Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

COLLINS John Joseph né le 28 juillet 1908 Bawnahow
dans le diocèse de Ross, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 8 juillet 1927
prêtre le 7 juin 1931
décédé le 4 juin 1979

1931-1932 missionnaire au Liberia
1932-1934 Cloughballymore
1934-1979 animation missionnaire en Irlande
(à partir de Cork)

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 4 juin 1979,
à l'âge de 71 ans

Father John Joseph COLLINS (1908 - 1979)

John Collins was born at Bawnahow, Skibbereen, in the diocese of Ross, on 29 July 1908. He died in the Bon Secours hospital, Cork, on 4 June 1979.

John (Jack) was educated in the houses of the Society. He studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1921 1922) and St. Joseph's college Wilton, Cork (1922 1925), before entering the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of 1925. He studied theology in the major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, between 1927 1931. Jack was admitted as a member of the Society on 8 July 1927 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 7 June 1931. He was one of a group of twelve ordained on that day.

After his ordination Jack was appointed to the prefecture of Liberia. This was the first mission confided to the Irish Province on its foundation in 1912. The Society first came to Liberia in 1906 when Stephen Kyne, an Irish member, was appointed prefect apostolic. Previous efforts to found a mission in Liberia during the 19th century had failed. The Liberian field was perhaps the most difficult of the Society's West African missions, for many reasons, not least a hazardous climate and a lack of even the most rudimentary medical facilities. There was much isolation too in this impoverished, strife ridden Black Republic with its small, scattered population. Over the years many S.M.A. missionaries died or had to be invalided home. Nonetheless the Church took root and today there are three dioceses in the territory, increasingly staffed by Liberian bishops, priests and religious.

Jack had fragile health, nonetheless he was determined that his superiors should sent him to Africa and, above all, Liberia, where his cousin John had served since 1913. In the month that Jack arrived in Liberia the prefect, Jean Ogé, had died in Europe and John Collins took charge of the jurisdiction. He was officially appointed prefect in February 1932 and was to be ordained bishop in 1934. Jack's first appointment was to Bassa district, where Patrick McKenna (from Armagh diocese) was superior. This mission district had been founded in 1929 and comprised one principal station (Bassa) and one secondary station, River Cess. Bassa was also home of the prefecture's catechist training school, the Marie-Therese Ledochoqska institute. In June 1932 Jack manifested the first symptoms of an illness which required a consultation with a doctor in Monrovia. He was immediately ordered home to Ireland. It was August before he was able to get a sea passage to Ireland. After a period in a Dublin hospital, during which he made a good recovery, he was appointed to Kilcolgan. Two years later, Jack was appointed to the promotion team at Blackrock Road.

During his long priestly life Jack was to become one of the great promoters of the missions in Ireland. He was to spend forty-five years at this work. After his death a confrere penned the following appreciation of Jack's ministry. 'From his base at Blackrock Road Jack travelled all over the city and county of Cork and much further afield, north, south, east and west. He was out day and night. He never missed an opportunity. Mite boxes, sponsors, building funds, bazaars he was always after someone or something, always for the missions. Few escaped him. There are many in Cork who will remember most of all the great S.M.A. bazaars in the city hall, for which he was the chief organiser. Since the days of Fr. Zimmermann (Joseph Zimmermann, from Switzerland, founder of the Irish Province) no 'begging priest' was better known or received in Cork than Jack Collins. The comedian, Danny Hobbs, used to tell the story on stage of the distraught mother whose child had swallowed a shilling coin. Not knowing what to do she called a neighbour who advised her to send for Jackie Collins!'

Jack had a special love for, and devotion to, St. Therese of the Child Jesus, patroness of the missions. In temperament he was outgoing and extrovert. He was a fine golfer when he chose to play. Jack had a lot of sickness during his lifetime, however his great spirit and love for the missions drove him on. He continued to work to the very end despite deteriorating health. Jack was related to three members of the Society: Bishop John Collins (mentioned above), the bishop's brother, Michael, who was a General Councillor, and their nephew, Lawrence Collins, who today (1996) is the longest serving missionary in Liberia. Jack's brother and sister, who lived some 50 miles apart died within hours of each other on 20 February 1975 (Humphrey Collins of Drimoleague and Mrs Kathleen O'Leary of Kinsale). Another sister was a member of the Bon Secours order (Sr. Anne Gertrude). For quite some time before his death Jack had suffered from a heart complaint.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.