INTERMENT AT KAGOROâ€¦
To a moving rendition of the Irish hymn â€œAg CrÃost an SÃolâ€ a group of Irish missionaries gathered at the SMA cemetery in St. Josephâ€™s Parish, Kagoro in Nigeria on 08 March 2005. With them was a huge gathering of local Catholics. The occasion was the re-interment of the remains of seven valiant Irish missionaries, three sisters and four priests. All of them had lain buried for periods of between seventy and twenty years at St Piranâ€™s cemetery, Jos located in that city in an area likely to be redeveloped for secular purposes in the near future.
- Fr Florrie Oâ€™Driscoll SMA, from Aughadown, Skibereen, Co Cork, was only six years in Jos and was already appointed as Regional Superior when he died in 1935 aged 30 years.
- Fr Anthony Oâ€™Dwyer SMA, from Clonlee, Co Galway, was 27 years old when he died in 1937. He attended two SMA priests who were suffering from yellow fever â€“ his classmate, Fr John Marren from Co Sligo who died in his presence and Fr Pat McAnally from Belfast who survivedâ€” contracted the disease himself and died a week later.
- Fr Andrew Geraghty SMA, from Rochfordbridge, Co Westmeath, died in 1940 as a result of a fall from a horse, the normal mode of transport for priests at the time in the Jos area. He was aged 29 and was only thirty months on mission.
- Sister Fidelma Reynolds OLA, from Ballykilcline, Co Roscommon, was about to return to Ireland on her first leave after eight years in Nigeria working in healthcare and maternity when typhoid claimed her in 1947. She was aged 37 years.
- Fr Michael Harrison SMA, from Athlone, died in 1974 aged 70 years. He was SMA Regional Superior for a period and also served as Vicar-General of Jos. A renowned builder, many fine churches in Jos city are the fruit of his labours.
- Sr Maura Oâ€™Leary OLA, from Inchigeela, Co Cork died in 1975 within six hours of contracting typhoid. She was 57 years of age. She had been Principal Tutor in the Jos School of Midwifery.
- Sr Ita McGuane SSL, from Tubber in Co. Clare was killed in a car crash in August 1978 when she was moving to her new appointment in kano having served for ten years as Principal in St Louis Secondary School, Jos.
The transfer of their remains to the newly-prepared cemetery in Kagoro was celebrated in a Mass presided over by Bishop John Moore SMA of Bauchi Diocese, assisted by Fr. Maurice Henry, SMA Regional Superior, who preached the homily.
In his letter to mark the re-interment, the Apostolic Nuncio to Nigeria, Archbishop Renzo Fratini, wrote: â€œ I pray that this may be an edifying occasion, and that it may serve to highlight the achievements of the mission to Northern Nigeria, entrusted to the SMA, and to enkindle the spirit of evangelisation in the region in our own dayâ€.
The story of the success of the seed planted by these early Irish missionaries is seen in the twenty-million strong Catholic Church led by fifty mostly indigenous bishops and Archbishops. Also a quarter of the seventy SMA missionaries still in Nigeria at the start of the twenty-first century are Africans, drawn from seven different countries on the continent. The hope of all was adequately prayed for by the Nigerian Provincial Superior of the St Louis Sisters, Sr Patricia Ojo, at the Mass: â€œMay the young African members of the SSL, OLA, and SMA congregations remain steadfast and faithful in their continuing efforts to bring Christ to the peoples of Africa, and the peoples of Africa to Christâ€.