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Société des Missions Africaines – Province des États-Unis
Le Père Philip CARRIGAN

 carrigan  né le 9 juillet 1924 à Brighton
dans le diocèse de Boston, USA
membre de la SMA le 30 juin 1951
prêtre le 5 février 1955
décédé le 3 décembre 1962

1955-1962 missionnaire dans le diocèse de Capa Plamas
(Liberia)
il avait servi trois années dans le Pacifique sud durant
la seconde guerre mondiale.
1962 disparu en mer entre Monrovia et Sasstown

décédé en mer, au large du Liberia, le 3 décembre 1962,
à l’âge de 38 ans

 

 

(biographie en anglais à la suite)

Père Philip CARRIGAN (1924 - 1962)

En mer, au large du Liberia, le 3 décembre 1962, retour à Dieu du père Philip Carrigan, à l'âge de 38 ans.

Philip Carrigan naquit à Brighton, dans le Massachusetts, aux Etats-Unis, dans le diocèse de Boston, en 1924. Pendant la guerre, il est pilote d'aviation et combat aux Philippines. Il en revient titulaire d'une étoile de bronze et du cœur pourpre. En 1949, il entre aux Missions Africaines à Dedham. Il fait le serment en 1951 et est ordonné prêtre en 1955.

Le père Carrigan est nommé en la préfecture de Cape-Palmas, au Liberia. Il s'y révèle de suite un homme dévoué et apostolique, un fort et un résistant qui n'a pas peur de très longues marches à travers le pays. On le voit parcourir sur la côte, à pied, une distance de 100 kilomètres. Le Liberia était un pays assez difficile, faute de route, grâce à la générosité d'un bienfaiteur américain, la préfecture put acquérir un piper-cub. Avion précieux pour la visite des missions et pour l'approvisionnement des confrères.

Le père Carrigan restera bientôt le seul pilote et c'est alors qu'il sut se dévouer tout entier au service de ses confrères. Chacun put bénéficier de la générosité du père et aussi de son optimisme. Il ne se contentait pas d'apporter les lettres, les revues, les nouvelles et l'approvisionnement, mais aussi et toujours une petite surprise. C'étaient des bonbons, du chocolat, du saucisson ou du fromage, selon le goût de chacun. C'était toujours avec joie que les confrères entendaient le ronron de l'avion. Le père avait toujours un cadeau pour chaque père et les jours de fête c'était lui qui régalait les confrères. Ses pensées étaient toujours orientées vers les autres pour rendre leur vie plus agréable.

Le 3 décembre 1962, après avoir achevé la révision de l'avion, le père quittait Monrovia pour Sasstown. On n'a plus entendu parler de lui; il a disparu au long des 320 kilomètres qui séparent les deux villes. Les recherches ne donnèrent aucun résultat. La perte fut terrible pour tous. L'avion peut être remplacé, mais la générosité, la gaieté, l'esprit conciliant, l'enthousiasme du père Carrigan, on les retrouvera difficilement. Chaque confrère perdait un ami très sûr, et la mission un missionnaire zélé et dévoué.


Father Philip Joseph CARRIGAN (1924 – 1962)

Philip Carrigan was born in Dorchester, Massachusetts, USA, in the parish of St. Margaret’s, on July 9, 1924.
He died in Liberia while piloting a plane from Monrovia to the Kru Coast.

Philip Carrigan was the only boy of four children born to Francis J. and Margaret (nee King) in Dorchester. The family address was 34 Hobart St. Brighton. He came from a strongly Catholic background. Two of his aunts were nuns, Sr. Rosario of the Sisters of Charity of Emmitsburg and Sr. Leonore of the Franciscan Sisters of Allegheny. Philip received his elementary schooling at Our Lady of Presentation in Brighton (1930-1937). He attended Boston College High School (1937-1939) and the High School of Commerce (1939-41) where he graduated. He then went to work in a clerical capacity for MTA. Rye, Boston, Mass. On May 5th 1943 he was drafted as a Private in the US Army and, after basic training at Camp Wheeler, Macon, Georgia, was assigned to the Pacific theatre. Departing from Fort Ord in California for New Zealand in December 1943 his unit joined the 25th Infantry Lightning Division as a replacement for a casualty weakened unit just relieved from two years of fighting on Guadalcanal. In March 1944 the Division went to New Caledonia for retraining and in November sailed for the Philippines and combat on Lyon. Five months later, wounded by small mortar shrapnel in Northern Luyon, Philip was sent by hospital ship to Biak, New Guinea, returning to the fighting line at Luyon in June 1945. In October Philip’s unit sailed for Nagoya, Japan, for a three months tour of duty. Philip’s service during which he was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, ended in January 1946.

