Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

FEGAN William né le 21 septembre 1896 à Tullynacrel Cross
dans le diocèse de Down & Connor, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 8 juillet 1925
prêtre le 9 juin 1929
décédé le 27 mars 1972

1929-1967 missionnaire dans le diocèse de Benin City, Nigeria
1967-1972 malade

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 27 mars 1972,
à l’âge de 75 ans

Father William FEGAN (1896 - 1972)

William Fegan was born at Tullynacrel Cross, Co Down, in the diocese of Down and Connor, on 21 September 1896. He died in the Bon Secours hospital, Cork, on 27 March 1972.

William (Bill) was a carpenter from Crossgar, Co Down. He came to the Society's apostolic school, at Ballinafad, Co Mayo, in 1919 and in the following year went to St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, to complete his secondary education. Three years later, in September 1923, Bill entered the novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He began his theological training in St. Joseph's major seminary, Blackrock Road, Cork in 1925, and after the transfer of the seminary to Dromantine, Co Down in 1926, he went nearer home to complete his course. Bill was received into the Society on 8 July 1925 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, along with fourteen of his classmates, on 9 June 1929.

Appointed to Africa, Bill served for almost forty years in a territory which was then the vast vicariate of Western Nigeria and which today is divided into the archdiocese of Benin City and the dioceses of Lokoja, Warri and Issele-Uku. His practical skills were invaluable to the vicariate which at that time was rapidly extending its network of schools and churches. Bill had been recruited to the Society by Maurice Slattery (Provincial and Superior General), who had seen him at work and believed he could make a unique contribution to the missions. His judgement was well-placed. Bill worked in most of the central stations of the vicariate. On his arrival in Africa he was stationed at Asaba, the headquarters of the jurisdiction and seat of the vicar apostolic, Bishop Thomas Broderick. Eugene Strub from Alsace was mission superior, and the other priest in Asaba mission was Paul Emecete, Nigeria's first Catholic priest, ordained by Bishop Broderick in 1920. Bill was placed in charge with the mission's financial management. In 1933 Bill was appointed superior of Onitsha-Olona district (an area running to the river Niger north of Asaba).

The principal station of Onitsha-Olona had been founded in 1906 and when Bill took charge there were some 1,200 Catholic members and 400 catechumens, located there and in 12 secondary stations. Two of these 'outstations', Ezi and Illah predated Onitsha-Olona, being founded in 1898 and 1894 respectively, during a period when there was much political unrest in the Asaba hinterland. Bill went on his first home leave in October 1934, returning to his mission a year later. Bishop Leo Taylor, who had succeeded Bishop Broderick in 1934, posted him to Holy Cross mission, Benin city, where he spent two years. This mission was comparatively recent, having been founded in 1928. In 1938 it was to become headquarters of the vicariate and also the location of the major inter-vicarial seminary which was also transferred from Asaba. From May 1937 he was stationed at Ashaka. Bill went to Ireland on leave in 1940. He succeeded in getting a sea passage back to Nigeria in November 1941.

Bill was to spend 25 further years in Nigeria, in the course of six tours of duty, serving for all of that time under Bishop Patrick J. Kelly who succeeded Bishop Taylor in 1939. During these years he is associated not only with many of the older established stations, such as Asaba (1888), Ogwashi-Uku, Sapele, Ubiaja and Uromi, but also with more recent residential stations, including Irrua, Ashaka, Ughelli, Okpara and Ubuluku (formerly an outstation of Ogwashi-Uku). Much of his work involved the construction of schools, hospitals and other mission plant, and that is why he had such a variety of placements. Among his major contributions in this regard was St. Patrick's college, Asaba, the first secondary college in the vicariate, opened in 1943, Annunciation secondary college for boys, Irrua, and St. Mary's hospital, Ogwashi-Uku (run by the O.L.A. Sisters). But there were also numerous churches, mission houses and elementary schools. The results of his labours are to be still seen today throughout the jurisdiction. Bill also had a reputation as a mechanic, with a capacity to keep old cars on the road and to repair and maintain every variety of machinery. His deepest interests, however, were pastoral, and each weekend, after a full week building, he would visit outstations. He was invalided home in 1967 and spent his last years in Cork.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.