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Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande
Le Père Seàn O’CONNELL

O CONNELL Sean

né le 15 octobre 1926
dans le diocèse de Cork (Irlande) 
membre de la SMA le 5 octobre 1949
prêtre le 17 juin 1953
décédé le 26 novembre 2003

1953-1959 Ballinafad, professeur
1959-1961 diocèse d’Ibadan, Nigeria
1961-1968 Ballinafad, professeur
1968-1970 diocèse d’Ibadan, Nigeria
1970-1983 supérieur régional à Ibadan
1983-1987 Blackrock Road, Cork, vice supérieur et économe
1987-1989 archidiocèse de Monrovia, Liberia
1989-1995 Claremorris, supérieur et économe
1995-2002 Blackrock Road, Cork, manager
2002-2003 Blackrock Road, Cork, retiré

décédé à Cork (Irlande), le 26 novembre 2003,
à l'âge de 77 ans

Father John Philip (Shaun) O’CONNELL (1926 2003)

John Philip O’Connell was born on 15th October 1926 in the parish of St. Finbarr’s West, Cork.
He died at Marymount Hospice, Cork, on 26th November 2003.

John (in the Society he was known as ‘Sean’) O’Connell was a son of Margaret (nee O’Donovan) and John O’Connell who worked as a factory manager. The family lived in Hartland’s Avenue on the south side of Cork city. Sean received his secondary education from the Presentation Brothers in their school on the Mardyke, matriculating with a university scholarship and taking his Leaving certificate in 1945. He then entered the Society’s house at Wilton, Cork, from which he attended University College Cork receiving, three years later, an honours degree in Arts (his subjects were English and Latin and he received a first-class honours in the latter). During this period he also studied philosophy as a subsidiary subject. In the autumn of 1948 he entered the Society’s novitiate, spending a year before he was promoted to the Society’s theological seminary. Sean was received as a member of the Society on 5th October 1949. He was ordained a priest in St. Colman’s cathedral, Newry, by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore diocese, on 17th June 1953. He was one of a class of eleven ordained on that day.

After ordination his superiors decided to send Sean to London University’s to take a post-graduate course in Education, however a shortage of staff in the Province’s secondary school, the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, required to be met; and Sean was assigned instead to this institution. From Ballinafad he attended University College Galway, acquiring an honours higher diploma in education in 1955. He was continue in Ballinafad until 1959 and returned to that College again in 1961, teaching there until 1968. An excellent teacher – he excelled in Latin and Mathematics – Sean was a highly popular member of staff. In particular his interest in sport and enthusiasm for athletics impressed those in his charge. From July 1964 he served as vice-superior of the College.

In 1959, in response to repeated requests made to his superiors, Sean was appointed to the staff of the recently established diocese of Ibadan, in south west Nigeria. Sailing on the m.v. ‘Apapa’ from Liverpool, he reached his mission on 27th September of that year. On arrival Sean spent three months in the Society’s Tyrocinium, at Challenge in Ibadan. His induction to the missions over he was appointed to the staff of Loyola College, the diocese’s leading secondary school.

Sean’s second period in Ibadan diocese commenced in October 1968 after a seven year spell in Ballinafad. He had made repeated requests to his superiors for a mission appointment. ‘I have frequently asked you to let me go on the Missions… I have never felt myself able to settle down on a permanent or semi-permanent basis in Ballinafad. I feel very strongly that I am not realising my missionary vocation on the home front. I have now spent twelve of my fourteen years of priesthood at home and I ask you earnestly and sincerely to allow me to develop my specifically missionary vocation on the missions’. His request finally granted, Sean spent two months in the Tyrocinium before being appointed to the staff of St. Theresa’s minor seminary, Oke-Are. Four months later, in May 1969, he became Deputy Regional Superior, responsible (under the Regional) for the temporal and spiritual welfare of his confreres in the jurisdictions of Lagos, Ondo, Ibadan and Ilorin. During his second term as Deputy Regional, in September 1974, he attended the Extraordinary Provincial Council in Cork and then took the Pastoral Counselling Course at the Redemptorist centre, Marienella before returning to Ibadan. In June 1978 he attended the Provincial Assembly in Cork after which Ned Casey, the incumbent Regional Superior, was elected to the Provincial Council. Sean succeeded Ned as Regional, taking up his appointment in July of the same year. Following elections in his Region later that year Sean was confirmed in his position. As Regional he attended the EPC in 1979 and 1982, and the Plenary Council in Dromantine in 1980 and again in 1982. He was an ex officio delegate to the Provincial Assembly of 1983, after which he attended the Pastoral Ministry Course in Marienella. The incoming administration then appointed him Vice-Superior and Bursar of the Province’s mother house at Blackrock Road. He was also given charge of the Public Church. During these years he served, too, as SMA representative to the National Conference of Priests of Ireland.

In April 1987 Sean was re-assigned to Africa, this time to Liberia. Here he was entrusted with responsibility for the SMA Guest House, situated on the beach on the outskirts of Monrovia. This house was jointly-owned and funded by the Irish and American Provinces and was an extremely valuable amenity for missionary personnel. Among Sean’s preparations for this task was a cookery course which he undertook in Dublin with some relish. He remained in Liberia until August 1989 when the occurrence of cancerous skin lesions dictated that he was no longer fit for the tropics. After treatment for this condition in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, Sean was appointed Superior of the SMA House in Claremorris, a task he discharged until May 1993 when he became Bursar. In September 1995 Sean returned to Blackrock Road to take up the post of Manager of the African Missionary. He served in this capacity until March 2002 when increasing ill-health forced him to retire. In August 2002 Sean suffered a stroke but made a reasonably good recovery. On June 17th 2003 he celebrated his Golden Jubilee of Priesthood. Two months later his health began to deteriorate sharply and he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour. He died in the presence of his family and members of his community.

Sean was gifted with a good singing voice and excelled in gatherings both in Africa and Ireland, treating his listeners to fine renditions of ‘He like a soldier fell’, ‘Ber me O’ and ‘An Puc ar Buile’. But he is best remembered for his qualities as a teacher and administrator where his sharp intellect and gift of patience were exhibited to the full. The homily preached at his funeral also noted a certain stubbornness in outlook which refused to allow him be easily dominated, but which also could make it difficult for him to see other perspectives. In his last sixteen months of his life when illness intensified he bore his suffering and incapacity with courage and without complaint.

His younger brother Jeremiah (Derry) was ordained for the Society in 1956 and at the time of Sean’s death had spent forty-seven years in Northern Nigeria.

He is buried in Wilton Cemetery.