Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

FITZGERALD Richard né le 26 décembre 1906 à Brosna
dans le diocèse de Kerry, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1929
prêtre le 11 juin 1933
décédé le 15 avril 1976

1933-1951 missionnaire au Nigeria, vicariat du Bénin
1952-1953 Dromantine, directeur spirituel
1953-1954 Blackrock Road, Cork, animation missionnaire
1954-1956 diocèse de Nottingham
1957-1962 Armidale, paroisse, Pays de Galles 
1962-1963 archidiocèse de Lagos
1964-1968 Australie, paroisse sma de Beaconsfield 
1968-1976 archidiocèse de Lagos

décédé à Abeokuta, Nigeria, le 15 avril 1976,
à l'âge de 69 ans

Father Richard Stephen FITZGERALD (1906 - 1976)

Richard Fitzgerald was born at Brosna, Co Kerry, in the diocese of Kerry, on 26 December 1906. He died at the Sacred Heart hospital, Abeokuta, Nigeria, on l5 April 1976.

Richard (Dick) was educated at St. Colman's college, Fermoy, Co Cork (1922 1924), before coming to the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo. He studied at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1925), matriculating in 1927 and then joined the novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He received his theological training in the Society's major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down (1929 1933). He was admitted to membership of the Society on 2 July 1929, and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 11 June 1933. He was one of a group of nine ordained on that day.

Dick was to serve in Nigeria for thirty years, and in Australia for nine years, with a brief interlude of four years in England and Ireland. A very adaptable man, with a strong evangelical spirit, Dick's innate wisdom, intelligence and administrative ability combined to make him an obvious choice for many senior positions within the Province and in mission jurisdictions. After ordination Dick was assigned to the vicariate of the Bight of Benin, in south western Nigeria. His first appointment, given to him on his arrival by Francis O'Rourke, the vicar apostolic, was to Abeokuta district. Here he studied the Yoruba language and was introduced to the missionary life. Abeokuta was a well established station, founded in 1880, with a Catholic community of over 3,000 members. It was also the location of the renowned Sacred Heart hospital, founded at the turn of the century by the self taught surgeon, Fr. Jean Marie Coquard.

After two years in Abeokuta Dick was appointed superior of Yaba mission. Yaba was the 'fourth principal station' of Lagos district, a new mission founded in 1932. Dick spent the remaining three years of his first tour of duty ministering to the few hundred Catholic members and seeking to establish the church among the many thousands of non Christians. He clearly impressed his superiors with his work, because on his return to Nigeria in February 1939, he was appointed 'visitor' of the members (responsible to the Provincial for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his confrères). Henceforth he was to work closely, not only with the Provincial administration in Cork, but also with Leo Hale Taylor who had succeeded Bishop O'Rourke in June 1939. Dick resided in St. Theresa's inter vicarial minor seminary, at Oke Are, Ibadan, for the first two years of his visitorship. For the remainder of his second tour he resided at Ijebu Ode (16 months), Ibonwon (9 months) and Oshogbo (9 months), exercising the pastoral ministry in these stations whenever he was at home.

In 1946 Dick was elected by his colleagues as their delegate to the Provincial Assembly of that year and to the General Assembly of 1947. He was also elected as Lagos delegate to the Provincial Assembly of 1952, but did not attend owing to illness. Dick continued as 'visitor' until 1949 when the post was replaced by that of 'regional superior' (the 'regional' took charge of several jurisdictions and had increased responsibilities). During the last two years of his visitorship Dick resided at Holy Cross mission, Lagos. Then he was appointed him administrator of Holy Cross cathedral, a year before the Lagos jurisdiction was erected as an archdiocese.

Dick returned to Ireland in poor health in 1951 and, after a period of convalescence, took up the post of spiritual director at Dromantine in October 1952. From June 1953 he was resident at Blackrock Road where he helped in promotion work while regaining his health. A year later he took up temporary pastoral work in Nottingham diocese. In October 1956, in improved health but still unfit for Africa, he went to Australia, ministering in Armidale, New South Wales, until June 1962. Early in 1957 he was requested by the Irish Provincial, John A. Creaven (who in turn had been instructed by the Superior General, Stephen Harrington) to investigate the possibility of extending the Society to Australia. Dick submitted a comprehensive report to the Superior General in January 1959.

Later, in August 1961, he visited Archbishop Prendiville of Perth, who offered the Society the staffing of a parish and a secondary school in his jurisdiction. After further consultations involving the Archbishop, the Superior General and Fr. Creaven, the Society (through its Irish Province) agreed to take on the management of St. Brendan's secondary college, and to accept the parish of Christ the King, Lefroy Road, Beaconsfield. In January 1963 two Fathers went to Perth to prepare for the opening of the college, which was situated in Beaconsfield parish. St. Brendan's opened its doors at York Street, Hilton, in February 1964, under the principalship of Elisha O'Shea. Dick, who had returned to Lagos and was ministering in Mushin, was recalled by his superiors to take charge of the new parish, arriving in March 1964. Almost inevitably, given his experience, his superiors also nominated him 'regional superior' of the Irish members in Australia.

In October 1968 with the parish and school both well established, Dick requested permission to return to Nigeria although, it must be said, his health was now far from robust. Archbishop John Kwao Amuzu Aggey, who had succeeded Bishop Taylor, assigned Dick to Regina Mundi church at Mushin. Dick remained in charge of this growing mission until March 1976 when he suffered a stroke. He was 69 years when he died. His nephew, Tim Cullinane, became a member of the Society and was ordained a priest in 1964.

He is buried in Mushin, Lagos, Nigeria.