Société des Missions Africaines - Province d’Irlande

NOLAN Benedict né le 7 juin 1915 à Edenderry
dans le diocèse de Kildare & Leighlin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 29 juin 1937
prêtre le 22 décembre 1940
décédé le 20 juin 1997

1940-1941 Wilton, études
1942-1950 vicariat d’Asaba-Bénin, Nigeria
1950-1971 diocèse de Benin City, Nigeria
1972-1982 diocèse de Southwark, Angleterre
1982-1995 Kerry, Irlande, retiré
1995-1997 Wilton et Blackrock Road, Cork, retiré

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 20 juin 1997
à l’âge de 82 ans

Father William Benedict NOLAN (1915 - 1997)

William Benedict Nolan was born in Edenderry, Co Offaly (the family address was 6, Murphy St.), in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, on 7 June 1915. He died in the Society's house, at Blackrock Road, Cork, on 20 June 1997.

William Benedict (Ben) was born into a family of eight boys and one girl. He received his primary education from the Sisters of St. John of God, in Edenderry. When he was fourteen years his mother died tragically in childbirth. Ben's father married again in 1930 and had eleven children by his second marriage. One of Ben's sisters joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles (Sr. Athanasius). Ben's initial contacts with the Society came through Michael Cummins, an S.M.A. missionary from Galway, who came to the primary school to talk about the missions. The local curate, James Prendergast, kept encouraging him and wrote to John Levins, superior of the Society's intermediate college, at Ballinafad, Co Mayo. Fr. Levins came to the town to interview him and he was accepted into Ballinafad in September 1930. A year later he moved on to the senior-cycle secondary school at Wilton, Cork. Matriculating in 1934 Ben remained on in Wilton for a further year, attending the first arts course at U.C.C. He then entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway.

During his two years in Kilcolgan he attended lectures in U.C.G. each Thursday and received further lectures in the house from a priest designated for that purpose by the university. Ben graduated in 1937, taking a B.A. degree (philosophy and education). He received his theological formation in the Society's major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down. Ben became a member of the Society on 29 June 1937 and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 22 December 1940. He was one of a group of nineteen ordained on that day. Ben's ordination took place during wartime, when there were many travel restrictions in force. In spite of the obstacles, Ben's relations and friends travelled in force to his ordination. His father, William, was making his first trip to the North.

After ordination Ben returned to Dromantine for a further six months to complete his theological course. He was then posted to Wilton from where he attended U.C.C., receiving a higher diploma in education in June 1942. He was now appointed to the 'vicariate of Asaba-Benin' in Nigeria, a territory which in 1950 was erected as the diocese of Benin city. The jurisdiction covered some 58,000 square kilometres with 1,700,000 inhabitants. Ben travelled out in March 1943, going from Dublin to England and there joining a shipping convoy which took a month to reach West Africa. His first appointment was to Ashaka where he was introduced to the missionary life by the mission superior, Phil Mahon. During the next few months Ben studied the local language and then, having passed an examination, received faculties from the bishop, Patrick J. Kelly, to hear confessions. Ben's came to Nigeria at a time when secondary education was being rapidly expanded. With his academic qualifications it was inevitable that he would be placed in the education apostolate.

In January 1944, his period of induction over, Ben was appointed to St. Thomas' teacher training college, Ibusa, one of the key educational institutes in western Nigeria. St. Thomas' had been founded by Thomas Broderick (first bishop of the territory) in 1928 and provided well-qualified teachers for the rapidly-growing network of elementary schools. After three years, Ben succeeded as principal of St. Thomas' (on the departure of Dr. P. M. Kelly who was elected Irish provincial superior). In a memoir Ben described this as the most difficult time in his missionary career. He recorded how, with the advise and encouragement of Brother Malachy, a Franciscan brother in St. Charles college, Onitsha, he gradually came to terms with the demands of the British system of education with which he had been totally unfamiliar. Ben was eminently successful as a principal and the high reputation of the school, best demonstrated in its fine examination results and the excellent quality of its graduates, was maintained during his tenure.

In addition to school work Ben was involved in pastoral work at weekends and during holiday periods gave retreats for teachers in Ashaka. His principalship of St. Thomas' ended in 1956 when he was appointed supervisor of schools, one of the most senior positions in the diocese, which called for great organising powers, tact and zeal. As supervisor he was accountable to the bishop and also to the government for the conduct of Catholic education on all levels. He carried out his duties, which required much travelling, from Agbor mission. After three years in this crucial post, Bishop Kelly asked Ben to open a secondary school at Otwa, near Auchi. The school, named after St. Joseph, commenced with one class in 1959. The local people contributed according to their means towards the buildings and running costs and there was some small income too from school fees. However during its early years the main burden of costs was borne by the diocese. Fortunately, however, the Minister of Education, Fidelis Utomi, who was an Old Boy of St. Thomas', was well-disposed and after some discussion, accorded the school grant-aided status. In subsequent years St. Joseph's achieved a high standing in the region.

In 1971 ill-health forced Ben to leave Nigeria. After some time in the tropical hospital in London, he took up a post in Southwark diocese, serving as curate in St. Mary Magdalen's parish in Mortlake, London. For ten years with renewed spirit he devoted his energies to the parish and relished every moment of it. In 1981 he retired to live with his brother, Tommy, in Wimbledon, although he still helped out in St. Mary Magdalen's. Two years later he and his brother returned to Ireland, taking up residence in Beaufort, Co Kerry.

Ben's first serious bout of ill-health came in 1971 when he had circulatory problems. These problems recurred increasingly with age. Between 1985-1991 he was a frequent visitor to hospital. In September 1995, he came to live in the S.M.A. house at Wilton. Six months later, however, a deterioration in his condition led to his transfer to the S.M.A. community at Blackrock Road where nursing care was more readily available. Ben returned from the Bon Secours hospital, Cork, on Friday morning, 20 June 1997, after successful surgery to remove a cataract on his eye. He was resting in his room in the afternoon in good form. The nurse had been speaking with him at 5 p.m. Shortly after 5.30.p.m. she went to his room again and he had just died.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.