Société des Missions Africaines –Province de'Irlande

grace alphonsus né le 30 avril 1918 à Traverston
dans le diocèse de Killaloe, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1941
prêtre le 17 décembre 1944
décédé le 7 janvier 1989

1945-1946 Wilton, études supérieures

1946-1957 missionnaire au Nigeria, Benin City
1957-1964 Ballinafad, recteur
1964-1968 Dromantine, recteur
1969-1989 missionnaire au Nigeria, Benin City

décédé à Uromi, Nigeria, le 7 janvier 1989,
à l'âge de 70 ans

Father Michael Alphonsus GRACE (1918 - 1989)

Michael Grace was born at Traverston, Ballinlough, Co Tipperary, in the diocese of Killaloe, on 30 April 1918. He died in St. Camillus hospital, Uromi, Bendel state, Nigeria, on 7 January 1989.

Michael (Mick) studied at the Christians Brothers school, Nenagh, Co Tipperary, before going in 1934 to the Society's preparatory college, at Ballinafad, Co Mayo. In 1935 he entered the Society's college at Wilton, Cork, where he completed his secondary education. This was an era when priests with university qualifications were being sought for West Africa. The Society's missionary bishops in Nigeria and the Gold Coast (now Ghana) anticipated that secondary school education would become as important an arm of the apostolate as elementary schooling had been in the past. It was for this reason that Michael (with others of his class) remained on in Wilton for a further year (1938 1939) in order to attend U.C.C., where he followed the first arts course in philosophy and education. Michael entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in 1939. During his two years there he attended lectures at U.C.G., and received 'in house' lectures from Edward Harrington (by special arrangement with the university). Finally, in 194l he was awarded a B.A. degree in philosophy and education. Michael's theological training took place in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. Michael was received into the Society on 1 July 194l and was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, on 17 December 1944. He was one of a group of seventeen ordained on that day.

After ordination Michael was sent to Wilton where he taught while studying for his higher diploma in education, which he received in 1946. Much of Michael's subsequent life as a priest was to be spent in colleges, both in Africa and in Ireland, although he had a strong leaning towards pastoral work which he pursued whenever he had the opportunity. Michael was an obvious choice for teaching and formation work, given his excellent scholastic record, and his interest in sport (he was a fine athlete in his youth and a competent tennis player and golfer in later life). His ability as an administrator, dedication to his work, and his remarkable prudence caused heavy burdens to be laid on his shoulders by his superiors.

In the autumn of 1946 Michael was assigned to the Asaba Benin vicariate (erected as the diocese of Benin City in 1950) where he worked under the dynamic leadership of Bishop Patrick J. Kelly. He remained in the diocese for nine years, working for a time as secretary to Bishop Kelly, and on the staffs of the minor and major seminary, and in the catechist training school. At weekends he went to Ossiomo Leper Settlement, 30 miles out from Benin, to do pastoral work. In 1957 Michael was recalled to Ireland and appointed rector of the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, a post he occupied until 1964 when he became rector of the seminary, at Dromantine. During these years (1957 1969) he made an invaluable contribution to the formation of new missionaries for the Province. His superiorship of the seminary (which in the post Vatican Council era was caught up in the ferment of unrest affecting seminaries everywhere) proved difficult and exacted a heavy toll on his health. In 1969 he suffered a series of heart attacks in which the pressure of work was doubtless a factor. Making a good recovery towards the end of that year Michael returned to Benin City diocese where he laboured for 20 years more until his death.

Michael revealed qualities of great courage in returning to Africa. Admired by his colleagues, many of whom were his former pupils and students, he taught in the diocese's schools and at weekends devoted himself to pastoral work. For a period he served as vicar general of the diocese. In his last years he was freed from school work to serve full time in the pastoral ministry. Some weeks before his last Christmas he had been in hospital. He was urged to stay on over Christmas, but he was determined to return to his mission to be with his people for the great feast. However, when he went to his station his condition deteriorated and he was taken back to the hospital in Uromi. After Christmas he went into a coma and died there.

He is buried in the grounds of the Brother Roman Centre, Ekpoma, Nigeria.