Société des Missions Africaines – Province d'Irlande

KENNEDY Michael né le 18 août 1926
dans le diocèse de Kerry, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1947
prêtre le 13 juin 1951
décédé le 26 mars 2007

1951-1955 études supérieures
1955-1981 diocèse d'Ibadan, Nigeria, collège Loyola
1981-1982 année sabbatique
1982-1992 Wilton, équipe de formation et aide à la paroisse
1992-1993 Wilton, prêtre assistant
1993-1995 Wilton, retiré
1995-2007 Blackrock Road, retiré

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 26 mars 2007
à l’âge de 80 ans

Father Michael KENNEDY - 1936 - 2007

Michael Bernard Kennedy was born on 18 August 1926, at 5 Rock St., Tralee, Co Kerry (later the family moved to ‘St Anne’s’, Castlecountess, Tralee), in the diocese of Kerry, in the parish of St. John’s.
He died in the South Infirmary hospital, Old Blackrock Road, Cork, on 26 March 2007.

Michael (Halai) Kennedy was the eldest of eleven children - six boys and five girls - born to Anne (nee Ryle) and Cornelius Kennedy, in Tralee, Co Kerry. Cornelius was clerk of the U.D.C. Michael’s aunt, Mother Bernard Ryle, was a Brigidine sister while among cousins with clerical connections were Donal O’Connor SMA and Kevin Ryle, a member of the Maynooth Mission to China. Michael’s brothers Tom and Aidan, were members of the Society, while his sister, Sr. Brenda Mary, was a Mercy Sister, based in Tralee. Michael received his primary and secondary education locally, attending the Christian Brothers between 1940-1945 and receiving an honours leaving certificate. He entered the Society’s novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of 1945. He was one of four from his school group – including his brother Tom – to join the SMA and achieve ordination. Two years later he was promoted to the Society’s major seminary, at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. He was first received as a member of the Society on 1st July 1947 and became a permanent member on 12th June 1950. Michael was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore diocese, in St. Catherine’s Church (the Dominican church) in Newry, on 13th June 1951. Renovations in St. Colman’s cathedral, Newry, where SMA ordinations usually took place, occasioned the change of location. Michael was one of a group of ten ordained on that day.

Michael came to priesthood at a time when the Society’s secondary education apostolate in West Africa was rapidly developing. In British West Africa large grants were being made available by government to private agencies for the opening and management of secondary schools. Realising that independence would come sooner rather than later in the wake of the second world war, the British sought to create an educated elite to take over the responsibility of government. From the mission point of view a schools apostolate was vital in developing an educated Catholic group which could take its place in the new society that was being forged. It was not surprising, therefore, that after ordination Michael – who had been an excellent student throughout his training – should be sent to university. Michael attended University College Cork (living in Wilton) between 1951-1954, being awarded an honours B.Sc. Degree (his subjects were Chemistry and Physics). He was then appointed to the Prefecture of Ibadan, in South-Western Nigeria, but his plans to sail were interrupted when his superiors decided that instead he should remain on in Ireland and study for a master’s degree. The reason for this change of course was the news that Michael had been awarded a scholarship by U.C.C in the hope that he would continue his studies to post-graduate level. Accordingly, attending U.C.C. from the SMA house at Blackrock Road, in 1955 he received an M.Sc. degree in Chemistry.

Michael sailed for Ibadan in the closing weeks of 1955. In the same year the prefecture had been erected as a diocese under the leadership of Bishop Richard Finn. On arrival he was appointed to the staff of the recently established Loyola College, a secondary school, whose founding principal was John Mackle. Michael was to work in Loyola College continuously until 1981, serving first as vice-principal and then (between 1960-1981) as principal of the college.

Loyola was Ibadan’s first Catholic boys residential secondary grammar school. Permission to open the college had been first received from the Ministry of Education in January 1954 and efforts were made immediately to acquire a suitable site. One was found on the old Ife road, on the outskirts of Ibadan, and after its purchase had been negotiated with Chief Irefin and his family, work began at once on clearing the land. Building began in June 1954. However six months earlier the school had opened in temporary quarters at Oke Offa parish. At its commencement Loyola was simply known as 'The Catholic Secondary School'. It was not until 1956, when fine new buildings were ready for habitation, that it was given the name 'Loyola College'. Loyola quickly won a reputation for the excellence of its tuition, its students regularly gaining top places in the West African School Certificate examination.

