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Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

HESSION James né le 28 octobre 1934 à Milford
dans l’archidiocèse de Tuam, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 25 juin 1954
prêtre le 21 décembre 1960
décédé le 11 novembre 1975

1961-1963 missionnaire au Nigeria, Kaduna
1963-1964 Dromantine, professeur de philosophie
1964-1975 missionnaire au Nigeria, archidiocèse de Kaduna

décédé à Dublin, Irlande, le 11 novembre 1975,
à l'âge de 42 ans


Father James HESSION (1934 - 1975)

James Hession was born at Milford, Kilmaine, in the archdiocese of Tuam, on 22 October 1934. He died, after a long illness, in the Mater hospital, Dublin, on 11 November 1975.

Coming from a farming background in Co. Mayo, James (Jimmy) commenced his studies for the missionary priesthood at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, in 1948. Five years later, in the autumn of 1953, he entered the Society's 'spiritual year' or novitiate, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He spent three years at Wilton, Cork (which had become a university hostel from 1954), studying at U.C.C. from September 1954 until June 1957 when he was awarded an honours B.A. degree in English and philosophy. Jimmy went to Dromantine, Co Down, for his theological formation. He was received as a member of the Society on 25 June 1954 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 21 December 1960. He was one of a group of twenty-two ordained on that day.

Jimmy returned to Dromantine after his ordination, finishing his theological course in June 1961. In October of the same year, along with eight of his confreres, he set out for northern Nigeria. Tommy Lennon, the 'regional superior', welcomed the new-arrivals into his house at Kagoro where they commenced their tyrocinium or period of induction to the missionary life. This involved learning Hausa, studying the local cultures, and engaging in supervised pastoral work. Early in January Jimmy, along with his colleagues, took his exam in Hausa, and received permission from Archbishop McCarthy to hear confessions in that language. The tyrocinium ended at the end of February and the Fathers went to their various jurisdictions, some to Jos diocese, others to the Ilorin prefecture and more again, including Jimmy, to the archdiocese of Kaduna. Jimmy was appointed to the staff of St. John's college, in Kaduna town, a secondary school for boys which had been founded in January 1949 by Jack O'Hara. There were over 300 pupils on the register in the year that Jimmy commenced teaching.

Jimmy was never very strong and from the time of his arrival in Africa he had frequent bouts of ill-health, suffering especially from anaemia. In May 1963, on the recommendation of his doctor, Archbishop McCarthy decided to send him home for a rest. His superiors in Ireland felt that he should be kept at home for some time and they appointed him to teach philosophy in Dromantine. At the end of a year it was decided that Jimmy had recovered sufficiently to return to the tropics. Jimmy arrived back in the archdiocese in September 1964, resuming his teaching post at St. John's, and also taking on the position of house bursar. He remained there until he was invalided home after emergency surgery in Kano in April 1975. A month later he entered the Mater hospital in Dublin for further surgery. After three months he was transferred to the Notre Dame nursing home, at Coolock, but was re-admitted to the Mater with no hope of recovery in September.

Jimmy was a really competent schoolmaster, taking no end of pains with his work in spite of the poor health that dogged him from his first coming to Nigeria. He carried on right to the end at what later, under government control, became Rimi college. His principal subject was English, at which he excelled. He was a strict disciplinarian and man of principle, which didn't make him always popular with students on first acquaintance. When they got to know him, however, they quickly appreciated his sincerity, kindness and concern for their welfare. Jimmy's interests were not confined to the classroom. A colleague wrote of him: 'He didn't see himself exclusively as a teacher, a "school man". Neither did he confine himself to pastoral and catechetical work with the pupils of the school. He gave all the rest of his time and energies to primary evangelisation of the Gbaji villagers in the area west of Kaduna. Right to the end he celebrated Mass every Sunday in two and even three locations, sometimes scores of miles apart'. Archbishop Peter Jatau of Kaduna (who succeeded Archbishop McCarthy in 1975) wrote on hearing of Jimmy's death: 'Father Hession gave of his best at all times, in the classroom and in pastoral work. His death has come as a shock to all who knew him, especially his students at St. John's college'. Archbishop Jatau presided at a concelebrated Mass for Jimmy in St. John's church, Kaduna, which was attended by most of the clergy and religious of the archdiocese, and many of Jimmy's past pupils. At Wilton Bishop P.J. Kelly presided at the funeral Mass, which was attended by Jimmy's 84 year old father, along with his mother, six brothers and four sisters.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.