Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

OCONNOR Denis né le 5 juin 1894 à Tubbercurry
dans le diocèse d'Achonry, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 17 juillet 1924
prêtre le 10 juin 1928
décédé le 20 mai 1957

1929 missionnaire au Nigeria, Lagos
1930 Kilcogan, économe
1930-1932 Hastings
1933-1934 Wilton, professeur
1934-1939 Ballinafad, professeur
1939-1945 missionnaire en Egypte
1947-1957 passe à la province des US
Tucson, Arizona

décédé à Chicago, USA, le 20 mai 1957
à l'âge de 63 ans

Le père Denis O'CONNOR (1894 - 1957)

A Chicago (U.S.A.), le 20 mai 1957, retour à Dieu du père Denis O'Connor, à l'âge de 63 ans.

Denis O'Connor naquit en 1894 à Tubbercurry, dans le diocèse d'Achonry (Irlande). Il fit ses études à Ballinafad, Wilton, Kilcogan et Dromantine. Il fit le serment en 1924 et fut ordonné prêtre en 1928.

Nommé au vicariat de la Côte du Bénin, il dut revenir en Europe dès 1930. Il passe alors deux ans comme professeur au grand séminaire de la province de Hollande, à Hastings, en Angleterre. Attaché à la maison de Blackrock à Cork en 1932, il partit ensuite pour les Etats-Unis. Il mourut à l'hôpital de Chicago.

Father Denis Joseph O’CONNOR (1894 - 1957)

Denis O'Connor was born at Mass Hill, Tubbercurry, Co Sligo, Ireland, in the diocese of Achonry, on June 7, l894.
He died at the Mercy hospital, Chicago, Illinois, USA, on May 20, l957.

Denis studied in all the Irish colleges of the Society. He came to the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, in l9l8 and to St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, in l9l9. Two years later, in l922, he entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He studied theology in St. Joseph's seminary, Blackrock Road, Cork, from 1924-1926, until its transfer to Dromantine, Co Down, where he completed his course in l928. Denis became a member of the Society on July 17, 1924 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on June 10, 1928. He was one of a class of nine ordained on that day.

After ordination Denis was assigned to the Vicariate of the Bight of Benin, a vast jurisdiction in south western Nigeria, which today comprises the archdioceses of Lagos and Ibadan, the dioceses of Ijebu Ode, Ondo, Ekiti and Oyo, and the prefecture of Kontagora. His departure, which should have taken place in October 1928, was delayed until February 1929 because of an accident in which he sustained serious head injuries. On his arrival in Lagos he complained of headaches and his behaviour was erratic. For some months he ministered in Abeokuta district, but his symptoms worsened and in December he was invalided to Ireland on the firm instructions of the doctors who examined him. According to their reports he had suffered severe concussion in his accident and should never have been sent to the tropics. After a period of rest and convalescence Denis was appointed bursar at Kilcolgan, taking up this post in March 1930. Six months later he was posted to the junior seminary of the Dutch Province at Ore Place, Hastings, in the south of England. Gerard Van der Weide was superior and the other priests on the staff were Joseph Cordé and Martin Nadorf. There were 15 pupils in the school. Denis also helped in the major seminary with its 50 students which was situated too at Ore Place. In June 1932, sick and unsettled, Denis returned to Ireland, to Blackrock Road, where he worked in the promotion office (on the 'Missionary Shilling' promotion scheme). After a year, regaining his strength, he joined the teaching staff at Wilton. In 1934 he transferred to Ballinafad, joining a staff led by Frank McNamara.

Denis' health improved during his years in Ballinafad. In 1939 he was ready for an overseas appointment and his superiors assigned him to Egypt where members whose health was delicate, or had good teaching credentials (Denis qualified on both counts), were frequently sent. In 1936 the Province had taken over responsibility for the 'English language' schools of the Nile Delta Vicariate. Denis sailed for Egypt by troopship convoy (his ship was the Empress of Australia), departing from Southampton on September 27. In letters to the Provincial, Stephen Harrington, he gives a graphic account of the voyage during which the convoy was frequently attacked by submarines. On arrival he was posted to St. George's college (its complete name was 'St. George's English College'), located at 8 Midan El Afdal, Choubra, Cairo. The students were mostly Europeans, with many Maltese and Cypriots. Denis wrote several lengthy letters to Fr. Harrington describing life in St. George's. These are preserved in the archives of the Irish Province at Cork. As well as teaching in the college, he became college bursar, which involved the difficult task of collecting school fees from the 125 boys who were not subsidised by the British Council (100 were in this latter category). In September 1944 Denis fell ill, but remained at his post until the end of the next academic year, returning to Ireland in July 1945.

In March 1941 an American Province of the Society had been erected, its membership drawn mainly from Irish and Alsatian missionaries who had worked in the USA among African Americans since the early decades of the century. The new Province was short of members for its many tasks and all through the war years requests for personnel had come to the Irish Provincial. Several priests had been sent to help with the building up of the Province. When Denis returned to Ireland Stephen Harrington asked him to transfer to America. Denis agreed, but first he needed a long period of rest to restore his health. In October 1947 he sailed for America. On his arrival he was appointed pastor of Blessed Martin de Porres parish, Tucson, Arizona, an African American parish established by the Society in 1938. He was to remain here until the time of his death. Denis made a significant contribution to racial harmony in Tucson. A member of Tucson Council for Civic Unity, he was one of five community leaders to receive an award in April 1954 for having improved relations among Tucson's various racial and religious groups. The award is preserved in the Archives of the American Province, in Tenafly, NJ. The citation reads: ‘In appreciation and recognition of Fr. Dennis O’Connor’s exemplary effort in translating the ideals of his religion into the lives of his people. His work has widened the common ground on which men stand, has given reality to the great truth that all men are created equal, and has helped to fulfill the highest teachings of his religion concerning the brotherhood of man.’

A colleague and former student of Denis' wrote the following appraisal: 'Denny as a teacher in Ballinafad was liked by all. However he never tried to hide his political views; he was an out and out admirer of Eamonn De Valera; and woe betide any student who supported the opposite camp. But it was all done in a friendly manner during the history lesson, which was often turned into a debate on the political issues of the day'. Clearly in Tucson it was inevitable that the issues of the day would again be close to his heart; and this was manifest in his strong concern for racial harmony and equality.

He is buried in Chicago, Illinois, USA