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Société des Missions Africaines - Province d’Irlande

GUBBINS John né le 1er novembre 1931 à Ballyoran
dans le diocèse de Cloyne, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1952
prêtre le 13 juin 1956
décédé le 12 mai 1995

1956-1960 Cork, études
1960-1995 archidiocèse de Kaduna, Nigeria

décédé à Lagos, Nigeria, le 12 mai 1995
à l’âge de 63 ans


Father John GUBBINS (1931 - 1995)

John Gubbins was born in Ballyoran, Fermoy, Co Cork, in the diocese of Cloyne, on 1 November 1931. He died after a short illness, in St. Nicholas hospital, Lagos, Nigeria, on 12 May 1995.

A native of Corrin, Castlelyons, Co Cork, John (Johnny) was educated in the Christian Brothers school, Fermoy (1946 1950). Having obtained his leaving certificate, in September 1950 he entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. John studied theology in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down (1952 1956). He was received as a member of the Society on 2 July 1952 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 13 June 1956. He was one of a class of thirteen ordained on that day.

After ordination John was sent for further studies. Residing in Wilton he attended U.C.C. for four years, taking an honours degree in English and history in 1959 and a higher diploma in education, in 1960. Having graduated John was appointed to the archdiocese of Kaduna which had been erected a year previously, in July 1959. The mission to northern Nigeria had been pioneered in 1907 when three S.M.A. priests travelled to Shendam and established a station. The prefecture of Northern Nigeria had been erected in 1929. Five years later this prefecture was divided into the separate jurisdictions of Jos and Kaduna.

John was to serve in the Kaduna jurisdiction continuously for thirty five years. On his arrival, in November 1960, he was sent to Kagoro for his tyrocinium course where he studied Hausa, learned about African religions, customs, social organisation, and undertook supervised pastoral work. Inevitably, given his fine scholastic record, his first substantive appointment, given him by Archbishop John McCarthy in April 1961, was to a teaching ministry. He was posted as vice principal of St. Thomas's secondary college, in Kano. In September 1962 John was appointed to the staff of St. John's secondary school, Kaduna City. This college, founded in January 1949 by Jack O'Hara, had some 200 pupils in residence, studying for the West African school certificate. John taught in this college until 1978, spending his weekends doing pastoral work in the neighbouring villages. He then took up a lecturing post in the Katsina teacher training college.

In 1980 John contracted a virulent form of arthritis which affected his wrists, fingers, neck, shoulders, knees, feet and ankles. After treatment he made a good recovery, although the condition was to flare up from time to time in subsequent years. John could well have been excused for retiring to Ireland at this time. However he insisted on staying at his post and, indeed, was to remain in Nigeria until the time of his death, fifteen years later. One of the many burdens which this illness brought was a difficulty in playing golf, a game in which he excelled. John played a little after the onset of his illness and in later years 'walked the course' with playing colleagues.

John had spent most of his priestly ministry as a teacher. Nonetheless he had always reserved his weekends exclusively for pastoral work, and built up a number of outstations during his years in Kaduna, which are now parishes. In 1981 Archbishop Peter Yariyok Jatau, who had succeeded Archbishop McCarthy in 1975, assigned John to Birnin Gwari where he was engaged in primary evangelisation among the Gwari people. John relished the challenge of his new environment. Three years later he was appointed to St. Andrew's parish, Kakuri, Kaduna south. He proved an energetic pastor, who related well to his people. He was also a capable administrator and forward looking in his approach. A little more than a year before his death he was busy extending his parish church. John was very knowledgeable about building construction, and took a 'hands on' approach, personally directing the masons, carpenters and other tradesmen. He was also an entertaining host and brilliant conversationalist. A fine actor in his student days he was also a talented mimic who 'brought to life' at Society gatherings absent colleagues or those long since departed. He was also a fine singer.

A colleague who knew him well wrote of John on learning of his death: 'He related well to Nigerians. The people drew him back long after his body had started protesting. He took the trouble to get to know the living circumstances of his parishioners and was often appalled at the hardships they had to endure. He then set out to help them. He had a soft spot for those who were down and out or in trouble'. Another colleague commented: 'John took practical steps to help his people many of whom lived in extreme poverty. This he did by buying corn and selling it at highly subsidised rates. He paid hospital bills for poor people in need of medical attention. He helped innumerable students to get an education through his personal financial support. These were not things he spoke of'. John became gravely ill early in May 1995 and was flown to Lagos for treatment. However he failed to rally. Fittingly, his body was brought back to Kaduna for burial. His Requiem Mass, celebrated in St. Andrew's Church, Kaduna, was attended by his sister, nephew and niece who travelled out from Ireland. John was the first member of his class to die.

He is buried in the cemetery of Our Lady's Church, Kaduna City, northern Nigeria.