Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

DUNNE John né le 20 janvier 1926 à Drumcondra
dans l’archidiocèse de Dublin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 30 juin 1949
prêtre le 17 juin 1953
décédé le 21 août 1998

1953-1957 Wilton, Cork, puis Cambridge, études supérieures
1957-1970 missionnaire au Nigeria
1964-1970 1957-1964 , diocèse de Benin City
1964-1970, diocèse de Warri
1970-1971 animation missionnaire en Irlande
1971-1978 Blackrock Road, Cork, éditeur puis supérieur
1979-1983 missionnaire au Nigeria, diocèse d’Issele-Uku
1984-1986 animation missionnaire en Irlande
1986-1991 paroisse de Neilstown, Dublin
1991-1998 Maynooth, économe

décédé à Dublin, France, le 21 août 1998,
à l'âge de 72 ans

Father John Joseph DUNNE (1926 - 1998)

John Joseph Dunne was born in Drumcondra (his home address was 11 Upper St. Bridget’s Road), in the parish of St. Agatha, in the archdiocese of Dublin, on 20 January 1926. He died in St Francis Hospice, Raheny, Dublin, on 21 August 1998

John spent a year at St. Vincent’s secondary school in Glasnevin, and then, in 1940, went to work in Guinness brewery. In his boyhood he joined the 26th Dublin Scout Troup, becoming a patrol leader in 1941. Feeling called to a missionary vocation, in 1944, at the age of eighteen John entered the Society’s Sacred Heart secondary college, at Ballinafad, Co Mayo. Having obtained his intermediate certificate he went on to the Society’s senior-cycle secondary college, St. Joseph’s, Wilton, Cork, where in 1947 he successfully matriculated and took his leaving certificate examination. John entered the Society’s novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in September of the same year. Two years later he commenced his theological formation in the Society’s major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down. John was received as a member of the Society on 16 June 1952. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore, in St. Colman’s cathedral, Newry, on 17 June 1953. He was one of a group of eleven ordained on that day. He celebrated his first Mass in St. Columba’s church. A Guard of Honour was provided by the scouts who also hosted the recpetion in Claude Hall afterwards.

John was ordained at a time when the educational apostolate was going from strength to strength in the Society’s West African missions. After the war, when it became clear that autonomy and, ultimately, independence, would have to be conceded, the British authorities in Ghana and Nigeria moved quickly to develop education. This was done partly to prepare the people to manage their own affairs, but also to create an indigenous ruling elite which would be favourable to the former colonial masters. Generous subsidies for the development of secondary schools were made available to voluntary agencies and especially to the Churches. Missionary bishops saw in the development of secondary education an important arm in building up the Church. Consequently missionary societies focussed particularly on the training of members for this apostolate. John’s career was a case in point. Directly after ordination he was sent to U.C.C. taking up residence at Wilton. Three years later, in September 1956, he was awarded an honours B.A. degree (his subjects were Latin and English). John was then assigned to Cambridge university where he took an Education course during the academic year 1956-57. During this year he did his practical teaching at St. John Fisher school, Purley, Surrey. It should be recorded that during his younger days John was an enthusiastic sportsman. He excelled at soccer and played on the U.C.C. team in the Collingwood cup inter-varsity competition. During his time in England he took a certificate in soccer refereeing.

John was now assigned to Nigeria, to the diocese of Benin city. Here, Bishop Patrick Kelly, was energetically pursuing the education apostolate, opening secondary colleges in most of the principal towns. After a short period of induction to the missionary life, John was assigned to the staff of Ishan Grammar School, at Ubierumu, near Uromi. This school had been opened two years previously, under the principalship of James Byrne. John came to Ireland on his first home leave in October 1957, returning to his mission three months later. After further service in the Ishan school, John was appointed principal of St. Kevin’s college, Kokori Inland, in January 1963. In 1964 the Warri region of the diocese (incorporating Sapele and Warri townships and Aboh, Warri, Western Ijaw and Urhobo divisions in the old mid-western state) was detached and erected as a separate jurisdiction under the leadership of Bishop Lucas Nwaezeapu. John was a member of the founding staff of Warri diocese, taking up the post of principal of St. Joseph’s Teacher Training College, Ozoro, which provided primary school teachers for the mid-west region.

