20 February 2006
Fr James G (Jim) Lee SMA
Fr James G (Jim) Lee SMA passed away peacefully on the morning of 20 February 2006 at St Theresa’s Nursing Unit, SMA House, Blackrock Road, Cork. He had returned from Liberia in September for medical treatment for a tumour.
Jim was born on 29 April 1924 in Belfast and was a native of Dunturk near Dromaroad, Co Down. He was the eldest of the five children of Patrick and Mary Lee. Having completed his secondary schooling he decided to become a priest. He was strongly influenced by the then Parish Priest of Dromaroad, Canon Cahill, who was a brother of Fr Thomas Sexton Cahill SMA who had died in 1942. He encouraged Jim to become a missionary priest when he expressed interest in priesthood. So he joined SMA in 1946 and studied at the Society’s houses in Galway and Dromantine until 1952. He became a permanent member of SMA on 11 June 1951 and was ordained to the priesthood on 18 June 1952 at St Colman’s Cathedral, Newry, Co Down.
He was assigned to the Archdiocese of Lagos, Nigeria and served there until 1957. From 1957 to 1962 he was Provincial Secretary. He then returned to Nigeria for ten more years. Most of his time in Nigeria was spent teaching at St Leo’s Teacher Training College, Abeokuta. In 1972 he went on assignment to Northampton diocese in England. Then, in 1976, he went to Monrovia, Liberia where he ministered until September 2005.
Jim was involved in the pastoral and social development areas and for many years was Administrative Assistant to the Archbishop of Monrovia which included responsibility for the finances of the Archdiocese. He was in Liberia throughout the 15 year-long civil war. He was there under the civilian government of President Tolbert and the military rule of Samuel Doe, Prince Johnson and Charles Taylor. He was overjoyed to see civilian rule restored and Liberia’s first woman president inaugurated last month.
His long years of service in humanitarian assistance to Liberia were recognised in 2004 when Jim was admitted to the Humane Order of African Redemption by the Government of Liberia with a grade of Knight Great Band, Liberia’s highest honour and Africa’s oldest.
His brother Patrick in 1991 and his sister Mary Fodey in 2004 predeceased him. He is survived by his sisters Lucy Kirkpatrick and Margaret Cassidy and by many nieces and nephews and other relatives and a host of friends. He is particularly mourned by Archbishop Michael Francis, by the Apostolic Administrator, Fr Karnley, and by the priests and people of the Archdiocese of Monrovia.
The funeral Mass was concelebrated at Wilton SMA Parish Church on Wednesday, 22 February and was followed by burial in the adjoining SMA cemetery. Fr Fachta O’Driscoll SMA, Provincial Superior was the main celebrant and preached the homily.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis. Requiescat in pace.