Société des Missions Africaines - Province d’Irlande

lee john né le 18 avril 1905 à Barrisoleigh
dans le diocèse de Cashel & Emly, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1930
prêtre le 10 juin 1934
décédé le 12 janvier 1992

1934-1936 préfecture de Kaduna, Nigeria

1936-1964 Irlande, animation missionnaire
et vocationnelle
1964-1968 Wilton, supérieur
1969-1986 archidiocèse de Kaduna, Nigeria
1986-1992 retiré à Nenagh

décédé Cork, Irlande, le 12 janvier 1992
à l’âge de 86 ans

John Gerard LEE (1905 - 1992)

John Lee was born in Borrisoleigh, Co Tipperary, in the archdiocese of Cashel and Emly, on 18 April 1905. He died in the Bon Secours hospital, Cork, on 6 January 1992.

John (Jack) worked as a shop assistant for some years before deciding to become a missionary priest. In 1927 he entered the Society's preparatory college, at Ballinafad, Co Mayo, where mature students were introduced to the Society and received classes in Latin. Jack joined the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in September 1928. He received his theological formation in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, between 1930-1934. Jack became a member of the Society on 2 July 1930; he was ordained a priest in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, on 10 June 1934. Jack was one of a group of seventeen ordained on that day.

After ordination Jack was appointed to the newly-erected Kaduna prefecture, in northern Nigeria. The mission to the north had been pioneered in 1907 when three S.M.A. priests travelled to Shendam and established a station. A prefecture had been established in 1929 (the prefecture of Northern Nigeria). In April 1934 this jurisdiction was divided into the separate prefectures of Jos and Kaduna. On his arrival, in October 1934, Jack was posted by Thomas P. Hughes, the prefect, to Argungu mission, where his superior was John McCarthy, later archbishop of Kaduna. Argungu, in old Sokoto Province, was a rural district situated some 500 miles from Kaduna. Heretofore the Church in northern Nigeria was dominated by Igbo and Yoruba immigrants who had come north with the railway. The decision to open a mission in Argungu was taken as part of a concerted drive to root the Church among the indigenous population.

During 1934 a mission residence was constructed and Fr. McCarthy and Jack were the first resident priests. Jack served until December 1936 when his health broke down and he was invalided home. Jack convalesced for several months, until November 1937, when he was assigned to the promotion team in the Province's headquarters at Blackrock Road, Cork. He spent the next twenty-seven years promoting the Society throughout the length and breadth of Ireland. In 1964 Jack was appointed superior of St. Joseph's college, Wilton, then a university hostel for S.M.A. students attending U.C.C. Those who were his students during this period remember him with great affection, as a gentle, fair-minded superior who encouraged them unfailingly in their studies and their vocations. Jack was also to exercise senior Society responsibilities. He was co-opted as councillor to the Provincial in 1957 and elected to the same office at the Provincial Assembly of 1958. He held this post for a decade.

In December 1968 Jack was appointed to the archdiocese of Kaduna, arriving there in June of the following year. One of Jack's great ambitions was to pray at the grave of his older brother Paddy who had joined the S.M.A. after serving as a Garda Siochåna and had died prematurely in Kaduna on 23 June 1944. Both had been ordained on the same day. When Jack arrived in Nigeria his first act was to visit his brother's grave. Although no longer a young man - he was aged sixty-four years - Jack was to spend the next seventeen years in Kaduna archdiocese. Much of this time was spent in St. Andrew's, Makera, in the industrial suburbs of Kaduna city, which today is subdivided into four separate parishes. He was one of those confrères who had the privilege of celebrating his golden jubilee of priesthood in Africa (in 1984). Jack retired in 1986, taking up residence with his family in Nenagh, Co Tipperary. Jack had a second brother, Michael, who was a priest in Los Angeles. Jack came from a musical family. His brother Paddy was a fine violinist, and other family members were also accomplished musicians, while Jack himself had a fine tenor voice with which gave a special beauty to his celebration of the liturgy.

A colleague who knew him well gave the following impression of Jack in the African Missionary: 'I first saw Jack Lee, but then at a distance, when he was cycling around Galway in the early 1940's to gather money and aspirants for the S.M.A. He was then a tall, fine-looking, impressive man that didn't let rain or frost or broken wartime roads or a worn-out bicycle halt his work. Later in Kaduna South, having the privilege of living briefly in the same house and then for several years as a near neighbour, I came to know him as well as anybody. He was a kind, decent, considerate person and at the same time a priest of deep, if old-style, piety... Jack's loyalties were life-long: to his home county, to Kaduna archdiocese, to our Missionary Society, to the Church and, first of all, to Christ. After so many years, he went quietly and peacefully and gracefully to join his two priest brothers, the other members of his family, his uncountable friends among priests and religious and other Christians from Ireland and Nigeria'.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.