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Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

DEVANE Thomas né le 16 novembre 1924 à Ardfert
dans le diocèse de Kerry, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1945
prêtre le 14 juin 1949
décédé le 7 octobre 1992

1949-1966 missionnaire au Nigeria
archidiocèse de Lagos
1967-1971 Doughcloyne, Cork, économe
1971-1975 archidiocèse d’Edimbourg, Ecosse
1976-1992 diocèse de Kerry, Irlande

décédé à Tralee, Irlande, le 7 octobre 1992,
à l'âge de 68 ans


Father Thomas Michael DEVANE (1924 - 1992)

Thomas Devane was born in Ardfert, Co Kerry, in the diocese of Kerry, on 16 November 1924. He died in the Bon Secours hospital, Tralee, Co Kerry, on 7 October 1992.

Thomas (Tom) received his secondary education at St. Brendan's seminary, Killarney (1938-1943). He joined the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in September 1943. He received his theological formation in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down. Tom became a member of the Society on l July 1945. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O'Doherty of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 14 June 1949. He was one of a group of seven ordained on that day.

After ordination Tom was assigned to the vicariate of Lagos in south west Nigeria. This vicariate, erected in 1943, became the archdiocese of Lagos in April 1950, under the leadership of Leo Hale Taylor. When Tom arrived in Nigeria Archbishop Taylor assigned him to Topo island. This mission, situated near Badagry, dated back to 1874, when 1,000 acres of land were granted by government to the mission. Over the years a large coconut plantation had been grown and the copra (dried fruit of the coconut, used for making soap and cosmetics) sold, providing an important source of funding for the Lagos jurisdiction. Tom Deeley was superior, when Tom took up his post. As well as the farm, and a church and mission, Topo had a boys boarding school and a convent with orphanage and clinic. In addition to his pastoral responsibilities and his supervision of farm labour, Tom undertook the study of the Yoruba language, so as to be able to hear confessions in the local tongue. Tom came to Ireland on his first home leave in February 1954. When he returned to Nigeria, exactly a year later, he was posted to Ibonwon parish, where Michael Gallagher was superior.

When Fr. Gallagher went on leave in 1955 Tom became parish priest, with Dan Barrett as his curate. Ibonwon mission, situated in the rural Ijebu country, had been founded in 1901 under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception. It had a catholic community of some 3,300 members and 300 catechumens. There were 15 secondary stations and the number of catholic marriages in the year Tom came there was three. In 1957 Bishop Taylor decided to make St. Benedict's mission, Imobi, Waterside (near Ibonwon), a residential station and asked Tom to build a Fathers residence. Tom lived in a 'small rest house' in Imobi while erecting the building. A year later, his task accomplished, he was assigned to the Most Pure Heart of Mary parish, Esure, also in Ijebu country. Tom remained in charge of Esure until 1965 when he was invalided home to Ireland. In July 1965 John Kwao Amuzu Aggey succeeded Leo Taylor as archbishop of Lagos. Archbishop Aggey indicated to the 'regional superior' that he hoped to appoint Tom as parish priest of Mushin (Lagos) when he returned. Tom came back to Lagos in February 1966, but it was clear that he was far from well. In December he was invalided home and reluctantly he had to accept his Doctors advice that he was no longer fit for the tropics.

In 1967 Tom took up an appointment as bursar in the St. Xaviour's university hostel for Africans, at Doughcloyne, Cork. With the closure of Doughcloyne, in 1971, Tom went to Edinburgh archdiocese on pastoral work. He ministered there, in the parish of St. Paul's, Muirhouse Avenue, until May 1975, when he was invalided to Blackrock Road, Cork. The following year he returned to Kerry, to his family, assisting in the local parish when his health permitted. Tom had a sister in the Congregation of Our Lady of Apostles, Sr. Ambrose (Catherine). He had a brother in Mount Melleray Monastery.

A colleague and classmate wrote the following appreciation of Tom after his death, published in the African Missionary. 'We were both appointed to Lagos after ordination. For me Fr. Tom's two most outstanding qualities were his pleasant good humour and his capacity for hard work. I first encountered his good humour in 1943 at our very first meeting on the train at Mallow on our way to the novitiate in Kilcolgan. His capacity for hard work became apparent in the novitiate, later in Dromantine, and above all on the missions. When we assembled in 1989 for our 40th anniversary of ordination, Tom was the same pleasant, quietly good humoured man that we always knew even though at the time his health was not good. Our paths had diverged over the years and it was a real pleasure to meet him again. I remember him as a good priest and a true friend'.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.