Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

REDDINGTON John Mgr né le 26 juin 1910 à Rackins
dans le diocèse d'Elphin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1930
prêtre le 10 juin 1934
évêque le 29 juin 1954
décédé le 3 octobre 1994

1934-1944 missionnaire au vicariat du Bénin, Nigeria
1945-1950 vicariat de Lagos, Nigeria
1951-1952 archidiocèse de Lagos, Nigeria
1952-1954 Blackrock Road, Cork, 
supérieur et vice provincial
1954-1974 évêque de Jos, Nigeria
1975-1994 résidence du Sacré-Cœur, Dublin, retiré

décédé à Dublin, Irlande, le 3 octobre 1994,
à l'âge de 84 ans

Bishop John Joseph REDDINGTON (1910 - 1994)

John Reddington was born at Rackins, Curraghboy, Athlone, in the diocese of Elphin, on 26 June 1910. He died in the care of the Little Sisters of the Poor, at the Sacred Heart Residence, Sybil Hill, Raheny, Dublin, on 3 October 1994.

The youngest of nine children, born into a rural farming family, John considered a missionary vocation from an early age. His contact with the Society came through other S.M.A. priests and students from the Athlone area. John received his secondary education in the schools of the Society. He studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1924-1925) and at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1925-1928). He entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in September 1928. Two years later, in 1930, he commenced his study of theology in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down. John was received as a member of the Society on 2 July 1930. He was ordained a priest in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, on 10 June 1934. He was one of a group of seventeen ordained on that day.

After ordination John was appointed to the vicariate of the Bight of Benin, in south western Nigeria. Francis O'Rourke, bishop of the jurisdiction, assigned John to the teaching staff of St. Gregory's college, Lagos. There, for two years, John taught Latin, English and Christian doctrine. In 1937 John asked his bishop for the opportunity to hear confessions in the local language. This would require the study of Yoruba and the taking of an examination. Bishop O'Rourke posted him to the town of Oshogbo where he was assistant to Eugene Schaeffer, an Alsatian member of the Society. After some months Fr. Schaeffer went on leave and John was appointed superior. At the end of a year John passed the Yoruba language examination and received the required faculties to hear confessions. After leave in Ireland, John returned to Lagos in 1939, just before the outbreak of the war. He served his next tour of duty at Topo Island (off Badagry), near Lagos. Topo had a farm of over 1,000 acres which produced copra (dried fruit of the coconut used for making soap and cosmetics) as a cash crop; it was worked by the students of a mission boarding school on the island. A farmer's son, John thrived in Topo, later describing his years there as the happiest spent in Africa.

In 1942 Leo Taylor (who had succeeded Bishop O'Rourke in 1939) appointed John as supervisor of schools for the vicariate. This was a very senior position for so young a missionary, giving him responsibility for the management of the education apostolate over a vast area. John acquired a sturdy Ford V-8 car, suitable for the dirt roads, in which he toured the vicariate's 120 schools with their 500 teachers. His duties also required him to meet regularly with officials of the department of education on whose sanction the approval of school subsidies depended. John was to spend ten years in this demanding post. After his return from home leave, in April 1951 John was appointed to Ibadan city, where he was asked to establish a mission at Oke Offa and build a priest's residence.

The vicariate became the archdiocese of Lagos in April 1950. On 4 March 1952 just as he had roofed the new mission residence at Oke Offa, John was recalled to Ireland and appointed Provincial councillor and vice-Provincial. He occupied this post for two years, residing at Blackrock Road, Cork, where he was also house superior. In all these posts, in Africa and at home, John fulfilled his various duties most efficiently. He was a calm, serious worker, zealous in working for the conversion of the people and for the spiritual welfare of the Catholics under his care. He was especially committed to the promotion of an indigenous clergy. As a teacher and supervisor of schools he was painstaking and careful in his work and was held in high respect by school managers, teachers and pupils. As vice-Provincial and house superior, too, he showed himself to be an able administrator, energetic and prudent. It was not surprising therefore that John should be promoted to higher office. On 28 April 1954 John was named first bishop of Jos diocese in northern Nigeria. He was consecrated bishop by the archbishop of Tuam, Joseph Walsh (assisted by Bishops Michael Browne, Cornelius Lucey and Vincent Hanly), in the church of Saints Peter and Paul, Athlone, on 29 June 1954. He sailed for his diocese on 21 October 1954.

The mission to northern Nigeria had first been opened up in 1907 when three priests travelled to Shendam and set up a mission. The prefecture of Northern Nigeria had been established four years later. In 1934 the territory was divided into the separate prefectures of Jos and Kaduna. The Jos jurisdiction covered an area of some 17,000 square miles, about half the size of Ireland and was predominantly rural with a scattered population, most of whom were animists.

