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Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

gantly patrick né le 2 février 1919 à Ardrahan
dans le diocèse de Galway, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1942
prêtre le 15 juin 1946
décédé le 6 janvier 2002

1946-1947 Wilton, études supérieures

1947-1949 Ballinafad, directeur
1949-1953 missionnaire au Nigeria, Asaba-Benin
1953-1962 Kilcogan, supérieur
1962-1966 missionnaire au Nigeria, diocèse de Benin City
1966-1968 Dromantine, professeur
1968-1973 Rome, secrétaire et historien
1973-1983 Londres, Institut missionnaire
1983-1985 Rome, Londres, Galway
travail sur l’histoire de la SMA
1985-1999 diocèse de Galway, travail pastoral
écrit sur l’histoire de la Société
1999-2002 Claregalway, retiré

décédé à Galway, Irlande, le 6 janvier 2002,
à l'âge de 82 ans


Father Patrick GANTLY (1919 - 2002)

Patrick Gantly was born in Ardrahan, Co Galway, in the diocese of Galway and Kilmacduagh, on 2 February 1919. He died in the University Hospital, Galway, Ireland, on 6 January 2002.

Patrick (Paddy) was the youngest of a family of four boys and four girls born to John and Delia (nee Early) Gantly, who farmed at Grannagh, Ardrahan. Paddy’s interest in the missions was generated in Ardrahan national school by a mission-minded Mayo-born teacher, John Doyle, who showed the class a Catholic Truth Society pamphlet which depicted Christ in the wheat fields saying: ‘The Harvest is plentiful but the Laborers are few’. Mr Doyle enquired if anybody was interested in becoming a missionary and Paddy’s willingness marked his first tentative steps in a journey that would eventually lead to priesthood. Paddy received his secondary education in the Colleges of the Society. He attended the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad (1935-1937) and St. Joseph’s College Wilton (1937-1939). During his last year in Wilton he attended Arts lectures at University College Cork. In the autumn of 1940 he was promoted to the Society’s novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. While there he also attended lectures in University College Galway and in-house lectures by a designated SMA priest. In 1942 he was awarded an honours BA degree. Paddy entered the Society’s major seminary, at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down, in the autumn of 1942. He was first received as a member of the Society on 1 July 1942. He was ordained a priest in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, on 15 June 1946. He was one of a group of fourteen ordained on that day.

After ordination Paddy returned to Cork, residing at Wilton, from where he attended UCC. In June 1947 he was awarded a higher diploma in education after which he was posted to Ballinafad as Director of Students. He was to remain there until February 1949. He was then appointed to the Vicariate of Asaba-Benin, in mid-western Nigeria, reaching his mission in April. Bishop Patrick J. Kelly (a fellow Galwayman, from Clontuskert) appointed him to the staff of St. John Bosco Teacher Training College, Ubiaja where Joe Stephens from Corofin was Principal. In 1950 the Vicariate was erected as the Diocese of Benin City. A year later Paddy was given the important post of ‘Supervisor of Schools’, responsible for maintaining standards in the ever-increasing school network so that Education Department subsidies could be drawn down. In May 1953 Paddy came to Ireland on home leave. A year earlier changes in the administration of the Province had taken place and the new Provincial asked Paddy to take charge of a new system of probation for Society candidates – the ‘spiritual year’- which was to be introduced at Kilcolgan in September of that year. In 1956 he was given an assistant who took on the role of ‘Magister’ or director, which Paddy had hitherto exercised. Paddy was to remain on as superior until June 1962. He then returned to Benin City diocese where he was posted first to St. John Bosco’s, Ubiaja, and then to Ishan Grammar school, Aghalokpe village, near Uromi.

