Société des Missions Africaines –Province des Etats-Unis

stitt robert né le 6 septembre 1898 à Derry
dans le diocèse de Derry, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 7 juillet 1926
prêtre le 8 juin 1930
décédé le 13 janvier 1960

1930-1945 missionnaire au Nord Nigeria

1946-- passe à la Province américaine
1946-1960 Tenafly, membre de l'équipe d'animation

décédé à Englewood, USA, le 13 janvier 1960,
à l'âge de 61 ans

(biographie en anglais à la suite)

Le père Robert STITT (1898 - 1960)

A l'hôpital d'Englewood, Etat du New-Jersey aux USA, le 13 janvier 1960, retour à Dieu du père Robert Stitt, à l'âge de 61 ans.

Robert Stitt naquit dans le diocèse de Derry (Irlande) en 1898. Il fit ses études dans les maisons de la Société: Ballinafad, Wilton, Kilcogan, Dromantine. Assermenté en 1926, il est ordonné prêtre le 8 juin 1930.

Il part aussitôt pour la préfecture de la Nigeria Septentrionale et passe dans celle de Kaduna en 1934. Il travailla en particulier à Minna. Bon organisateur et grand travailleur, il menait une vie exemplaire. Zélé et charitable envers les pauvres, il s'intéressait surtout à la question des écoles et des œuvres de charité. Revenu de mission en 1945, il passa à la Province d'Amérique. Il fut mis au service de la maison provinciale à Tenafly. Il mourut à l'hôpital à la suite d'une opération.

Father Robert STITT (1898 - 1960)

Robert Stitt was born in the city of Derry, Northern Ireland (his address was 12 Beechwood St.), in the parish of Long Tower, on September 6, l898. He died in Englewood hospital, Englewood, New Jersey, USA, on January 13, l960.

Robert (Bob) was one of eight children born to Robert and Mary (nee McCourt) Stitt in Derry. Bob received his primary education at St. Columba’s Boys School, Long Tower. He then came to the Society’s colleges. He studied at the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (l920 l92l), and at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, before entering the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He studied theology in the Society's major seminary at Dromantine, Co Down (l926 l930). Bob became a member of the Society on July 7, l926 and was ordained a priest, by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on June 8, l930. Bob was one of a group of ten ordained on that day.

After ordination Bob was appointed to the Prefecture of Northern Nigeria. The mission to northern Nigeria had been pioneered in l907 when three SMA priests travelled to Shendam and established a station. The Prefecture of Northern Nigeria had been erected in 1929. William Porter, nominated Prefect Apostolic in April 1930, appointed Bob to Kano mission, where Alphonse Schahl was superior. In 1932 Bob was sent to explore the possibility of developing missions to the indigenous population in the region of Minna. The town of Minna was on the railway line and there were a number of Christians, mainly immigrants from the east and south (Igbos and Yorubas) who had come northwards with the railway line. Bob set up his headquarters in Minna, which was formerly an outstation of Kaduna. On the division of the Prefecture in l934 into the separate Prefectures of Jos and Kaduna, Bob was incorporated into the Kaduna jurisdiction. Thomas Hughes was the new Prefect and, in addition to Minna, there were resident missions at Kaduna, Zaria, Kano, all on the railway line, catering mainly for immigrants from the east and south. Bob continued on alone in Minna with little opportunity to develop the Church among the indigenous population of the hinterland. In 1936, however, Mgr. Hughes was able to supply a second priest to Minna and Bob, with another confrère, was now able to look for suitable locations for new missions in indigenous areas. After much exploration they recommended Gawu, Masuga (near Kontagora, Old Niger Province) and Argungu (Sokoto Province). In 1937 Bob became founding superior of Gawun district. Two years later, in 1939, he was nominated superior of the Kaduna mission, an expanding district with a Catholic community in excess of 2,000 members. In 1942 Bob returned to Kano mission where he had commenced his missionary career. There, as well as performing the duties of the parish ministry, he acted for a period (1942-43) as 'Regional Superior' responsible to his Provincial Superior for the welfare of members in the northern region. In addition to his pioneering pastoral work Bob served for periods as auxiliary chaplain to the British West African Force at Kaduna and to the American Air Corps at Kano.

During the war years Bob's health began to deteriorate and when he returned to Ireland on home leave in 1945 he was advised not to return to the tropics. Accordingly, late in 1945 Bob joined the American Province of the Society, sailing for the USA in November l946. He was to become an American citizen in 1954. He worked at the Provincial headquarters in Tenafly, New Jersey, promoting the missionary work of the Province until the time of his death in Englewood hospital. Much of his time was spent preaching appeals at week-ends at parish churches in dioceses designated by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. He also did temporary supply work in the Archdioceses of Newark and New York. In 1949, in addition to his other tasks, he became business manager of the Province’s newsletter the African Angelus. Bob had left Nigeria because it was feared that he had T.B. In fact he was suffering from stomach ulcers, a problem which was to pursue him all his life. He died after an operation connected with this recurring illness.

His obituary in the African Missionary records: 'When Father Stitt preached his first sermon to a pathetically small and ragged congregation in northern Nigeria over 30 years ago, that whole area was voted hopeless! Today it is one of our most promising missions. Little out-stations he built in a reckless, foolish hope, today are established parishes, and the pastors there are building 30 and 40 class-rooms a year, so great is the response. He was one of the most active missionaries on the field'. Since 1960, when that tribute was written, the old Prefecture of Northern Nigeria, where Bob first worked, has been sub-divided many times and new jurisdictions have been erected, including Makurdi, Yola, Sokoto, Minna, Maiduguri, Idah, Kafanchan, and the districts of Kano and Kontagora.

He is buried at Mount Carmel cemetery, Tenafly, New Jersey, USA.