Société des Missions Africaines – Province d'Irlande

murphy christopher né le 25 décembre 1918
dans le diocèse de Kilmore, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 1er juillet 1941
prêtre le 17 décembre 1944
décédé le 30 janvier 2007

1946-1955 préfecture de Kaduna, Nigeria
1956-1958 diocèse de Kaduna, Nigeria
1958-1961 Wilton, supérieur
1961-1974 diocèse de Kaduna, Nigeria
1974-1978 maison sma de Kagoro, Nigeria, régional
1979-1987 archidiocèse de Kaduna, Nigeria
1987-1992 maison de Kagoro, Nigeria, hôtelier
1992-1996 Blackrock Road, Cork, retiré
1996-2005 Wilton, retiré
2005-2007 Blackrock Road, retiré

décédé à Blackrock Road, Cork, le 30 janvier 2007,
à l’âge de 88 ans

Father Christopher MURPHY - 1918 - 2007

Christopher Murphy was born at Mullagh, Co Cavan, in the diocese of Kilmore, on 25th December 1918.
He died in St. Theresa’s Nursing Unit, SMA House, Blackrock Road, Cork, on 30th January 2007.

Christopher (Chris) Murphy was the son of Patrick and Catherine (nee Maguire) Murphy, the youngest in a family of five boys and four girls. Chris commenced his primary education at Mullagh National School, completing it in Moynalty, Kells, Co Meath, to where his family had moved. He received his early secondary education at the Christian Brothers School in Kells. At the time of his Golden Jubilee of priesthood Chris recalled that his interest in becoming a missionary was first aroused when he saw a photograph of a missionary with a white beard moving down a river in a boat. Some time later he wrote to Fr. Frank McNamara SMA who later visited his home in Moynalty. Alhough he did not find Fr. McNamara’s presentation about the SMA particularly interesting, Chris nonetheless decided to join. On completing two years of secondary studies in Kells, in 1935 he came to the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, and a year later was promoted to the Society’s senior secondary college, at Wilton Cork. Chris matriculated in 1939 and then entered the Society’s novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. In 1941 he commenced his theological studies in the Society’s major seminary, at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. Chris was first received as a member of the Society on 1st July 1941. He became a permanent member on 17th June 1944. Chris was ordained a priest in St. Colman’s Cathedral, Newry, Co Down, by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore diocese, on 17th December 1944. He was one of a class of seventeen ordained on that day.

After ordination Chris returned to Dromantine to complete his theological course. He was then assigned to the Prefecture of Kaduna, in Northern Nigeria. The Catholic presence in northern Nigeria went back to 1907 when three missionaries came to Shendam. The Prefecture of Northern Nigeria was erected in 1929 and in 1934 was divided into two jurisdiction, the Prefectures of Jos and Kaduna. Under the leadership of Thomas P. Hughes, the Kaduna prefecture covered a vast area, including the civil provinces of Zaria, Niger, Sokoto, Kano and also part of French Niger. In the early years most of the Christians were Igbo immigrants from the east who had come northwards with the railway line. Chris was to serve in Northern Nigeria between 1946 and 1992, with the exception of a three-year period when he was superior of St. Joseph’s College, Wilton, and a few months working in Holy Rosary parish in Leeds during 1967. Chris’s early years in Nigeria were spent mainly in the Southern Zaria region. His first pastoral experience was as assistant priest in the mission station of Gawu. Later he became superior of Gawu station. He served also as parish priest of Kurmin-Mazuga. Further appointments saw him as parish priest of Abakpa, Kaduna, parish priest of Sabon Sarki, and brief periods in charge of St. Joseph’s cathedral, Kaduna. During the forty years he spent in Northern Nigeria he saw Kaduna erected as a diocese in 1953 and as an archdiocese in 1959. Between 1955-1958 Chris served as councillor to the Regional Superior, responsible for the spiritual and temporal welfare of the confreres. In 1974 Chris succeeded as Regional Superior, occupying that position until 1978. He attended the Extraordinary Provincial Council of May 1976 and the Provincial Assembly of 1978. In his later years he served as guest-master in the Regional House at Kagoro, also assisting in the parish there. Ill-health forced him to leave Nigeria in 1992.

On the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of his priesthood the Superior General, Patrick Harrington, identified some of the qualities which made Chris such a successful missionary. ‘On your arrival in Kaduna in 1946 you found yourself … in a Church which was still only in its infancy… You formed vibrant Christian communities and in a quiet, unassuming way, helped countless people on their way through life. You encouraged local young men to become priests and trained the laity to take their place in the running of their Church’. As Regional Superior Chris’s availability, welcoming manner and wise counsel were noted by his conferes and did much to ‘alleviate anxieties and resolve the various problems which inevitably arise in the work of the missions’. Chris’s interest in promoting African vocations was particularly strong. So was his faithfulness to his spiritual exercises. By temperament he was unflappable and contented, quiet and unobtrusive. Chris had a stern demeanour and his quietness and sense of detachment sometimes gave an impression of remoteness. To new acquaintances he could appear forbidding. However after time spent with him it quickly emerged that his demeanour belied a warm personality, and a soul which was both compassionate and understanding. It also belied an understated sense of humour. It was told of him that during his student days during vacation he would visit elderly folk around Moynalty to read the paper to them. However what they heard often bore little relationship to what was on the printed page. Some of his stories were wonderful, by all accounts. In his last years his health deteriorated steadily but he bore his sufferings with characteristic quietness and resignation.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.

Abuja Pottery (Kevin Carroll Collection)