Société des Missions Africaines – Province d'Irlande
Le Père John CREAVEN

 creaven  né le 1er avril 1917
dans le diocèse de Tuam (Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1939
prêtre le 17 décembre 1944
décédé le 2 décembre 2008

1945-1949 Cloughballymore, professeur
1949-1952 Cambridge université
1952-1968 supérieur provincial
1969-1970 année sabbatique
1970-1989 Mille Hill, professeur
1970-1980, archiviste et secrétaire
1983-1986, président
1989-2007 diocèse de Galway
2007-2008 Claregalway, retiré
2008 Blackrock Road, Cork, retiré

décédé à Blackrock Road, Cork, le 2 décembre 2008
à l’âge de 91 ans

Father John CREAVEN (1917 - 2008) 

John Anthony Creaven was born at Caherlea, Cummer, Go Galway, in the parish of Cummer, in the Archdiocese of Tuam, on 1 April 1917.
He died in St. Theresa’s nursing unit, S.MA. House, Blackrock Road, Cork, on 2 December 2008.

John was one of a family of seven born to Michael and Julia (nee Glynn) Creaven. The Creaven family farmed at Caherlea, near Cummer. The date of John’s birth was a matter of some controversy. It was recorded in the Society’s Etat as 29th March 1917, while another source put it at 20th October 1917. But a study of the parish register in Cummer reveals the date as 1st April 1917. John received his primary education in Cummer National School which was staffed by the Franciscan Brothers, an order founded in the mid-19th century by Archbishop McHale to combat the forays of Protestant Zealots in the western provinces. John regarded Brother Bernard Doyle, his last senior master in primary school, as an important influence on his choice of vocation. Brother Doyle not only assisted him in his final deliberations but offered some tuition in Latin. Another influence was Kathleen Loughnane, a sister of Mother Patricia, O.L.A, who was principal of the largest girls school in the parish and was a great promoter of missions. She was also a sister of the Loughnane brothers, murdered by the Black and Tans, whose remains were found near Cloughballymore. John came to know the S.M.A. through the African Missionary and through some local contacts, including Martin Bane S.M.A. whose family lived in Cummer and Larry Dolan, then a seminarian. On applying to the S.M.A. John was interviewed by Fr. Joe Donaghy and in September 1932, along with some thirty others, entered the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, Co Mayo. A year later he was promoted to the Society’s senior secondary school, St. Joseph’s College Wilton.

From an early stage it was clear that John was an excellent student. In his Intermediate Certificate examination he obtained honours in every subject and a score of 100% in Latin. After matriculating in 1936 he was selected to remain on in Wilton for a year in order to commence studies at University College Cork. In the four subjects for which he sat his first year examination in 1937 he was awarded first-class honours and two first places and two second places. On the strength of these results he was granted an College Exhibition or scholarship for his remaining two years of study, provided he remained on at U.C.C. In the event, he went instead to the Society’s novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. Here, as was the custom of the time, he continued his B.A. degree studies at University College Galway, graduating with First Class Honours and a post-graduate scholarship in 1939. Remaining on in Kilcolgan, John availed of the scholarship, receiving in 1941 a First Class Honours M.A. degree on the basis of a thesis titled: ‘The Philosophy of Personalism’. John’s supervisor was Professor Phelim O’Briain O.F.M. while the external examiner was Dr. Arthur Ryan. Professor O’Briain told John that his thesis was adjudged the best of the seven presented that year to the N.U.I. and encouraged him to put his name forward for a Travelling Studentship in Philosophy. N.U.I. studentships were awarded every three years by Inter-Varsity Contest – open to all Graduates of the N.U.I. who applied within a period of 5 years of receiving their degree. The studentship, which was given for two years, provided a stipend of £200 per annum and the successful candidate was expected to study overseas. The studentship examination which Professor O’Briain had in mind for John was scheduled for September 1942. At the time John expressed the wish to his superiors that after several years of difficult study he would prefer not to go forward. His superiors, however, were anxious that he should.

Earlier, in September 1940, he had commenced his theological studies in the S.M.A. major seminary, at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down, while putting the finishing touches to his M.A. thesis. When the studentship exam was pending he returned to Kilcolgan. Some weeks after the examination – against high-quality competition – John was informed by Professor O’Briain that he had been awarded the studentship. Some time later, however, he was informed that the Dublin examiners on the Board - U.C.D. candidates had traditionally won all studentships - were alleging flaws in his dissertation, principally relating to annotation. John explains in a Memoir written in 1990 that due to the pressure of work and war-time restrictions, he had found great difficulty in procuring books and then received them only on short-term loans. This made the laborious task of detailed and perfect annotation impossible. In the event the studentship was withdrawn and awarded to the runner up, a young Dublin priest, James Bastible who had already contested the 1939 studentship. Disappointed but relieved to have been spared another intensive period of study and, above all, anxious to lose no more time in his pursuit of priesthood, John returned to Dromantine to complete his theology course. John was received as a permanent member of the Society on 12 June 1943. He was ordained a priest by Bishop Eugene O’Doherty of Dromore diocese, in St. Colman’s cathedral, Newry, Co Down, on 17 December 1944. He was one of a group of seventeen ordained on that day.

