Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

McCARTHY John Joseph né le 21 juin 1902 à Forenaught
dans le diocèse de Ross, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 8 juillet 1925
prêtre le 9 juin 1929
évêque le 15 août 1954
décédé le 11 juin 1975

1929-1975 missionnaire au Nigeria
1929-1933, préfecture du nord Nigeria
1933-1943, préfecture de Kaduna
1943-1954, préfet apostolique de Kaduna
1954-1959, évêque de Kaduna
1959-1975, archevêque de Kaduna
1975 Cork, retiré

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 11 juin 1975,
à l'âge de 73 ans

Bishop John Joseph McCARTHY (1902 - 1975)

John MacCarthy was born at Forenaught, Rineen, Skibbereen, in the parish of Castlehaven, Co Cork, in the diocese of Ross, on 21 June 1902. He died at the Bon Secours hospital, Cork, on 11 June 1975.

John (Jack) studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1919 1920), and St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1920 1923), before entering the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of 1923. Two years later, on 8 July 1925, he was received as a member of the Society. In 1925 he went to St. Joseph's seminary, Blackrock Road, Cork, to study theology and when the seminary was transferred to Dromantine, Co Down, John completed his studies there. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 9 June 1929. He was one of a group of fifteen ordained on that day.

After ordination John was appointed to the prefecture of Northern Nigeria. This prefecture, which had been originally established in 1911 (with the inaccurate title 'prefecture of Eastern Nigeria') and whose boundaries were greatly enlarged in 1922, had its ecclesiastical capital in the great town of Kano. Muslim influence was strong although there were large populations which practised traditional religions. Christianity had as yet made few inroads, although many of the Igbo immigrants from the east who came north with the railway were Christian. On his arrival, in October 1929 John was appointed to Zaria mission. This station had been founded in 1918 under the patronage of Christ the King. Situated on the railway line most of its 700 catholic members and 200 catechumens were Igbos.

However there were growing numbers of indigenous Christians in its six secondary stations. With the division of the prefecture into two jurisdictions in 1934, John was incorporated into the prefecture of Kaduna. Thomas P. Hughes, the prefect, energetically set about establishing the Church among the indigenous animist population, opening a number of new stations in rural districts. John served in one of these stations, Argungu, in Sokoto state, some 500 miles from Kaduna. He also spent periods as mission superior in Kano and Kaduna. During his first ten years in Nigeria John impressed his superiors and it was clear he was destined for senior posts of responsibility. In November 1939 the Irish Provincial Council appointed John 'visitor' (responsible for the spiritual and temporal welfare of his confreres). John discharged his heavy duties as 'visitor' while administering Zaria mission.

Further senior appointments were to follow. On 14 May 1943, after the translation of Mgr. Hughes to the Ondo-Ilorin vicariate, John was nominated prefect apostolic of Kaduna. He was nominated first bishop of Kaduna diocese on 15 August 1954 and five years later, on 16 July 1959, he was named archbishop of Kaduna. When John became prefect apostolic he inherited a vast territory in the north-west of Nigeria, comprising the provinces of Zaria, Niger, Katsina, Sokoto and Kano, with a population estimated at over six million. There were some 17,000 Catholics with almost the same number of Protestants. The bulk of the people, some four million, were Muslim, while there were almost two million animists. The catholic community was located in seven principal stations and sixty secondary stations. John's staff consisted of some twenty 'European priests', ten sisters and almost two hundred catechists. There were two teacher training colleges, seventy elementary schools and not a single secondary school. At the heart of John's missionary strategy was the development of the education apostolate. By 1960 the number of elementary schools had increased to ninety-five, three fine boys secondary colleges had been established (St. John's college, Kaduna; St. Thomas secondary school, Kano, and St. Mary's college, Zonkwa), there were two girls secondary schools (Queen of Apostles college, Kakuri, and St Louis college, Bompai, Kano), and teacher training colleges for men at Minna (St. Malachy's) and Zaria (St. Enda's), and for women at Kaduna (Sacred Heart college) and Zonkwa (St. Louis), where he also had built a fine hospital.

