Société des Missions Africaines - Province des Etats-Unis

 griffin j1  Le Père James P GRIFFIN
né le 8 septembre 1899 à Claremorris
dans le diocèse de Tuam, Irlande
serment perpétuel le 22 juillet 1920
prêtre le 14 juin 1924
décédé le 25 décembre 1992

1924-1928 Nigeria
1928-1990 New York
1990-1992 Tenafly

décédé à Tenafly, Etats-Unis, le 25 décembre 1992
à l’âge de 93 ans

Father James P. GRIFFIN (1899 - 1992)

James Griffin was born in Claremorris, Co Mayo, Ireland, in the archdiocese of Tuam, on September 8, 1899. He died on Christmas Day, 1992, at Tenafly, New Jersey, USA.

James (known as Jimmy within his family) was the son of John and Julia Griffin. In 1914 he decided to become a missionary priest. The seeds of his vocation were sown when he was an altar-boy. His parish priest, Fr. Tuffy, used to take him to the homes of farmers in the area. The priest would say Mass and James would serve as altar-boy. It was to this experience that he attributed his vocation to priesthood. James entered the Society's apostolic college, at Wilton, and after completing his secondary studies, was promoted to the major seminary at Blackrock Road, Cork, in 1918. He was received as a member of the Society on July 22, 1920, and was ordained a priest by Bishop Daniel Cohalan of Cork diocese, in St. Joseph's church, adjoining the seminary, on June 14, 1924. He was one of a group of eleven ordained on that day.

After ordination James was assigned to the Vicariate of Western Nigeria, which was the first jurisdiction in Nigeria to be entrusted to the Irish Province, in 1918. Reaching his mission in November 1924, Bishop Thomas Broderick, the vicar apostolic, appointed James to Warri district. This district, which became a diocese in 1964, comprised the principal stations of Warri and Forcados, and 60 secondary stations. George Krauth, an Alsatian member of the Society, was superior, and John Cadogan and Patrick Birmingham were the assistant priests. James became the fourth member of staff. He was given special responsibility for the Ijaws, who were served from Forcados mission (founded in 1913), and comprised a Catholic community of 130 members and an equal number of catechumens.

James settled quickly into his work, spending most of his time at Forcados which was accessible only by boat or canoe. However, after ten months at his post James contracted the dreaded blackwater fever, which in many cases proved fatal for missionaries. James survived the illness but was forced to return to Ireland. He made a partial recovery but it was clear that he would be unable to return to the tropics. In 1926 James was appointed to the teaching staff at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork. Two years later, in 1928, he visited his sister, Mrs Agnes Lacey, who resided in St. Bartholomew's parish, Elmhurst, in the diocese of Brooklyn, New York. James remained in Brooklyn from May 1929, living with his sister, until March 1932, saying Mass in Elmhurst parish. From May 1932 until June 1933, he ministered in the diocese of Buffalo. Later that year he accepted an assignment at St. Mary's of the Assumption parish, Staten Island, where he ministered until 1935. In that year James went to the diocese of Trenton, serving as an assistant pastor until October 1937. In April 1938 James entered St. Joseph's hospital, New York, with pulmonary illness. During his treatment he applied to the New York Chancery and received permission to say Mass in the hospital chapel. He continued to say daily Mass for his fellow-patients until his discharge in February 1939. James' subsequent ministry saw him occupy several posts: assistant pastor at St. Francis of Assisi parish in the Bronx; assistant in St. Anselm's parish in the diocese of Brooklyn; and assistant in St. Bernard's parish, Levistown, in the diocese of Rockville Centre.

James continued in the active ministry until his early seventies when he moved to an apartment in Manhattan and helped out the local parish clergy whenever they sought his assistance. In his late eighties he was assaulted on a street in Manhattan and was severely beaten. He spent many months at the Howard A. Rusk Institute in New York undergoing rehabilitation from his injuries. In early 1990 he was invited to join the SMA community at Tenafly, an offer he readily accepted. He was so pleased with the camaraderie and friendship of his fellow SMA's that he asked if he could become a member of the American Province. This wish was granted on August 27, 1990. James was a member of the Society for some seventy years. He never lost his love for Africa and, during his years in America, contributed substantial funds for the education of African priests in Nigeria. A member of the Province who knew him as a teacher in Wilton recorded that James ‘was a very handsome man, a beautiful singer, our choirmaster in the chapel. A very kind man'.

He is buried in the SMA Community Plot, at Mount Carmel cemetery, Tenafly, New Jersey, USA.