Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

OMEARA Martin Edmund né le 5 novembre 1911 à Kilkee
dans le diocèse de Killaloe, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1934
prêtre le 3 avril 1938
décédé le 27 avril 1992

1938-1971 missionnaire au Liberia
Sasstown, Bassa
1972-1980 diocèse de Nottingham, Angleterre, paroisse
1980-1992 diocèse de Hallam, Angleterre
paroisse de Chesterfield

décédé à Sheffield, Grande-Bretagne, le 27 avril 1992,
à l'âge de 80 ans

Father Martin Edmund O'MEARA (1911 - 1992)

Martin O'Meara was born at Kilkee, Co Clare (the family address was Moloskey, Mullagh), in the diocese of Killaloe, on 5 November 1911. He died in Claremont hospital, Sheffield, England, on Monday, 27 April 1992.

Martin (Mattie) received his secondary education at the Christian Brothers school, Ennistymon, Co Clare. He was twenty years old when he decided to become a missionary priest. In September 1931 he entered the Society's preparatory college, at Ballinafad, Co Mayo, where he received tuition in Latin. A year later he joined the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. Mattie received his theological formation in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down (1934 1938). He was admitted to membership of the Society on 1 July 1934, and was ordained a priest, along with Edward Harrington, by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 3 April 1938.

After ordination Mattie was appointed to the vicariate of Liberia, in West Africa. Liberia was among the most difficult of Africa's mission fields, an impoverished country, thinly populated, with a hazardous climate. Several S.M.A. missionaries had died there, many more had been invalided home or had transferred to other missions where the climate was more favourable. Few missionaries remained there as long as Mattie. He served until 1971, a key member of the missionary staff which under, the leadership of Bishop John Collins (and from 1961 Bishop Francis Carroll), laid the foundations of the modern Liberian Church. During his first tour of duty (1938 1943) Mattie served in Sasstown on the Kru Coast which was the cradle of Catholicism in Liberia; he also ministered in the town of Bassa, a coastal settlement east of Liberia's capital, Monrovia. During his second tour of duty (1944 1949) he served in Cape Palmas and again in Bassa. In 1950 the vicariate was divided and the Kru coast region was erected as a separate jurisdiction, the prefecture of Cape Palmas. Mattie remained attached to the original jurisdiction which was renamed the vicariate of Monrovia. Mattie was serve for five further tours in Liberia.

During his early missionary career Mattie had shown an aptitude for educational work. His first appointment in the Monrovia vicariate, was to his old mission of Bassa where he was placed in charge of St. Peter Claver's junior high school (which trained students to 'intermediate' level). In January 1954 he was appointed founder principal of the new St. Patrick's high school, Monrovia, Liberia's first Catholic secondary school. At the same time he was appointed vicar delegatus and pro vicar, with the authority to act for the bishop in case of absence or delegation. Mattie served also as a member of the regional superior's council. Tom Higgins, the 'regional superior', was responsible for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the members. In December 1954 Mattie returned to Ireland in poor health and had surgery on a number of occasions. He returned to his mission in October 1956, resuming his post in St. Patrick's high school. Three years later he was posted temporarily to the Vatican legation in Monrovia (the Internunciature Apostolic), where he served as secretary to Bishop Collins. With the arrival of another Father in May to work in the legation, Mattie was appointed superior of Gbarnga mission, situated north east of Monrovia, about 100 miles into the interior.

Mattie retired from Liberia in May 1971, only when ill health ruled out further service in the tropics. After a period of convalescence in the S.M.A. house at Blackrock Road, Cork, he applied for pastoral work in Nottingham diocese in February 1972. For the next eight years he served in Our Lady and St. Patrick's parish, London Road, Nottingham. He spent the last twelve years of his life (1980 1992) in Hallam diocese. In England he is remembered not only for his devotion to his parishioners, but also for the missionary dimension which he brought to his work. In Hallam diocese he ministered in the town of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, residing in the Holy Family presbytery on Derby Road. Mattie became ill in March 1992 and little hope for his recovery was held out. He was cared for by the Sisters of Mercy in Claremont Nursing Home, Sheffield, until the time of his death.

A colleague wrote of him in the African Missionary: 'I met Mattie for the first time on 29 December 1951 when I was appointed as his curate and assistant principal of St. Peter Claver's junior high school in Buchanan, Grand Bassa County, Liberia. I later joined him as his vice principal in St. Patrick's high school, in Monrovia. He was a great priest and a man of deep spirituality and intellect. I do not think that I ever met a man with such a profound analytical mind. He loved to be confronted with problems and had a wonderful facility to get to the heart of the matter. Many people of different nationalities and cultures brought their problems to him knowing that they would leave with a practical conclusion and solution. He also loved teaching and he was a wonderful teacher. But it was at the altar and in the pulpit that one saw the real Fr. O'Meara. He loved to proclaim the Good News in word, song and in the rich liturgy of the Church. He was an avid reader who assessed everything he read so his general knowledge was both extensive and comprehensive. A typical Clare man, he was always the life and soul of any gathering or party. He was blessed with an excellent singing voice and he never went anywhere without his tin whistle tucked away in his soutane pocket. As a fluent Irish speaker, a song in Irish came as readily to him as a song in English'.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.