Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

SHINE William né le 6 septembre 1888 à Clonown
dans le diocèse d’Elphin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 31 octobre 1911
prêtre le 22 juin 1913
décédé le 9 mai 1914

1913-1914 missionnaire au Liberia pendant 6 mois

décédé à Sasstown, Liberia, le 9 mai 1914,
à l’âge de 26 ans

Le père William SHINE (1888 - 1914)

A Sasstown (Liberia), le 9 mai 1914, retour à Dieu du père William Shine, à l'âge de 26 ans.

William Shine naquit à Athlone, dans le diocèse d'Elphin (Irlande), en 1888. Il fit le serment en 1911 et fut ordonné prêtre en 1913. Peu après il partait pour la préfecture du Liberia. Après 6 mois de séjour, une attaque de malaria a mis à l'épreuve un cœur faible qui a cédé. Le père Shine est la première victime du climat au Liberia. S'il avait pu avoir à temps les soins des médecins, il s'en serait tiré.

Doux, jovial, généreux, d'une bonne et heureuse nature, le père Shine a, par sa mort, "enraciné" la province d'Irlande au Liberia.

Father William SHINE (1889 - 1914)

William Shine was born in Athlone, in the diocese of Elphin, on 16 September 1889. He died at New Sasstown, Liberia, on 9 May 1914.

William studied at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1902 1908), and St. Joseph's major seminary, Blackrock Road, Cork (1908 1913). He was received as a member of the Society on 31 October 191l and was ordained a priest at St. Patrick's college, Maynooth, Co Kildare, on 22nd June 1913. He was one of sixty five priests to be ordained on that day by Bishop Nicholas Canali, secretary of the Ceremonial Congregation in Rome. A week earlier, William had received his diaconate from Bishop Robert Browne of Cloyne in the public church adjoining the Wilton college; on the same occasion the other members of his class they had already received diaconate were ordained priests; they were John Collins (later bishop in Liberia), Eugene O'Hea, and Joseph Crawford. The reason for the very brief delay in William's ordination is unknown, but it may well have related to a dispensation from Rome which had to be obtained on grounds of age, since William was 23 years old at the time of his ordination.

On 15 October 1913, William set out for Africa, for the prefecture of Liberia, with Peter Harrington, John Collins and Eugene O'Hea. They were the first group of missionaries from the newly erected Irish Province (formed in 1912) to go to Africa. Liberia, situated on the West Coast, was a 'Black Republic', founded by emancipated American slaves in the early decades of the 19th century. It was a poor country with a small scattered population. There was also much tension between the Americo Liberian ruling elite and the indigenous population. Efforts to establish the Church in Monrovia, the capital, had failed during the 19th century on three occasions. The S.M.A. had been entrusted with the prefecture in 1906, when Stephen Kyne, an Irish member of the Society, pioneered a new attempt. His expedition made little progress in the Monrovia district where, as on previous occasions, virulent anti Catholic sects made difficulties for the Fathers.

In 1911 the prefect apostolic, Jean Ogé (he had replaced Mgr. Kyne in 1910), decided to close the mission in Monrovia and to attempt a foundation on the Kru Coast, over a hundred miles east of the capital, where there was virtually no Americo Liberian presence. Accordingly stations were founded in two towns a kilometre apart, named Old Sasstown and New Sasstown, each containing 5,000 inhabitants, ruled by separate chiefs and fiercely jealous of each other. In the Spring of 1912 solid concrete houses were constructed under Mgr. Ogé's supervision in both towns and Joseph Schermesser and Jean Marie Cessou were installed, the former in New Sasstown, the latter at Old Sasstown. It was to the Sasstowns that the young Irish missionaries were appointed on their arrival in Liberia towards the end of October. William was posted to New Sasstown.

William arrived at a time when a church was being constructed in Old Sasstown (the Sacred Heart church) and plans were afoot to build a church in Our Lady of Lourdes mission at New Sasstown. William took an active part in the construction phase of the New Sasstown church which began in February 1914. Indeed according to a report from his colleague, John Collins, 'for the building of the church he (William) put in at least half the cement and in all the other works he always did a man's share very well'. Nonetheless soon after William took up his post Mgr. Ogé was expressing concern about his health. 'Fr. Shine has been experiencing a swelling of the right leg since he came here. I sincerely hope it is not a sign of heart disease'. William shrugged off this concern and refused to let it interfere with his work. His letters home unveil a spirit of selfless devotion to his mission.

However the deadly African climate soon played havoc with his constitution. On the evening of 28 April he felt feverish and went to bed early. John Collins, at the time the only other priest at New Sasstown, tended him during the night and in the morning sent for Fr. Cessou who had a reputation for 'medical knowledge'. 'The fever remained rather high in the following week', Fr. Collins reported, 'though it never went dangerously high. Each day expected to see it gone and he was in hopes of being able to sit up for a few hours some days. No one had the slightest idea that it would prove fatal. He was quite cheerful some days and joked as usual though the long stay in bed was irksome'. On 4th May Fr. Cessou visited in the morning and Peter Harrington came in the evening. William took all the prescribed drinks and followed all the instructions given him. 'After supper, however, he became slightly delirious and restless and could not keep the bed clothes properly around him'. Fr. Collins sat up with him through the night observing that while William took drinks as usual, his raving got more excited as the night wore on. At 5.30 a.m. he got quieter and soon became unconscious. Fr. Collins then sent a message to Fr. Cessou requesting him to come at once. Soon it became evident that William was getting weaker and Fr. Collins administered the last sacraments. The people who had assembled for the morning Mass came around his bedside and recited the rosary. He died shortly afterwards.

William was the Society's first victim of the climate in Liberia and the first member of the Irish Province to die in Africa. If he had access to medical care it seems he would have pulled through. But none was available. His death came as a great shock to his colleagues in Ireland, many of whom were still in the seminary. His obituary in the African Missionary recorded that 'the sad little procession, composed of his four surviving confrères and some Africans, laid him peacefully to rest close by the little mission station where he had hoped to labour for many years amongst these poor Kru people'. A letter from Edward Laqueyrie, the Society's vicar general who knew him in Lyon remarked: 'Father Shine was a man of quality, with an excellent nature. I have no doubt that his death will have no unfavourable repercussions on his confrères in Liberia or on those preparing for that mission. The opposite will be the case'. John Collins, who attended William throughout his illness and at the end, wrote: 'During his short stay in Africa William had the consolation of many baptisms and some of them had already become his intercessors in heaven. I can safely say that he was far happier here than he was at any time during the years I knew him'. William's grave in Sasstown is marked by a small but beautiful marble Celtic cross. William was 25 years old when he died.

He is buried in the mission compound at New Sasstown, Liberia