Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

CUMMINS Michael né le 7 octobre 1898 à Derrydonnell
dans le diocèse de Clonfert, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 28 septembre 1922
prêtre le 23 mai 1926
décédé le 8 avril 1969

1926-1932 missionnaire au Liberia
1932-1937 animation missionnaire en Irlande
1937-1952 missionnaire au Liberia
1952-1961 responsable des vocations
1961-1969 maladie, soins

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 8 avril 1969,
à l'âge de 71 ans

Father Michael CUMMINS (1898 - 1969)

Michael Cummins was born in Derrydonnell, Athenry, Co Galway, in the archdiocese of Tuam, on 7 October 1898. He died in Province's motherhouse at Blackrock Road, Cork, after a prolonged illness, on 8 April 1969.

Michael studied at St. Joseph's college, Ballinasloe, Co Galway, before coming to the Society's apostolic school at Wilton, Cork, in 1918. He went to the novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in 1920, taking his oath of membership of the Society two years later, on 28 September 1922. He completed his training for priesthood at the Blackrock Road seminary and was ordained a priest, along with nine colleagues, in St. Joseph's church, adjoining the seminary, on 23 May 1926. The ordaining prelate was Bishop Thomas Broderick, vicar apostolic of Western Nigeria.

After ordination Michael was assigned to the Liberian mission in West Africa. Liberia was arguably the most difficult mission field in Africa. Before the Society came there in 1906, three missionary expeditions to that Black Republic (established in the early 19th century by freed slaves from the U.S.A.) had failed. This was the mission which had been entrusted to the Irish Province of the Society on its erection in 1912. On his arrival in Liberia in October 1926, Jean Ogé, the prefect apostolic, appointed Michael to the Kru Coast, about 150 miles east of Liberia's capital, Monrovia. It was here that the foundations for Catholicism in Liberia had been laid in the early years of the century, between 1912-1920, when the missionaries supported the Krus against government oppression and came to their aid at a time of famine. Michael was appointed to the district of Grand Cess, where Joseph Donaghy was superior.

The principal station of Grand Cess had been established in 1916 under the patronage of St. Patrick. In 1925 an outstation had been opened at Fidokli. When Michael came to the district he served a Catholic community of 740 members (there were only three in Fidokli) and 82 catechumens (52 in Fidokli). There was also two schools to be looked after as well as chapels in both stations. One of the major projects in 1928 was the opening of a second outstation, Bielapo. Early in 1929 Fr. Donaghy was invalided home to Ireland and Michael remained alone in charge of Grand Cess until he was joined in 1930 by Pat McGirr. In the same year the residential station of Kinekale, near Grand Cess, was reduced to the status of an outstation and incorporated into Grand Cess district. Alex Matthews replaced Pat McGirr in 1931, a year before Michael went to Ireland on his first home leave.

At the end of his first vacation Michael was retained by his superiors to serve on the Province's promotion team. Based in Blackrock Road he went around the country preaching and giving lectures about the missions, organising supporters and collecting funds. He was particularly skilled at this work. Nonetheless he was anxious to return to Liberia and in 1937 his wish was granted. On his arrival, John Collins, who had succeeded Mgr. Ogé in 1932, appointed Michael to Cape Palmas mission. Cape Palmas was the capital of the Kru Coast and was to become the seat of a separate prefecture in 1950. This relatively new station, founded in 1930, had a small Catholic membership of 232, but the number of catechumens, 170, gave hope for the future. There were three outstations, Plebo, Sodika and Webbo, with a school and chapel in each. Catholic marriages were very rare, only one during 1938. However Michael's most important work lay outside Cape Palmas, for when he had returned to Liberia in 1937 his superiors in Ireland nominated him 'visitor', responsible for the spiritual and material welfare of his colleagues of whom there were 24 in the vicariate. With the erection of the Cape Palmas prefecture under Francis Carroll in 1950, Michael was incorporated into the new jurisdiction, remaining in charge of Cape Palmas mission. In 1952 Michael was appointed vocations director of the Irish Province and served in this capacity from Blackrock Road until 1961. Michael was invalided from 196l until the time of his death.

At the end of his first tour in Liberia Michael brought home an African convert Oswald Nyepa to attend the Eucharistic Congress held in Dublin in 1932. Oswald was the first African to be seen in many parts of Ireland. Michael was an inventive promoter of the Society and the missions. He was brilliant in the use he made of the press, lantern slides and the cinema, not hesitating to sit in his car selling raffle tickets for Africa to the seaside crowds at Youghal, Tramore and Salthill. As director of vocations Michael was an outstanding success, driving thousands of miles from one end of the country to the other in search of potential recruits.

Michael served many years in Liberia where he was a key member of Bishop Collins' staff. As 'visitor' he is especially remembered for the care and consideration which he always showed to his colleagues, for his availability and for the wisdom of his decisions. A note in the Irish Province's newsletter described the circumstances of his death and gave an appraisal of his work. 'Michael had been fighting against ill-health for some years. During Holy Week he got pneumonia and on Tuesday 8th April, at lunch time, he suffered a coronary. At 6.30 p.m. after receiving the Last Sacraments, he died very peacefully with the confrères praying at his bedside. Miko gave nearly twenty-five years of dedicated service to the Church in Liberia. He will be remembered by many of our confrères whom he recruited in the thirties. All of us will remember the quiet, humble, zealous priest whose sincerity and humanity attracted the young men of the fifties and early sixties to our Society and the Missions'. Michael was the uncle of Margaret and Eileen Cummins, both missionary sisters with the O.L.A.; he was a cousin of Brendan and Vincent Lawless, and John Haverty, all members of the Society, and of Agnes Haverty O.L.A.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.