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Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

HEFFERMAN Nicholas né le 13 juillet 1876 à Youghal
dans le diocèse de Cloyne, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 20 octobre 1912
prêtre le 24 juin 1915
décédé le 21 mars 1955

1915-1916 Ballinafad, professeur

1916-1918 Kilcogan, économe
1918-1920 Wilton, économe
1920-1921 Kinneury
1921-1923 travaux de recherche
1923-1932 Nigeria occidentale
1934-1946 Wilton, économe
1946-1955 Wilton, retiré, malade

décédé à Wilton, Irlande, le 21 mars 1955,
à l’âge de 79 ans


Le père Nicholas HEFFERNAN (1876 - 1955)

Le 21 mars 1955, à Cork, retour à Dieu du père Nicholas Heffernan, à l'âge de 79 ans.

Nicholas Heffernan était né dans le diocèse de Cloyne en 1876. Il fit ses études dans les maisons de la Société, fit le serment en 1912 et fut ordonné prêtre en 1915. C'était donc une vocation tardive. Ses supérieurs mettront à profit ses aptitudes pour l'économat. Après un an de professorat à Ballinafad, le père Heffernan sera en effet économe à Wilton, puis à Kilcogan et à la maison des frères à Kinneury. En 1921, il devint quêteur. En 1923, se réalise son désir de partir en mission. Il va rester 9 ans dans le vicariat de la Nigeria Occidentale. Très pieux, homme de foi, le père Heffernan est aussi homme de dévouement et de sacrifice. En 1934, le père reprend sa place d'économe au noviciat de Kilcogan, charge qu'il va conserver jusqu'en 1946. La vie de dévouement du père Hefferman s'acheva par 9 années de maladie.


Father Nicholas Joseph HEFFERNAN (1876 - 1955)

Nicholas Heffernan was born at Youghal, in the diocese of Cloyne, on 13 July 1876. He died in St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, on 21 March 1955.

Nicholas (familiarly known to students as 'Billy') was a 'delayed vocation' to the Society. Educated with the Christian Brothers at the North Monastery, Cork (1890 1893) up to intermediate level, he was a 'pupil teacher' at that school for a period. He worked for nine years as a book-keeper at Henry O'Shea's Bakery, Cork, before deciding to study for the missionary priesthood. In September 1906 he came to St. Joseph's college, Wilton, to complete his secondary education. He was one of the first students to enter the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, at its opening as a secondary school on 23 March 1908. He stayed there until 1910 when, having completed an advanced course in Latin, he entered the major seminary at Blackrock Road, Cork, to study philosophy and theology (1910 1914). Ordained to the sub diaconate in 1914, he was assigned to teach at Ballinafad and continued on there after priesthood until 1916. Nicholas had already been admitted to membership of the Society on 20 October 1912, and was ordained a priest in St. Joseph's church, Blackrock Road, by Bishop Daniel Cohalan, auxiliary bishop of Cork, on 24 June 1915. He was one of a group of six ordained on that day.

Nicholas came to priesthood scarcely three years after the erection of the Irish Province, when numbers were low and when a great variety of tasks had to be undertaken. Nicholas was thrust into posts of responsibility without delay. In June 1916 he was appointed bursar and pro-superior of the Society's new novitiate, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. This fine house and estate was given to the Society by its principal benefactor, Llewellyn Blake, who was resident in the house when Nicholas arrived and died shortly afterwards in September. Between 1918-1920 Nicholas served as bursar in Wilton after which he spent a year in the brothers novitiate at Kinneury, near Westport. Next he was sent to gather funds for the Province which at the time found itself in a serious financial crisis. Finally in 1923 his wish to go on the missions was fulfilled.

Nicholas spent nine years in the vicariate of western Nigeria, working under Bishop Thomas Broderick. Nicholas' first appointment was to the district of Warri, which had been established in 1917. Warri mission and its 50 outstations served a Catholic community of some 1,300 members and 200 catechumens, who worshipped in the district's 61 churches. After two years in Warri Nicholas was transferred to Asaba, headquarters of the vicariate, where he was entrusted with administration of the vicariate's finances. He discharged this task with skill and efficiency, without ever losing the human touch. On his return from Ireland after his first home leave, in November 1928 Nicholas resumed his procuratorship at Asaba. In 1930 he was appointed superior of Ogwashi-Uku district, which had been established in 1905 and was situated some 17 miles from Asaba.

Among other things, Nicholas is remembered for the Fathers' residence which he built in the town of Ogwashi-Uku. Its site was rather elevated, perhaps 800 above sea level, and quite cold in harmattan season (November April), which prompted Nicholas to include an upstairs fireplace. It was his reputation as a good administrator which led to his recall to Ireland in 1924 when he was assigned as bursar in Kilcolgan, a position he occupied until 1946. Between 1946-1949 he was a staff member in Ballinafad where he took care of the gardens. In October 1949, aged 73 years, Nicholas retired to Blackrock Road, where he kept busy, helping with the 'missionary shilling cards' and with the gardens. In April 1952 he transferred to Wilton, where he assisted with confessions in the public church and also took charge of the gardens. Travelling to Tipperary on holidays in July 1953, Nicholas suffered a stroke while saying Mass in St. John's hospital, Limerick. Discharged from hospital in August, he returned to Wilton where he was able to say Mass every day until the time of his death.

Nicholas was tall, energetic and extremely active, with many vital interests athletics, 'country' sports, nature study, games, the Gaelic revival, the bagpipes and, above all, boats, ships and the sea. He joined literary circles and drama clubs in the opening years of the century. During his tenure at Kilcolgan he became a well-known figure at the Connemara Pony Show in Clifden. Up to the age of 72 he still used his bicycle and went camping as chaplain with boy scouts and youth clubs around Cork. In his seventies too came one of the greatest joys of his life for this old Irish revivalist and lover of the sea when he stood behind the helm of an Irish owned ship on a voyage across the Atlantic. The walled orchard at Wilton was a world in which he found wonder and joy. Bee keeping was the last pursuit he tried.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.