The first problem confronting John on his arrival was lack of financial resources. In the south and west the Church was increasingly self-supporting, while the north lagged far behind in this respect. In Jos diocese there were some 10 central stations and numerous outstations. During his twenty years as bishop, John gave particular priority to making the central stations self-supporting. The second task facing John was to make the Church in Jos diocese self-perpetuating. He took every opportunity to speak to the people on the necessity of fostering vocations. When he became bishop he had seven students in St. Theresa's minor seminary at Oke Are, Ibadan. In 1959 he decided to open his own minor seminary which was established under the patronage of St. John Vianney at Barakin Ladi, about 30 miles from Jos city. As for major seminary training, northern students had to go to Benin (and later Ibadan); John was anxious that the Northern Ecclesiastical Province should have its own seminary. In 1968 St. Augustine's seminary was opened in Jos city. It is now one of the leading seminaries in West Africa. During his period as bishop John also established a diocesan congregation of African sisters, the Sisters of Our Lady of Fatima. In 1965 two O.L.A. sisters undertook the initial formation of the first group of sisters. The congregation, engaged in the educational and medical apostolate, is now flourishing.

The development of education was also an important priority in the diocese. John inherited some 70 small elementary schools. To expand education it would be necessary to increase the number of trained teachers. The opening in 1955 of the O.L.A. teacher training college for girls at Akwanga, 110 miles from Jos, was an important step forward. The output of male teachers coming from the teacher training college in Kafanchan (Mary Immaculate college, opened by John's predecessor, William Lumley, in 1949) was greatly increased by doubling the annual intake of candidates. A further teacher training college was opened at Zawan, Angul-Di, in 1969. Secondary education would also have to be developed. John opened St. Joseph's secondary college for boys at Vom, some 20 miles from Jos, in 1958. A year later he founded Blessed Murumba's college in Jos town. To cater for girls he introduced the St. Louis Sisters from Ireland. St. Louis college, Jos, which they opened in 1960, quickly became one of the premier schools in Nigeria. Government grants helped the construction of these schools, but much of the cost was borne by the diocese.

The medical apostolate was another area of concern. From 1957 John secured the provision of first-rate expatriate staff from the Medical Missionary Institute of Wurzburg, Germany. These were deployed in the hospital at Shendam which had been established in 1954 (R.C.M. Combined hospital) and was managed by the Sisters of St. Louis. They worked too in a seven-bed maternity clinic which Mgr. Lumley had established in Jos in 1946. John expanded this clinic into a comprehensive general hospital managed by the O.L.A. sisters. In 1957 John opened a general hospital at Akwanga and, in 1968, an orphanage in Zawan where Mgr. Lumley had founded a clinic/hospital in 1951. In the year of his retirement, 1974, a catholic clinic/hospital was established in Gambar. Finance for the development of medicine came partly from government, and partly from the diocese which secured large subventions from Miserior and other funding agencies. John established a third hospital at Akwanga, also financed by Miserior and managed by the O.L.A. sisters.

John attended the first three sessions of the second Vatican Council. Reflecting on the Council later in life he expressed his disappointment at its treatment of missions. He considered Ad Gentes was 'one of the weakest of the Council documents'. John was also active in the deliberations of the Society, representing the English-speaking bishops at the General Assembly of 1973. Although first bishop of Jos diocese, John knew that he would also be the last white bishop. Nigeria had become independent in 1960 and Nigerians were increasingly taking over from expatriates in all aspects of life. By the early 1970's John had ordained 12 priests for his diocese, the first of whom, Peter Yariyok Jatau, became archbishop of Kaduna in 1975. On 9 September 1973 John consecrated Gabriel G. Ganaka as auxiliary bishop of Jos. Ten months later, on 8 July 1974, John's resignation was accepted by Rome and Bishop Ganaka became bishop of the diocese on 5 October 1974. In 1994 Jos became an archdiocese with several suffragan dioceses, a signal tribute to the S.M.A. missionaries who had worked there over the years.

From November 1974 until June 1975 John served as chaplain at St. Bernard's Priory, Warton, in Lancaster diocese, England. In December 1975, suffering from diabetes, John retired to the Sacred Heart nursing home, Sybil Hill Road, Raheny, Dublin. John celebrated the silver jubilee of his episcopal ordination at Blackrock Road on 6 June 1979. He died peacefully in his 84th year after a short illness. Numbered among John's cousins were brothers John and Tom Galvin, and Michael Harrison, all of Brideswell, who became members of the Society.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.