After ordination John was appointed to the staff at Kilcolgan where he lectured in philosophy. From the commencement of the 1947 academic year, with the departure of Fr. Edward Harrington, he became professor of philosophy in Kilcolgan and tutor to those S.M.A. students studying at U.C.G. It was clear to John’s superiors that it would be of great benefit to the Society to give him an opportunity for further studies. Accordingly, in 1949 he commenced studies as a research student in philosophy at Christ’s College, Cambridge University, residing at St. Edmund’s house. His supervisors were Professor Georg H. von Wright (until his resignation from the Chair of Philosophy) and Dr. A.C. Ewing, Reader in Philosophy. Early in his third year of residence (1951-52) he was recalled by the Society to assume the office of Provincial superior. The Board of Research Studies in Cambridge agreed to defer the completion date of his doctoral research and to allow him work away from Cambridge. The requirements were completed in October 1955 and the Ph.D. degree was awarded and conferred in 1956. John’s doctoral dissertation was titled: ‘Philosophical Analogy’.

John had been appointed Provincial by letter dated 7th February 1952. He was to be elected Provincial at the 1958 Provincial Assembly, occupying the post for a further decade. Following sabbatical leave, taken in Cambridge during 1969-1970, he joined the staff of the Missionary Institute, Mill Hill, London, in 1970. This institute had been founded by a consortium of the major missionary societies active in Great Britain, for the professional and clerical training of candidates for overseas mission. It was affiliated to the Catholic university of Louvain. In 1971-1980 and again 1983-1985 he served as Dean of Studies and Head of the Department of Philosophy. In 1985 he assumed the Presidency of the Institute, occuping that position until the end of his term in 1988. In 1989 John returned to Ireland, taking up a pastoral appointment in the diocese of Galway. He served in that diocese until 2007, ministering at St. Joseph’s, Galway city (1989-1990), at Clarenbridge (1990-1995) and Glencorrib, Shrule (1995-2007). John retired from the active ministry at the age of 89 years, taking up residence in the S.M.A. House, Claregalway. Due to failing health he transferred to S.M.A. House, Blackrock Road, Cork, in 2008. John was predeceased by his four sisters and two brothers.

John took over leadership of the Province at a time of considerable difficulty for the Society in Ireland. At the time complaints about the administration of some of the home houses had been brought to the notice of Propaganda Fide and an Apostolic Visitator had been appointed to conduct an inquiry. As a result the existing Provincial Council was compelled to resign and a new administration, headed by John, was appointed by the Visitator. This was no easy task for a young man of 35 years whose life up to now had been spent in the teaching apostolate in Ireland and in pursuing further studies at Cambridge. However it soon became evident that he was an excellent choice. Bringing his very considerable intellect to bear on the Province’s administrative problems he guided it with a sure hand through those difficult waters. Though shy and reserved by nature, he had a firmness and authority about him which belied his years and which quickly won him the respect not only of his confreres but of the wider Irish Church and the leaders of the Church in those African countries where the Province had members. The homilist at his Requiem Mass summed up his qualities of leadership in the following words: ‘Perhaps he appeared to some as austere, strict, demanding… but it was at a time when these qualities were required. … John was a large figure, large in physique, in intellect and large in personality. Through the force of his personality he was able to bring forward appropriate initiatives at a critical time for the Province. For this he commanded deep respect, not only that of his own confreres but that of Church personnel and society at large.’

In his fascinating memoir, covering the period 1917-1990, John outlined his objectives when he became Provincial. These were to increase personnel, to improve the quality of formation programs, to qualify more confreres for the growing African education apostolate, to consolidate and develop promotional work so as to guarantee the Province’s financial base, to strengten regional structures in Africa (so as to improve communication between leadership in Ireland and the men in the field), to set up better induction or initiation programs for young men arriving in Africa and, finally, to open up the Province to adaptation and diversification in mission. During the fifteen years in which he led the Province he visited the missions on several occasions. Some of his tours were lengthy – one lasted over eight months. He visited Nigeria and Liberia each on five occasions. He came to Ghana three times and Egypt once. It was particularly appreciated by the confreres that he visited the men in Nigeria in 1967 during the civil unrest leading up to the Biafran war. He also took diversification very seriously. He was open to the call of the Post-Vatican II papacy to missionary societies to explore outreaches to Latin America. Thus John embarked on a fascinating three-month tour of South America in which he visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia and Venezuela. The visit resulted in the establishment of the S.M.A. in Cordoba diocese, Argentina and the development of an Argentinian branch. Later, after he was no longer Provincial, John always made himself available to his confreres. Thus he was delegate of priest confreres ministering in England to the Irish Provincial Assemblies of 1973, 1978, 1983.

Throughout his long life, much of it spent in administrative service, John maintained his academic interests and read widely. He was a member of the Mind Association of Great Britain (1952-1980) and a member of the American Catholic Philosophical Association (1970-1978). His publications included ‘Person and Individual’, The New Scholasticism, xvii, 231-250; ‘Personalism, Thomism and Epistemology’ , The Thomist, viii, 1-25; ‘The Doctrine of God in Personalism’, The Thomist, xiv, 161-216; ‘Aspects of Analogy’, The Catholic Survey, (1955), ii, 39-70; ‘The Church in Modern Africa: II Socio-Economic Problems, Philosophical Studies, viii, 71-88; ‘Mission Vocations’, The Outlook, (1987), xx, 180-186; ‘The Needs of the Missions Today’, Catholic Missions, October 1963. Also, in addition to his Memoir, he leaves behind him many interesting reports and memoranda, including extensive notes on his visits to Africa.

He is buried in the S.M.A. cemetery, Wilton, Cork.