In September 1966 Paddy was appointed to the staff of the major seminary, at Dromantine where he taught Church History. In 1968 he served as a delegate to the General Assembly and was an observer at the Provincial Assembly. After the Assemblies he was appointed to the Generalate Secretariat at Rome, a post he occupied until July 1971, after which he remained on in Rome as ‘Society Historian’. In September 1973 Paddy was appointed to the staff of the Missionary Institute, London, where he was to teach for the next seven years. Between 1975-1979 he was President of the Institute, overseeing a major development when he enabled the Institute to acquire its own premises for the first time. Ill-health first became noticeable when on 12 September 1978 he collapsed while on holiday in Galway and was found to be suffering from hardening of the arteries. In 1980 he became Director of Students in the British Province house at New Barnet, while continuing to teach at the Missionary Institute. Finally, from 1985, he devoted himself to his greatest love, the writing of missionary history, researching his subject in London, Rome and in Ireland. In addition to his research and writing he took on pastoral duties in Galway diocese (1985-1999), serving as chaplain in the re-opened Galvia hospital at Renmore in Galway city – where he was remembered as a kind and caring priest - and working as curate in the parish. On retiring from the active ministry in 1999 he continued to research and write, residing with his sister at Grattan Park, Galway and, from August 2000, in the SMA House at Claregalway. Paddy’s death came unexpectedly. He was visiting his sister Eithne in Galway on 5 January when he fell ill and was removed to hospital. He died early the following morning from heart failure.

Paddy’s contribution to the Society, made principally as a ‘Formator’ of students and as a writer of the Society’s history, was considerable. His phenomenal capacity for work was evident in the many titles published under his name by the Society. Among the most influential were: For this Cause (1970) in collaboration with Margery Ellen Thorp; Mission to West Africa Vol. 1 (1991); Marion Brésillac in India (1991); Mission to West Africa Vol 2 (1992); Answering ‘Yes!’ to God (1993); SMA General Assemblies 1907-1958 (2000). He also wrote a pamphlet on the history of Claregalway Abbey. At the time of his death he was working on a booklet titled ‘Society of African Missions: Founder and Co-Founder’. Paddy served on a number of Society Commissions, including the ‘Commission for the Study of the Founder and the Charism of the SMA’ and took a keen interest in the ‘Cause’ for the canonization Bishop de Brésillac, giving evidence to the ‘Diocesan Inquiry’. As a writer and teacher Paddy unveiled the Society and its heroic Founder to generations of students. As one former student put it: ‘he put flesh and blood on a monument and put fire in our bellies to follow in his footsteps’. In Kilcolgan he took on the formidable task of directing the Ignatian Exercises (formerly entrusted to a Jesuit). He also initiated a building program which saw the extension of the domestic quarters and a refurbishment of the chapel and student accommodation.

Paddy was remembered by the ‘spiritual year’ students as a hard task-master, a disciplinarian, a man of iron, with little tolerance of weakness either in himself or in others. It may have been this latter quality which made work in Africa difficult for him, particularly during his second period there. Paddy was very much a man of his time, belonging to an era where weakness of any kind was to be frowned upon. He set out to ‘toughen people up’ so that they would be able for Africa. This did not always make for a happy atmosphere and students of sensitive disposition often suffered. Throughout his life he could be stubborn where matters of principal were concerned and was not always easy to get on with. On the other hand he was absolutely loyal to the Society and this same quality was extended to the West of Ireland, his home-place. When Ballinafad was sold Paddy was one of those who grieved at its loss, henceforth lobbying for the re-establishment of a substantial presence in the province – frequently sending details of suitable properties to Cork - which eventually came with the opening of the SMA house, Claregalway, in 1995.

Paddy’s physical and mental toughness was legendary within the Society and further afield. He was one of the greatest hurlers ever produced by Galway, his name mentioned in the same breath as that of Mick Mackey, Christy Ring, Eddie Keher and Joe Salmon. His finest moments on the hurling field coincided with a particularly fertile period for Galway which (under the title Connacht) won the Railway Cup for the first time in 1947 and later in the year lost the All-Ireland semi-final to a Kilkenny team which went on to beat Cork in the final. Because of ecclesiastical restrictions on clerics Paddy usually played under assumed names, principally those of Paddy Gardiner and Ignatius Gallagher. After ordination, while at UCC, he won two County Championship medals with the famed St. Finbarr’s club, playing at centre field and holding his own against Christy Ring and Josie Hartnett. In the following year the victory was over Sarsfields. Back from Nigeria in 1953 Paddy renewed his hurling contacts and soon became trainer of the Galway team, coaching them in 1953 to victory over Kilkenny, Galway’s first championship victory since 1929. In 1957 he became Chairman of the Galway County Board and also Galway’s delegate to the G.A.A.’s Central Council. He retained his interest in G.A.A. affairs up to the time of his death.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.