Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande
Le Père James Joseph HICKEY


né le 27 février 1922 à Loughatorick
dans le diocèse de Clonfert, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juin 1944
prêtre le 13 juin 1948
décédé le 26 novembre 2000

1948-1949 Wilton, études
1949-1950 Ballinafad, professeur
1950-1984 diocèse de Benin City, Nigeria
1984-1991 diocèse de Warri, Nigeria
1991-2000 Cork, retiré

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 26 novembre 2000,
à l’âge de 78 ans

Father James Joseph HICKEY (1922 - 2000)

James Hickey was born at Loughatorick, Co Galway, in the parish of Woodford and the diocese of Clonfert, on 27 February 1922. He died in St. Theresa’s nursing unit, SMA House, Blackrock Road, Cork, on 26 November 2000.

Son of Michael and Mary Ann (nee Hickey), James (Jimmy) Hickey was one of a family of nine boys and four girls. After attending primary schools at Loughatorick and Derryobar, he commenced his secondary education in the Society’s Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, in 1936. Three years later he was promoted to the senior-cycle secondary school at Wilton (St. Joseph’s) where he obtained his leaving certificate in 1941. Jimmy went to the Society’s novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in September 1942. Two years later he entered the Society’s major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down. A good student, during his last year in Wilton Jimmy had attended U.C.C. where he followed the First Arts course. During his two years in Kilcolgan he, and some other classmates, attended lectures in U.C.G. each Thursday and received further lectures in the house from a priest designated for that purpose by the university. Jimmy graduated with a B.A. degree (his subjects were philosophy and education) in 1944. He was received as a member of the Society on 2 July 1944, and was ordained a priest in St. Colman’s cathedral, Newry, Co Down, by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore, on 13 June 1948. He was one of a group of fourteen ordained on that day.

After ordination Jimmy was sent to Cork to study for a Higher Diploma in Education at U.C.C., taking up his residence at Wilton. Having obtained this degree he was appointed to the staff of the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad. In the summer of 1950 the Irish Provincial received an urgent appeal from Bishop P.J. Kelly in mid-western Nigeria, for ‘a man with the Higher Diploma’, to replace a Father who had been invalided home. And so in September 1950 Jimmy first set foot on the soil of Africa, joining the staff of the newly-erected diocese of Benin City, going to a region of Nigeria where he was to serve until 1991. At the time of Jimmy’s appointment this mid-Western jurisdiction covered a vast territory, some 58,000 square kilometers with 1,700,000 inhabitants. Today it is divided into an archdiocese and several dioceses. The first mission in the region dated from 1884.

Jimmy was to spend most of his missionary life in the teaching apostolate. His first assignment was to St. John Bosco’s teacher training college, in Ubiaga, where there were almost 200 students. This college provided teachers for the diocese’s ever-growing network of elementary schools. He was to remain there, for almost a decade, serving for several years as principal. From 1960 he served as principal of Our Lady of Fatima College, in Auchi and during the early part of his long missionary career he spent a brief period on the staff of St. Paul’s Seminary, Benin City (this was the inter-diocesan major seminary, transferred in 1956 to Ibadan under the title of S.S Peter and Paul).

In the 1970’s he was founder principal of St. James’ Catholic Grammar School, Afuze, Owan division. Though he was a strict disciplinarian he had a great reputation as a teacher, based mainly on the success of his students in examinations. Towards the end of his time in Benin he threw himself with great enthusiasm into parish work at Fugar. This was in Afemai division of Benin North, about 20 miles from Agenebode (known as the Kukukuru country by the Moslems) and Jimmy greatly enjoyed the change from the classroom. However as a result of some differences in the parish, in 1984 he cut his ties with Benin City diocese and went to work in the diocese of Warri. Bishop Edmund Fitzgibbon put him in charge of a new parish in Agbaro, a few miles from Warri, where he worked with great success among the Urhobo people. Unfortunately the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease forced him to retire from Nigeria in 1991 and for the remaining years of his life he lived in the SMA community at Blackrock Road.

Jimmy always remained close to his family in the west of Ireland. In a piece written on the occasion of his Golden Jubilee, in 1998, there is the following extract: ‘His immediate family, especially his nephews and nieces, recalled with delight Fr. Jimmy’s summer holidays from Nigeria: arriving in the hayfield after morning Mass with a block of ice-cream; day trips to Salthill; all-night sessions of ’45; long hours spent by himself fishing on Loughatorick lake; games of golf at Portumna; the sadness of his return to Nigeria as school began in September.’ In his own locality he is also fondly remembered for assisting Fr. Pascal Donoghue in 1980 to revive devotion at the Mass rock in Loughatorick.

Jimmy’s last years were sad to observe, although he always presented a cheerful demeanour and a ready smile. The latter was due, in no small part, to the loving care he received from the nursing staff in Blackrock Road, led by Sister Rosaline Bowles. As his illness got progressively worse his memory faded away. This was particularly poignant at the time of his Golden Jubilee when the five survivors of his ordination class were gathered together. On that occasion he was unable to concelebrate the Mass or join in the celebrations . But those who knew him in his hey-day in Africa recalled on that occasion his talent as a teacher, his skill as a hurler, his fiery temper and his passionate enthusiasm for a game of cards.

Two of Jimmy’s large family entered religious life. His sister, May, joined the Sacred Heart of Mary Congregation in France (Sr. Zita); another sister, Peggy, became a Mercy sister in Naas (S. Bosco).

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.