John remained at the helm for a further fourteen years during which progress intensified. From the very beginning he was anxious to continue Mgr. Hughes policy of extending the Church to areas where Islam had not yet taken hold. Accordingly new residential stations were opened at Kakuri, Zonkwa, Zuru, Samaru, Mabushi, Sabon-Sarki and Kubacha. In the older established missions, new churches and schools were built to cater for the growing numbers flocking into the Church, none more impressive, perhaps, than Christ the King church in Zaria. A short period after his retirement in 1975 the metropolitan see of Kaduna was the ecclesiastical capital of nine jurisdictions (Jos, Makurdi, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Yola, Ilorin, Lokoja, Minna, and Idah), and several of these jurisdictions had been carved out of the original Kaduna prefecture.

One of the most gratifying signs of development, however, was the growth in the number of indigenous vocations to both priesthood and sisterhood. The establishment of St. Augustine's major seminary, in Jos, in 1968, to cater for seminarians from the Northern Ecclesiastical Province, was a project to which John was deeply committed. In 1975, in failing health, John retired from active work. He had already foreseen the need to prepare a successor and in 1972 obtained the nomination of Peter Yariyok Jatau, who had been ordained in 1963, as his auxiliary bishop with the right of succession. Archbishop Jatau was installed on 10 April 1975, after which John returned to Ireland, dying scarcely two months later.

A confrere who knew John well penned the following account of his life and work. 'Clever, far-seeing, shrewd, are words which come to mind when describing John McCarthy. He was a hard worker and travelled far and wide over his vast jurisdiction - Sokoto, Kano, Zaria, Niger and Minna were in his early territory. He blazed the trail and led the missionaries by doing things himself first. John was a man who never thought he was doing enough to place the young Church on a solid foundation and he was forever urging his small staff of priests and sisters to greater efforts. When John became prefect apostolic there were only about 7 residential stations in the region. In 1975 there were more than 20 excluding Sokoto and Niger Provinces which had become separate jurisdictions (confided to the Dominicans and the Society of St. Patrick). John initiated a superb building program all over his diocese - primary and secondary schools, teacher training colleges, hospitals and dispensaries.'

'His style of leadership was to keep a close eye on the many projects underway in his jurisdiction, and to make sure that sufficient funds were made available. He never "begrudged" anyone for money where he thought it was needed. John was very understanding of priests' complaints and encouraging of their efforts. But he could also be demanding; he was, in short, an unusual mixture of the Paul and Barnabus. He liked to have a 'good table' in every mission station - even though he was not a good eater himself. An excellent host, John had a sociable nature, liking company, conversation, and music. He was also keenly interested in things Irish. A friend and admirer of Michael Collins - his love of Ireland was paramount. He was fond of Irish cultural pursuits, especially Irish music, dance and song. He was indeed likely to call for a song in any gathering of confreres, although a non-singer himself. Although not fluent he spoke an appreciable amount of the Irish language. John had two brothers with families in Boston, U.S.A., and a brother and sister in Ireland, and was in admiration of them as much as they were of him. He visited over and back (Ireland and U.S.A.) but although he loved Ireland, his heart was in northern Nigeria - his love from 1929 until 1975.'

'A story is told of John which bears re-telling. In 1930 the handful of missionaries then in northern Nigeria had come from far and wide to Jos for the official opening and blessing of St. Theresa's church. A young priest who had come 120 miles from Zaria was eagerly looking forward to the social occasion. Within half an hour of his arrival he got a 'sick call'. An Irish catholic, a veterinary officer, was seriously ill. The young missionary, on his first tour in Africa, left Jos immediately on that errand of mercy. By goods train and lorry he travelled on through Kafanchan, Kaduna, Zaria, Funtua, Gusau, Sokoto, to the sick man's bedside. It was a journey of 460 miles one way. This story was characteristic of John McCarthy's subsequent career as missionary priest, highlighting his determination and dedication to duty.'

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.