Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande
Le Père Peter J BENNETT
né le 15 octobre 1907 à Cashel, Hollymount
dans l’archidiocèse de Tuam, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1931
prêtre le 21 décembre 1934
décédé le 1er décembre 1995
Père Peter J Bennett

1935-1951 préfecture de Jos, Nigeria
1952-1965 diocèse de Jos
1966-1969 archidiocèse d’Edimbourg, Ecosse
1969-1972 archidiocèse de Liverpool, Angleterre
1972-1977 diocèse de Clifton, Angleterre
1978-1979 diocèse de Limerick, Irlande
1980-1985 Cork, Frères de la charité, aumônier
1985-1995 Blackrock Road, retiré

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 1er décembre 1995,
à l'âge de 88 ans

Father Peter Joseph BENNETT (1907 - 1995)

Peter Bennett was born at Cashel, Hollymount, Co Mayo, in the archdiocese of Tuam, on 15 October 1907. He died in his sleep, in the mother-house of the Irish Province, at Blackrock Road, Cork, on 1 December 1995.

Peter's parents were national school teachers in Robeen, Hollymount, about ten miles from the Society's preparatory school, at Ballinafad. Peter was second-last in a family of eight children. From his primary school days he was aware of the missionaries at Ballinafad and knew a number of S.M.A. priests from his neighbourhood, including Larry Navin, Valentine Barnicle and John Heaney. Wanting to become a missionary he persuaded his father to write to Ballinafad and after an interview with Fr. John Levins he was accepted and came to Ballinafad in September 1925. A year later he entered St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, where he studied for the leaving certificate. In September 1929 Peter joined the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He studied theology in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down. Peter was received as a member of the Society on 2 July 1931. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 21 December 1934, one of a class of twelve ordained on that day (known subsequently in the Society as the 'Apostles'). One of the highlights of his student years (also an indicator of his toughness and resilience) was a three-week cycling tour around the coast of Ireland which he undertook in the Summer of 1932 with Larry Dolan, Kevin McKeown and Dick Tobin. During that same summer too he attended the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin.

After ordination Peter returned to Dromantine to complete his seminary formation. In October 1935 he sailed on board the R.M.S. Abosso, for the prefecture of Jos, in northern Nigeria. Disembarking at Lagos Peter travelled northwards by train, a journey which took two full days. In Jos Peter joined a staff of nine Fathers, mainly young Irishmen, led by William Lumley. His first appointment was to Shendam, the oldest mission in northern Nigeria (dating from 1907) where William Gannon was superior. Under Fr. Gannon's supervision Peter studied the Hausa language, learned about local customs and undertook supervised pastoral work. After six months he took his examination in Hausa and received faculties to hear confessions. Tragedy struck Jos prefecture late in 1937, shortly after Peter had been posted to the mission in Jos town. Peter gave the following account: 'I had just returned from visiting outstations when Fr. Gannon told me that two Fathers were sick in Kwande and that he was going down to see how they were. Some days later I was alone in the station when Fr. Tony Dwyer, already jaundiced and very sick, came to the Jos Plateau hospital'.

What had happened was that Fr. Dwyer, who was based in Shendam (nearest to Kwande) had been the first to go to the aid of the two Fathers, both of whom had contracted yellow fever. One of these Fathers, John Marren had died and Fr. Dwyer had made his coffin and buried him. The second priest, Pat McAnally, survived. While tending to the stricken Fathers, Fr. Dwyer contracted yellow fever, and was immediately despatched to Jos hospital. Peter anointed him there before he died. There were a number of other deaths at this time, some of them attributed to yellow fever. As a result many of the missionaries, including Peter, submitted themselves to an inoculation against this disease in Lagos during the course of 1937. The serum injected was 'live' and the Fathers had to spend three weeks quarantined in Lagos before being released.

During his first tour of duty Peter ministered in Jos, Shendam and Udei. The work involved the sacramental ministry, conducting catechism classes, supervising schools and building mission plant. Every second month he would travel to outstations, staying away from the central station for two weeks at a time. Peter returned to Ireland on his first home leave just after the second world war had broken out. Because of the difficulty in securing a sea passage back to Nigeria, he was unable to return to Jos until June 1941. He spent most of his leave in Blackrock Road, but also took a diploma in tropical medicine at Trinity college, Dublin. Peter's journey back to Nigeria was eventful. He travelled back on a convoy which assembled near Glasgow. North of Greenock the convoy was bombed although there were no direct hits. They were bombed a second time coming into Freetown, but arrived unscathed. In subsequent years Peter served in most of the principal districts of the Jos jurisdiction. After the war he was mission superior in Shendam. In 1951 he was posted to Kafanchan district. In 1955 he transferred to Zawan mission. Finally, from 1957 he was mainly in charge of Bauchi mission. Peter was to serve continuously in the Jos jurisdiction until March 1965. He had the joy of seeing Jos erected as a diocese in 1953, under the leadership of John Reddington. In his last year before his death he had the added joy of learning that Jos had been erected as an archdiocese, under the leadership of Gabriel G. Ganaka, first Nigerian bishop of the jurisdiction who was ordained to the episcopate in 1973.

In February 1966 Peter took up a pro-tem appointment in the diocese of Ardagh. At the end of the year he transferred to the diocese of Edinburgh until July 1969, serving in St. Margaret's presbytery, Davidsons Mains and, later, St. Mary's presbytery, Balnakiel House, Galashiels. He next took up pastoral work in the diocese of Liverpool, ministering at Our Lady's presbytery, 39 Eldon Place. In November 1972 Peter entered Walton hospital for surgery. He spent the next five years, until June 1977 as a pastor in Clifton diocese, serving in St. Richard's presbytery, Wiveliscombe, Taunton and St. George's rectory, Billet St. Taunton; and finally Highbridge Road, Burnham-on-Sea. Peter now officially retired, but kept busy with temporary supply work, some of it by no means temporary. He was chaplain at the St. John of God house, Celbridge, between July 1977 and January 1978. He worked in Limerick diocese (Our Lady Queen of Peace, Glenmore Avenue, Roxboro Road) between September and December 1979. His final posting was to the Brothers of Charity, at Rochestown, Cork, where he was chaplain between January 1980 and June 1985. Peter spent the last ten years of his long life with his confreres at Blackrock Road. He had been in failing health for some time in the months before his death. He celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination with five classmates in 1984. Ten years later he celebrated his diamond jubilee, along with two members of his class, Joseph Barrett and Lawrence Dolan.

The homilist at Peter's Requiem Mass, Fauchtna O'Driscoll, commented: 'I'm told that in life Peter challenged the quality of others' Christian witness; and he was prepared to have his own Christian living challenged... In talking to men who worked alongside him for many years, different qualities of his personality became clear. Qualities of determination and perseverance were mentioned often. One warmly spoke of his terrier-like tenacity. Another quality that stands out is his gentlemanliness of which I learned the following example. When he was in Bauchi Peter had a cook called Bestman. After the meal Peter would call Bestman and congratulate him on a meal well cooked and served. The visitor would then be expected to do the same... Perhaps Peter's most treasured memory from 30 years in Jos is the fact that he baptised the future archbishop of Kaduna, Peter Yariyok Jatau (ordained bishop in 1972 and nominated archbishop on 10 April 1975)'.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.