Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

McKeown Kevin né le 18 décembre 1907 à Ballybarrack
dans le diocèse d'Armagh, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1931
prêtre le 21 décembre 1934
décédé le 10 février 1981

1935-1947 missionnaire au Liberia
1948 Blackrock Road, Cork
1949-1950 Ballinafad
1950-1963 missionnaire au Liberia
vicariat de Monrovia
1964-1979 au service du diocèse de Northampton
1979-1981 Rostrevor, aumônier des sœurs nda

décédé à Dublin, Irlande, le 10 février 1981,
à l'âge de 73 ans


Father Kevin McKEOWN (1907 - 1981)

Kevin McKeown was born at Ballybarrack, Dundalk, Co Louth, in the archdiocese of Armagh, on 18 December 1907. He died in the Mater hospital, Dublin, on 10 February 1981.

Kevin studied with the Marist Fathers, at St. Mary's college, Dundalk, for a year (1927) before coming to the S.M.A.'s apostolic school at Wilton, Cork. Completing his secondary studies in 1929 he entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of that year. He went to the Society's major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, for his theological training in 193l. Kevin was admitted to membership of the Society on 2 July 193l, and was ordained a priest, by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 21 December 1934. He was one of a group of twelve ordained on that day.

After ordination Kevin was appointed to the Republic of Liberia. Liberia was the first territory to be entrusted to the Irish Province on its foundation in 1912. It was to prove one of the most intransigent missions in the West African theatre. Kevin was to spend a quarter of a century in Liberia. He arrived in Monrovia, Liberia's capital, some months after the appointment of John Collins as vicar apostolic. A resourceful missionary with a talent for building construction, Kevin was to become a key member of Bishop Collins' staff. Kevin's first missionary tour lasted five years (1935-1940). He spent the first year at Grand Bassa under the superiorship of John Kennedy. This coastal mission district had been founded in 1929 and comprised one principal station (Bassa) and three secondary stations. There were some 300 Catholics in the district. Kevin was next posted to Gbarnga district as assistant to Alex Matthews. This mission district, situated in the interior, north-east of Monrovia, had been established a few years earlier (in 1933) and had a mere 17 Catholics and 25 catechumens.

When Kevin sought to return to Liberia after his first home leave, in 1941, the world war was at its height and he found it difficult to obtain a sea passage. Eventually, in March 1943 he sailed on a convoy and made his way back to Liberia. Kevin was re-appointed to Gbarnga and two years later, in 1945, was posted to Sanequellie mission, deep into the interior, where he ministered with Pat McGirr. In 1948, home in Ireland at the end of his second tour, he was retained to supervise a building extension at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad. In 1950, the work complete, Kevin returned to Liberia. In the same year the Cape Palmas region of the Liberia vicariate was erected as an independent prefecture (under Francis Carroll) and the remaining territory became the vicariate of Monrovia. Kevin had spent most of his missionary life in the Monrovia region and he was incorporated into the new vicariate. Bishop Collins nominated him as one of his councillors and re-appointed him to Sanequellie mission. Kevin remained in the Monrovia vicariate until ill-health compelled him to retire from Africa in October 1963.

A member of a Society whose founder (Bishop de Marion Brésillac) gave precedence over all else to the formation of indigenous clergy, Kevin was ever watchful for opportunities to encourage vocations. One of those who attributed his vocation to Kevin's influence and interest, was Michael Kpakala Francis, archbishop of Monrovia. Kevin had stood as godfather to him on the occasion of his baptism. When Michael Francis was nominated bishop of Monrovia diocese in 1976 he invited Kevin to attend his episcopal ordination. Kevin was able to accept and was one of the proudest people at that ceremony on December 19th.
After his retirement from Africa Kevin worked in a number of English dioceses. First of all he served for six months as chaplain to a nursing home, at Boarbank Hall, Grange-over-sands, Lancashire. Then, in September 1964 he took up an appointment at Douglas, on the Isle of Mann. In May 1966 he became chaplain to the McKenna Home for mentally retarded young men at Yaxley-Eye, Suffolk. He also acted as chaplain to the Carmelite nuns at Quidenham, some 20 miles distant. In 1978 the McKenna's, who ran the home at Yaxley, retired and Kevin returned to Ireland. He spent his last years (from September 1979) as chaplain to the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, at Rostrevor, Co Down, in the shadow of his own Mountains of Mourne.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.