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Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

WATSON Daniel né le 22 mai 1911 à Belfast
dans le diocèse de Down & Connor, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1933
prêtre le 20 juin 1937
décédé le 7 octobre 1961

1937-1957 missionnaire au Nord Nigeria
1957-1961 missionnaire au USA
diocèse de Saint-Augustin, Floride

décédé à Jacksonville, USA, le 7 octobre 1961,
à l'âge de 50 ans


Le père Daniel Malachy WATSON (1911 - 1961)

A Jacksonville (U.S.A.), en Floride, le 7 octobre 1961, retour à Dieu du père Daniel Watson, à l'âge de 50 ans.

Daniel Watson naquit à Belfast, dans le diocèse de Down & Connor, en Irlande, le 22 mai 1911. Il fit ses études à Ballinafad, Wilton, au noviciat de Kilcogan où il fit le serment en 1933, puis à Dromantine. Il fut ordonné prêtre en juin 1937. Quelques mois plus tard, le père Watson arrivait en Nigeria du Nord dans la préfecture de Kaduna, où il allait travailler pendant 20 ans. Il fut un missionnaire remarquable. Le père Watson était un homme merveilleux et attachant, aimé de tous, confrères et Africains, généreux et dévoué, toujours prêt à rendre service. Recevait-il un confrère, il prenait volontiers le tablier de cuisinier.

Dans les réunions, il était capable d'amuser et de détendre ses confrères des heures durant. A ses paroissiens dont il connaissait parfaitement la langue, le haoussa, il était prêt à "donner le sang de son cœur". Très bon, il était aimé de tous. Homme droit et intègre, il était à fond dans tout ce qu'il disait ou faisait. Qu'il s'occupât d'une paroisse, qu'il eût en charge une école, qu'il administrât les sacrements ou qu'il visitât les malades et les prisonniers, tout son cœur se donnait au travail.

En 1957, le père Watson ne retourna pas au Nigeria, mais partit pour les Etats-Unis, où il travailla jusqu'à sa mort dans le diocèse de Saint-Augustin, en Floride.


Father Daniel Malachy WATSON (1911 - 1961)

Daniel Watson was born in McCleery St., Belfast, Northern Ireland, in St. Peter's parish, in the diocese of Down and Connor, on May 22, 1911.
He died in St. Vincent's hospital, Jacksonville, Florida, USA, on October 7, l961.

Daniel (Danny) studied in the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (l927 l928) and St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (l928 l93l) before entering the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He was received as a member of the Society on July 2, l933 and then went on to the major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, for his theological formation. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on June 20, l937. He was one of two ordained on that day; the other was Edward (Ned) Rice. The remaining members of his class had been ordained the previous December.

Some months later Danny arrived in northern Nigeria where he took up an assignment in the Prefecture of Kaduna. This jurisdiction had been erected three years earlier when the old Prefecture of Northern Nigeria was divided. The Kaduna jurisdiction, whose superior was Thomas Hughes, comprised the civil provinces of Zaria, Niger, Sokoto, Kano, Katsina, and a part of the French territory of Niger. Its area was 125,000 square kilometres, its population in excess of 5 million. In the past most of the Christians in the north of Nigeria were immigrants from the east who had come northwards with the railway. Mgr. Hughes was especially interested in establishing the Church among the indigenous population and particularly those who were animists. Argungu, a rural region in the north west of the Prefecture, was one of those districts on which he placed his hopes, establishing a residential mission there in 1935. Danny's first appointment, given in October 1937, was to Argungu, where Pat Lavan was superior and where, in addition to the principal station of Argungu, there were five secondary stations (one of them Sokoto which is now the seat of a diocese). In October 1939 Danny was assigned to Zaria district. This was a more developed area, which had its first residential priest in 1918, and where easterners formed the majority of the Catholic community. However Danny and the other priests working there at this time paid particular attention to developing the hinterland where there was a large indigenous population amenable to evangelisation. Danny spent the last year of his first tour of duty at Masuga, another mainly rural district which had its first residential station in 1937.