In Nigeria Michael’s name was to become inextricably associated with Loyola. In 1962, under Michael’s leadership, Loyola was listed as one of the few colleges in Nigeria entitled to prepare and enter students for the Higher School Certificate examinations and, again, its record in these examinations (equivalent to A-Levels) was excellent. Among the SMA’s who joined John Mackle and Michael and contributed to this success were Sean O'Connell, P.J. Kileen, Frank Coltsman and Maurice (Mossie) Kelleher; and also several Irish lay graduates including Kathleen Cleary, Madeleine O'Shea, Eileen Kennedy, Jim Horgan, Phil O'Flynn, Peggy Forbes, Seamus Purvis, Frank Fahey and Michael Ryan. The most prominent of the African teachers was Dr. Joseph Obemeata (later principal of Fatima college and lecturer in Ibadan university). College secretaries included Rosemary Horgan and Trudy Johnson, wife of the architect, Geoff Johnson, who designed the Loyola college chapel which was constructed in 1962.

Michael believed that education was a better safeguard of liberty than any police force or army. And he aspired to give his students a well-rounded and balanced education rather than a simple attention to academic subjects. By temperament Michael was prudent, and prized the virtues of moderation and self-restraint. Many relied on his sound judgement. As school principal he was notable for his loyalty to his colleagues. As teacher he was in total command of his subject and an excellent communicator. But his greatest skills were in the area of administration. Michael’s organising abilities were legendary, not just within the walls of Loyola, but throughout the diocese. For example, during the height of the Nigerian Civil War he devised a comprehensive evacuation plan for the missionaries in Ibadan should law and order break down. Michael combined his onerous duties in Loyola and the diocese with a healthy social life. He had a particular fondness for the card game of Bridge and became an accomplished player. He carried this interest down into his retirement years during which he produced a teaching manual ‘Bridge for Beginners’. It was not surprising, in the light of his many gifts, that Michael should be frequently called upon to render services to the Society. In 1971 he was appointed a member of the preparatory commission for the Provincial Assembly of 1973. He also attended that Assembly as a delegate of his confreres in Ibadan, and was one of those on the short-list panel for the post of Provincial Superior. In the same year he represented his confreres at the General Assembly in Rome

Michael’s health began to give cause for concern in 1974 when he returned to Ireland for major surgery. Although he soon resumed his principalship of Loyola College, he was never to recover his full health, suffering from a variety of illnesses mainly connected with his heart. In September 1978, two months after prostate surgery in Dublin, he suffered a collapse and was fitted with a heart pace-maker. Notwithstanding this setback he returned to Ibadan. However in December 1979 he was back in Ireland, at Baggot St. Hospital, Dublin, for further cardiac treatment. He returned to Ibadan in May 1980, but it was clear that his days of service in the tropics were numbered. In December 1980, while in Ibadan, his pace-maker slipped and eventually, after a further four months of treatment, he was invalided home permanently.

Michael considered seeking a pastoral appointment in Dublin Archdiocese, but a re-occurrence of cardiac problems led to the withdrawal of his application. After a period of convalescence he took sabbatical leave, studying until June 1982 at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. He then was posted to the formation staff at St. Joseph’s College, Wilton, charged with the care of aspirants for the Society as confessor and tutor. In this latter capacity he was able to impart his great love of the Scriptures to a new generation of SMA’s. He also assisted in the public church which served the newly-formed SMA parish at Wilton from 1982 and regularly attended the Charismatic group which met at Wilton where his knowledge of Scripture was put to great use. Despite being frequently hospitalised during the 1980’s and early 1990’s Michael remained active in both the house and parish. Eventually, however, in April 1993 increasing ill-health forced him to retire from the active ministry. In the same year he lost his brother Tom, a blow which doubtless hastened his decline. In the following years a series of strokes and consequent brain atrophy – caused by his long-standing cardiac problems – led to the impairment of his mental faculties, loss of memory and periodic dementia and resulted in June 1995 in his transfer to the SMA house at Blackrock Road, where professional nursing care was available. For the next eleven years Michael lived in St. Theresa’s Nursing Unit at Blackrock Road. During these years his longer-term memory remained reasonably good and on his best days he enjoyed chats about old times with his confreres. He became particularly beloved by the caring staff in St. Theresa’s. Above all he prized the regular visits by members of his family and especially Sr. Brenda Mary. He loved nothing better than to go on an excursion with members of his family, a drive into the countryside or to the seaside.

He is buried in Wilton Cemetery.

Fr. Kennedy with a student in the laboratory at Loyola College