Société des Missions Africaines – Province de Grande Bretagne

BRESLIN William né le 4 février 1924
dans l’archidiocèse de Dublin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1945
prêtre le 14 juin 1950
décédé le 3 mai 1978

1950-1954 diocèse de Benin City, à Ashaka et Ozoro

passe à la Province de Grande Bretagne en 1956

1956-1976 Liverpool, Allerton Park, Yorkshire et Manchester
responsable du magazine
et chargé des vocations
1973 vice provincial

décédé à Blackburn, Grande Bretagne, le 3 mai 1978,
à l’âge de 54 ans

Father William Dominic BRESLIN (1924 - 1978)

William Breslin was born in St. Michan's parish, Dublin (the family address was at 16 Shamrock St., Broadstone), on 4 February 1924. He died in Our Lady of Compassion nursing home, Blackburn, Lancashire, on 3 May 1978.

Born in Dublin's northside, William (Bill) came to St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, in September 1942 to complete his secondary education. A year later he commenced his novitiate and philosophical studies at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He studied theology in the Society's seminary at Dromantine, Co Down (1945 1949). On 1 July 1945 Bill was admitted as a member of the Society. He received diaconate in September 1948 and was due for priesthood in June 1949. During his 'ordination retreat' he decided to defer his ordination on the advise of his confessor. He then came to the Province's headquarters at Blackrock Road, Cork, where he attended the local technical school, taking a course in arts and crafts. In May 1950 Bill requested permission from his superiors to go forward for ordination and received that sacrament from Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 14 June 1950. He was one of a group of eleven ordained on that day.

After ordination Bill was appointed to the diocese of Benin City, in western Nigeria. His first appointment, given to him by Bishop Patrick J. Kelly, shortly after his arrival in March 1951, was to Ashaka district. The principal station of Ashaka had been founded in 1926 under the patronage of St. Leo. It was a well established district with a Catholic community of 4,000 members and 800 catechumens, located in the central station and some 40 secondary stations. In 1951 there was a total of 20 Catholic marriages which was perhaps the best index of the progress which had been made over the years. In 1953 Bishop Kelly established Ozoro as a residential station. Missionaries had first come to Ozoro in 1924 and had resided there during the 1930's. However subsequently the headquarters of the district had been transferred to nearby Ashaka. Ned Coleman was appointed superior at Ozoro, with Bill as his assistant. Together they ministered to some 3,000 Catholic members and 1,000 catechumens located in Ozoro and its 22 secondary stations.

In December 1955 Bill went to Ireland on home leave, visiting Rome en route. His return to Europe occurred shortly after the opening in Manchester of a 'foundation house' of the Society, with a view eventually to establishing a Province of the Society in Britain. The Superior General entrusted this project to priests of the Irish Province who were seconded to the work by their Provincial. Michael J. Walsh was the energetic superior of the project, and it was he who opened St. Augustine's House, Anson Road, Victoria Park, in October 1953. Much of Fr. Walsh's correspondence with the Irish Provincial in the early years concerned appeals for additional staff. It was against this background that Bill was transferred to the 'British district' of the Society in September 1956. On his arrival he was posted to St. Gerard's Overseas Centre, a 30 roomed house at 104 Denmark Road, Moss Side, Manchester, which was a Hall of Residence for overseas Catholic students at Manchester University. The students were mostly from the West Indies or Africa. Under the direction of Michael Gallagher (superior) and Bill, St. Gerard's became far more than a university hostel. A contemporary newspaper account noted: 'It keeps an open door to help and advise any of the 6,000 Black people who have settled in Manchester and district, regardless of religious or political beliefs'.

Bill spent six years in St. Gerard's, during which he not only helped to run the centre, but also assisted the work of promoting the Society. Subsequently Bill worked in promotion from Liverpool ('Holly Hedge, 138 Moor Lane, Gt. Grosby, Liverpool) and then served on the staff of the major seminary at Allerton Park, Yorkshire. His final posting was to the Province's headquarters at Manchester. Among the positions which he held over his years in England were that of editor of the Province's magazine and vocations director. Bill was a founding member of the British Province, erected in February 1968. He was a member of the first Provincial Council, appointed by the Superior General in 1968, and was a delegate to the first Provincial Assembly, in September 1973, at which he was elected vice Provincial. Bill fell ill in the autumn of 1977. He was hospitalised first in Dublin and then in England, until the time of his death.

A colleague penned the following portrait of Bill: 'Bill was a very sociable person. He was generally very bright and cheerful. He was a beautiful singer and he used this gift not only in the church, but in the corridors, verandahs, and rooms of the mission. The news of his death was received with a great sense of loss in Ozoro. He had only been a few years there but enough to establish himself as a great character and a compassionate priest. He was the first parish priest of Ozoro. Bill is especially remembered in one small village called Uzere about 20 miles in the hinterland. He was the first to drive a motor car into the village. In his old banger of a car, Bill whistled and sang as he manoeuvred his way over bush paths and swamps to be greeted with excited acclamation by young and old all turned out to see this wonderful piece of machinery on four wheels. Bill himself stated that he had to circle the big Iroko tree in the centre of the town many times before their excitement finally subsided'. Bill is reputed to have been the first missionary to use an outboard engine for his canoe trips around the confluence of the Niger (the Delta region).

He is buried in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin.