Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

O Neil John né le 12 juin 1908 à Brosna
dans le diocèse de Kerry, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1933
prêtre le 20 décembre 1936
décédé le 26 février 1975

1937-1950 missionnaire au vicariat de Lagos

Oshogbo, Abeokuta, Ebutte Metta
1950-1951 malade, soins
1951-1970 Tralee, école Saint-Joseph, aumônier
1970-1975 Tralee, aumônier de la maison
de retraite Fatima

décédé à Tralee, Irlande, le 26 février 1975,
à l'âge de 67 ans

Father John Gerard O'NEILL (1908 - 1975)

John G. O'Neill was born in Brosna, Co Kerry (the family address during his student days was: 'Denagh Lodge', Killarney), in the diocese of Kerry, on 12 June 1908. He died at the Bon Secours hospital, Tralee, Co Kerry, on 26th February 1975.

John studied with the Holy Ghost Fathers, in Rockwell college, Co Tipperary, up to intermediate level. Deciding to become a missionary priest at the age of twenty-one years he came to the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, to complete his secondary education. In the autumn of 193l he entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He studied theology at Dromantine, Co Down, between 1933 37. John was admitted to membership of the Society on 2 July 1933 and was ordained a priest at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, on 20 December 1936. He was one of a group of eighteen ordained on that day.

Assigned to the vicariate of the Bight of Benin, John set sail for his mission in October 1937. This vicariate, first established in 1870, comprised at the time of its erection the whole of south western Nigeria and a part of northern Nigeria. Its headquarters were at Lagos where Nigeria's first cathedral was dedicated in 1878. By the time John arrived in the vicariate much progress had been made and at least three divisions of the territory had taken place. Further divisions and subdivisions were to follow in the years ahead. Nonetheless the vicariate which welcomed John in 1937 was still a vast region covering territory as diverse as Ondo, Ilorin, Ijebu country, Oyo, Ibadan, and Ekiti country, as well as the Lagos hinterland.

John's first appointment was to Oshogbo district where Pat KcKay was superior. Oshogbo was the principal station of the district (founded in 1914 under the patronage of St. Benedict); it had a Catholic membership of 3,000 persons and numerous outstations. John spent the last two years of his first tour of duty in Ibonwon district. The principal station, Ibonwon, was first established in 1900 and by the time John arrived there was a strong Catholic community. John took his first home leave in February 1942. He returned to Nigeria in July 1943 on the ill-fated liner S.S. California, which was bombed four days out to sea. Rescued by the corvette, Moyola, John and the other missionaries on board (over 30) disembarked at Casablanca.

His second tour of duty lasted until February 1947. John began this tour with Johnny Kilbey at Oshogbo. Within a matter of months they handed over the district to the White Fathers who had been entrusted by Propaganda Fide with the Ibadan-Oyo region. John (and Johnny Kilbey) were then transferred to Abeokuta district. The principal station, Abeokuta, was one of the oldest missions in the jurisdiction, founded in 1880 under the patronage of Saints Peter and Paul. John spent the last two years of this tour in Ebutte Metta, which was the 'third principal' station in Lagos city, founded in 1913. John's leave in Ireland was extended for compassionate reasons and he returned to Nigeria in October 1949, resuming his duties in Ebutte Metta.

In October 1950 John was invalided home with a heart complaint. His retirement coincided with the erection of the national hierarchy in Nigeria, at which time the Lagos jurisdiction became an archdiocese, the metropolitan see for south and western Nigeria. After his return to Ireland John took up a chaplaincy in St. Joseph's Industrial school for boys founded by the Christian Brothers in Tralee, occupying this position from December 195l until June 1970. When St. Joseph's closed down in June 1970 he became chaplain to the Fatima Old People's home, Oakpark, Tralee.

John G. O'Neill was a pastoral priest who gave his energy and zeal to developing outstations. Warm-hearted, compassionate, and sympathetic, his priestly assignments benefitted greatly from these qualities. Within Society circles he was recognised as a talented raconteur. His obituary in the African Missionary records: 'He was dignified and courteous. He was always ready for serious discussion. He was concerned, in particular, about current religious and moral issues, and would express his views with serious face and solemn tone. And then some human, humorous aspect of the case would strike him, and suddenly the minor prophet would become the kindly, understanding observer of the human scene'.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.