In September 1970, while home from Nigeria, John received a letter from the Provincial, Laurence Carr, appointing him to promotion work in Ireland . This required the making of appeals in parish churches each Sunday at all Masses and visiting schools during the week. A year later a vacancy occurred in the editorship of the Society’s magazine, The African Missionary, and John, who had proved an excellent promoter in Tuam, was asked to take on this task. Two years into his editorship John was given the additional appointment of ‘vice-superior’ of the S.M.A. house at Blackrock Road, where he was resident. Not only were the Province’s administrative offices based at Blackrock Road, but it also provided accommodation for the sick and the retired, as well as for missionaries on leave from Africa. John proved an able vice-superior, so much so that in October 1973, subsequent to the Provincial Assembly of that year, John was appointed house superior. Undertaking this substantial post meant that he had to relinquish his editorship of the magazine. John was to serve as an energetic and caring superior of the large Blackrock community for the next five years.

In 1978 John was a delegate to the Provincial Assembly of that year and having completed his term in Blackrock, the incoming Administration posted him to Nigeria, to the diocese of Issele-Uku. This jurisdiction, carved from the Benin diocese, had been erected in 1973 under the leadership of Bishop Anthony Gbuji. John was appointed diocesan secretary, a post he held until August 1983. He also established a diocesan pastoral centre. John then took a year’s sabbatical leave in Ireland, after which, in January 1984, he became part of the Province’s promotion team once more, preaching in churches on Sundays and visiting schools in dioceses assigned to the Society by the Irish Missionary Union

A new chapter in John’s missionary career opened in September 1986 when he was appointed parish priest of St. Peter, Apostle, Neilstown, a parish in one of the new housing developments to the west of Dublin city, dating from 1971. Neilstown had virtually no infrastructure, or industry, even the most basic economic and social facilities were absent. Populated mainly by young couples, the unemployment rate approached 80%. Neilstown parish, with its attendant primary school, was one of the few institutions in the locality capable of creating community, of giving the people a sense of cohesion, worth and ultimately empowerment. The Society’s decision to provide an additional Father as chaplain to the newly-built post-primary college, was a further indication of its determination to serve the deprived people of Neilstown in every way. John relished the pastoral challenges of Neilstown, applying all his missionary experience and, with his three S.M.A. colleagues (two curates and the school chaplain), making a vital contribution to the lives of the people.

John’s generous and committed ministry at Neilstown came to an end in 1991, shortly after he had been seriously injured in a road accident, and was no longer fit for the full rigours of parochial work. After a period of recovery his superiors appointed him Bursar to the S.M.A. house of formation at Maynooth. This was a role to which he was particularly suited, for John was not only an excellent administrator, but possessed many practical skills, which were greatly needed in the large Maynooth house. He was also a great lover of flowers and plants and his endeavours in this regard did much to improve the house surrounds as well as its spartan interior. John greatly enjoyed these years. During these years too, he was able to renew many of the old friendships, which he had made over the years. He was particularly close to the Ledwidge family in Donabate, having first met Harry as a co-worker in Guinnesses

In June 1998 John was admitted to hospital in Dublin for major surgery. After convalescing with Mrs Lil Mcdonald Ledwidge (Harry had died some years earlier - she had made and iced the two-tier cake on the occasion of John’s ordination celebration in 1953), who nursed him with the greatest kindness and attention, his condition deteriorated and he was removed to St Francis Hospice, Raheny on August 20th. He died on the following morning. His remains were taken to Maynooth parish church for concelebrated Mass before removal to Wilton for Requiem Mass and interment..

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.