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Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

SHEPPARD Henry né le 11 mai 1908 à Cork
dans le diocèse de Cork, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 8 juillet 1927
prêtre le 7 juin 1931
décédé le 21 octobre 1981

1931-1942 missionnaire au Nigeria
vicariat du Bénin
aujourd'hui archidiocèse de Lagos
1943-1947 Ballinafad, supérieur, puis économe
1948-1977 missionnaire au Nigeria, Logos
vicariat puis archidiocèse de Lagos

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 21 octobre 1981,
à l'âge de 73 ans


 Father Henry Joseph A. SHEPPARD (1908 - 1981)

Henry Sheppard was born in Madden's Buildings, Cork, in the diocese of Cork, on 11 May 1908. He died at the Bon Secours hospital, Cork, on 21 October 1981.

Henry (Harry) studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1921 1922), and at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1922 1925), before entering the S.M.A. novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of 1925. He studied theology in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, between 1927 1931. He was admitted to membership of the Society on 8 July 1927 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 7 June 1931. He was one of a group of twelve ordained on that day.

After ordination Harry was appointed to the vicariate of the Bight of Benin, in south-west Nigeria. He took up his post a year after Francis O'Rourke had become first Irish bishop of the vicariate and when responsibility for staffing had been made over to the Irish Province. Arriving on his mission in October 1931, Harry was appointed to Abeokuta district. The principal station of Abeokuta had been established in 1880 and there were 18 secondary stations, with a total catholic community of some 3,000 members and a convent of O.L.A. sisters. However the most prestigious institution in Abeokuta was undoubtedly the Sacred Heart hospital, founded at the turn of the century by the self-trained surgeon and missionary, Jean-Marie Coquard. Bart Keohane was superior of the mission district and the other assistant priest was Tom Galvin. It was here that Harry did his missionary apprenticeship. In 1934 Harry was transferred to Lagos town, to the principal station of Ebute-Metta, where Johnny Kilbey was superior.

Among his duties was to edit the Nigerian Catholic Herald, which was the only national Nigerian catholic journal at that time. Harry spent the last year of his first tour of duty as superior of the district of Ibadan. Residing in the principal station, at Ogunpa, he ministered to a catholic community of perhaps 3,000 Catholics and 200 catechumens. James Ward, who was supervisor of schools, lived with him at Ogunpa, while three other Fathers staffed the inter-vicarial minor seminary at Oke Are. When Harry returned to Nigeria after his first leave, in January 1937, he was appointed to the staff of St. Gregory's college, Lagos, the first catholic boys secondary school in Nigeria. When Harry came on the staff there were 124 students in the college and 40 students in a teacher training tier attached to the college. Jim Saul, Tommy Moran and Pete Moore, assisted by 10 African tutors, made up the teaching staff. Harry spent three and a half years at St. Gregory's before being transferred to St. Theresa's seminary, at Oke Are. This important institution, with some 30 students, provided secondary education for seminarians from jurisdictions in the south and west, and even from the north.

When Harry returned to Ireland in 1943 he was retained at home as superior of the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad. Between 1946-1947 he served as bursar of this flourishing secondary school. In February 1948 Harry returned to Nigeria, to what was now the 'Lagos vicariate' (the old vicariate was divided and renamed in 1943). Bishop Leo Taylor, who had succeeded Bishop O'Rourke in 1939, asked Harry to resume his position as superior of St. Theresa's seminary, where there were now some 50 students in training. Harry was to spend 8 further tours of duty in the Lagos jurisdiction, until 1977 when he retired. During this lengthy period he ministered principally in St. Mary's parish, Ijebu Igbo, (1952-58) and St. Paul's parish, Ebutta Metta (1959-1976). When he returned to Ireland he took up residence at Wilton and remained active. In the summer of 1977 he did pastoral work at Knock Shrine and went there again in 1978. He also made himself available as part time chaplain to the Regional hospital, Cork.

Harry was involved in the development of many mission stations. During his years as superior of the minor seminary he built the present mission house at Oke-Ado. He was to be the first resident priest in Ijebu Igbo. He built the mission house there in a central position in the town. He also built Bethany convent for the Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus. He then obtained a site for St. Joseph's catholic hospital at Oke Agbo and commenced building thereon. Due to his efforts chiefly, the hospital was established. He was responsible too for extending the Church beyond the Oshun river. He and Kevin Carroll made a trek from the Oshun via Ajebandele to Ondo. On the borders of Ijebu, where Oyo, Ondo and Ijebu provinces meet, a new outstation, Abeku East, was opened, ninety-eight kilometres from Ijebu Igbo. However pride of place must be given to the fine church which he built during the seventeen years he spent at Ebute Meta - St. Pauls - which gave permanent witness to the inspired work of Yoruba artistry in its carved panelled entrance, its magnificent stain-glass windows and above all, its beautifully carved Stations of the Cross. Harry was an agreeable colleague, enthusiastic, idealistic and with a good sense of fun. These qualities were invaluable for the missionary task which he discharged with such distinction. In retirement too he is fondly remembered by those who lived with him at Wilton.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.