Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

HOLLAND Joseph Gerard Mgr né le 16 septembre 1905 à Liverpool
dans le diocèse de Liverpool, Grande-Bretagne
membre de la SMA le 17 juillet 1924
prêtre le 10 juin 1928
évêque le 13 octobre 1946
décédé le 14 avril 1972

1928-1933 missionnaire en Basse Volta
1933-1935 université de Galway
1936-1941 Cape Coast, collège Saint-Augustin
1942-1945 responsable de l’enseignement au Ghana
1946 nommé vicaire apostolique de la Basse Volta
le 1er août et ordonné le 13 octobre
1950 le vicariat prend le nom de diocèse de Keta
1953 démission pour raison de santé

décédé à Liverpool, Grande-Bretagne, le 14 avril 1972,
à l’âge de 67 ans

Bishop Joseph Gerald HOLLAND (1905 - 1972)

Joseph Gerald Holland was born in St. Anthony's parish, Scotland Road, Liverpool (the family address was 57 Redington Road), on 16 September 1905. He died in Lourdes hospital, Greenbank Road, Liverpool, on 14 April 1972.

Our information on Gerald's background is sketchy. However we do know that his father, Joseph, came from Ireland and was a soldier in the first world war, losing his life in France in 1916. Gerald's mother, Emma Fanny Willmer, was English. Gerald attended St. Sylvester's school and Our Lady's Eldon Street, both in Liverpool. He completed his secondary studies at St. Peter's college, Freshfield, Liverpool (1918 1922). He came to the Society novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in 1922, and two years later, on 17 July 1924, he was admitted to membership of the Society. He began his theological formation in St. Joseph's seminary, Blackrock Road, Cork, and completed it at Dromantine, Co Down, to where the seminary was transferred in 1926. Gerald was ordained, along with eight colleagues, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, on 10 June 1928. He celebrated his first Mass at St. Peter's church, Warrenpoint.

Gerald had a long and distinguished missionary career. After ordination he was appointed to the vicariate of the Lower Volta, in the Gold Coast (now Ghana). The mission superior, Bishop Augustin Hermann, appointed him to the district of Gbi Bla, where there was a well established Catholic community of almost 3,000 members, with some 20 outstations, a large elementary school and a teacher training college. Gerald was engaged in the pastoral ministry until January 1931 when he was appointed principal of the training college. Revealing an aptitude for educational work at a time when such qualities were at a premium, it was decided to send Gerald to obtain a university degree when he returned to Ireland on home leave in 1933. For the next two years he resided at Kilcolgan from where he attended U.C.G., receiving a first class honours B.A. degree (education and English) in 1935.

Returning to the Gold Coast Gerald was assigned to a different jurisdiction, the vicariate of the Gold Coast, where William Porter, the vicar apostolic, appointed him to the founding staff of St. Augustine's college, Cape Coast. Attached to this secondary school with its 100 or so pupils was a teacher training department catering for some 80 students. Gerald, with his experience of educational theory and practice, was placed in charge of teacher training and stayed in this post during the war years. Gerald went on home leave in December 1939 and on his return, in May 1941, he suffered shipwreck from bombing and was landed in Freetown having lost everything but his great spirit. In June 1945 Gerald was appointed secretary general for Catholic education in the Gold Coast jurisdictions (vicariates of Gold Coast, Kumasi and Lower Volta), based in Accra.

On 1 August 1946 Gerald was named vicar apostolic of the Lower Volta and a month later, on 13 October, he was ordained titular bishop of Ammaedara at St. Mary’s cathedral, Cork, by Bishop Daniel Cohalan. Assisting Dr. Cohalan were three members of the Society, Bishops Thomas Hughes and John Collins, and Mgr. John McCarthy. Gerald inherited a territory of 40,000 square kilometres with a population of 520,000. The estimated Catholic membership of the vicariate was 68,000, with 7,000 catechumens. These were located in 12 mission districts, comprising 12 central stations and 220 secondary stations. The vicariate was staffed by 27 members of the Society, almost all Dutch, and two African Fathers; in addition there were 19 sisters, 260 catechists and some 250 teachers. The annual rate of Catholic marriages (perhaps the best index of the strength of the Church) averaged 170. Gerald's headquarters were at Keta, the oldest mission district in the region, established in 1890 by an Irish member of the Society, Michael Wade. In May of the Holy Year, 1950, Gerald visited Rome where, a month later, he learned that the vicariate was now erected as a diocese (the diocese of Keta) and that he was a bishop in his own right.

In October of the same year Gerald was invalided with tuberculosis and remained hospitalised in Cork until June 1951. After a year's convalescence, in May 1952 he returned to Keta. However within a short time he again fell ill and returned to Liverpool. Subsequently he was hospitalised at Our Lady of Lourdes hospital, Dun Laoghaire. In June 1953, persistent ill health caused Gerald to offer his resignation to the Holy See. This was reluctantly accepted and he was named titular bishop of Cynopolis. Gerald was one of those who laid the foundations for the flourishing Church which today is to be found in Ghana. Although his tenure as bishop was short, the impact of his far seeing policies was long lasting. When he handed over the reigns of office to Bishop Antoon Konings in 1953 he bequeathed a flourishing jurisdiction which had now over 100,000 Catholic members, five indigenous priests and another 20 candidates in training, as well as an average marriage rate of 250. But Gerald will be remembered above all for his efforts to promote Catholic education. There were now 878 school teachers teaching in some 300 elementary schools, many of them mixed; in addition there were two secondary schools (for boys and girls); altogether almost 30,000 pupils in Catholic schools.

After his resignation, further stays in hospital followed. Finally, discharged from Lourdes hospital, Dun Laoghaire, in mid December 1956 Gerald went to reside in the family home at 57 Redington Road, Liverpool. He was to live for a further sixteen years. During this time he made himself available to assist in St. Bernadette's church, Heath Road, Allerton. After a long and fruitful retirement he suffered a stroke in April 1972 and died in Lourdes hospital, Liverpool.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.