Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

né le 11 juin 1930 à Toronto
dans le diocèse de Toronto, Canada
membre de la SMA le 29 juin 1950
prêtre le 15 juin 1954
décédé le 24 avril 1977

1954-1977 missionnaire au Nigeria
1954-1966, diocèse de Kaduna
1966-1974, diocèse de Jos
1974-1977, archidiocèse de Kaduna

décédé à Kano, Nigeria, le 24 avril 1977,
à l'âge de 47 ans

Father John Martin Thomas MURPHY (1930 - 1977)

John Murphy was born in Toronto, Canada, in the parish of St. Helen's, on 11 June 1930. He died, unexpectedly, in Kano mission, northern Nigeria, on 24 April 1977.

Although born in Canada, John (Sean) was raised in Castlebar, Co Mayo (the family address was in McHale Road). He was educated at the De La Salle college, Castlebar (1943 1946) and at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1946 1948). He entered the Society novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in 1948 and two years later, on 29 June 1950, he was admitted to membership of the Society. Having completed his theological training at Dromantine, Co Down, Sean was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 15 June 1954. He was one of a group of eleven ordained on that day.

After ordination Sean was appointed to Kaduna diocese in northern Nigeria. On his arrival in October 1954, John McCarthy, bishop of the diocese, appointed Sean to Abuja district, to the principal station of Gawu, a mission some 80 miles from Minna, where there was a large Animist population. Here Sean undertook his 'tyrocinium', or course of induction to the missionary life. He learned the Hausa language, studied local culture and customs, and undertook supervised pastoral work. Having passed his language examination and received faculties to hear confessions, Sean remained on in Gawu, assisting John Connolly and later Jack O'Hara. In October 1957 Sean was transferred to Zaria mission where John Grant was superior. During his first tour of duty Sean also spent some months at Kurmin Mazuga and at Kakuri. Sean returned from his first home leave in March 1959. He taught briefly at St. John's college, Kaduna, before taking up an appointment as pastor in the Catholic mission at Zuru in Niger province, in January 1960.

Sean proved himself an able pastor, with an excellent understanding of Hausa, Gwari, and Kagoro, and a deep interest in pastoral method. He made a special study of Hausa and, apart from the many translations of the liturgical prayers for worship, he supervised a programme for the preparation of Hausa texts of prayers and readings for use in the liturgy. In conjunction with his linguistic work, he took a keen interest in local history and tradition and was a member of the Nigerian Historical Society. The high esteem in which he was held by his superiors was manifested in the decision to appoint him to the Society's tyrocinium for northern Nigeria in April 1966. The tyrocinium was located at Kagoro, in the neighbouring Jos diocese, and here Sean set about supervising the induction of recently arrived Fathers to the missionary life. He held this important post until April 1973, after which he went to Ireland as a delegate of his confrères to the Provincial Assembly of that year. Resuming his post in Kagoro for a short period after the meeting, in July 1974 he returned to Kaduna diocese. He was appointed superior of Kano mission where he served until the time of his sudden death.

The following account of his death and its aftermath was given by the 'regional superior', Chris Murphy. 'Sean died at about 3 o'clock on Sunday morning, 24th April. He had not been feeling well for a few days before. He took some tablets for malaria the night before and went to bed at about 11.30. He was to have a rest the following morning as there were many Fathers in Kano for the Zumuntur Mata meeting. By 12 o'clock he was found dead in bed by Frs. Gillick and Goni (Godwin Goni, a Nigerian priest). A post mortem was held on Monday morning. He died of a coronary occlusion. There was concelebrated Requiem Mass at 4 o'clock that same evening. Archbishop Peter Jatau of Kaduna was chief celebrant and fifty five priests concelebrated'.

Another confrère wrote the following appreciation shortly after Sean's death: 'Sean's appointment to the tyrocinium where he supervised the language training and studies of the young priests, was inspired. His mission here was an unqualified success. He made himself the friend and father of all. He was a dedicated worker and a most saintly priest. Sean's funeral at Kano was memorable for the number of weeping mourners, mostly women and some of them Muslims. They were expressing their grief at the loss of their father and special friend'.

He is buried in grounds of Our Lady of Fatima church, Kano, northern Nigeria.