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Société des Missions Africaines –Province des Etats-Unis

CUNNINGHAM Michael Bernard né le 8 mai 1917 à Philadelphia
dans le diocèse de Philadelphia, USA
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1941
prêtre le 17 décembre 1944
décédé le 17 mai 1971

1944-1945 Wilton, études supérieures
1945-1952 missionnaire au Ghana, professeur à Cape Coast
1952-1957 Dromantine, professeur
1957-1966 missionnaire au Nigeria
1966-1970 en paroisse aux USA
1970-1971 Manchester, malade

décédé à Tuam, Irlande, le 17 mai 1971,
à l'âge de 54 ans


Father Michael Bernard CUNNINGHAM (1917 - 1971)

Bernard Cunningham was born in Philadelphia, Pa. U.S.A., in the parish of St. Gregory, in the diocese of Philadelphia, on 8 May, 1917. He died in the Bon Secours hospital, Tuam, Co Galway, on l7 May 197l.

Born in America Bernard (Bernie) was brought up in Ireland, at Ballintava, Dunmore, Co Galway, where his father had a farm. He received his secondary education in the colleges of the Society. He studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1934 35) and St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1935 38), before joining the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of 1939. He studied theology at Dromantine, Co Down, from 194l 1945. He became a member of the Society on 1 July 1941 and was ordained a priest with sixteen colleagues by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on l7 December 1944. During his last year in Wilton Bernie attended lectures at U.C.C. He studied at U.C.G. during his years in Kilcolgan. In 1941 he was awarded an honours arts degree, in philosophy and education. After ordination he spent a year at U.C.C., graduating with a higher diploma in education. During this year he resided at Wilton and taught in the school.

His academic training complete, Bernie was assigned to the Gold Coast (Ghana) mission, where Irish missionaries had been active for well over half a century, mainly in the work of Catholic education. Bernie was appointed to the staff of St. Augustine's college, Cape Coast, Ghana's first Catholic secondary school, founded in 1936 by Maurice B. Kelly. When Bernie joined the staff Fr. Kelly was superior (he had just returned from Ireland where he had taken a university degree), and other members of staff included Pat O'Neill, Anthony Glynn, Pat Murphy, Pat Killeen, and Frank Fallon. There were 240 pupils in the school and a further 150 students in a teacher training department attached to the college. Bernie taught mainly in the training department where he was 'professor of educational methods'. In August 1952 John A. Creaven, who had been appointed Provincial in the same year, made several changes in the staffs of the Irish houses of the Province. Bernie was called home to take the chair of moral theology in the major seminary at Dromantine.

In September 1957 Bernie was appointed to the diocese of Benin City, a jurisdiction in western Nigeria, which had been entrusted to the Irish Province in 1918. Patrick J. Kelly, bishop of the diocese, was at that time energetically developing secondary education and it came as no surprise when Bernie was assigned to the staff of St. Peter Claver's college, Agalokpe. In 1960 Bernie became principal of St. George's secondary college, Obinumba, near Abraka. In January 1966 Bernie transferred to the diocese of Ondo, teaching in Aquinas college, Akure. But after five months he returned to Ireland, largely for reasons of health. Bernie went to the U.S.A. in 1966, working first as chaplain and professor of religion in Chapelle High School, Metarie, Louisiana, a diocesan college for girls operated by the Sisters of the Incarnate Word (Bernie's sister was a member of this congregation, working in Texas). In October 1968 Bernie was appointed assistant pastor of St. Peter Prince of the Apostles church, 120 Arcadia Place, San Antonio, Texas. Six months later he took up an assignment at Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish, 124 Columbus St. Bakersfield, California (in the diocese of Fresno).

Bernard's last appointment was to St. Augustine's grammar school, Manchester, England, in the diocese of Shrewsbury. This school was located at Sharston Mount on the Altrinham Stockport road, five miles south of Manchester. Bernie's decision to come to England resulted from a spell in hospital in November 1970 when it was indicated that he might be developing a serious illness. He decided to take up the post in Manchester to be nearer home should the threatened illness develop. Bernie came to Manchester in January 1971, living with his S.M.A. confrères at Anson Road, Victoria Park. At Easter 1971 he returned to his home in Ireland and a month later entered the Bon Secours hospital, Tuam, for surgery. After the operation his health deteriorated unexpectedly and news of his death came as a great shock to his relatives and colleagues. Bernie was the first of his class to die. Bernie's obituary in the African Missionary described him in the following terms: 'A man of obvious intelligence, by temperament Bernie was a natural leader, often chosen as prefect during his student days. He was a man of sound judgement who detested deviousness at whatever level. He is remembered as an excellent teacher.'

He is buried in Dunmore, Co Galway.