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Société des Missions Africaines – Province d'Irlande
Le Père Martin LACEY

 Lacey martin  né le 19 octobre 1897 dans l’île d’Inishbifin
dans le diocèse de Tuam, Irlande
serment de la SMA le 8 juillet 1925
prêtre le 9 juin 1929
décédé le 1er décembre 1944
 

1929-1944 missionnaire au Liberia
Monrovia, Sasstown, Betu

décédé à Monrovia, Liberia, le 1er décembre 1944,
à l’âge de 45 ans

Le père Martin LACEY (1899 - 1944)

A Monrovia (Liberia), le 1er décembre 1944, retour à Dieu du père Martin Lacey, à l'âge de 45 ans.

Martin Lacey naquit dans l'île d'Inishbofin, dans le diocèse de Tuam, en Irlande, en 1899. Il fit ses études dans la Société et fut ordonné prêtre en 1929. Aussitôt après son ordination, le père Lacey partit pour la préfecture du Liberia. Comme tous les insulaires, si souvent attristés par les récits des désastres de la mer, le père était mélancolique.

Le père Lacey mourut des suites d'une bilieuse.


Father Martin LACEY (1897 - 1944)

Martin Lacey was born on the island of Inishbofin, off Clifden, Connemara, Co Galway, in the archdiocese of Tuam, on 19 October 1897. He died at Monrovia, Liberia, on 1st December 1944.

Martin was the younger brother of George Lacey who became a priest with the Society in 1920 and died at Lokoja, Western Nigeria, within six months of his arrival there. Martin came to the Society when he was 21 years old. He studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1918 1920), and at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1919 1923). It was at Wilton, in December 1921, that he learned of his brother's death. Premature deaths were frequent occurrences ever since the Irish Province had first been formed in 1912. Testimony from retired members who lived through the 1920's and 1930's reveals that premature deaths were accepted calmly, both in the seminary and on the missions, as the price to be paid for the evangelisation of Africa. Martin completed his course at Wilton and, in the autumn of 1923, entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He studied theology in St. Joseph's seminary, Blackrock Road, Cork (1925 1926) and at Dromantine, Co Down, to which the seminary was transferred in 1926. He completed his course in 1929. Martin was received as a member of the Society on 8 July 1925 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 9 June 1929. He was one of a group of fifteen ordained on that day.

After the annual departure ceremony at St. Joseph's church, Blackrock Road, Martin set sail for the Republic of Liberia, in West Africa. Martin served as a missionary in the prefecture of Liberia, first under Jean Ogé, the prefect apostolic, and then (from 1932) under Ogé's successor, John Collins, who became a bishop in 1934. Martin was to play an important part in establishing the Church in what was considered to be the Province's most difficult mission field. Liberia had a high rate of attrition among missionaries, many of them returning home in broken health unfit for further service in the tropics. Martin was one of those who provided the continuity so essential to the success of the work, remaining at his mission for fourteen years.

On his arrival in Africa, in October 1929, Martin was appointed to Monrovia, Liberia's capital. Although there had been a continuous missionary presence there for some eight years, the Church had made little progress, not least because of the virulent opposition of fundamentalist Protestant sects. In 1931 Martin was re-assigned to assist Tom John Hughes in pioneering a new mission district at Sannequellie, deep in the interior. A catholic community of 8 members and 10 catechumens greeted the Fathers on their arrival. When Martin returned from his first home leave, in 1934, he was re-appointed to Sannequellie. By 1935, together with Denis Manning, who succeeded Fr. Hughes as superior, Martin helped to extend the catholic membership to some 50 and the number of catechumens to over 200. In addition he helped to found 12 outstations, covering a vast area. One of those outstations, Gbarnga, is now the headquarters of a diocese. In 1936 Martin was appointed to the district of Sasstown-Betu, on the Kru Coast. Here the Church had made significant strides since its foundation in 1912. Martin was posted to the mission of Old Sasstown, which had a catholic community in excess of 1,000 members. Martin became superior of this busy mission in 1937. A year later, in 1938, he was posted to the district of Bassa, about 70 miles east of Monrovia, where he was nominated superior.

Twice during his missionary life - in 1933 and again in 1939 - Martin was invalided home for periods of rest. Nonetheless on each occasion he returned to his mission and was to die at his post. After his return to Liberia in 1940 he was assigned to Gbarnga mission, ministering alone in this station for two years. His last appointment was to Monrovia, where he was given responsibility for the Kpessis people (they were centred on the town of Kakata, some 40 miles from the capital). Like his brother George, Martin too was to succumb to fever, although in his case the diagnosis was more definite. He died of the dreaded blackwater fever while George appears to have contracted a pernicious form of malarial fever. At the time of his death Martin had almost completed three tours of duty in Africa each lasting five years.

The little chapel on Inishbofin island has a memorial plaque on the 'Gospel side' of its high altar to the four islandmen who joined the S.M.A. They were the two Laceys, and the Lavelle brothers, Martin and John.

He is buried in Monrovia, Republic of Liberia.