Fr John Hannon was found dead, following a brutal attack on him in his Matasia parish [Ngong diocese, on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya] on 25 November 2004, aged 65 years. His name lives on in the parish and last 23 November the parish community gathered for a 10th anniversary Mass for their founding Parish Priest.
Our photo shows the church sanctuary before the 10th anniversary Mass.
The SMA Regional Superior, Fr Fabian Hevi SMA [from Ghana], sent the following report on the celebration.
“Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of the death of Fr John Hannon SMA. However it was celebrated on Sunday the 23rd November in a very colourful celebration at Matasia parish in Ngong diocese. The parish continue to remember Fr Hannon in a very special way and thank the SMA family for allowing the late Fr Hannon to work in work in their parish. At the celebration from the SMA family in Kenya were Fr James Shimbala SMA (Great Lakes Vice Superior), Fr Fabian Gbortsu SMA (Superior of the SMA Formation House), Fr John Dunne SMA (Bursar in the Formation House, representing the Irish Province) and Ms Sarah Spence (SMA Lay Missionary from the American Province).”
Blessing Fr Hannon’s grave after the Mass.
The principal celebrant was the Parish Priest, V Rev Fr John Ntesia, who is also the Vicar General of Ngong diocese. Fr Ntesia is from the Massai people, whom Fr Hannon staunchly defended against companies encroaching on their tribal lands. Among the other clergy attending was Fr Francis Mwangi, Diocesan Secretary and representing Bishop John Oballa who had prior commitments.
The local parish turned out in huge numbers and, after the Mass, processed to Fr Hannon’s grave for a blessing ceremony and hymn singing.
Fr Hannon, a native of Killula, Newmarket-on-Fergus, Co Clare, was ordained in December 1967. He served in the Archdiocese of Lagos, Nigeria from 1968 to 1993. In 1994, following his recovery from a heart attack, he responded to the request of his Superiors to help establish an SMA pastoral presence in Kenya. His first appointment was to the St Joseph’s SMA parish, Jericho, in Nairobi Archdiocese. He then moved to the diocese of Ngong, to St Monica’s parish, Kitengela. Recognizing that the growing Pro-Cathedral parish needed to be divided Fr John arrived in Matasia and helped develop it to such a point that it was eventually established as an independent parish.
Fr James Shimbala SMA, Fr Fabien Gbortsu SMA and American Lay Associate, Sara Spence arrive for the Anniversary Mass.
As in Lagos, Fr John set about building much-needed parish infrastructure. Along with a Church he constructed a Parish Hall at the parish, which is among the Maasai people. He had initiated a project to convert the hall into a Training Centre, having added on eight classrooms. Fr John had “a long and proven record in the building of centres for training and education of young people in practical skills”.
While some of the young people in his Matasia parish have had secondary education, many lacked practical skills. Fr John saw the need for training in areas like domestic economy, secretarial work, hair dressing, sewing and knitting.
One of the parishioners named her new-born son, Hannon, in memory of a greatly-loved Parish Priest. He attended the anniversary Mass for the priest after whom he was named.
The Society’s website describes Fr Hannon as an “earnest helper of the less well-off” who specialised in the building of centres for non-formal education and skills training.
“Fr John saw the need for skills training of young women in areas like domestic economy, secretarial work, hair dressing, sewing and knitting as crucial for their dignity and livelihood.”
The brutal untimely death of Fr Hannon in 2004 was the eight such death of Irish priests / religious since 2001.
Gone, but not forgotten.