Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

 kennedy j  Le Père John Joseph KENNEDY
né le 4 novembre 1902
dans le diocèse de Dublin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 3 juillet 1928
prêtre le 4 juin 1932
décédé le 20 décembre 1950

1932-1950 missionnaire au Liberia

décédé à Dublin, Irlande, le 20 décembre 1950,
à l’âge de 48 ans

(biographie en anglais à la suite)

Le père John Joseph KENNEDY (1902 - 1950)

A Dublin (Irlande), le 20 décembre 1950, retour à Dieu du père John Kennedy, à l'âge de 48 ans.

John Kennedy naquit à Dublin, en Irlande, en 1902. Il fit ses études dans les maisons de la Société. Il fit le serment en 1928 et fut ordonné prêtre en 1932. Missionnaire au Liberia de 1932 à 1949, le père Kennedy travailla à Bassa et à Monrovia. Il devenait pro-vicaire en 1946.

Le père Kennedy était rentré en Irlande pour y subir une opération. Celle-ci réussit parfaitement, mais il se forma un caillot de sang qui parvint aux poumons et ce fut la fin.

Father John Joseph KENNEDY (1902 - 1950)

John Kennedy was born in Eccles Street, Dublin (St. Michan's parish), on 4 November 1902. He died in the Bon Secours hospital, Glasnevin, Dublin, on 20 December 1950.

John was one of a family of 5 boys and 2 girls. He was educated in the Irish colleges of the Society. He studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1922 1924), and St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1924 1926), before entering the novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He took his oath of membership on 3 July 1928 and, having completed his theological training at Dromantine, Co Down, he was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, on 12 June 1932, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry (the year of the Eucharistic Congress which he attended). He was one of a group of eight ordained on that day.

John served as a missionary in Liberia between 1932 1949. This 'Black Republic', founded early in the 19th century by the descendants of freed slaves from the U.S.A., was a thinly-populated country with a weak economy, an uncertain political situation and a difficult climate. When John arrived in Liberia in October 1932, John Collins, the prefect apostolic (he had been appointed in February of the same year), assigned him to the district of Bassa, about 70 miles east of Monrovia. Patrick McKenna (from Armagh) was superior of this district, which had two mission stations, Bassa town, and Drawquiah. Bassa mission, founded in 1929 had a total of 160 Catholics, 35 catechumens and a good elementary school (285 pupils, girls and boys). In addition there was a small minor seminary, an institution of vital importance for the prefecture, where candidates for the priesthood received secondary education. Drawquiah, founded in 1932, had just six catholic members, however the number of catechumens was high (some 105), giving hope for the future. John adapted to his new environment quickly, and soon was visiting outlying districts where outstations might be founded, such as River Cess, Edina, Marshall and Little Kola. He also took charge of the minor seminary in which there were about 10 students. John was to spend all of his first tour of duty (1932 1936) in Bassa. In 1935 he became superior of the district, with Thomas O'Shaughnessy as his assistant.

John went on home leave in June 1936, returning to Liberia exactly a year later. In 1934 the prefecture had been erected as a vicariate and John Collins was nominated first bishop. Bishop Collins was deeply conscious of the weakness of the Church in Monrovia, Liberia's capital. Efforts in the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th century to plant the Church in Monrovia had failed. Mgr. Ogé, who was then prefect, had re-opened the mission in 1921, but it was only when Bishop Collins was appointed that real progress began to be made. When John returned to Liberia he was appointed to Monrovia district where four Fathers were deployed. The district had two principal stations (Monrovia and Kekru) and three outstations (Kakata, Kingsville and Owensgrove). Other areas visited by the Fathers were Krootown, Bassatown, the Firestone (rubber) plantation, and New Georgia.

In 1939 John became superior of the Monrovia district, and he remained in charge until 1943. In the opening months of that year John's health deteriorated sharply - he had been six years at his post - and although it was wartime and sea passages to Europe were extremely difficult to secure, Bishop Collins insisted that he should return home. Eventually, in November, John managed to get on a convoy bound for Europe. He made a good recovery and, a year later, managed to return to his mission. John resumed his duties as superior of Monrovia district, remaining in this post throughout his tour of duty. It was during this tour, in 1946, when Bishop Collins was invalided to Ireland seriously ill, at a time of great uncertainty on the mission, that John (who, in addition to his other responsibilities, was pro-vicar of the jurisdiction) assumed effective charge of the vicariate. His contribution during these years was of the greatest importance. No less was his contribution as pro-vicar in assisting Bishop Collins when he returned to Liberia early in 1947. John is also remembered for having encouraged Liberia's first vocation to priesthood, Patrick Kla Juwle, of the Kru tribe. He brought Fr. Juwle to Dublin for some months after his ordination in 1948.

Inevitably the years of hard work in such a difficult environment exacted their price and in 1949 John was forced to return to Ireland for medical attention from which he failed to recover. John was gifted with a great sense of humour, a quiet voice and manner, and a talent for administration. He was described by Bishop Collins, who he served so faithfully, as 'a most zealous, capable and experienced missionary... His death', Bishop Collins added, ' is the most serious loss that could have befallen the mission'. He was an uncle of William Kennedy S.M.A.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.