Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

SHEEHAN William né le 30 juillet 1927 à Whitechurch
dans le diocèse de Cloyne, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 30 juin 1949
prêtre le 17 juin 1953
décédé le 11 mai 1990

1953-1957 missionnaire au Nigeria
préfecture d'Ibadan
1958-1965 Blackrock Road, Cork, promotion
1965-1990 missionnaire au Nigeria
diocèse d'Ibadan

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 11 mai 1990,
à l'âge de 62 ans

Father William SHEEHAN (1927 - 1990)

William Sheehan was born at Whitechurch, Blarney, Co Cork, in the diocese of Cloyne, on 30 July 1927. He died, unexpectedly, at his family home in Whitechurch, Co Cork, on 11 May 1990.

William (Willie) studied at St. Colman's diocesan college, Fermoy, Co Cork, from 1942 1946. He entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of 1947. Between 1949 1953 he studied theology in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down. Willie was admitted as a member of the Society on 30 June 1949. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on l7 June 1953. He was one of a group of eleven ordained on that day.

Willie set out for Nigeria on 22nd October 1953, sailing from Liverpool on the M.V. Aureol, accompanied by Anthony O'Donnell, a classmate. Both had been appointed to the prefecture of Ibadan. This prefecture was originally part of the archdiocese of Lagos. On 13 March 1952 the districts of Ibadan was detached from the archdiocese and formed as a separate prefecture under the leadership of Richard Finn. William joined a staff of 15 missionaries, staffing Ogunpa station (founded in 1907), Oke Offa (1936), Oke Ado (1950), Odo Ona (1952), Ibadan university station (1948). The inter diocesan minor seminary was also located in Ibadan, at Oke Are and it was to this important institution, named after St. Theresa, that William was assigned on his arrival. At the time there were 70 students in training, from the jurisdictions of Lagos, Benin City, Ondo, Jos, Oyo, Calabar, Kaduna, Ibadan, Monrovia, and Cape Palmas. Frank McCabe was superior, while the other Irish member of staff was James O'Hea (later Jim Tobin and Sean Cantillon came on the staff). During these years Willie proved himself an able teacher and formator of students for the priesthood. He served in St. Theresa's until December 1957 when he came home on leave, travelling by aeroplane from Ikeja, Lagos

In July 1958, while he was on vacation, Willie received notification from the Provincial, John A. Creaven, that he had been appointed to the Propaganda staff of the Province. Fr. Creaven later explained to Mgr. Finn that the propaganda team was understaffed and needed to be strengthened. Willie took up residence at Blackrock Road in August 1958. He proved a very effective promoter of the missionary cause. He was painstaking in dealing with the heavy paperwork which crossed his desk always taking time to answer letters personally. He was excellent with people, and full of the missions. Several of the altar boys attached to the public church at Blackrock Road, who were later to join the Society, were first led to consider a missionary vocation by Willie.

Nonetheless his heart was in Africa and it was with great joy that he received news of his re assignment to the diocese of Ibadan in March 1965. It must be said that he returned to Africa despite serious warnings about his health, warnings which were first given during a spell in hospital in 1964. Yet in spite of recurrent sickness he was minister in Nigeria for a further 25 years, until the time of his death. Living as he used to say on borrowed time, he preached the Gospel in season and out of season in Oke Ado, Iwo, Oke Offa, Oke Padi, Mokola, Yemetu, and finally in Eleta. Also, for a period, he was director of vocations for the diocese, and during all his years in Nigeria he took a particular interest in encouraging vocations and seminarians. Willie returned to Ireland from Ibadan on 17 April 1990. He was unwell and visited the doctor on 8th May. He was waiting to be admitted to the Bon Secours hospital, Cork, when he died. His mother, alive at the time of his death, went to her own reward seven months later.

Willie was a shy, retiring person, yet highly popular within the Society and in his own community of Whitechurch. In his younger days he was a fine hurler, commanding his position of full back. He was especially esteemed by his colleagues and parishioners in Ibadan, who were struck not only by his priestly qualities but also by his courage and determination in returning to his mission while in poor health. The archbishop of Lagos, Anthony Olubunmi Okogie, writing to the Provincial on hearing of Willie's death said: 'Fr. Sheehan was a great teacher, a loving father, a disciplinarian, a man of prayer, humble and above all an exemplary priest. A good number of the Nigerian hierarchy and priests were taught by him in Oke Are. In fact his achievements in the educational and pastoral fields will continue to keep his memory alive in us'.

The Nigerian Independent for 20 May 1990, reported that 'on Monday May 14 Bishop Felix A. Job of Ibadan diocese, more than 30 priests, and a great crowd of people went to Eleta Catholic church for a concelebrated Requiem Mass for the repose of Fr. Sheehan's soul. In his homily Bishop Job told many anecdotes of Fr. Sheehan, and said that he had been his teacher. He added that Fr. Sheehan was a sick man for many years and at the end he could hardly stand, but he was always working for the good of the whole Church, thinking out new places that might be opened up as outstations'.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.