Société des Missions Africaines - Province d’Irlande

RODGERS John né le 2 août 1925 à Cork
dans le diocèse de Cork, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1945
prêtre le 14 juin 1949
décédé le 8 août 2001

1949-1954 vicariat de Lagos, Nigeria
1954-1957 archidiocèse de Lagos, Nigeria
1958-1962 Kilcogan, Galway, Irlande
1962-1966 collège de Ballinafad, Comté de Mayo
1966-1969 archidiocèse de Lagos, Nigeria
1969-1976 Blackrock Road, Cork, animation
missionnaire et vocationnelle
1977-1991 Dromantine, Newry, animation
missionnaire et vocationnelle
1991-1995 Cork, responsable de la revue sma
1995-2001 Blackrock Road, Cork, retiré

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 8 août 2001
à l’âge de 76 ans

Father John Jack RODGERS (1925 - 2001)

John Rodgers was born at 2 Glenview Villas, Commons Road, Cork, in Cork’s North Parish, on 2nd August 1925. He died in the Bon Secours hospital, Cork, on 8th August 2001.

John (Jack) Rodgers was the son of Hugh and Nellie (nee Lucey) Rodgers and the second-born in a family of three girls and two boys. Jack received his primary education in Blackpool National School. He commenced his secondary education in the diocesan seminary, at Farranferris, in 1939. On successful completion of his leaving certificate he entered the SMA novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in September 1943. Jack was admitted as a member of the Society on 1st July 1945. In the same year he commenced his theological training in the Society’s seminary, at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. Jack was ordained a priest in St. Colman’s cathedral, Newry, by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore, on 14th June 1949. He was one of a class of seven ordained on that day.

After ordination Jack was appointed to the Vicariate of Lagos in southwestern Nigeria. In those days there was no regular air service to West Africa and missionaries normally travelled by Elder Dempster liner which took thirteen days to complete the journey. It wasn’t always easy to get a booking on these ships so, for those travelling out in November 1949, it was decided to avail of a charter flight. The plane was a four-engine York aircraft with a capacity for 21 passengers. Jack’s flight, on which there were 14 priests, six lay men and one lady, left London at 4.30 a.m. It took seven hours to reach Tripoli in North Africa where there was a delay until nightfall to ensure that the remainder of the journey over the Sahara to Kano in Northern Nigeria would be in the cool of the night. When Jack arrived at his destination he had been fourteen hours in the air and many more hours in transit.

In April 1950 the Lagos jurisdiction was erected as an archdiocese under Archbishop Leo Hale Taylor. During the five years Jack was to spend on this first missionary tour he was to serve in Ijebu-Ode, Ebutte-Metta and Topo. After his first home leave (March,1954-March,1955) Jack returned to Nigeria going to Mushin, in Lagos. However some two years later his health broke down and he was invalided home. After treatment and recuperation he was appointed professor of plainchant, of English and of Latin at Kilcolgan which was no longer a house of philosophy but rather a house of probation, students staying there for one year. A good musician, with a keen sense of humour and easy way about him, Jack soon won the esteem and confidence of the students. In June 1962 Jack was transferred to the teaching staff of the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, the Society’s juniorate or secondary school, situated in Co Mayo. Four years later he requested permission to return to Africa and finally in October 1966 he disembarked at Lagos. Jack settled in well to his work, spending much of his time among the Ijebu people. However his health, never robust, deteriorated during his third year and he was invalided home in the Spring of 1969. This was a big disappointment to Jack, particularly when it became clear that he would never be sufficiently strong to work in Africa again.

After a period of recovery Jack was posted to Blackrock Road where he became assistant to Billy O’Sullivan, the Director of Vocations. He was to occupy this post until July 1976. In addition he was acting house bursar between November 1974-December 1975. Jack enjoyed the opportunity to encourage candidates for the Society, running the Vocations Office with exemplary efficiency. His correspondence with prospective candidates and general friendliness to all who crossed his door helped to foster and encourage many a missionary vocation. In August 1976 Jack experienced a further breakdown in health which forced him to retire from this work. After a period of convalescence he was posted to Dromantine where a new and particularly happy chapter in his life was to open.

Appointed assistant to the superior, he also helped the recruitment and promotion teams and, from 1978, directed the SMA Boys Club. Jack was to remain in Dromantine until September 1991. During these years his flair for gardening – he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of flowers and plants and ‘green fingers’ whenever he took up the trowel or pruning scissors – was given full rein in the beautiful grounds of Dromantine. His directorship of the Boys Club too gave him scope for his many talents, revealed not just in administrative matters, but in the ‘newsletter’ which he edited, and in the summer camps. As Director he carved out for himself a special niche as a popular figure with thousands of young SMA supporters and their parents from all over the North of Ireland. He also made many close friends in Newry and in the villages near Dromantine.

Jack was to spend the last decade of his life in Blackrock Road. For the first five years he was manager of the African Missionary, responsible for ensuring that the magazine reached churches, schools and homes on time. He also spent much time during these years developing an apostolate of the pen, making regular contact by letter with thousands of magazine promoters and subscribers, helping to encourage them, console them and reassure them in time of stress, sickness and bereavement. His own fragile health gave him a special insight into the difficulties that face people who struggle with sickness and ill health. In the autumn of 1995, after a period of hospitalisation at the Mercy hospital, Cork, where he underwent surgery, Jack felt the time had come for him to retire, for he had now reached the age of three score years and ten. During his years of retirement Jack took a great interest in the Blackrock Road gardens, paying particular attention to the roses. He also had ample opportunity to meet the members of his family based in Cork and the many friends he had made over a lifetime in that city. Friends too, made during his years in Dromantine, made the long journey southwards to be with him. Jack had a great talent for friendship having, as the homilist at his Requiem Mass said, ‘a willing and easy way with people from the lowly to the lofty, from the youth to the aged.’ He was also the best of company, enjoying a party, well able to sing a song and, in addition, a good pianist. In the last two years of his life Jack suffered greatly from emphysema, but he bore this debilitating illness with fortitude.

There is in the northern suburbs of Cork a park of sixteen council houses built in 1960 and named after Jack. An issue of North Gate a community newspaper, which contained an article on Jack at the time of his death, explained that ‘Fr. Rodgers Park got its name after a local resident, Maria Coleman, suggested the quiet cul-de-sac be called after the family who once owned the land on which the houses were built’. Jack was an extremely modest man and as a close friend said: ‘he was mortified if he ever saw anything written, or heard anything spoken, about the connection of Fr. Rodgers Park and himself.’ Jack was survived by his three sisters, Eileen, Betty and Sue, and by his brother Jim.

He is buried in Wilton Cemetery.