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Société des Missions Africaines - Province des Etats-Unis

MAGEE Ernest né le 5 décembre 1922 à Belfast
dans le diocèse de Down & Connor, Irlande
serment perpétuel le 15 juin 1945
prêtre le 15 juin 1946
décédé 1er juillet 1997

1949 paroisse Notre-Dame de Lourdes, Atlanta, vicaire
1950-1964 Dedham, séminaire, économe et professeur
1964-1968 Dedham, animation missionnaire
et vocationnelle
1968-1973 Tenafly, conseiller provincial
et procureur
1973-1997 Tenafly, économe provincial

décédé à l’hôpital de Teaneck, Etats-Unis, le 1er juillet 1997
à l’âge de 74 ans


Father Ernest Malachi MAGEE (1922 - 1997)

Ernest Magee was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on December 5, 1922. He died on July 1, 1997, in Holy Name Hospital, Teaneck, New Jersey, USA.

Ernest (Ernie) Magee was one of three children born to John and Catherine (nee Magee). He received his primary education at St. Patrick’s school, Donegall Street (1930-35). When the family moved to New York in 1935 Ernie attended St. Luke’s school at 139 Street, the Bronx. Three years later his mother died and his father brought the family back to Ireland. Ernie enrolled at St. Mary’s CBS, Belfast, graduating in June 1938. After secondary school Ernie went to Mungret College, Limerick, where young men wishing to become priests, but not attached to any diocese or religious order, studied Latin and Philosophy (1938-1940). In September 1940, through the influence of a friend, Ernie decided to join the Society of African Missions and entered the Novitiate and House of Philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. Two years later he commenced his theological formation in the Society’s major seminary at Dromantine, Co Down. Ernie became member of the Society on June 15, 1945 and was ordained a priest in St. Colman’s cathedral, Newry, Co Down, on June 15, 1946. Prefect of his class, he was one of a group of fourteen ordained on that day by the Bishop of Dromore, Eugene O’Doherty.

After ordination Ernie was sent to Rome for further studies, obtaining a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) in 1948. At this time important developments in the Society’s American works were taking place. In 1941 Society leaders considered the American branch sufficiently developed to merit Provincial status and after the War it was decided to dispatch a number of Society members, mainly from the Irish Province, to assist in the work of expansion. Ernie came to the USA in September 1949, receiving an appointment as assistant pastor in Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Atlanta, Georgia. However, given his theology Licentiate, it was clear that exercise of the pastoral ministry would soon give way to the apostolate of education and formation. Hence it came as no surprise when in September 1950 he was assigned to the teaching staff of Queen of Apostles, the Province’s new major seminary at Dedham, Massachusetts. Here he taught Greek, Mathematics and Religion. In addition to his academic work Ernie was asked to serve as house bursar. Almost immediately it became apparent to his colleagues in Dedham that Ernie had an exceptional talent for financial management and administration. This occupied his time increasingly when the Society adopted the policy of sending the seminarians to the neighboring Colleges for their academic work. Nor did this talent go unnoticed by his superiors in the Provincialate at Tenafly. In September 1964 Ernie was freed from his teaching duties in order to organize the promotional work in Dedham. In this capacity he had charge of the Perpetual Mass Association and general mailing campaigns. In addition he served as bursar of the Promotion house. When, in 1967 the Dedham seminary was closed because of a shortage of entrants, a new phase opened in Ernie’s career. Elected a member of the Provincial Council at the 1968 Assembly, he was appointed ‘Provincial Procurator and Coordinator of Finances for the American Province’. Five years later, at the next Assembly, he was re-appointed to this post – its title simplified to that of ‘Provincial Treasurer’ and re-appointed by subsequent Provincial Administrations up to the time of his death in 1997.

Ernie’s talent for administration and fiscal management meant that he was never to set foot in Africa. But his dedication to Africa and the work of evangelization shone through in the manner he discharged the highly responsible tasks given him by his superiors. Without a sound administrative structure at home those in the field could not hope to accomplish their mission. Ernie played a crucial role in providing that structure. Moreover his contribution went far beyond the bounds of the Society and the Province. During the protracted Liberian Civil War the Society provided a lifeline to the victims of violence. Ernie was to spend long hours in this work, liaising with Liberia’s church leaders and with various aid agencies to ensure that help was provided

The homilist at Ernie’s Requiem Mass summed up his life and work fittingly as follows: ‘Fr. Magee was the abiding reliable strength that kept the Province and its missions going. The missionaries were supplied, the sick and retired members were cared for, and the bills were paid. What was left over, he wisely invested. In some very difficult times, he endured the financial headaches for us all. … From his tiny office in the cellar of the house he experienced little of the mighty ripple effect of his skilled ministry on the missions; he experienced almost none of the glory and yet “he was the wind beneath our wings”. As a pastoral man he performed numerous chaplaincies over the years. As he got older his generosity was limited only by his fears, his fear of driving in the snow to say Mass in the Academy; his fear of flying which prevented him from going home to Belfast as often as he would like to be with his sister; his fear of doctors and hospitals and crowds. These crosses were an embarrassment to him at times, but he hoped “we” would understand and we did. A quiet, shy man, who preferred the background, we saw him as a man who breathed integrity and whose faith was simple and uncomplicated.’

He is buried in the SMA Community Plot in Mount Carmel Cemetery, Tenafly, NJ, USA.