Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

R Field william

né le 6 juillet 1917 à Skull Skibbereen
dans le diocèse de Cork, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1939
prêtre le 10 juin 1934
évêque le 27 avril 1958

décédé le 3 février 1988

1934-1976 missionnaire au Nigeria

1934-1938, vicariat du Bénin
1939-1943, vicariat de Lagos
1943-1950, vicariat de Ondo Ilorin
1951-1958, diocèse de Ondo
1958-1976, évêque de Ondo

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 3 février 1988,
à l'âge de 80 ans

Bishop William Richard FIELD (1907 - 1988)

William Field was born at Dreenlomane, Ballydehob, Co Cork, in the diocese of Cork, on 6 July 1907. He died in the S.M.A. house at Blackrock Road, Cork, on 3 February 1988.

Born in the Skull Skibbereen district of West Cork, William went to Skibbereen High school before coming to the Society's preparatory college at Ballinafad, Co Mayo, in the autumn of 1927. There, for a year, he studied Latin, in preparation for entry into the Society's house of philosophy and novitiate, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. Two years later, having been admitted to membership of the Society on 2 July 1930, he commenced his theological studies in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down. He was ordained a priest at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, on 10 June 1934. Seventeen confrères were ordained on that day. Two of them, Matthew McDonnell and Tony Dwyer were to die during their first spell in Africa.

William was to spend over 40 years in Africa. After ordination he was appointed to the vast vicariate of the Bight of Benin, which extended over much of south western Nigeria and had its ecclesiastical capital at Lagos. He arrived in Africa four years after the vicariate had been entrusted to the Irish Province. Bishop Francis O'Rourke was the first Irish bishop of the jurisdiction. In 1938 he was succeeded by Bishop Leo Hale Taylor. During these early years of Irish responsibility, William was a valuable member of the vicariate's staff. His first appointment was to the district of Ado-Ekiti where he served under the superiorship of Jim Young. This was a large district including half of the Province of Ondo, and all the Province of Ilorin. There were up to 100 outstations and much of his time was taken up trekking to visit these far-flung communities. In 1937 Bishop O'Rourke transferred William to take charge of the district of Ijebu-Ode where his assistant priest was Pat McKay. A year later William was appointed to Holy Cross cathedral mission in Lagos where he was given responsibility for schools.

When in 1943 the Ondo Ilorin region was detached and became a vicariate in its own right, William was transferred to the new jurisdiction, serving under Bishop Thomas Hughes. He was to become Bishop Hughes' closest collaborator in developing the Ondo Ilorin jurisdiction. In 1950, with the erection of the Nigerian hierarchy, progress in the region was such that the Holy See saw fit to erect the Ondo-Ilorin district as a diocese. William occupied two of the most important posts in the diocese. Between 1950-1954 he was education supervisor, responsible for the ever-expanding network of schools, for the appointment of teachers, the maintenance of standards, the quality of the physical plant, the acquisition of new sites and, not least, for liaising with the government education department from which annual subventions were sought.

Secondly, in 1954 he was appointed vicar general, acting for the bishop in his absence (Bishop Hughes suffered ill-health from 1952 until the time of his death). William already had experience of weighty responsibility for, between 1946-1949, he had served as 'regional superior', responsible to his superiors for the welfare of the members and which also involved consultation with the Bishop about their appointments. Given his wealth of experience, it was no surprise, therefore, that when Bishop Hughes died in April 1957, William was nominated to succeed him. William was ordained bishop of Ondo diocese on 27 April 1958. The ceremony was conducted in the sports field of St. Thomas Aquinas college, Akure town, the new headquarters of the diocese, where there was yet no cathedral. The ordaining prelate was Bishop Patrick J. Kelly of Benin City. Other prelates who attended the ceremony were Bishop John McCarthy of Kaduna and Bishop John Reddington of Jos. William was 5l years old at the time of his appointment as bishop and had already spent 24 years in Nigeria's Yoruba country.

William came to office towards the end of the colonial period in Nigeria, when the post war boom had brought comparative wealth to the country, and the desire for education was very strong among the Yoruba people. The British were in the process of conceding independence and government was ready to allow the Churches help in the development of educational and health services. William took full advantage of these circumstances, opening several high-quality secondary schools for boys and girls, developing the existing teacher training colleges, founding clinics and hospitals, and introducing religious congregations, such as the Congregation of St. Louis, the Medical Missionaries of Mary, and the De La Salle Brothers, to assist in the work. Critical to the success of the education drive, which involved the opening of some fifteen secondary schools, was the recruitment of lay graduates, mainly from Ireland, during the 1960's. Seeking to make the local Church self perpetuating, William opened a minor seminary at Akure and established novitiates for Nigerian De La Salle Brothers and St. Louis Sisters. So successful were his efforts that the original vicariate of Ondo Ilorin today comprises three distinct dioceses and a prefecture: the dioceses of Ondo (1950), Ekiti (1972) and Ilorin (1969), and the prefecture of Kontagora (1996).

In July 1976, feeling that his work was complete, that the task of inculturating the faith was one better done by a Yoruba bishop, he submitted his resignation to Rome. He was succeeded in office by Bishop Francis F. Alonge. William was still in fairly good health, but his own missionary principles would not permit him to remain. William spent his years of retirement at Blackrock Road, where he died in 1988. His funeral Mass was celebrated at Wilton where his classmate Bishop John Reddington, former bishop of Jos, was the principal concelebrant.

He was buried in Wilton cemetery.