Société des Missions Africaines - Province d’Irlande

HOULIBAN Peter né le 7 juillet 1914 à Ballinranning
dans le diocèse de Kerry, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 18 août 1941
décédé le 4 juin 2001

1941-1942 Kilcogan, comté de Galway
1942-1955 Blackrock Road, Cork 
1955-1961 Kilcogan, comté de Galway
1961-1962 Gêne, Italie
1962-1969 Blackrock Road, Cork 
1969-1970 Kilcogan, comté de Galway
1970-1984 Blackrock Road, Cork, animation
missionnaire et vocationnelle
1984-2001 Blackrock Road, Cork, retiré

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 4 juin 2001
à l’âge de 86 ans

Brother Peter Joseph HOULIHAN (1914 - 2001)

Peter Houlihan was born at Ballinranning, Dingle, Co Kerry, in the parish of Ballyferriter, on 7th July 1914. He died in St. Theresa’s nursing unit, SMA House, Blackrock Road, on 4 June 2001.

The son of Thomas and Margaret Houlihan, Peter (Peadar) was born into a family of eight boys and two girls. Reared in the Dingle Gaeltacht Irish was his first language. His elder brother, Joseph, attended All Hallows College and then volunteered to join the Kiltegan Fathers. Subsequently Joseph worked as a missionary in Nigeria and later in Kenya where he was appointed Prefect Apostolic (1954) and later Bishop of the Eldoret jurisdiction. He died in the early 1970’s. The youngest member of the family, Brendan became a Commandant in the Irish Army and served for several years as aide-de-camp to President de Valera. Peter’s interest in joining the SMA was aroused by an article in the African Missionary which he came across while at Ballyferriter National School.

The parish priest of Ballyferriter, Fr. Tom Moriarty, aware of his interest in becoming a Brother, wrote to the SMA on his behalf. Peter commenced his novitiate with the Society at Kilcolgan in September 1939. On 18th August 1941 he was admitted to temporary membership of the Society and made his permanent commitment on 18th August 1947. After his novitiate Peter was posted to the SMA house at Blackrock Road, taking up residence there in October 1942. He had many duties, including reception of visitors, maintenance of the house, seeing to the needs of those returning from the missions and serving as house Sacristan. He was to remain in Cork until April 1955 when he returned to Kilcolgan, where his hearty laugh, sense of humour, and encyclopaedic knowledge of G.A.A. sport quickly won him favour with the students. He also won their admiration and affection through the quality of his baking. Brother Peter’s brown bread was beyond compare and half a century later those who enjoyed it still recall the contribution it made to health and good spirits.

Around this time the Society was developing an Italian branch under the leadership of Michael Colleran. Fr. Colleran had formerly been a brother in the Society and had served together with Peter at Blackrock Road. In September 1960 he had established a college of the Italian branch in Genoa and requested the services of Peter to assist him. The Irish Provincial was agreeable; and so in October 1961 he joined Fr. Colleran and some eight students in Genoa. Peter found it difficult to settle into this new and strange environment, so different from anything he had ever experienced. Peter was very much a son of Kerry and a child of the Dingle Gaeltacht. The cultural gap was too large for him to bridge and little preparation or assistance was available to him in making the adjustment. In the event he left Genoa in February 1962, returning to his familiar duties in Blackrock Road. In 1965 Peter requested an appointment to one of the Society’s missions in Africa, but this was denied. In October 1969 he was posted again to Kilcolgan much to the delight of a new generation of students who had heard of his legendary baking skills. However he was only to stay for a year because other duties called.

In November 1970 a new chapter in Peter’s service of the Society opened when he was appointed to the Promotion team in Blackrock Road. From that house he motored all over Munster collecting mission Mite Boxes. Later he moved to Leinster, basing himself in the SMA House at Maynooth. His weekend visits to Maynooth were eagerly anticipated by the students, for this was the time when Kerry football was on a crest of yet another wave and Peter never lost an opportunity to sing the praises of the green and gold. Since 1981, however, his health had been deteriorating and he was no longer able to travel the long distances required by his work. Finally in September 1984, a year after he had attended the Provincial Assembly as the Brothers’ delegate, he retired from active work.

Peter had worked hard all his life and retirement did not suit him. A month after his official retirement he sought ‘something to keep him busy’ and was appointed assistant to Fr. Pat Murphy, who was then retired from the missions but had been given charge of the public church sacristy in Blackrock. Peter served as assistant Sacristan until 1990 and then, when Fr. Murphy retired ill, became substantive Sacristan. In June 1993 Peter, now aged 79 years, relinquished his post to Margaret McMahon. He spent the remaining years of his life in Blackrock Road. Perusing the Kerryman and the national newspapers for every item relating to Kerry football, he kept the community up to date on the most recent developments. Peter had been an accomplished Gaelic footballer in his youth, winning several medals with his club in the Gaeltacht League. At Kilcolgan, in his younger years, he had honed his footballing skills in the company of many accomplished players from other parts of the country. But his skill as an analyst of Kerry football was beyond compare and remained with him to the day he died. Another skill, revealed only very occasionally, perhaps on festive occasions, was a capacity to recite poetry and ballads. Peter could recall all the poems he had learned in primary school and many more which he had imbibed from the richness of the Kerry Gaeltacht. To hear him recite, or even sing – for he had a mastery of the sean-nόs style – was an experience not to be forgotten.

Peter was in failing health for some time, suffering in particular from arthritis, but was able to get around. On Monday evening, 4th June, after his supper in St. Theresa’s nursing unit, he decided to lie down for a while. A few minutes later Nurse Maureen Daly checked on him and he had gone to his maker. His Requiem Mass took place in St. Joseph’s Church Wilton.

He is buried in Wilton Cemetery.