Société des Missions Africaines – Province des Etats-Unis

DONOHUE Dominic né le 4 août 1937 à Portlaoise
dans le diocèse de Kildare & Leighlin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juin 1968
prêtre le 30 mai 1970
décédé le 7 octobre 1973

1970-1973 vicariat de Cape Palmas, Liberia

décédé à Barclayville, Liberia, le 7 octobre 1973
à l’âge de 36 ans

Father Thomas Dominic DONOHUE (1937 - 1973)

Dominic Donohue was born in Portlaoise, Co Laois, Ireland, in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, on August 4 1937.
He died in a drowning accident, in the river Nuah, near Barclayville, Liberia, on October 7, 1973.

Dominic Donohue grew up at 5 Grattan St., Portlaoise, Co Laois. He was one of eleven boys and two girls born to Thomas and Kathleen (nee Coss) Donoghue. Dominic received his primary school education from the Christian Brothers at St. Mary’s school, Portlaoise. He continued on into the Brothers High School but after a year transferred to Paortlaise Technical School. A year later he took up a clerical position in a cloth/textile manufacturing concern. In the meantime he continued his studies at night-school. Dominic successfully completed courses in Commerical Practice, Bookkeeping, and Textile Technology. He also studied German language and later did a two year correspondence course with the Glasgow School of Accounting. Dominic came from a family with a deep commitment to the Church. Like his brothers he was an altar boy for five years and sang in the local church choir. His Father’s Cousin was Fr. Paddy O’Donoghue, Provincial of the SMA’s American Province. An aunt was Sister Mary Petronilla, of the RSM community of Little Rock, Arkansaw. Two of his siblings were to enter religion: Brendan was a member of the Irish Province of the SMA, dying in a road accident in Nigeria on 12 November l975. Dominic’s sister, Deanna, joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles. During 1962 Dominic applied to enter the American Province of the Society. On the official application form one of the questions asked: ‘Why do you want to become an African Missionary?’ Dominic wrote: ‘Because the work offers a good challenge and a better reward’.

Dominic was accepted and in September 1962 went to the Province’s house at Dedham, MA. to complete his second-level education and study philosophy. He then went to Washington D.C. where the studied theology at the Catholic University. Dominic’s lack of a full formal High-School education – and his preference for technical over academic subjects – made his passage through the seminary system difficult. However he manifested, in his superior’s words, ‘a persevering and stubborn resolve to become a priest’, and overcame all the obstacles. He was received as a permanent member of the Society on February 10, 1970. He was ordained later that year by Most Rev. Nicholas Grimley, SMA., Bishop of Cape Palmas diocese, in the chapel of the SMA Mission House, at Tenafly, NJ, on May 30, 1970. At the time Dominic was in his 33rd year.

After ordination Dominic was assigned to the Province’s mission in Cape Palmas, a jurisdiction in that part of Liberia south and east of the Cestos River. If his years of formation were something of an obstacle-race compounded by the fact that he was older than his classmates, he took to the missionary life readily, with enthusiasm, and no mean skill. His practical skills were put to good use. Appointed to assist Brendan Darcy in Grand Cess station, he drew up plans for a Sisters Convent and supervised the construction of a fine building. Other buildings in various mission stations bear the imprint of his handiwork in making repairs. An enthusiastic pastor of souls, with an adventurous streak, sometimes headstrong, but with unbounded generosity, he was never happier than when travelling to remote outstations to celebrate Mass. He took a keen interest in everything around him and began to collect snakes, a past-time which came to an abrupt end when he was bitten.

Dominic’s missionary career, so promising and impressive, was to be tragically short. In August 1973 Domnic had been appointed to Barclayville in the interior of the diocese, a new station, pioneered by Clark Yates. Barclayville comprised a group of isolated hamlets, with mud-walled, palm-thatched native dwellings. These hamlets, nestling in forest clearings on the slopes of a gently undulating terrain, were at the time untouched by modern civilization. Barclayville was inaccessible by road and the mission was serviced by a four-seater Cessna plane, piloted by one of the missionaries. The river Nuah, from the deep interior, meanders past the township towards the sea at Grand Cess, some miles away, in full view of the Mission which stood on a hilltop overlooking the town. Far up that river, a three-hour journey by boat, using an outboard motor, lies the township of Filoken. Dominic would go there on Sundays to say Mass and hold a clinic for the sick, whenever the river was negotiable. On Sunday October 7, 1973 Dominic was the victim of a drowning accident in the river. His brother Brendan, who was to die tragically two years later, came from Nigeria to Liberia in time for Dominic’s funeral and wrote of the circumstances of his brother’s death:
‘After celebrating Mass at Barclayville and taking a sick-call, Dominic went to examine the river and decided not to travel because there was a flood after a week of heavy inter-seasonal rains. A native Kru woman, an elderly sickly person, who had been trading and attending clinic in Barclayville, begged for a lift in the boat to her home town, Filoken. Dominic explained why he could not travel but she persisted and made up a story that her son had died there and she must get home. This was not true. However he was finally persuaded to take the chance and he, the woman, Nnyatee Swen Juah, and two mission boys, John Tarpeh Alebo and Dixon Tarweh Doe, boarded the mission boat with a Mass box, a medical kit and a tank of petrol, and set off. About an hour later, at a particularly dangerous part of the river, Dominic reversed the boat in close to a dangerously protruding tree-branch which might be a hazzard on the return journey in the rushing waters. He had a hand-saw in the boat. While sawing off the branch, being helped by the two boys, the boat tilted, filled up within seconds and sank beneath them. Dominic tried to rescue the woman. Both were swept away in the swirling angry turbulent waters and quickly disappeared from sight. John and Dixon saved themselves by holding on to the branch. Dominic’s body was recovered on Thursday, October 11 and laid to rest on Friday, October 12 at Barclayville Mission after concelebrated Mass. His grave in the sun-baked laterite earth, stands on the hilltop, overlooking the river, the instrument of God in calling Dominic to his eternal reward.’

Brendan Donoghue who had traveled from Nigeria, and was himself to die tragically two years later, was chief concelebrant at the funeral Mass. Dominic’s coffin was was carried by his missionary colleagues to its resting place. As the grave was filled in the clouds burst and it rained torrentially. A confrere, who worked closely with Dominic later wrote: ‘I believe that by his death he will do more for Barclayville than if he had spent ten years there. The people, I feel, needed some type of a sign and by his death I think the Church will grow stronger there’. History has proved his writer correct.

He is buried in the Mission Compound, Barclayville, Liberia, West Africa.