Société des Missions Africaines - Province d’Irlande

McARDLE Francis né le 23 novembre 1912 à Athy
dans l'archidiocèse de Dublin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1933
prêtre le 20 décembre 1936
décédé le 9 juillet 2002

1937-1953 préfecture apostolique de Jos, Nigeria
1954-1959 diocèse de Jos, Nigeria
1959-1972 Blackrock Road, Cork, procureur provincial
et vice supérieur
1972-1973 diocèse de Plymouth, Angleterre
1974-1976 Blackrock Road, Cork, responsable de la revue
1976-1991 archidiocèse de Jos, Nigeria
1992-2002 Blackrock Road, Cork, retiré

décédé à Blackrock Road, Cork, Irlande, le 9 juillet 2002
à l’âge de 89 ans

Father James Francis McARDLE (1912 - 2002)

James Francis McArdle was born in Athy, Co Kildare, in St. Michael’s parish, Dublin archdiocese, on 23 November 1912. He died in St. Patrick’s wing, at SMA house, Blackrock Road, Cork, on 9 July 2002.

Francis (Frank) was one of nine children born to James and Mary (nee Cashin) McArdle, who lived in Woodstock Street in Athy. Frank first attended the Mercy Sisters school in Athy, remaining there until First Communion before moving to the town’s Christian Brothers school. Frank received his secondary education in the colleges of the Society, studying at the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1926-1927) and St. Joseph’s College, Wilton, Cork (1927-1931). He was then promoted to the Society’s novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. Two years later he commenced his theological formation in the major seminary at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. Frank took his perpetual oath of Society membership on 2 July 1933. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 20 December 1936. He was one of a group of eighteen ordained on that day.

After ordination Frank returned to Dromantine to complete his theological course. He was then appointed to the Prefecture of Jos in Northern Nigeria. In September 1937, weeks before Frank and a number of companions sailed, two priests of the Prefecture, both young men, had died of yellow fever. Frank arrived to find the Prefecture in deep mourning and also greatly understaffed. Mgr. Lumley, the Prefect, appointed Frank first to Shendam where new-arrivals usually spent a six-month period getting acclimatised and learning the language. Frank’s first substantive appointment was to Kafanchan where he was to spend the next three years under the superiorship of William McAuley.

The principal station of Kafanchan had been founded in 1936. It catered for some 600 Catholic members and 400 catechumens, had five schools, a dozen catechists and took care of six outstations. Frank came to Ireland in July 1942 for his first home leave returning to his mission in November 1943. He was to do four further tours of duty until April 1959 when he was appointed Provincial Procurator and Vice-Superior at Blackrock Road. Frank was to serve as Provincial Procurator until August 1968 when, after the Provincial Assembly of that year (to which Frank was an ‘ex officio delegate), the incoming administration re-appointed him Vice Superior and made him House Bursar at Blackrock Road.

During his tours in Nigeria Frank had suffered considerable ill-health being invalided home in 1947 and undergoing severe stomach surgery in 1956. In December 1972 his health again gave cause for concern and he took up a chaplaincy at Lakenham Convent, Bideford, in Plymouth diocese. A year later he took on another chaplaincy in Northhampton diocese. However after two months he fell ill and returned to Blackrock Road where, after a period of convalescence, he took up a post as assistant in the Treasury. During the summer of 1974 he was chaplain in the Vincent de Paul Summer Camp at Mornington, Co Meath, after which he became Manager of the African Missionary. Two years later, in November 1976, Frank’s long expressed wish to return to Nigeria was granted and he went to the Regional Superior’s house at Kagoro in Jos diocese. This was the beginning of a series of ten missionary tours (1976-1992) which were all spent in Kagoro. During these years he ministered in the parish and for a time served as guest master. In 1992, at the age of eighty, Frank was eventually persuaded to retire and took up residence in Blackrock Road.

Over the years Frank became a hugely popular figure among the people in Jos diocese doing what he loved best, quietly attending to their pastoral needs, going around on his bicycle, visiting their compounds, getting to know them and entering into their lives. He must have traversed the laterite roads of the Plateau of Northern Nigeria for over thousands of miles – always by bicycle for he never learned to drive a car. As Provincial Procurator and Manager of the African Missionary Frank proved an able administrator, attentive to detail, orderly, and always prepared to put in long hours. In Ireland, as in Africa, Frank had a capacity for friendship which his rather gruff demeanour in later years – a result of physical incapacity - belied. He was especially good with younger people and is fondly remembered by those who played tennis with him in Blackrock in the 1960’s, several of whom came to his Requiem Mass. He was also a man whose practical Christianity impinged on the lives of people experiencing difficulty, helping among other things to arrange adoptions for childless couples.

In the homily at Frank’s Requiem Mass the Provincial outlined other qualities which deserve mention. ‘Frank abhorred the use of bad or foul language, especially taking the Holy Name in vain. He was a man of great regularity: regular about his prayer life; regular about his duties; regular about his timetable; and regular about relaxation. This regularity of life was both a blessing and a gift, but like all gifts this too had its shadow side. Frank guarded his own space and time with very great care, sometimes, it has to be said, to a fault.’

Although reluctant to retire Frank soon settled into a routine. An avid follower of sport he kept up-to-date with a variety of codes including cricket and was an acknowledged source in the house for ‘results’, all gleaned from the radio which he much preferred to television. In his younger days he had been a keen and capable footballer, reputedly a very difficult opponent to master. As the years passed Frank experienced increasing difficulty with mobility but he stubbornly maintained his independence to the end. In 1996 he celebrated the Diamond Jubilee of his ordination. Frank’s death came unexpectedly. Although in failing health for some time he was up and about every day. On 9 July he felt unwell and stayed in his room. At 5 p.m. Sister Rosalie went to visit him and told him that the Doctor was in the house if Frank wished to see him. Frank agreed. Minutes later the Doctor and Sister Rosalie came to the room to find that Frank had died.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.