Société des Missions Africaines - Province de Grande Bretagne

 gallagher2 Le Père Michael Neil GALLAGHER
né le 20 décembre 1919 à Limerick
dans le diocèse de Limerick, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 14 juin 1944
prêtre le 17 décembre 1944
décédé le 27 décembre 1991 
 1945-1956 archidiocèse de Lagos (Nigeria)
1956-1968 au service du District de Grande-Bretagne
1968 membre de la Province de Grande-Bretagne
1968-1973 économe provincial
1973-1989 Manchester, animation missionnaire et vocationnelle
1989-1991 Manchester, retiré
décédé à Manchester, Grande-Bretagne, le 27 décembre 1991
à l’âge de 72 ans

Father Michael Neil GALLAGHER (1919 - 1991)

Michael was born in the parish of St. Michael's, in the diocese of Limerick (his family address in the year he joined the Society is given as Strangford Road, Dublin), on 20 December 1919. He died in the Trafford General hospital, Manchester, England, on Friday 27 December 1991.

Michael studied in the colleges of the Society. He attended the Sacred Heart intermediate college, at Ballinafad, Co Mayo between 1934-1936, and St. Joseph's secondary college, Wilton, Cork, between 1936-1939. Having matriculated he entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in September 1939. He received his theological formation at Dromantine, Co Down (1941-1945). Michael became a permanent member of the Society on 14 June 1944. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 17 December 1944. He was one of a group of seventeen ordained on that day.

After ordination Michael was appointed to the vicariate of Lagos, in south western Nigeria. Michael reached his mission in November 1945. Bishop Leo Taylor, the vicar apostolic, assigned him to Ibonwon mission, in Ijebu country, a station which had been founded in 1900. Michael was instructed by Bishop Taylor to learn the Yoruba language and he applied himself to this work under the supervision of Fr Michael McLoughlin, superior at Ibonwon. Six months later Michael was examined and authorised to hear confessions in the Yoruba language. He was then assigned to the district of Abeokuta, capital of the Egbas. The principal station of this district, Abeokuta, had been founded in 1880. When Michael took up his appointment there was a catholic community of some 4,000 members and a thriving catechumenate. John Kilbey was superior of the district while another missionary, Pat Braniff, was lodging in the mission while building St. Leo's teacher training college. Abeokuta district had proved difficult for the Church in the early years.

However the tide turned when the missionaries opened a leprosarium in 1897 and, shortly afterwards, the renowned Sacred Heart hospital, where the self-taught missionary surgeon, Jean-Marie Coquard, ministered to the sick with great success. Michael went on his first home leave in 1950, in the year the Nigerian hierarchy was erected and in which the Lagos jurisdiction became an archdiocese. On his return, in October 1951, Michael was appointed to Holy Cross cathedral parish in Lagos. This was the oldest mission in Nigeria, founded in 1868. In 1953 Michael was transferred to Ibonwon district where he was appointed superior. Together with Tom Devane he ministered to a catholic community of some 4,000 members located in Ibonwon town and 15 secondary stations. During his years in Nigeria Michael also ministered briefly in Ijebu-ode and St. Theresa's inter-diocesan minor seminary at Oke Are, Ibadan.

In the early 1950's the Society began to investigate the possibility of founding a British Province and members were being sought to pioneer this development. Michael was one of those seconded to the British district to help in this work. In order to establish the Society in Britain it was necessary to take on assignments in local dioceses. This would create good-will among clergy and help to root the Society in the local Church. Michael Walsh, who was superior of the S.M.A. work in Britain, sought out ministries which had an African dimension. In October 1953 he was entrusted with a 30-roomed house by Bishop Marshall of Salford diocese, which was to be run as a hostel for overseas university students. Subsequently this house was given to the Society and became the headquarters of its works in Britain. A little later a second house was entrusted to the Society by Bishop Marshal, St. Gerard's Moss Side, which opened its doors in October 1954 as a centre mainly for West Indians who were pouring into Manchester at that time. One position which the Society was offered (and gladly accepted) was the chaplaincy to these immigrants, and also to emigrants from other former British African colonies. Fr Walsh selected Michael Gallagher for this work. Michael was to spend twelve years (1956-1968) as superior of St. Gerard's overseas centre. During these years he was indefatigable in his labours on behalf of the immigrants, most of whom were Black.

When the British district of the Society was erected into a Province, in February 1968, Michael became one of the founding members. He served as Provincial bursar between 1968-1973, and became mission appeals manager (based in Manchester) between 1973-1989. He retired to St. Augustine's, Manchester in 1989. Michael was in his 72nd year and the 47th year of his priesthood when he died. Those 47 years were given generously to God. He is remembered by his contemporaries as a courteous and cheerful man who was apostolic in outlook and competent in his work. He was also artistic, with a particular talent for painting.

He is buried in St. Fintan's cemetery, Sutton, Co Dublin.