Société des Missions Africaines –Province des Etats-Unis

ROONEY Michael né le 5 avril 1917 à Coldwood
dans le diocèse de Tuam, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 14 juin 1941
prêtre le 14 décembre 1941
décédé le 1er novembre 2001

1943-1957 missionnaire au Liberia, Monrovia
1957-1967 recherche de fonds aux USA
1967-1972 missionnaire au Liberia
1972-1978 en paroisse aux USA
Pepperell, Medford, Glenville
1978-1981 missionnaire au Liberia
1982-1984 USA, collège wesleyan, aumônier
puis Dedham
1984-1993 missionnaire au Liberia, Monrovia
1993-2000 Dedham, développement
2000-2001 Tenafly, retiré

décédé à Hackensack, USA, NJ, 1er novembre 2001,
à l'âge de 84 ans

Father Michael Joseph Rooney

Michael Joseph Rooney was born in Coldwood, Athenry, Co Galway, Ireland, on April 5, 1917. He died in Hackensack University Medical Center, Hackensack, NJ, USA, on November 1, 2001.

The second of a family of six - four boys and two girls - born to Thomas and Sabina (nee Cummins) Rooney, Michael (known as ‘Mike’ within the Society and ‘Joe’ at home in Galway) received his primary school education at the Coldwood school in Athenry. His first contacts with the Society came through two SMA priests from the locality, Michael Cummins from Athenry and Thomas Shaughnessy from Craughwell. In 1931 he entered the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (the SMA junior secondary school), and a year later St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (the senior school), graduating in 1935. In October 1936 he was promoted to the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He studied theology in the Society's seminary at Dromantine, Co Down, between l938 l942. During his last year in Wilton Michael had attended lectures at University College Cork. When in Kilcolgan he attended University College Galway, (going to the college one day each week and receiving the remainder of his lectures in the house from Tony McAndrew, designated by the university for this purpose). Michael was admitted to membership of the Society on June 14, 1941 and was ordained a priest, along with nine colleagues, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, Co Down, during the darkest days of the war, on December 14, 1941. The ordaining prelate was Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese.

After ordination Michael returned to UCC and in June 1943 was conferred with a BA degree, in philosophy and education. He was then assigned to the Vicariate Apostolic of Monrovia in Liberia, West Africa, the first mission field of the Irish Province, pioneered in 1906 by Stephen Kyne and Eugene Peter. Getting a passage to West Africa during wartime posed difficulties but Michael was fortunate in obtaining a place on the Stuyvesant, sailing from Liverpool in December 1943. He and a number of colleagues disembarked at Freetown, capital of Sierra Leone and then made their way to Monrovia by train, truck and canoe. They arrived in Monrovia on January 4, 1944, the day of the inauguration of President William V.S. Tubman. Michael’s first appointment was to St. Peter’s Teacher Training College in Buchanan where he spent two years. After returning from sick leave in 1947 he was posted to St. Patrick’s High School, Monrovia, where he was to spend the next decade.

In 1957 Michael came to the USA to raise funds for the development of a rubber plantation at Kakata, some forty miles from Monrovia. This, it was hoped, would provide badly-needed income for the impoverished Vicariate. President Tubman had given 1,000 acres to the mission for the purpose and Michael was to raise capital to start the project. Expert advice was sought from the US Firestone Company which had a large plantation in Liberia. In the event the money was raised and the project proved successful, becoming a source of much-needed employment for the people of Kakata and a source of income for the mission. During his time in America Michael assisted with the general promotion work of the Province and, a skilled writer, helped in editing the African Angelus, the Province’s newsletter which in 1963 became Frontline Report. He also applied to join the American Province – in 1959 – but although his superiors both in America and Ireland were agreeable, he did not actually take the step until 1975. On returning to Liberia in 1968 Michael became a pastor, working in this capacity until 1972.

Michael returned to Liberia in 1968, becoming a pastor in Monrovia. At the end of his next home leave, in 1973, he went to America, taking up a post as assistant pastor to St. Joseph’s parish, Pepperell, Massachusetts. Two years later he transferred to St. Joseph’s parish, Medford (MA) and a year later to Church of the Good Shepherd, Glenville, West Virginia. In 1978, now a member of the American Province, he returned to Liberia, serving there for a tour of three years. In February 1982 he was appointed chaplain to the Catholic students at West Virginia Wesleyan College, in Buckhannon (in the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston). Of the 2,000 students at the school some 450 were Catholics.

Two years later, in July 1984 Michael retired from active work, going to live in Tenafly. However in November he received a letter from the Provincial which was to delay his retirement by some sixteen years. ‘Welcome to Dedham. You begin your retirement after many active and fruitful years of service…The Province is in need of someone to direct the Partnership Program. The task entails writing a monthly letter to be mailed to all sponsors, as well as maintaining an effective system for expressing our gratitude to those who respond. We also believe that you can be of valuable assistance to the Vocations Department. Michael generously accepted. As Director he became well-known for his ‘Partnership Letters’ circulated to supporters which contained fascinating anecdotes and inspiring stories about Africa. Many of these stories are preserved in the Archives of the American Province in Tenafly NJ. Michel also founded the Little Flower League (named for St. Therese of Lisieux, patron of the missions) to support the growing Church in Liberia. Michael returned to Liberia in 1985, remaining there for a further five years. Finally, in 1990 he retired from the missions, coming to work in the promotion team at Dedham and in November 2000 he came to live in Tenafly.

Genial and well-liked, Michael was one of the great publicists of the American Province. During his lifetime he was sometimes careless of his health and was often sick. But he made a significant contribution to the work of the Society on many fronts, not least in Liberia and America. He died after a long illness.

His brother, Patrick Rooney was at one time a priest with SMA, working in Benin City diocese.

He is buried in the SMA Community plot, at Mount Carmel Cemetery, Tenafly, NJ.