, Ellen. He is sadly mourned by his sister, Margaret, and his brother, Anthony, and many relatives and friends in West Cork, by his parishioners in Kurmin Sara and Kagoro Parishes and by his brothers in the SMA.
His funeral took place in Nigeria. On Sunday 25 November his remains were removed from the mortuary at Abuja (the capital of Nigeria) after a simple ceremony attended by priests, sisters and parishioners from his parish of Kurmin Sara who had come “to accompany him home”. En route to Kaduna the cortege stopped at Kurmin Sara where a prayer service was held and some parishioners had the opportunity to make short speeches. The parishioners were joined by people from other parishes where Connie had ministered – Kagoro, Gidan Bako and Sabon Saraki. The cortege arrived at Kaduna at 6.00 p.m. and the remains were received at St Peter’s Church, Sabon Tasha, on the outskirts of the city by parish priest, Fr Daniel O’Brien SMA. A vigil was held in the church beginning with Mass concelebrated by about 40 priests at which Dan O’Brien preached the homily. The vigil continued until midnight.
The funeral Mass was concelebrated on Monday, 26 November. The Archbishop of Kaduna, Most Reverend Peter Jatau presided and SMA Regional Superior, Fr Maurice Henry, was the main concelebrant and he was assisted at the altar by Fr Richard Angolio SMA and Fr John Dunne SMA, Vice-provincial of the Irish Province. Fr John Haverty SMA preached the homily. More than 70 priests concelebrated – diocesan, religious and SMA including nine SMA who travelled from the Nigeria SMA South Region. The huge attendance included sisters from various congregations – OLA, OLF, SSL, IJ, HCJ. At the end of the Mass Archbishop Jatau spoke about “his friend, Connie” while Maurice Henry described Connie’s illness that led to his death. John Dunne read the letter of condolence from the President of Ireland, Mary McAleese. The Irish Ambassador, Kyle O’Sullivan, paid tribute to Connie and to all Irish missionaries. Following the Prayers of Commendation the funeral cortege headed off on the long journey to Kagoro.
The remains were received in Kagoro by the Bishop of the local diocese of Kafanchan, Most Reverend Joseph Babogiri and the Bishop of Bauchi, Most Reverend John Moore SMA and a huge crowd which had gathered and which included about 100 diocesan and SMA priests, sisters and a large group of SMA supporters. Fr Raymond Hickey OSA represented the Apostlic Nuncio. Following some words from Bishop Babogiri, Maurice Henry and Fr Edward Bako, Head Chaplain of the Nigerian Armed Forces, Connie was laid to rest in the SMA plot at at the cemetery in the SMA compound at Kagoro.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.