Still living the dream after fifty years – Fr. Eddie Hartnett SMA

“Fr. Eddie has worked tirelessly… devoting himself to the usual pastoral commitments, the while putting special emphasis on the cultivation of catechists and the nurturing of vocations to both the diocesan and missionary priesthood. The evidence of his effectiveness in both those areas of priestly ministry is highlighted by the number of diocesan priests who are natives of the area, in addition to quite a sprinkling of young SMA priests, priests from other religious congregations and a host of women religious who are serving not just in Nigeria but much further afield.”  – Fr. Peter McCawille, SMA 

A steady stream of heart warming and heart felt tributes were paid to Fr. Eddie Hartnett, SMA at St. Agnes Catholic Church, Maryland, Lagos on Monday, 18th December, 2017 when he celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his ordination to the priesthood. It was 50 years to the day that he was ordained at St. Colman’s Cathedral, Newry, Co. Down by the Bishop of Dromore, Dr. Eugene O’Doherty, who served as bishop from 1944 to 1976. Over those thirty-two years Dr. O’Doherty imposed his Episcopal hands on hundreds of SMA priests who studied for the priesthood in Dromantine College. In subsequent years SMA priests were ordained in their home parishes.

Fr. Eddie with SMA Fathers (l-r), Emmanuel Zinsu, Osbert Egbe, Julius Temuyi, Peter McCawille,

The Mass at St. Agnes was the second leg of a double header in what proved to be an exhausting two days of celebrations for Fr. Eddie. Twenty-four hours earlier he celebrated the first of the Jubilee Masses in his present parish at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, Kweme Sea Beach, a flick of a coin from Seme border, the entry point to the Republic of Bénin.

The journey by road from St. Andrew’s to St. Agnes’ on that Monday morning was a torturous one, no thanks to infuriating potholes and incessant traffic jams (somewhat misleadingly referred to here as a ‘go-slow’). The trip can last anything from four to six hours and is guaranteed to test the patience of a person half his age! Being one of the more senior priests in Lagos Archdiocese, holding several key posts within the Archdiocese, it is a journey which Fr. Eddie dutifully undertakes on a weekly basis to attend a variety of important meetings in the city. While the mounting, merciless pressures of such trips inevitably take a toll on one’s health and one’s sanity Fr. Eddie has somehow managed to maintain a youthful appearance and he attributes his good health to regular exercise, tennis, swimming and walking being among his favourite pastimes.

Fr. Eddie with Archbishop, Bishops, priests and OLA Sisters

The high regard in which he is held by clergy and people alike was reflected in the large and enthusiastic attendances at both Masses. He has spent the greater part of his missionary life in Nigeria outside of the great city of Lagos, for many years in an area of major historical significance called Badagry which encompasses the coastal town of Badagry and a local Government area in Lagos State, and in more recent years he has been developing St. Andrew’s and its environs.

Badagry is considered by many to be the ‘cradle of Christianity’ in Nigeria since the Christian message was first preached there in 1842 and twenty years later the renowned Fr. Francesco Borghero, SMA celebrated the first Mass in Badagry in 1863.

Mention of Fr. Hartnett’s name in any parish in Lagos Archdiocese and he is instantly associated with the Badagry area (speaking both the local languages, Egun and Yoruba, adds a little lustre to his already highly vaunted reputation, particularly among the indigenes) though he also spent short spells in his early days working in different parishes within the city. His association with the area has been a long and productive one.

He has worked tirelessly in several parishes in the Badagry area devoting himself to the usual pastoral commitments, the while putting special emphasis on the cultivation of catechists and the nurturing of vocations to both the diocesan and missionary priesthood. The evidence of his effectiveness in both those areas of priestly ministry is highlighted by the number of diocesan priests who are natives of the area, in addition to quite a sprinkling of young SMA priests, priests from other religious congregations and a host of women religious who are serving not just in Nigeria but much further afield.

Presiding at the Jubilee Mass in St. Agnes was His Grace, Archbishop Alfred Adewale Martins, (Cardinal Okogie sent an apology for being unavoidably absent) and among the concelebrants were Bishop Albert Fasina (Ijebu-Ode Diocese), Bishop Felix Ajakaiye (Ekiti Diocese), a large number of Monsignors, Parish Priests, their Assistants, Sisters from a variety of religious Congregations, catechists, lay leaders and many parishioners from Badagry and other parishes in Lagos where Fr. Hartnett served down the years.

A rousing homily was preached on both days by Monsignor Philip Hoteyin, a close friend of Fr. Hartnett for many years. SMA colleagues present were Frs. John Amuda, Osbert Egbe, Wilfried Kouijzer, Peter McCawille, Danny Monaghan, Augustine Onwuzurike, Julius Temuyi and Emmanuel Zinsu, both natives of Badagry.

After the Mass a sumptuous lunch was served in McGovern Hall (named after the late Fr Frank McGovern SMA) during which several speeches were delivered and gifts were presented to Fr. Hartnett in recognition of his selfless service over the past 50 years.

An atmosphere of joy pervaded the hall and the mood among the guests resulted in much light banter, bonhomie and badinage. It truly was a day to remember, not just for Fr. Hartnett but for all those who rejoiced with him as he marked this memorable milestone in his priestly life.

A special message of appreciation and poster were produced to celebrate Fr Eddie’s Golden Jubilee. You can access both by clicking here, and here

Edited from an article by Fr. Peter McCawille, SMA, SMA House, Lagos State, 20/12/2017