Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

ROWAN Michael né le 27 juin 1877 à Quigganstown
dans le diocèse de Meath, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 8 septembre 1898
prêtre le 3 novembre 1901
décédé le 8 avril 1939
décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 8 avril 1939,
à l’âge de 62 ans

(biographie en anglais à la suite)

Le père Michael ROWAN (1877 - 1939)

Le 8 avril 1939, à Cork (Irlande), retour à Dieu du père Michael Rowan, à l'âge de 62 ans.

Michael Rowan naquit dans le diocèse de Meath (Irlande) en 1877. Après ses études secondaires à Wilton et à Cork, il arrivait à Lyon en 1897, faisait le serment en septembre 1898 et, malade, retournait en Irlande en décembre suivant. Il fut ordonné prêtre en 1901. Nommé professeur à Wilton, il le restera jusqu'en 1911, année où il est nommé directeur à Ballinafad jusqu'en 1937, année où la maladie l'obligea à se retirer.

On parle de lui comme d'un "Nathanaël sévère et honnête". Il fut aussi sévère pour lui que pour les autres. Certes, il aimait la discipline et on le trouva souvent exigeant et un peu raide. D'un caractère droit, le père Rowan ne comprenait que la droiture. Homme surnaturel, toujours humblement soumis à l'autorité, il a beaucoup souffert d'être craint et peu aimé des jeunes séminaristes. Et pourtant, quel bon cœur! Il dépensait ses allocations à faire plaisir aux élèves pauvres...

Il mourut d'un cancer.

Father Michael ROWAN (1877 - 1939)

Michael Rowan was born in Quigganstown, Kilbeggan, Co Meath, in the diocese of Meath, on 27 June 1877. He died in the Mercy hospital, Cork, on 8 April 1939.

Michael was born near Kilbeggan of well-to-do, farming parents, who brought up their eleven children with a love for God and the Church. After his secondary studies at the Christian Brothers school, Tullamore, Co Offaly, and St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1894 1897), Michael went to Lyon, France, in 1897 for his scholastic training. A description of the Lyon seminary, at Cours Gambetta, was given by a contemporary of Michael's: 'The Lyonese seminary was a very austere training, designed to test and inure men to all kinds of sacrifices. There was no central heating and the winter cold sometimes descended to 5 or 6 degrees Fahrenheit. More than once each winter the ice in the water-jug had to be broken before washing in the morning'. Michael was admitted to the Society on 8 September 1898 but poor health, no doubt brought on by the Spartan regime, forced him to return to Ireland in December of the same year. Joseph Zimmermann, superior of the Irish branch, begged the Superior General, Augustin Planque, to allow Michael become a professor of English at Wilton and promised to give him theology classes himself. This was agreed in 1899. Michael was ordained a priest by Bishop Thomas O'Callaghan O.P. of Cork diocese, in St. Joseph's church, Wilton, on 3 November 190l.

Michael was to spend the years of his priesthood in Ireland engaged in the teaching and formation of students for the Society. After ordination he served on the teaching staff at Wilton until 1911. At the time there was an average of 35-40 pupils in the school, divided into five classes. Michael taught the junior students English, history and geography (later in his career he taught Latin, his favourite subject). He was also director of students, in charge of discipline. A student in the school later described his method of training: 'From the outset Michael Rowan began that course of personal, individual training which he perseveringly adherred to for forty years. It may be called the Salesian method. It consists in always accompanying younger boys with a "protective vigilance" and giving them individually that detailed formation which the true affectionate pedagogue gives to the young pupil. Every recreation therefore - long or short - wet or dry - Michael came along openly, freely, companionably, paternally. With no preferences he fulfilled what he considered his duty to correct and train everyone'.

In 1911 Michael was appointed director of students in the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, which had been opened in 1907 as an intermediate secondary college and house for mature students who needed training in Latin for their seminary courses. Wilton thereafter become a senior secondary college, with a three-year course preparing students for leaving certificate. Two years later, in 1913, Michael returned to Wilton as superior, remaining there until 1925. As soon as he became superior he let the director be completely in charge of discipline and spent much less time with the students. 'This was a real sacrifice for him, but he knew the necessity of each one fulfilling his own function for the sake of order'. Besides, he acted as bursar and hence was much taken up with the farm and its organisation. When Michael's first term of office as superior expired in June 1917 he volunteered to go to the Province's Liberian mission. His superiors agreed although some confrères considered 40 years to be rather advanced for an easy acclimatization. After about six months waiting the London Passport Office informed him that only priests who had been already on the missions would be allowed travel. So his dream evaporated. After the Provincial Assembly of July 1918 Michael was re-appointed superior at Wilton. Seven years later, after the next Assembly, the new Provincial, Maurice Slattery, appointed Michael spiritual director at Ballinafad (he was not eligible for a third term as superior in Wilton), a position he held until 1937 when ill-health forced him to resign. Between 1912-1918, for one term, he served as Provincial councillor, taking a leading role in the formation of the Province's educational policy. He died after a long illness on Good Friday 1939.

Michael was noted by generations of students for his asceticism and for his fatherly discipline. He was a man of high principle and strictness. A favourite dictum of his was: 'sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character reap a destiny'. It is known that he spent his monthly allocation on poor students. He hailed from a family with strong ecclesiastical connections. He had four brothers priests: Denis who became a Dominican and was, for many years, Prior of San Clemente in Rome; Frank who was a parish priest in Meath; John who was a parish priest in Birmingham and Joseph who was a pastor in Roehampton, Australia. Two of Michael's sisters were nuns: one of them joined the Mercy order. The second was Sr. Donat, O.L.A. who died at Cape Coast Castle (Ghana) in her 30th year a few months before Michael's ordination.

There is in the archives of the Irish Province at Blackrock Road a sketch of the life of Michael Rowan written by his confrère and contemporary, Michael Collins, in 1946. It is titled: 'Michael Rowan, a corner-stone of the Province'. He notes that Michael was 'rather austere, angular, even thorny. But at the back of some harsh-sounding corrections was the paternal interest and love for the Society and its future members. It was only later on in life that the 500 boys who passed under Fr. Rowan appreciated his efforts and devotedness. He had a great fidelity to duty, a self-sacrificing charity, and a strong admiration for our Irish missionary saints and all missionaries'.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.