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Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'irlande

FLEMING Patrick né le 31 juillet 1904 à Gorlough
dans le diocèse de Tuam, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 7 juillet 1926
prêtre le 8 juin 1930
décédé le 31 mai 1984

1930-1947 missionnaire au Nigeria, collège d’Igburo
1947-1967 Savannah, Géorgie, USA, 
en paroisse et animation missionnaire
1967-1976 Grand Rapids, Michigan, aumônier d’hôpital
1976-1984 Tenafly, retiré

décédé à Englewood, USA, le 31 mai 1984,
à l'âge de 80 ans


Father Patrick Joseph FLEMING (1904 - 1984)

Patrick Fleming was born at Gorlough, Taugheen, Claremorris, Co Mayo, Ireland, in the archdiocese of Tuam, on July 31, l904.
He died at Englewood hospital, Englewood, New Jersey, USA, on Ascension Day, May 31, l984.

Patrick (Pat) was one of four children. He attended primary school in the local system at Taugheen. (1909-1918) and received his secondary education in the colleges of the Society. He studied at the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (l920 l92l) and St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, before coming to the novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of l924. He received his theological formation in the Society's major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down. Pat was admitted as a member of the Society on July 7, 1926 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 8 June 1930. He was one of a group of ten ordained on that day.

After ordination Pat was appointed the Vicariate of Western Nigeria, the first mission in Nigeria confided to the Irish Province, when Thomas Broderick was nominated Vicar Apostolic in 1918. Pat reached Nigeria in October l930, taking up an appointment at Benin City mission, where William Lumley was superior. At that time there were 250 Catholics and 60 catechumens in Benin City and its six outstations. There was also a large school to be supervised, with 16 teachers and 600 pupils. After four months with Fr. Lumley, during which he was introduced to the missionary life and studied the local language, Pat was assigned to Onitsha-Olona mission. This was one of the older stations in the Vicariate, founded in 1906. It had a large number of outstations. Pat spent two years in charge at Onitsha-Olona. Then, after a further four months in Benin City, he was transferred to Ukoni (near Uromi). A few letters written by Pat to the Provincial (Stephen Harrington) survive in the archives of the Irish Province. One of them, written in December 1933, captures Pat's unique sense of humor: 'You see by the above address that I have got another transfer. The language is now my big difficulty. I hope it isn't blasphemy to wish that God had more patience at the "Tower of Babel"... You will be interested to know that the famous Ukoni cathedral still exists. I believe it is the only church in Nigeria where I say Mass with real fervor because I am always afraid it will fall before I'm finished'.

Pat went to Ireland on his first home leave in January 1935. On his return to Nigeria a year later, he was posted to Oka mission. The principal station of Oka-Odo had been founded in 1917 under the patronage of St. Patrick. In May 1938 Pat was appointed to the staff of St. Thomas' teacher training college, Ibusa, the first such college founded in western Nigeria, which opened its doors in 1928. Pat joined a staff led by Joe Donaghy and which included Joseph Barrett. This important institution, which supplied the vicariate's ever-increasing need for elementary school teachers, had some 60 students in training.

Pat went on his second home leave in January 1940, in the year Patrick J. Kelly succeeded Leo Hale Taylor (who became bishop in Lagos) as Vicar Apostolic. Delayed because of wartime restrictions on travel, it was February 1942 before Pat returned to Nigeria. Bishop Kelly posted him as first residential missionary in the new mission district of Agbor. Pat remained in Agbor, living alone, for two years during which the jurisdiction was erected as the vicariate of Asaba-Benin (January 1943). In December 1943 Pat was appointed procurator of the new Vicariate, responsible for its financial management, resident at Asaba. In addition to his duties as procurator, he assisted Tom Duffy in the parish and took charge of schools in Issele-Uku district. In February 1945 Pat was invalided home to Ireland where he had an operation on his eye. The operation failed, the eye was removed, and there were further complications which ruled out his return to Nigeria.

Pat's return to Ireland coincided with a flood of requests from the recently-formed and under-staffed American Province of the Society for Irish volunteers. Pat was one of those who sought and received permission to join the American Province. He sailed for America in August l947 and immediately was posted to one of the Society's mission parishes in Southern Illinois. This was the parish of St. Columba, founded by Peter Harrington in 1928, in the town of Cairo, near East St. Louis. St. Columba's, which served the African-American community, was located at 412 Fourteenth Street. After a year Pat was appointed to the promotion staff of the Province at its headquarters in Tenafly, New Jersey. In 1954 Pat became pastor of St. Anthony's parish, Savannah, Georgia and from 1957 served as chaplain in St. Joseph's hospital, Savannah. In 1963 he became chaplain of St. Joseph of the Pines Hospital, Southern Pines, NC. From 1967 he served in a similar capacity at St. Anne’s Home, Grand Rapids, Michigan. In l976 Pat retired to Tenafly, New Jersey, where he spent his last years. He celebrated the golden jubilee of his ordination at Tenafly in June 1980.

During the last decade of his life Pat suffered from emphysema and a heart complaint, and bore the added cross of increasing deafness. Earlier, in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, he had wrestled with addiction problems and as his life moved towards its end he suffered periods of depression. Despite these disabilities he was assiduous in the performance of his priestly duties. He also remained mentally alert and took a particular interest in sport, especially baseball. He was kind and encouraging to younger confreres. The writer of this biography recalls that during a month spent working in the Tenafly archives Pat was the soul of kindness and on his departure for a short holiday he was the recipient of a generous gift given by Pat 'to see that you have a good holiday.'

He is buried in the SMA Community Plot, in Mount Carmel cemetery, Tenafly, New Jersey, USA.