Fr Seán Kilbane SMA [RIP]

Fr Seán Kilbane SMA died unexpectedly at the Cork University Hospital on Sunday afternoon, 3 May 2020. He celebrated his 88th birthday on 7 February last.
Sean, or Ogie as he was known in his family, was the 3rd child of seven born to John and Mary [née Dermody]. His parents, an infant brother Mícheál and a sister, Maureen [Sorahan] and his brother-in-law Séamus Sorahan predeceased him.
He did his Primary schooling in Mountbellew, Co Galway and his secondary education in the Belcamp College, Coolock, Dublin and St Mary’s College, Galway City, completing his Leaving Certificate in 1951. Three years later, he entered the SMA Novitiate at Cloughballymore, Kilcolgan, Co Galway. A priest who might have influenced the young Seán to join the Society was Fr Mattie Gilmore SMA [from nearby Moylough] who served in Liberia for many years. Fr Mattie used visit the Kilbane household in Mountbellew when home from the Missions. Seán studied Philosophy in Wilton, Cork [the same place where he will be laid to rest]. From 1956 to 1960 he was at the African Missions Major seminary at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. He was ordained an SMA priest on 21 December 1960, one of a class of 24 ordained that day.
Seán was a good footballer during his seminary years. He was also very witty, good at mimicry and he produced an in-house ‘Joke-book’ which took amusing aim at some seminary staff.
After Ordination, Fr Seán was appointed to Ondo diocese, Nigeria, which was led then by Bishop William Field SMA. Among the places he served were Akure, St Stephen’s parish [Owo], Okitipupa, Ado-Ekiti [on the staff of St Joseph’s Technical College], Ikare, Ilawe and Ikere-Ekiti parishes. In 1972, the diocese was divided and Seán was asked to help the first Bishop of Ekiti, Most Rev Bishop Michael Olatunji Fagun, in getting the fledgling diocese get off the ground. Bishop Fagun led the diocese from 1972 until 2010. When Fr Seán moved to Ekiti he had just recovered from a bout of ill health which necessitated his return to Ireland. In 1974, he was forced by eyesight problems to return again to Ireland for treatment. During his thirteen years in Nigeria, Fr Seán had persistent eyesight problems and after medical consultations and treatment it was decided that he could no longer return to Africa.
After a Sabbatical year, based at the SMA House, Maynooth, Fr Seán spent a couple of months on our SMA Promotion team but his heart was in parish work. A fortuitous meeting with Archbishop Joseph Cunnane of Tuam saw him heading ‘back to the west’ to minister in the Tuam Archdiocese. He was to spend the next 41 years serving the people of Mayo and Galway in the following parishes: Tullycross / Renvyle; Kilmeena; Menlough / Skehana and finally in Moore / Clonfad, where initially he assisted the emeritus Archbishop of Tuam, Most Rev Joseph Cassidy. Fr Seán retired from full-time parish ministry in 2011 though he stayed on helping out in local parishes in the Archdiocese until 2017.
In a 1999 newspaper article when he was leaving Skehana the following was said of him, “He was exceedingly kind to our children, the Mass servers, the old and especially the sick. He will be sorely missed by all. When the diocesan changes were announced, we were sad and disappointed to hear our good priest would be leaving us.”
In 2017 he moved to the SMA House on Blackrock Road, Cork. He settled into the community and took his turn at leading the daily Mass at 10.30 each morning and participating in the other community prayer exercises.
Fr Seán is deeply regretted by his sisters Sheila (Sr Genevieve, Presentation Sisters, Athenry), Pauline (Sr Angelina, Sisters of the Holy Spirit, Texas), Martha (Mountbellew) and Angela Brennan (Swords, Co Dublin) and his brother Msgr. Seamus (Middlesbrough diocese, England), his niece Aoife and nephew Dónall, relatives, friends, the people of Ondo and Ekiti dioceses, Nigeria, the Archdiocese of Tuam and his confreres in the Society of African Missions.
Due to government restrictions on large gatherings and travel, Fr Seán’s funeral and burial will take place at St Joseph’s SMA Church, Wilton, Cork, on Wednesday, 6 May 2020.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

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