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Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

 tobin richard  Le Père Richard TOBIN
né le 4 avril 1913 à Kilcrohane
dans le diocèse de Cork, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 19 juin 1932
prêtre le 21 décembre 1935
décédé le 15 décembre 1977
 

1936-1946 missionnaire au Nigeria, préfecture de Jos
1947-1952 Ballinafad, collège, supérieur
1953-1968 missionnaire au Nigeria
1953-1959, diocèse de Jos
1955-1959, supérieur régional
1960-1968, diocèse d'Ilorin
1968-1977 diocèse de Liverpool, Angleterre
1977 diocèse de Cork

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 15 décembre 1977,
à l'âge de 65 ans

Father Richard Martin TOBIN (1913 - 1977)

Richard Tobin was born at Kilcrohane, Bantry, Co Cork, in the diocese of Cork, on 4 April 1913. He died in his sister's house, at Glencoo Lawn, Boreenmanna Road, Cork, on 15 December 1977.

Richard (Dick) studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1925 1927) and at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1927 1930), before joining the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He studied theology in the major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, from 1932 1936. He was received as a member of the Society on 19 June 1932, and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 21 December 1935. He was one of a group of twenty-one ordained on that day.

After ordination Dick was assigned to the prefecture of Jos, in northern Nigeria. He reached his mission in October 1936, joining a staff of 15 missionaries (mostly young Irishmen) under the leadership of William Lumley who had been appointed prefect apostolic with the erection of the jurisdiction in 1934. A year after Dick's arrival, in October 1937, two of his colleagues, Tony O'Dwyer and John Marren, were to fall victim to the dreaded yellow fever. Both had been his fellow students in Dromantine. In the immediate aftermath of this calamity and other losses, Dick showed those qualities of courage, leadership and vision which were to mark him out for senior posts of responsibility in the future. During the eleven years of his first spell in the prefecture he was to be in the forefront of the mission's campaign to carry the Gospel beyond the railway line stations (where the Church communities were largely immigrants from the east) to the indigenous population. His first appointment was to Udei district, a vast territory which comprised the principal station of Udei and numerous secondary stations including Makurdi and Kafanchan (both dioceses today).

Dick was instructed by Mgr. Lumley to concentrate on learning the Tiv language, and by April 1937 the prefect was able to report that 'Fr. Tobin already speaks his Tiv fluently.' Dick suffered a lot of illness in the first two years, however he relished his work, writing to his Provincial, Stephen Harrington, that 'this is a most promising mission; we are making steady progress and the people make the most genuine Catholics. The chiefs in the district do everything they can for me...' As part of his policy for developing Catholicism among the Tiv's, Mgr. Lumley had established a catechist-teacher training centre at Udei, with some 60 students. Dick, with his growing knowledge of the language, took an active part in the development of this training centre and was, in effect, its founding principal. However, increasingly after 1938, when he was appointed superior of the mission district, he spent much of his time trekking from his central station at Udei into the interior, opening up outstations among the scattered population and ministering to the little congregations already established. He was particularly concerned, at this time, to 'concentrate on the native tribe of the place', while providing the Igbo Catholics (who were immigrants from the east and had traditionally formed the strongest element in the Church) with 'every facility for the sacraments'. Dick went to Ireland on his first home leave in August 1941. Because it was wartime it was difficult to secure a return passage to Nigeria. However in March 1943 Dick managed to get a place on a convoy, and he was soon back in charge of Udei district. His regular correspondence with Stephen Harrington, gives an excellent description of his labours during these years, and particularly his great joy as the Church grew stronger from day to day.

Following the Provincial Assembly of 1946 Dick was recalled to Ireland to take up the post of superior at Ballinafad (August 1947), entrusted with supervising the crucial first phase in the formation of students for the Society. Four years later, in January 1952, he returned to Jos which in the following year became a diocese under Bishop John Reddington. Dick was nominated by his superiors as 'regional superior', entrusted with the welfare of all S.M.A. members in the Northern Region (in Jos and Kaduna dioceses), a post of vital importance both for the Society and the mission. He served as 'regional' from February 1955 until September 1959. In April 1960, Dick was incorporated into the prefecture of Ilorin, which had been erected in January of the same year and which had a staff of eight priests. Dick was appointed vicar delegatus to the prefect, William Mahony, and ministered in St. Joseph's mission, Ilorin town until 1968. Dick's wealth of experience was invaluable to Mgr. Mahony and his young missionary staff.

Dick was elected a delegate to the Provincial Assembly of 1968 by his colleagues in the Western Region of Nigeria. After the Assembly, advised against returning to the tropics because of increasing ill-health, he took up a pastoral appointment in the archdiocese of Liverpool. He spent the next eight years in St. Patrick's parish, Wigan. Dick kept closely in touch with the Society and in 1973 was elected delegate for Irish S.M.A. members in Great Britain to the Provincial Assembly of that year. In May 1977, six months before his death, Dick returned to Ireland, taking up a chaplaincy with the Brothers of Charity, at Rochestown, Cork. Throughout his missionary life, Dick was popular with his fellow priests and the people he served. He had a witty turn of phrase and coined expressions which took their place in the folk-memory of the province. Dick had a great capacity to get a job done properly, which was doubtless the reason so much responsibility was thrust upon him (which he accepted without demur) by his superiors.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.