Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

WALKER Michael né le 17 octobre 1941 à Doomore
dans le diocèse d'Achonry, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 23 juin 1961
prêtre le 18 décembre 1967
décédé le 2 septembre 1970

1968-1970 missionnaire au Nigeria,
diocèse de Warri

décédé à Kinnegad, Irlande, le 2 septembre 1970,
à l'âge de 29 ans

Father Michael D. WALKER (1941 - 1970)

Michael Walker was born at Doomore, Cloonacool, Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, in the diocese of Achonry, on 17 October 1941. He died, as a result of a car accident, near Kinnegad, Co Westmeath, on 2 September 1970.

The second youngest of a family of six children born into a farming background, Michael received his primary education in Corsallagh National school, Tubbercurry. In 1955 he went to the Vocational school in Tubbercurry. However, a year later, deciding to become a missionary priest, Michael went to the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, for his secondary education. Four years later, in 1960, he entered the Society's house of probation (or 'spiritual year'), at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. Promoted to the Society's university hostel, at Wilton, Cork, he studied philosophy, history and geography at U.C.C. from 1961, graduating three years later with a B.A. degree in arts (his subjects were history, geography and philosophy). Michael studied theology in the major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, between 1964 1968. He was admitted as a member of the Society on 23 June 1961 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral Newry, on 18 December 1967. Ten classmates were ordained with him on that day.

After ordination Michael returned to Dromantine for six months to complete his theology course. He was then appointed to the diocese of Warri, in western Nigeria. Warri had been first established as a residential mission station in 1917, under the patronage of the Sacred Heart. By the early 1920's Warri district, a land of creeks, waterways and islands, set in the delta of the mighty Niger river, comprised the principal stations of Warri and Forcados, and 60 secondary stations. At that time it formed part of the vast vicariate of Western Nigeria (which in 1943 became the vicariate of Asaba Benin and, in 1950, the diocese of Benin City). In March 1964 the Church in Warri district was so developed that the Holy See saw fit to erect it as a separate diocese, under the leadership of Lucas Olu Nwaezeapu. It was Bishop Lucas who welcomed Michael on his arrival in Warri in October 1968.

Michael spent the first four months of his missionary career in the regional superior's house at Uromi (St. Philomena's), where, with three other young confreres, he underwent his 'induction course', or tyrocinium. Under the guidance first of John Browne, the 'regional superior' and, from January 1969, of Fr. Browne's successor, Mick Drew, Michael and his colleagues in the 'tyro' studied local languages, learned about African culture and undertook supervised pastoral work. After six months he passed his language examination and also his 'canonicals' examination, and received faculties to hear confessions. He was then posted to Mater Dei college, Ashaka, a secondary school for boys which had been founded by Bishop Patrick J. Kelly, in the early 1960's. At weekends Michael worked in St. Leo's parish, Ashaka and its many outstations. St. Leo's was a well established mission, first opened in 1926.

Michael served in Warri diocese from October 1968 until his untimely death scarcely two years later. He died while on leave from Africa, having completed his first tour of duty. His car was in a collision with an articulated lorry on the Trim Kinnegad road, in Co Westmeath. The accident happened on a short, narrow bend at Ardnamullen, near the Meath Westmeath border. Michael was travelling towards Trim. His loss was a great tragedy for his family, for the Society and for the young diocese of Warri. A strongly built, gentle and gifted priest he already stood out during his student days, the post of 'prefect of students' resting easily on his broad shoulders during his senior year at Wilton. In Nigeria, although civil war was raging and there was much uncertainty and disturbance in the delta region, Michael radiated calm. In death as in life he was an inspiration to his colleagues in the Society. Warri diocese suffered a second grievous loss in 1970, when the recently ordained Fr. Columbanus Uwarievwe, died in a road accident.

Michael came from a family with strong and unshakeable faith. His mother, who died in 1979, never complained of losing her son, knowing that he was close to her in spirit. Her acceptance of God's will and her words that Michael 'wasn't too good for God', sustained the family over the years. One letter of condolence sent to the Irish Provincial by a missionary who worked with Michael in Africa gave the following perceptive portrait: 'When he was in Dromantine I knew him, but I will always remember him as I met him again, in Nigeria, his white soutane, covered with the red dust of the African highway, as he went about his missionary duties. He impressed me very much and seemed more of an "old hand" rather than a "freshman". Sound of character he had the stamina to accomplish much. I have no doubt he is now enjoying the reward of his labour'. Michael's family had the joy of having a nephew ordained to the priesthood in July 1990. He is Thomas Walker, who was ordained for the diocese of Nottingham at St. Thomas More's church, Leicester, and currently serves in Scunthorpe.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.