Société des Missions Africaines - Province d’Irlande

wiseman vincent né le 29 octobre 1929 à Durrus
dans le diocèse de Cork, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 29 juin 1950
prêtre le 12 septembre 1954
décédé le 29 janvier 2003

1954-1963 vicaire à Monrovia (Liberia)
1963-1966 diocèse de Ondo (Nigeria)
1967-1968 prêté à la Province de Grande-Bretagne
1969-2003 Blackrock, Cork

décédé à Blackrock Road, Cork, Irlande, le 29 janvier 2003
à l’âge de 73 ans

Father Robert Vincent WISEMAN (1929 - 2003)

Robert Vincent Wiseman was born in Durrus, Co Cork, in the diocese of Cork, in the parish of Durrus and Kilcrohane, on 29th October 1929. He died in St. Theresa’s Nursing Unit, at the SMA house, Blackrock Road, Cork, on 29 January 2003.

Robert (Bob) Wiseman was the son of Bridget (nee Daly) and John Wiseman. John was a harness-maker and saddler. Bob received his secondary education in St. Finbarr’s College, Farranferris, Cork, the diocesan seminary (1943-1946) and at St. Joseph’s College, Wilton, the Society’s secondary school (1946-1948). He entered the Society’s novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of 1948. Two years later he commenced his theological formation in the Society’s major seminary, at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. Bob was received as a member of the Society on 29 June 1950. In his last year at Dromantine Bob experienced doubts about his vocation which he imparted to his superiors. They too were aware that all was not well with him and were uncertain as to his future. Consequently he was not called to priestly ordination with his class, an event which took place on 15th June 1954. However his doubts were eventually resolved and he received the call to priesthood on 13th July of the same year. He was ordained in the Dromantine College Chapel by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore diocese, on 12th September 1954.

After ordination Bob was appointed to the Vicariate of Monrovia, in Liberia. He reached his mission in December 1954. He spent the first six weeks in the central mission at Monrovia. He was then appointed to the staff of St. Patrick’s High School. Bob is remembered fondly in Monrovia for his work with youth. In January 1957 he was posted to Gbarnga mission, some 50 miles inland from the capital. Bob went on his first home leave in April 1958. He returned to the Vicariate in January 1959 commencing another three-year tour of duty. Shortly after his return to Liberia having taken his second home leave, in February 1963 Bob fell ill and requested to return to Ireland for treatment. He remained on sick leave until September 1964 when his superiors considered a change of mission might benefit him and appointed him to the diocese of Ondo, in south-western Nigeria. Bob was to spend almost two years in this jurisdiction before coming home in an unsettled state.

After a period of rest he was assigned on a temporary basis to the British District of the Society which was in the process of being formed into a Province and which needed personnel. Bob spent some time with the Superior, Michael Walsh, before taking up a pastoral appointment in Nottingham diocese. Bob remained there for a year but failing to settle obtained permission to return to the Vicariate of Monrovia in January 1969. Five months later he returned home seriously ill. After nine months hospitalisation he came to the motherhouse of the Irish Province, at Blackrock Road. During the 1970’s and 1980’s he was frequently hospitalised in Cork, Waterford, Mayo and Dublin, without any sustained improvement in his condition. During his better spells he served as ‘Infirmarian’ in the Blackrock Road community. However such remissions grew less frequent as he grew older.

The first signs of illness had manifested themselves in 1958 while in Liberia. At that time Bob began to suffer depressive episodes and strong feelings of anxiety, and as a remedy indulged in alcohol and tobacco to excess. The changes in his assignments brought temporary improvements but no lasting solutions. It was part of the nature of his illness that Bob was not amenable to help; and increasingly, as time passed, he found it difficult to relate well to his superiors and confreres and to the medical profession, feeling that he was being misunderstood and persecuted. Increasingly isolated and disturbed, his behaviour in the community became aggressive and disruptive on occasions and a worry for those charged with his welfare. Every effort was made to improve the quality of his life, but in reality very little could be done. It was only in the last months of his life, when progressive debility caused his transfer to St. Theresa’s Nursing Unit, that a sustained peace descended upon him. The loving and professional care of the staff in St. Theresa’s, led by Sister Rosalie OLA, brought him a calm and contentment which he had rarely experienced previously in his priestly life. At this time too confreres visiting him were received with courtesy and affection. He died in his sleep.

Bob was a larger than life character and became well known to people in the environs of Blackrock Road. In his better moments he could be most entertaining company. His love of fishing and his appreciation of nature allowed him to fill hours of lively conversation. He had a huge interest in all that was going on in the SMA and very few things passed him by. He had a lively interest in and no small knowledge of local history. And he had a kind spirit that manifested itself especially in his relationships with lay staff and particularly during his assignment of caring for the sick in Blackrock Road. In particular he liked to talk about Liberia and his recollection of places and people there remained eternally fresh. He was interested too in sporting matters, not least horse-racing. In his youth he had been an excellent athlete winning the prize of Victor Ludorum in his Dromantine days. Bob came from a musical family and liked nothing better on a social occasion to sit down to the piano. He could also perform on the piano accordion and tin-whistle.

On the occasion of his Requiem Mass the homilist made the following observation which deserves mention here. ‘When we have a chance to stand back from it all we can now better appreciate that Bob’s presence was truly a gift, even if at times that gift was not fully appreciated. Sometimes I think we all failed the test of Christian charity. But on the whole I believe there was a genuine care, concern and real love shown to Bob right through his years of sickness. And each of us recognised that because of our own sin and weakness we had no right to stand in judgement over any man.

Bob’s sister, Eleanore entered the Religious Life with the Poor Servants of the Mother of God, taking the name Sister M. Roberta.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.