After his discharge Philip took up a position of a Postal Clerk in the US Government at Boston. During the next year the idea of becoming a priest grew stronger and finally in September 1947 he set about acquiring the necessary grades in Latin necessary for priestly studies, entering his old alma mater, Boston College High School. Two years later, on September 14, 1949, Philip commenced his novitiate and philosophical training in the SMA’s seminary, Queen of Apostles, Dedham, Mass. Two years later he went to Queen of Apostles Seminary, Washington DC, attending theological classes at the Catholic University. Received as a member of the Society on June 30, 1951, Philip was ordained a priest in the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, by Bishop John M. McNamara, on February 5, 1955. Also ordained on that day were Kevin Scanlan, Philip Bagnasco, Albert Cooney, James V. Hayes and Owen E. O’Sullivan. He celebrated his first Solemn High Mass on February 13 in Our Lady of the Presentation Church, Brighton, where he had been baptized.

After ordination Philip was posted to the American Province’s mission in Cape Palmas, Liberia, where Msgr. Francis Carroll was Prefect Apostolic. He spent his first tour of duty in Sasstown mission (1955-1960). On his return after leave in 1961 he was re-appointed to Sasstown. His promising missionary career was to be cut tragically short by a fatal accident, the circumstances of which were described shortly after the event by two colleagues from the American Province who reported to their Superiors in America. ‘Philip, (who was one of the three pilots of the Mission airplane) arrived from the Kru Coast in Monrovia on November 28 to have the aircraft, a Piper Colt, receive a routine maintenance checkup. This check was done by Mr. Robert Francis, an American mechanic of the Liberian Air Taxi Company, a certified maintenance mechanic in the U.S. The plane was checked and ready on Monday December 3rd. Phil had dinner with the priests at the mission in Monrovia. Immediately after dinner Fathers Hayden and Davis drove Phil directly to the airfield. They did not stop on the way because Fr. Carrigan wanted to leave in plenty of time to reach Sasstown. Since Father Davis had never been in a small plane Fr. Carrigan took him up for about 20 minutes during which time they flew over Monrovia. They landed the plane and Fr. Carrigan loaded his plane. He was carrying a moderately light load consisting of one case of school text books, one case of ginger ale and one case of assorted canned goods. It was estimated that the load was well within the load limit of the plane. Fr. Carrigan took off from the Sprigs Payne airfield in Monrovia at approximately three o’clock on the afternoon of the 5th and was going to Sasstown directly. The normal flight time to Sasstown is approximately two hours which would give him a leeway of about an hour and a half of light after his estimated time of arrival. Since there are airfields about every 20 miles along the coast few pilots worry about this flight course. The normal flight course was to fly at about 800 to 1,000 feet at about half a mile or a mile at maximum from the beach. In event of a power failure this would allow ample time for a plane with a dead motor to land on the beach. Fr. O’Sullivan, his assistant in Sasstown, had been told by Phil that he might have to wait in Monrovia for a week for a box of spare parts from a ship. When Phil did not return to Sasstown immediately Fr. Sullivan presumed that he was in Monrovia waiting for the parts. There is no radio contact between Sasstown and other towns.’ Sasstown is approximately 140 miles from Monrovia and as soon as it became known that Philip was missing an intensive search of the region was mounted. This yielded nothing and the official search was called off on 29th December, although searching continued for some time after. The cause of the accident was unknown. It was thought that the plane crashed into the sea. His funeral Mass was celebrated in Sasstown on January 3, 1963.

According to a confrere who wrote about him afterwards, ‘Philip was physically robust, an unrivaled walker of amazing stamina who, during his first tour, trekked more miles along the beach and through the bush than all the other Fathers combined’. He was also ‘spiritually strong’ and deeply committed to his mission work, something which can be clearly seen in the articles he wrote in the Province’s journal, African Angelus and in the circular letters he sent to family, friends and supporters - which are preserved in the Archives of the Province at Tenafly. A fitting tribute to his life and work is to be found today in Brighton. There on October 27, 1963 in a moving ceremony, local veterans, and representatives of fraternal, civic and religious organizations, gathered to honor him by renaming Oak Square in his name. The sign designating the Fr. Philip J. Carrigan Square is located near the site of the giant white oak, largest in the State in its day, which gives the area its name.

His remains were never recovered.