Société des Missions Africaines - Province d’Irlande

MAHONY William Mgr né le 29 avril 1919 à Derrybrien
dans le diocèse de Clonfert, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1943
prêtre le 18 juin 1947
évêque le 1er août 1969
décédé le 15 novembre 1994

1947-1948 université de Londres, études
1948-1960 archidiocèse de Kaduna, Nigeria
1960-1969 préfecture d’Ilorin, Nigeria
préfet apostolique
1969-1985 évêque du diocèse d’Ilorin, Nigeria
1985-1991 archevêque de Kaduna, Nigeria
1991-1994 Blackrock Road, Cork, retiré

décédé à Cork, le 15 novembre 1994
à l’âge de 75 ans

Bishop William MAHONY (1919 - 1994)

William Mahony was born at Derrybrien, Loughrea, Co Galway, in the diocese of Clonfert, on 29 April 1919. He died in the Bon Secours hospital, Cork, on 15 November 1994.

Born into a family of four boys and two girls, William (Willie) was baptised in the parish of Ballinakill, which gave many priests to the S.M.A. William came from a blacksmithing and farming background. After completing primary school he worked for five shillings a day with the 'Board of Works', building a bridge over the Derrybrien river, and he also worked with the county council making a road in Touraleasa. After briefly considering a vocation with the Carmelites (he had a grand-uncle who was a Carmelite Prior in Loughrea) William became interested in the missionary priesthood. His interest was greatly encouraged through his contacts with two priest relatives, Mick Scully and Michael Mahony, both members of the Society. In 1936, aged seventeen, William's interest hardened into a decision and he began his secondary education with the S.M.A., studying in the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, and at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork. In September 1941 he entered the novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He studied theology in the major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down (1943-1947). William was accepted as a member of the Society on 1 July 1943. He was ordained a priest in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, on 18 June 1947. He was one of a group of sixteen ordained on that day.

In his last year at Wilton, William had attended lectures at U.C.C. During his two years at Kilcolgan he had also attended U.C.G., where, in June 1943, he was awarded a B.A. degree (honours) in philosophy and education. After ordination William was sent to London University where he took a teaching diploma in June 1948. William was now assigned to the prefecture of Kaduna, in northern Nigeria. He arrived at his mission in January 1949, after a month-long sea journey during which he stopped off at Freetown in Sierra Leone to visit the grave of the Society's founder, Bishop Melchior de Marion Bresillac. After a week in Lagos, the port of disembarkation, he travelled by train to Kaduna where he was appointed to the staff of St. Malachy's teacher training college, Minna. This institution, which provided elementary teachers for the prefecture's growing network of schools, had some 60 students in training. In December 1951 William was transferred to St. John's secondary school in Kaduna city. This school for boys, which had opened in 1949 under the principalship of Jack O'Hara, had over 120 pupils on the rolls. Here, as in St. Malachy's, William built up a reputation as a teacher and administrator. In the last six months of his first tour of duty John (Jack) McCarthy, the prefect, appointed William to Southern Zaria where he engaged in the work dearest to his heart: the care of souls in the pastoral ministry.

William went on his first home leave in December 1952. His superiors decided to keep him in Ireland to fill a temporary teaching vacancy at Ballinafad. On l January 1954 he was released to return to the newly-formed Kaduna diocese (erected from the prefecture in June 1953). Short placements at St. Malachy's and at St. John's secondary school, were followed by his appointment as catholic education secretary for the diocese - a highly responsible assignment involving the appointment, transfer and general welfare of teachers and their schools, as well as liaising with the government's department of education on which vital financial subsidies depended. William's leadership qualities were further recognised when his confreres in northern Nigeria elected him as their delegate to the Irish Provincial Assembly of 1958. Two years later, it came as no surprise to his colleagues when, in December 1960, he was appointed prefect apostolic of Ilorin - a Province with an area of 30,000 square miles and a population of almost a million souls, located to the west and south of the Niger river, between 8 and 10 degrees north of the Equator. It was in his capacity as prefect that William attended the second, third and fourth sessions of the second Vatican council.

Between 1961-1969 the growth and development of the Church in the prefecture of Ilorin under William was nothing short of phenomenal. Among the more obvious external signs of development were the establishment of five new parishes, a teacher training centre, a catechetical training centre, a technical school for boys, four secondary schools, two hospitals, several clinics, as well as the erection and completion of the cathedral church with a seating capacity for some 700 people. Special provision was made for the education of girls which William entrusted to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur who accepted his invitation to work in Ilorin. Little wonder then that in July 1968 the Holy See saw fit to raise the prefecture to the status of a diocese with William as its first bishop. He was ordained a bishop on 1 August 1969 by Pope Paul Vl, at Kampala, Uganda.

William was to lead the diocese of Ilorin for a further 16 years. When he first took responsibility, in 1961, there were but two parishes, St. James', Ilorin, and St. Andrew's, Oro, as well as a staff of only five priests. In subsequent years he established numerous parishes and mission residences: three additional parishes in Ilorin, and parishes in places as far-flung as Offa, Erin-Ile, Aye-Ekan, Osi, Eruku, Jebba, Bacita, New Busa and Okerimi (the latter the birth-place of the present bishop of Ilorin, Rt. Rev. Ayo Maria Atoyebi O.P.). The most challenging task undertaken by William was the development of Borgu Province, a vast area in the north of the diocese which had never previously been evangelised, which was isolated by lack of roads, and where the population was scattered. Here, over the years, astonishing progress was made. There were many other signs of advancement, which marked the maturation of the Church in the diocese.

When William became prefect apostolic there was no indigenous clergy. As bishop he had the joy and privilege of ordaining six African priests for his diocese. Two projects which stand out during his tenure, were the construction of the St. Thomas Aquinas centre at the newly-established Ilorin University - consisting of a chapel, reading-rooms and a library, presided over by a special chaplain with his own residence; and the development of a communications centre which produced religious broadcasts, religious booklets and other modern means of promulgating the Gospel. Three congregations of women religious, introduced by William, gave unstinted and unselfish service to the women of the diocese - the Notre Dame Sisters (mentioned above) the O.L.A. and the African Sisters of the Eucharistic Heart (Ibonwon Sisters). William also introduced the De La Salle Brothers who continue to make a signal contribution in the area of education.

In Easter 1985 William's resignation as bishop was accepted by the Holy Father. He was succeeded by his auxiliary bishop, John Onaiyekan (more recently appointed archbishop of Abuja, an archdiocese which includes the federal capital of Nigeria). The handing over of Ilorin to the care of Bishop Onaiyekan marked the fulfilment and fruition of William's life's work in Africa, marking the coming of age of the African Church in the territory entrusted to his care by Pope Paul Vl. William subsequently returned to the archdiocese of Kaduna where he became chaplain at St. Gerard's hospital in Kaduna city. He ministered here until 1992 when he returned to live in the motherhouse of the Irish Province, at Blackrock Road, Cork. There he remained active, assisting in St. Joseph's parish and spending time during the summer months working at Knock Shrine, Co Mayo. On August 1st 1994 he celebrated the silver jubilee of his episcopal ordination at St. Patrick's church, Derrybrien. A few months later his health deteriorated sharply and he died peacefully in November.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.