Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

GILROY Peter né le 16 février 1910 à Stewartstown
dans le diocèse d’Armagh, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1934
prêtre le 19 décembre 1937
décédé le 18 mars 1972

1938-1966 diocèse de Kaduna
1967-1971 collège de Ballinafad

décédé à Galway, Irlande, le 18 mars 1872
à l’âge de 62 ans

Father Peter John GILROY (1910 - 1972)

Peter Gilroy was born at Stewartstown, Co Tyrone, in the archdiocese of Armagh, on 16 February 1910. He died at the regional hospital, Galway, on 18 March 1972.

Peter studied with the Christian Brothers, at Omagh, from 1926 1930. Next, with a view to becoming a Redemptorist, he studied philosophy at St. Alphonsus's college Limerick for two years. However he then decided to become a missionary in Africa and entered the S.M.A.'s novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of 1932. Peter studied theology in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down (1934-1938). He was received into the Society on 1 July 1934 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 19 December 1937. He was one of a group of fifteen ordained on that day.

In October 1938 Peter sailed for Nigeria where he was assigned to the prefecture of Kaduna, in northern Nigeria. This prefecture had been established four years previously, under the leadership of Thomas Hughes (later bishop of Ondo). The prefecture covered a vast area, including the civil provinces of Zaria, Niger, Sokoto, Kano and also part of French Niger. On arrival Peter was appointed to the district of Zaria where Denis Minihane was superior. Zaria mission had been founded in 1918 under the patronage of Christ the King. In the year Peter came to Zaria there was a Catholic community of 1,200 members and 363 catechumens - many of them immigrants from the east who had come northwards with the railway -located in the central mission and its six outstations. It was here that Peter received his induction to missionary life. After six months he was posted to the district of Argungu, a rural mission in the old Sokoto state, some 500 miles from Kaduna, which had been founded three years earlier, as part of a drive to root the Church among the indigenous population. In 1941 Peter was one of a number of S.M.A. missionaries who volunteered as chaplains to the West African division. During the remaining years of the war he served in Ghana, Ibadan, India and Burma. In 1946 Peter left the army with the rank of major and came to Ireland on home leave.

Peter returned to the Kaduna jurisdiction in August 1947. He was to minister in the prefecture (which became the archdiocese of Kaduna in 1959) until he was invalided home in March 1966. John (Jack) McCarthy, who had succeeded Mgr. Hughes as prefect in 1943, appointed him first to his old mission of Zaria, where he was assisted by Tommy Lennon and Gerry Scanlan. There were now almost 5,000 Catholic members and 800 catechumens in this thriving station. In 1950 Peter was transferred to the district of Guni, a rural station which had been founded nine years earlier, as part of the policy to evangelise those indigenous peoples whose religion was Animist. Peter was greeted in Guni by a Catholic community of 100 members. In contrast to Zaria where there were some 18 Catholic marriages annually (perhaps the best indication of progress), Guni had a single such marriage in 1950.

When Peter next returned to Nigeria from home leave, early in 1953, he was posted to the district of Kano. Although Kano was the largest Islamic centre in Nigeria, there was a strong Catholic community of almost 9,000 members, the largest of any district in the north, although it must be said that most of the members were immigrants from the east. Peter spent his next tour of duty (1957-1960) first in Guni district and from mid-1958 at Minna, another railway line town, which missionaries had first visited in 1918. In 1961 Peter was appointed parish priest of Gawu mission, among the Gwari people, which, like Guni and Argungu, had been founded to create a truly indigenous Church in the north.

During his 28 years in Nigeria Peter was engaged in a variety of ministries: pastoral work, church and school construction, hospital visitation and chaplaincy to local army units. Much of his work was among the Catholic immigrants in the large cities. Peter's wartime years as military chaplain to the West African Frontier Force came as a surprise to some of his colleagues. One wrote: 'Peter never struck one as being the military type, but he amazed everyone by his joyous enthusiasm for the military life in the face of difficulties that might well have over-awed a man of greater physique'. Peter was an excellent host and a kind and attentive colleague. He was invalided home from Nigeria in 1966 with cardiac problems. From 1967 until his death he was attached to the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo. In 1971 he sustained two strokes and was hospitalised in Castlebar, after which he went to the O.L.A. nursing home at Castlemagarrett to convalesce. On 4th March 1972 he was admitted to the regional hospital, Galway.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.