When Danny’s tour ended he went directly from Nigeria to America where he had family members, sailing in April 1942. Three months later he obtained a passage on a ship to Ireland where he spent the remainder of his leave. Danny returned to Nigeria in July 1943. He was lucky to reach his mission, since he was a passenger on the ill-fated troopship liner, SS California, which was bombed and sunk four days out to sea. There were significant causalities among the troops but all the missionaries on board - some 30 priests and sisters of various congregations as well as a handful of Protestant missionaries - survived and were landed by other ships at Casablanca. Danny arrived in Kaduna to find a new Prefect Apostolic in place, namely John McCarthy who had succeeded Thomas Hughes (he was now Bishop of Ondo-Ilorin Vicariate) in April 1943. Danny spent most of his second tour of duty in Argungu and in Guni, the latter another rural district near Minna which had been founded in 1941. Danny was held in the highest regard by his confreres who elected him as their delegate to the Provincial Assembly of 1946 and the General Assembly of 1947. Shortly after the Provincial Assembly he visited his brother in Brooklyn, writing to Peter Harrington, the new American Provincial, congratulating him on his election and informing him that he had worked with his nephew in Guni. The reference was to Jim Murphy who had come out in June 1945 and was sent to Danny for his first placement. Danny returned from these important meetings in August 1947, to pioneer a new mission at Gusau. Gusau was situated between Zaria and Sokoto at the end of a railway junction from Zaria. Danny was to spend a further nine years in Kaduna, ministering at Gusau, Zuru, Kurmin-Mazuga, and Gawu. Early in 1957 he suffered a heart attack while at home on leave in Belfast.

Unable to return to Africa, Danny got permission from his superiors to go to the USA where he worked until his death. That Danny should come to work for the American Province was no surprise. His correspondence with Peter Harrington was by no means his first contact with the American Province. He also corresponded with Ignace Lissner, Founder of the Province, who he had met and liked during his visit to America in 1942. There is a letter on file in the archives of the American Province in Tenafly from Danny to Fr. Lissner, written after his return to Nigeria. Addressed from the Catholic Mission, Argungu, Sokoto and dated January 7, 1944, Danny wrote: ‘I had intended to write to you before this to inform you of my safe arrival in Nigeria… Perhaps you heard how we arrived … we lost everything. The mission here was burnt down last May and I was the one sent to re-build it.’ The letter went on at some length and included Danny’s sorrow on learning that the American Seminary at Silver Spring, Washington DC had been also burned down. Danny commented wryly that ‘the SMA seems to be going in for a scorched earth policy’.

On his arrival in America, in June 1957, Danny was appointed to St. Odilia's parish in Los Angeles, where SMA priests had worked among the mainly African-American population since 1926. In March 1960 he became assistant pastor at the Church of the Epiphany, Miami, in the diocese of St. Augustine, Florida. He spent his last months serving in St. Patrick's Church, Villanova, Jacksonville, also in the diocese of St. Augustine.

A kind, hospitable man, with a gift for story telling, Danny enjoyed a distinguished missionary career. An obituary written at the time of his death put it well: ‘Being a Latinist Danny gained a mastery over the Hausa language (a rare accomplishment in the days when interpreters were widely used). It was in his period with the Dakakari people in the Zuru area, now in Sokoto State, and with the Kajes in Kurmin-Mazuga area that he was able, with all his energy, to go directly at the work of the primary evangelisation of adults, both men and women. He left a lasting impression on the people of the communities he established and served, particularly at Zuru: “If he had been left here for a couple more years, all the Dakakari people would have become Catholics” - that was how one young man from the area saw his work some years later. Even if his great drive was for direct evangelisation, he pushed on with the work of establishing and supervising schools. Many were to owe their chance of schooling to Danny.’

He is buried in Jacksonville, Florida, USA.