Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

KELLY Patrick né le 15 août 1896
dans le diocèse de Dublin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 7 juillet 1926
prêtre le 8 juin 1930
décédé le 4 août 1938

1935 missionnaire au Liberia pendant quelques mois

décédé à Dublin, Irlande, le 4 août 1938
à l’âge de 42 ans

Father Patrick Joseph KELLY (1896 - 1938)

Patrick Joseph Kelly was born in Cabinteely, in the archdiocese of Dublin (at the time he joined the Society he gave his address as 19 Grange terrace, Blackrock, Co Dublin the home of his brother), on 15 August 1896. He died at his home in Dublin, while on holiday from the U.S.A., on 4 August 1938.

Patrick was a 'delayed vocation' to the missionary priesthood. At the age of twenty four he came to St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, where he received his secondary education. He entered the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of 1924. Two years later, on 7 July 1926, he was admitted to membership of the Society. He studied theology in the Society's major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, being a member of the first group of students in that new seminary, opened in 1926. Having completed his course, Patrick was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 8 June 1930. He was one of a group of ten ordained on that day.

After ordination Patrick was assigned to the prefecture of Liberia, in West Africa, arriving in the capital, Monrovia, on 6 November 1930. The Liberian field was perhaps the most difficult of the Society's West African missions, for many reasons, not least a hazardous climate and an unstable political situation. There was much isolation too in this impoverished, strife ridden Black Republic with its small, scattered population. Liberia had been the scene of the first catholic mission to West Africa in the 1840's. That mission had collapsed, as also had a number of subsequent attempts to plant the Church during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The S.M.A. had first come to Liberia in 1906, when a missionary expedition led by Stephen Kyne, established a mission at Kekru, near Monrovia. Over the years the Church had been painstakingly built up, although by the time Patrick reached his mission there were only some 5,000 catholic members and six principal stations.

Within four weeks of his arrival in Monrovia, Patrick requested permission to return to Ireland. He was clearly suffering from acute cultural shock and home sickness. John Collins, the 'visitor' (responsible for the welfare of the missionaries), treated him with great understanding and in February 1931 Patrick resolved to stay on in Liberia. He then commenced pastoral work under the guidance of Anthony McAndrew, superior of Monrovia district, and his assistant, Robert O'Leary. Monrovia station had been founded in 1903, closed in 1912 and re opened in 1921. There were some 350 catholic members, mostly immigrants from the Kru Coast, east of Monrovia. The station had one school with 400 pupils, and although there were no formal outstations, the missionaries visited a number of outlying districts and communities, including Krootown, Bassatown, the Firestone Rubber Plantation, Kakata, White Plains, the Johnson Barracks, and the government prisons. In April 1931 Fr. Collins wrote to the Provincial that Patrick was 'working away very zealously and contentedly in Monrovia, and has done particularly well in the school'. However in July 1931 Patrick petitioned Propaganda Fide for a dispensation which would permit him to leave the Society. A short time later, pending a reply, he accepted an appointment to Sasstown district, on the Kru Coast. After three months in Sasstown he transferred to the recently established mission of Cape Palmas, also on the Kru Coast.

On 17 November 1931 John Collins wrote to his Provincial about disturbances on the Kru Coast, following League of Nations censure of Liberia over allegations of slavery. 'The whole Kru Coast became unsettled and Old Sasstown has been idiotic enough to try to fight and is now burned to the ground. We did our best to give them a bit of sense but they have now paid dearly for it. I thought the matter was settled and left the place, but in a few days it suddenly flared up again. Fathers Denis Manning and Patrick Kelly have had a trying time, but had the satisfaction of protecting the women and children in the church. Father Kelly was certainly of great service there during the fighting. In a further letter, dated 25 January 1932, Fr. Collins reported: 'Pat Kelly is still in Sasstown where he has really been of immense service as a diplomat between the opposing forces'. In the same letter Fr. Collins reported that Patrick had gone 'to Cape Palmas in January and a doctor told him that he was suffering from heart affection which makes it necessary for him to lead a quiet life with little exercise. He is anxious to get back to Monrovia, but with our short numbers it is not easy to make that change just now'. In April 1932 Patrick saw a second doctor in Monrovia, who diagnosed angina pectoris and ordered him back to Ireland. He sailed for Europe in June.

Back in Ireland Patrick spent a period convalescing and then took up a teaching assignment at the Wilton apostolic school. Here he joined a staff led by James McDonnell and which provided preparation for leaving certificate for some 60 pupils in a three year cycle. In 1935 Patrick sought pastoral work in the U.S.A. where the Society had a number of mission parishes located in African American communities. Patrick was assigned to the diocese of Natchez, working in a parish entrusted to the S.M.A. He died at his home in Dublin, from heart failure, while on holiday from the U.S.A.

Patrick died at a relatively young age, suffering for much of his life with ill health. He is remembered with affection by those members of the Society who studied under him in Wilton as a man who had a good way with students. He taught geography and geology with flair, and his classes on geological surveying were a highlight in the academic calendar.

He is buried in Deansgrange cemetery, Dublin.