Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

BERMINGHAM Patrick né le 21 mars 1896
dans le diocèse de Kildare, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 22 juillet 1920
prêtre le 7 mars 1925
décédé le 18 juillet 1940

1925-1931 missionnaire au Nigeria
1931-1934 Blackrock Road, Cork, économe
1934-1940 missionnaire au Nigeria

décédé à Warri, Nigeria, le 18 juillet 1940,
à l’âge de 44 ans

Le père Patrick John BERMINGHAM (1896 - 1940)

A Warri (Nigeria), le 18 juillet 1940, retour à Dieu du père Patrick Bermingham, à l'âge de 44 ans.

Patrick Bermingham naquit dans le diocèse de Kildare (Irlande) en 1896. Il fit ses études au petit séminaire de Carlow, puis entra aux Missions Africaines. Il fit le serment en 1920 et fut ordonné prêtre en 1925. Le père Bermingham fut nommé au vicariat de la Nigeria Occidentale où il devait travailler jusqu'à sa mort, sauf les années 1931 à 1934 qu'il passa en Irlande comme économe à Blackrock Road.

Le père Bermingham se montra ardent et zélé missionnaire. Doué d'un grand bon sens, d'un caractère jovial, le père était surtout "un grand cœur". Il œuvra dans les districts de Warri et d'Aragba. Ce fut durant la retraite annuelle des pères à Benin-City qu'il fut pris par sa dernière maladie et transporté à l'hôpital de Warri.

Father Patrick John BERMINGHAM (1896 - 1940)

Patrick Bermingham was born in Daingean, Co Offaly, in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin, on 21 March 1896. He died in Warri, Nigeria, on 18 July 1940.

Patrick ('Brum', to his colleagues) received his secondary education at Knockbeg college, Carlow (1916 1917) and St. Patrick's college, Carlow (1917 1918). He was 22 years old when he came to the S.M.A., commencing his novitiate at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in September 1918; he was a member of the first class to go there. Patrick was admitted to membership of the Society two years later, on 22 July 1920. He completed his theological studies at St. Joseph's seminary, Blackrock Road, Cork, and was ordained a priest in St. Joseph's church, adjoining the seminary, on 7 March 1925. The ordaining prelate was Bishop Thomas Broderick, vicar apostolic of Western Nigeria. Patrick's class was ordained on 14 June 1924, on which day he received sub-diaconate. The reason for the delay in his ordination is not recorded.

Immediately after his ordination Patrick was sent to the vicariate of Western Nigeria, at a time when vast tracts of this huge jurisdiction remained quite undeveloped. On his arrival Bishop Broderick appointed him to Warri district. Warri station had been founded in 1917 under the patronage of St. Elizabeth. There were three other priests in the district when Patrick came there: John Cadogan, the superior, John Lupton and John Heaney. Warri district, a land of swamps, islands and creeks, had a catholic community of some 900 members and 700 catechumens, located in Warri town and its forty-nine outstations. Much of Patrick's ministry consisted of treks (and often canoe journeys), often lasting as long as three weeks, to visit these outstations. On one occasion he nearly lost his life. Another confrere, William Lumley, reported in July 1927: 'Father Birmingham was travelling by canoe with his loads when something happened and the thing upset. He had to swim fifty yards in the dark and was quite exhausted when he reached some mud and bush where he got on his feet. He had been called to a sick-call at Assay, 70 miles away, in the farthest part of our parish. He took his goods intending to do a week's work as he was there - which he did'. During his time in Warri Patrick built a splendid church which was a great source of pride to the young catholic community in that town.

But his labours during his first 5 year tour greatly weakened his health and he was compelled to remain home from 1931 until 1937. During these years of recovery he was placed as bursar at Blackrock Road. He then served in the S.M.A. procure at Ullet Road, Sefton Park, Liverpool, which cared for the needs of confreres going to, and coming from, the missions. When Patrick returned to Nigeria at the start of his second missionary tour, in October 1937, the vicar apostolic, Leo Hale Taylor (Bishop Broderick had died in 1933), appointed him to Sapele district. Sapele was formerly an outstation of Warri. It had been founded in 1921 and became a residential station in 1926. In 1939 Patrick was appointed superior of Aragba district, a remote region, with numerous outstations, which had a catholic community of almost 2,000 members and 500 catechumens.

It was during the priests annual retreat at Benin City in 1940 that his final illness came. Pat was to die of yellow fever, one of the major causes of missionary deaths in West Africa at that time. The 'visitor' in charge of the welfare of the members in Western Nigeria (Thomas Sexton Cahill, who himself was to die two years later, aged 35 years), described Patrick's death in a letter to the Provincial, Stephen Harrington: 'I deeply regret to announce to you the death of our beloved confrere, Father Patrick Birmingham, which took place at Warri. He came from Aragba to Benin City on Monday 8th July for the annual retreat. He seemed to be in his usual cheery mood. He entered on retreat with the other Fathers on Monday night July 8th. He attended all the exercises of each day and said Holy Mass each morning.

On Friday 12th, at noon, he complained of being cold. He was present at the second-last lecture at 3 p.m. after which he went to bed. He had hot drinks and extra quinine, but on Saturday morning his temperature was 102 and could not retain food. On Sunday morning I called the doctor as Patrick did not seem to respond to the treatment. The doctor gave an injection of quinine but was not at all certain what was the complaint. On Sunday evening the doctor examined him again. he recommended that Patrick should be sent to hospital. From Father's admission to hospital in Warri on Monday 15th, until Thursday morning 18th there was no cause for anxiety. He was visited daily by Frs. J.J. Healy and Joseph Barrett and by the Reverend Sisters. On Thursday morning 18th about 7 a.m. the Fathers were called to the hospital as Patrick seemed to be worse. When the Fathers arrived Patrick was somewhat weak - but quite conscious. Fr. Barrett administered the last sacraments and Patrick asked was he dying. He recited all the prayers with Fr. Barrett, the last audible prayer being "O my God - I am sorry".

Though semi-conscious his lips moved in prayer until he gave up his generous soul to God at 9 a.m. In the evening his remains were removed to the Warri church - the fruits of his generous labours on his first tour. The large church could not contain the congregation that came to pray for one they so dearly loved. An all-night vigil was kept until Solemn Requiem Mass next morning'. A colleague who worked with him in Nigeria wrote: 'Pat was a very warm-hearted man who never enjoyed good health during his second missionary tour. I was in Warri hospital with blackwater fever when poor Pat was brought in with yellow fever. He hadn't a chance. I heard him as he struggled for life. Joe Barrett gave him the last rites. He waved to me as he was being brought past my room on entering the hospital. It was to be a last farewell from "Brum"'.

He is buried in the town of Warri, Nigeria.