Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

KENNY Henry né le 28 avril 1892
dans l’archidiocèse de Dublin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 28 septembre 1922
prêtre le 23 mai 1926
décédé le 21 octobre 1972

1926-1931 missionnaire en Nigeria occidentale
1932-1946 Irlande, animation missionnaire 
et recherche de fonds
1946-1969 Wilton, économe au collège Saint-Joseph
1969-1972 Wilton, retiré

décédé à Wilton, Irlande, le 21 octobre 1972,
à l’âge de 80 ans

Father Henry Patrick KENNY (1892 - 1972)

Henry Kenny was born in Ballinacarrig, Castledermot, Co Kildare, in the archdiocese of Dublin, on 28 April 1892. He died in St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, on 21 October 1972.

Henry (Harry) studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1916 1917), and at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, (1917 1920), before entering the S.M.A. novitiate and house of philosophy at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He was received as a member of the Society on 28 September 1922 and then went to St. Joseph's seminary, Blackrock Road, Cork, to complete his training. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Thomas Broderick, vicar apostolic of Western Nigeria, in St. Joseph's church, Blackrock Road, on 23 May 1926. Harry was one of a group of ten ordained on that day.

After ordination Harry was appointed to the vicariate of Western Nigeria, a vast jurisdiction, which embraced the central area and the north west of the British colony of Nigeria and a part of south-west Niger (the French colony). It had an area of 150,000 square kilometres and a population in the region of 6,500,000. Bishop Broderick, the vicar apostolic, had been consecrated in 1918, the year in which the jurisdiction was entrusted to the Irish Province as its first mission in Nigeria. On arrival, in September 1926, Harry was appointed to Agenebode district. The superior of this district was the veteran missionary John J. Healy, under whose guidance Harry learned the local language and was trained in the various aspects of the missionary life. Interestingly, John Healy had been ordained on the same day as Harry. However he had worked in Nigeria as a brother, as a member of the C.S.Sp., for ten years before deciding to become a priest.

Six months later, having passed his examination authorising him to hear confessions in the local language, Harry was assigned to Lokoja district. This was one of the earliest missions in the region, founded in 1884. Larger than the largest county in Ireland and administered only by three Fathers, Lokoja, at that time, had some 40 outstations - small Christian communities, based in rural villages, each with its little school and rudimentary chapel, staffed by teachers and catechists trained by the Fathers in the central station. The Fathers had to ensure the regular visitation of each station, the training and supervision of teachers and catechists, the building and overseeing of schools and churches, and the preparation of catechumens for the reception of the sacraments. Visitation of the outstations was mostly accomplished on foot or by bicycle. During his first tour of duty, Harry also ministered in Kabba, Okene, and among many railway line communities deep into the North. Harry proved a resourceful missionary and his name will always be linked with those early Irish missionaries who trekked along the Niger basin from Agenebode to Zaria, an area twice the size of Ireland, planting the seed of the Gospel.

In May 1931, returning to Ireland in poor health, Harry was assigned to propaganda work, promoting the missionary ideal among the laity and collecting funds for the Province's developing missions and growing home commitments. Harry proved a talented promoter, labouring chiefly in the archdiocese of Dublin between 1932 1946. During that time he was to establish 'missionary circles', or groups of mission supporters whose endeavours on behalf of the missions still continue. He worked out of Barry's Hotel whose proprietor at that time was a personal friend.

Harry was next appointed to Wilton college where he served as bursar from 1946 1969, managing the farm, and overseeing the material welfare of the house and school with a stewardship which won him much commendation from his superiors, although those who lived in the community were not always as enthusiastic. When Harry first came to Wilton, the college was a senior secondary school, providing candidates for the Society with a three-year course up to leaving certificate level. In 1953 the secondary school was transferred to Ballinafad and Wilton became a hostel for S.M.A. seminarians attending U.C.C. Harry adapted well to these changes and became one of the 'characters' of Wilton. His peculiar turn of phrase and distinctive speaking voice was too much of a temptation to talented students, and accurate imitations frequently could be heard in student conversation or even on the college stage.

Born in the short grass country of Castledermot where he developed an enduring love of land and horses, Harry spent the last years of his life in contented retirement at Wilton.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.