Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

O SHEA Alphonsus né le 3 mai 1911 à Drogheda
dans le diocèse d'Armagh, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 19 juin 1932
prêtre le 21 décembre 1935
décédé le 16 novembre 1979

1936-1939 missionnaire au Ghana
collège Saint-Augustin
1940-1946 missionnaire en Egypte
1946-1949 Blackrock Road, Cork, UCC for BA
1949-1952 Wilton, professeur
UCC for MA
1952-1954 responsable du Magazine
1952-1965 Blackrock Road, Cork, 
responsable de l'oratoire public
1966-1971 séminaire de Dutton Manor, province de GB
1971-1979 malade, Dromantine, puis Blackrock Road

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 16 novembre 1979,
à l'âge de 68 ans

Father Alphonsus Brendan O'SHEA (1911 - 1979)

Alphonsus O'Shea was born in Drogheda (although his family came from Old Finglas Road, Dublin) in the archdiocese of Armagh, on 3 May 1911. He died in the Bon Secours hospital, Cork, on 16 November 1979.

Alphonsus (Alfie) commenced his secondary education at the O'Connell schools, in Dublin, before entering the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, in 1928. He came to the S.M.A.'s novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in the autumn of 1930 and studied theology in the major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down from 1932 1936. Alfie was admitted to membership of the Society on 19 June 1932 and was ordained a priest, by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 21 December 1935. He was one of a group of twenty-one ordained on that day.

A gifted communicator and already a lover of poetry, art and literature, after his ordination Alfie was assigned to the Gold Coast (now Ghana). There he became a member of the founding staff of the prestigious St. Augustine's college, Cape Coast, which was established in 1936 under the principalship of Maurice B. Kelly. St. Augustine's consisted of a secondary school with a teacher training tier. Within three years of its foundation there were over 100 pupils in the school and 80 in the training department. Alfie spent three years in this institution. In March 1939 he returned to Ireland in poor health. Bishop Porter, the vicar apostolic of the Gold Coast, wrote to the Provincial, Stephen Harrington, 'Everybody here will be glad to get him (Alfie) back if possible, for he was a good steady man, and certainly splendid for such subjects as history in the training college.' It was not to be. After convalescing until September Alfie taught for a period of three months in the senior secondary college at Wilton. He was then assigned to the Egyptian mission.

The S.M.A.'s first contacts with Egypt date from 1877. Augustine Planque, Superior General at that time, was urgently seeking a suitable mission field for the growing number of members whose health had been irreparably damaged in West Africa, or who for other reasons were no longer capable of enduring the rigors of tropical Africa. Egypt had a good climate and it was for this reason that Alfie's superiors chose him for that mission. Alfie spent 6 years in Egypt (1940 1946). His first appointment was to St. George's college, 8 Midan El-Afdal, Choubra (the older quarter of Cairo), sometimes called 'the English college' because tuition was through the medium of English. In September 1942 Alfie was transferred to St. Augustine's college (also called St. Austin's British Boys' School), located at 3, Sharia Boutros Pasha Ghali, in modern Heliopolis. Alfie spent the last year of his tour of duty (extended because of the war) on the staff of St. Paul's college, Alexandria. This college, which was opened especially for the sons of Maltese catholic families, had been founded in 1940. In Egypt, as in Cape Coast, Alfie gained a reputation as an excellent teacher of history and English. He also impressed his confreres with his clear mind and ability to articulate ideas. It was no surprise when in 1946 they chose him as their delegate to the Provincial Assembly of that year.

After the Assembly, the new Provincial, Dr. Patrick M. Kelly sent Alfie to U.C.C. for 'higher studies'. For the next four years Alfie pursued a distinguished academic career. He secured a lst honours arts degree in English and history (1948) and a lst honours masters degree in English (awarded in 1950 on the basis of a thesis on the Metaphysical poet, Andrew Marvell- entitled: 'Andrew Marvell (1621-1628) - an Interpretation'). During part of this period, too, he taught in Wilton. He then began a higher diploma in education, doubtless with a view to resuming his teaching career, but had to interrupt his studies due to illness. In effect Alfie had contracted Berger's disease, an illness which sometimes gives an impression of bodily laziness, leading to a slowing down of movement, speech and gestures. Despite the onset of these distressing symptoms Alfie was able to return to U.C.C. in October 1951 and secured the teaching diploma in 1952. Next, for two years, until illness forced him to resign in October 1953, he edited the Province's monthly magazine, The African Missionary. From 1954 1965 he was priest in charge of St. Joseph's public church attached to the S.M.A. house on the Blackrock Road, Cork. He is remembered by the generation who attended the public church during these years as an excellent preacher and pastor, and as a man with a serious mind but with a great sense of fun. Briefly, in 1965 he was also attached to the staff of Blackrock Road house. He spent the academic year 1966 67 on the staff of the British Province's seminary, St. Carmel's, at Dutton Manor, Preston, Lancashire and a further period at the seminary in Allerton Park, Yorkshire. He lived out his last years in retirement at Blackrock Road.

Alfie's obituary in the African Missionary written by a colleague (a fellow Dubliner) who lived with him at Blackrock Road captures something of his character in the following passage: 'Alfie was at peace in his faith and in his trust in God (despite his illness) .. he liked nothing more than the company of children or to spend a morning window shopping (he had a great interest in radios). He was a man for revolving problems in his mind, turning them over and over, upside down and inside out, arriving at distinctions and definitions and then suddenly putting these thoughts aside to discuss with enthusiasm one of his greatest loves, the cinema, especially films of the Old West and science fiction'.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.