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Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

Minithane Denis né le 12 août 1905 à Lough Ine
dans le diocèse de Ross, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1930
prêtre le 10 juin 1934
décédé le 12 février 1990

1934-1985 missionnaire au Nigeria
préfecture, puis archidiocèse de Kaduna
1985-1990 Blackrock Road, Cork, retiré

décédé à Cork, Irlande, le 12 février 1990,
à l'âge de 84 ans

Father Denis Timothy MINIHANE (1905 - 1990)

Denis Minihane was born at Lough Ine, Skibbereen, Co Cork, in the diocese of Ross, on 12 August 1905. He died peacefully in St. Patrick's hospital, Wellington Road, Cork, on 12 February 1990.

Denis (Dinny) studied at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1924 1928) before joining the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. He studied theology in the major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, between 1930 1934. Denis became a member of the Society on 2 July 1930, and was ordained a priest by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 10 June 1934. He was one of a group of seventeen ordained on that day.

After ordination Denis was appointed to the prefecture of Kaduna in northern Nigeria. The prefecture was formed in the year of Denis' ordination (1934), when the territory of northern Nigeria was divided into two ecclesiastical jurisdictions with their headquarters at Kaduna and Jos. Denis served in the region for a total of 5l years (1934 1985) which at the time of his retirement made him the longest serving missionary in that territory. His total of missionary tours of duty numbered fifteen, some of them lasting five years, others four, and in later times, three years. He spent the last five years of his life in retirement at Blackrock Road.

When Denis first came to Nigeria the Kaduna jurisdiction had a staff of twelve priests under the leadership of Thomas P. Hughes. There were perhaps 3,500 Catholics in the jurisdiction, gathered in the principal stations of Kano, Zaria, Kaduna and Minna. Most of these were immigrants from the east who had come northwards with the railway line. Statistics for 1954, twenty years later, show the remarkable progress which had taken place. There were now almost 24,000 Catholic members, most of them indigenous to the north, located in eleven central stations and several hundred secondary stations, as well as numerous elementary schools, a growing number of secondary schools both for boys and girls. In that year (1954) the territory was erected as a diocese, under John McCarthy. Five years later, in 1959, Kaduna was established as an archdiocese. Denis was to play an important role in all these developments, which could hardly have been anticipated when he first came to Africa. The Kaduna jurisdiction was located in a region where Islamic influence was paramount and where the government policy of 'indirect rule' (government through native authority), led to restrictions on the activities of Christian missionaries. At the same time there was a substantial population of Africans who practised traditional religion, and a large immigrant population which had come from the east. The main thrust of missionary effort was directed towards these latter groups, with astonishing success.

When Denis first came to Kaduna he was appointed to Minna where Robert Stitt was superior. Fr. Stitt was the first resident missionary in Minna, coming there in 1932/1933. In 1937 Thomas Hughes, then prefect, transferred Denis to Zaria mission where he was superior. Zaria with some 1,200 Catholics was a larger station than Minna which at the time had less than 500 Catholic members. In November 1938 Denis returned to Ireland on his first home leave. He spent the first three years of his second tour at Argungu, a rural mission in the old Sokoto state, some 500 miles from Kaduna. Here his prowess as a horseman, travelling the far-flung stations, became established among the people. He served the remaining two years in Kano and Kaduna. His third tour (1947-1951) was a little shorter as he contracted blackwater fever and it was thought advisable to send him home early. However he was back at his post by August 1952 and enjoyed robust health in the years that followed. Denis served as administrator in St. Joseph's cathedral, Kaduna, for over 35 years and vicar general of the diocese for nearly 40 years.

When Denis retired from Africa in 1985 he left behind him a strong, expanding Church, led by a Nigerian (Archbishop Peter Jatau), where already African priests and religious had well outstripped in numbers their European counterparts. He became a legendary figure among Muslims as well as Christians of all denominations, never missing an opportunity to preach the 'Word of God'. He will probably be remembered best of all for his much-vaunted sermons - each a tour de force. They were never recorded for posterity, but excerpts have already become lodged in the folk memory of Kaduna and much further afield. No occasion was too trivial or insignificant to warrant the full treatment. There was no dilution, and no shortcuts. And all were delivered with great gusto and conviction in a voice that made no concessions to local gadgetry. Microphones were spurned. At the farewell party given in his honour in the Social Centre, Kaduna, he was the only one who didn't need a microphone. He was then in his 80th year. Each year during 'Unity Week' he was a popular preacher in the Protestant churches around Kaduna. But (as his obituary in the African Missionary records), 'he never preached any soft Christianity during that week, or any other week either.' He had great devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the Rosary, and would take long walks late at night praying and talking to anyone he met en route. He was an excellent speaker of Hausa.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.