Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

WALSH Maurice né le 22 avril 1909 à Kilkenny
dans le diocèse d'Ossory, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 19 juin 1932
prêtre le 21 décembre 1935
décédé le 21 mai 1969

1936-1947 missionnaire au Nigeria
1947-1959 Cork
1959-1969 Angleterre, au service de la Province de G.B.

décédé à Dutton Manor, Grande-Bretagne, le 21 mai 1969,
à l'âge de 60 ans

Father Maurice Oliver WALSH (1909 - 1969)

Maurice Oliver Walsh was born in Kilkenny, in the diocese of Ossory, on 22 May 1909. He died at Dutton Manor, Lancashire, England, on 21 May 1969.

Although born in Kilkenny, Maurice (Mossie) was a native of Youghal. The family address was 'South Abbey Cottage', Youghal. Maurice studied at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, between 1926 1930. He came to Kilcolgan, Co Galway, the Society's house of philosophy and novitiate, in the autumn of 1930. He studied theology in the Society's seminary at Dromantine, Co Down, between 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 Maurice was appointed to the vicariate of Western Nigeria. This was the first jurisdiction in Nigeria entrusted to the Irish Province, when in 1918 Thomas Broderick was appointed vicar apostolic. Maurice's first appointment, given to him by Leo Hale Taylor (Bishop Broderick's successor), on his arrival in October 1936, was to Asaba. Not only was Asaba the headquarters of the vicariate, but it was also home of the major inter vicarial seminary. This institution provided seminary training for candidates from all the Society's missions in Nigeria (west, south west and north). Maurice was posted to the staff of the seminary, where John O'Shea was principal and the other member of staff was the veteran Alsatian missionary, Eugène Strub. There were 18 students, studying theology, philosophy and classics. In 1938, just before he was appointed vicar apostolic of another jurisdiction, Bishop Taylor transferred the seat of the vicariate and the major seminary from Asaba to Benin City. Late in 1939 Michael Foley was appointed to the seminary in place of Maurice who became assistant priest in Benin City mission to Sexton Cahill, who was acting 'visitor' of the confrères (responsible for their welfare). Maurice spent the eight months of his first tour of duty in Sapele district, a well established mission with a Catholic membership of almost 3,000 members and 1,200 catechumens.

Maurice went on his first home leave in March 1941. After his return to Nigeria in June 1942, Bishop Patrick J. Kelly (who succeeded Bishop Taylor) appointed him to Agenebode district. The principal station of Agenebode was one of the oldest missions in the jurisdiction, established in 1897. The district had a Catholic membership of almost 3,500 and almost 3,000 catechumens, located in Agenebode and its 42 secondary stations. In January 1943 the vicariate was renamed the vicariate of Asaba Benin, and seven years later became the diocese of Benin City. In January 1945 Maurice returned to the major seminary at Benin City as rector. He was, in fact, one of two members of staff, who taught their complement of students (six to fifteen) all the subjects required by the Church for their ordination. Many of these students were later to become Nigeria's bishops and archbishops.

In December 1946 Maurice was invalided home seriously ill. After a long period in hospital, during which he lost a kidney, he made a good recovery and was appointed superior of the S.M.A. house at Blackrock Road, Cork. Residing in the house was the Provincial and the Provincial procurator, the Province's promotion and recruitment teams, several student priests attending U.C.C., priests invalided or resting from Africa, and five brothers engaged in various apostolates. Maurice remained as superior of this busy community until 1952, after which he served for a year as house bursar. His next appointment was to St. Francis Xavier's hostel at Doughcloyne, the university residence for African students opened by the Society in 1947. He was superior at St. Xavier's from October 1953 until October 1959. Subsequently he was attached to the Society's procure at Ullet Road, Sefton Park, Liverpool, which served as a 'transit centre' for confrères travelling to and from Africa.

Early in 1963, with the closure of the Ullet Road house, Maurice was seconded to the British district of the Society which was then preparing for Provincial status. Maurice played an important role in the formation of candidates for the Province. He served as superior of the major seminary at Dutton Manor, and later at Allerton Park in Yorkshire; and finally superior of the novitiate. A founder member of the new Province, which was erected in 1968, he was also one of the first Provincial councillors to the British Provincial, Michael Walsh. Fr. Michael records that Maurice was 'well loved, not only by the confrères and the seminarists, but by the many lay helpers who came to visit Dutton and Allerton Park while he was in charge. He was always the perfect host and had time for people, not for any personal social satisfaction but to inspire in them a love for the missions and a desire to help. One of his last good deeds was to recruit an Irish doctor and Irish teacher for service in Nigeria'.

A colleague painted the following portrait of Maurice shortly after his death: 'I was fortunate to know "Mossie" since boyhood days in Wilton college. My early recollections are of a cleanly cut youth with a lithe, athletic body, enthusiastic about study, games, gardening, grotto building and dramatics. What a wonderful "Matt the Thrasher" in our presentation of "Knocknagow" in the novitiate! He was a mighty wielder of the "caman". When he arrived in Africa for the first time, he immediately became absorbed in the missionary task of bringing the Gospel to the Nigerians. He served in various spheres trekking, teaching, preaching, catechising, as professor and later superior of the seminary... For many years, despite rapidly failing health, he strove to carry on. Mossie loved life and "the beauty of this world". He loved and ardently admired the accomplishments of man in art, literature, and architecture. A great reader, he always kept an up to date outlook. He lived and died gently'.

He was buried in Wilton cemetery.