Société des Missions Africaines – Province d’Irlande

BAKER Henry né le 15 septembre 1889 à Dalkey
dans le diocèse de Dublin (Irlande)
membre de la SMA le 12 avril 1911
prêtre le 24 juin 1915
décédé le 5 mars 1960

1915-1925 missionnaire au Liberia

1925-1929 directeur du séminaire
1925-1931 conseiller provincial
1929-1961 Liverpool, procureur
1931-1934 Ballinafad, supérieur
1934-1937 Wilton, directeur
1937-1955 Héliopolis, professeur
1955-1960 Irlande

décédé à Clonakilty, Irlande, le 5 mars 1960,
à l’âge de 70 ans

Le père Henri Edward BAKER (1889 - 1960)

Le 5 mars 1960, à Clonakilty (Irlande), retour à Dieu du père Henri Baker, à l'âge de 70 ans.

Henri Baker était né dans le diocèse de Dublin (Irlande), à Dalkey, en 1889. Il commença ses études chez les pères du Sacré-Cœur, en Belgique, et les acheva à notre grand séminaire de Blackrock. Il fit le serment en 1913 et fut ordonné prêtre le 24 juin 1915. La même année, il partait pour la préfecture du Liberia. Il en revenait en 1918, car il était nommé directeur à Wilton. En 1921, il reprenait le chemin du Liberia. C'était un missionnaire zélé, mais parfois trop exigeant. Sa nature l'obligeait à faire des efforts pour se mettre à la portée des Noirs. Homme à la volonté forte, mais parfois un peu raide, le père Baker était très pieux et surnaturel. Il était d'une régularité parfaite, toujours très digne et distingué. Il était en particulier remarquable pour la liturgie.

Elu conseiller provincial en 1925, il le restera jusqu'en 1931. Il fut alors directeur spirituel au séminaire de 1925 à 1929, puis chargé de la procure de Liverpool de 1929 à 1931. Supérieur de Ballinafad en 1931, il revenait comme directeur à Wilton en 1934. En 1937, il partait en Egypte comme professeur au collège Saint-Georges d'Héliopolis. En 1955, il rentrait en Irlande. Il mourut au couvent Saint-Paul, à Clonakilty, dans le comté de Cork.

Father Henry Edward BAKER (1887 - 1960)

Henry Baker was born in Dalkey, Co Dublin, in the archdiocese of Dublin, on l5 September 1887. He died at St. Paul's convent, 'Bushmount', Clonakilty, Co Cork, on 5 March 1960, having spent his last years in the care of the Sisters of Charity of St. Paul.

When Henry (Harry) joined the Society as a student in 1911 he was already a young man of twenty two years. He had commenced his studies for the priesthood at the colleges of the Fathers of the Sacred Heart in Zepperan and Tournai, Belgium (1904 1910). He then decided to join the Society of African Missions, commencing his seminary training at Blackrock Road, Cork, in February 1911. He took his oath of membership of the Society on 12 April 1913, and was ordained a priest in St. Joseph's church, Blackrock Road, by Bishop Daniel Cohalan, auxiliary bishop of Cork diocese, on 24 June 1915. He was one of a group of five ordained on that day.

Immediately after ordination Henry was appointed to the West African prefecture of Liberia. This was the first mission of the Irish Province, entrusted to its care on its foundation in 1912. Harry was to work in Liberia for a period of eight years (1915-1918; 1921-1925). He ministered first on the Kru Coast, in the district of Sasstown; his next appointment was to the capital, Monrovia; he was assigned to Grand Cess, and finally to Sanequellie (in the interior north-east of Monrovia). The Monrovia district had been established in 1903 but little progress had been made over the years. When Harry came to Monrovia - he was appointed superior in 1921 - there were less than 100 Catholic members. Grand Cess, which was to be his next mission (1923-1924) and which was situated near Sasstown had been established as a district more recently, in 1916, yet had in excess of 600 Catholics. Virulent opposition from Protestantism among the Americo-Liberians was one of the principal causes for lack of progress in the capital. The Kru Coast, on the other hand, was populated mainly by indigenous tribes, who were more receptive to the Gospel.

Liberia was always to take a heavy toll on the health of members. After his first tour of duty Harry returned to Ireland in poor health. His superiors decided to keep him at home and, after convalescing, he spent from 1919-1921 as professor and director of students at Wilton (the Society's senior apostolic school in Cork). In 1925, at the end of his second tour, Harry was invalided home incapable of further work in the tropics. Again, after a period of convalescence he was declared fit for work and for the next twelve years he was to occupy a series of posts in the home houses, all of them of considerable responsibility. Harry was successively director of students in the major seminary at Blackrock Road (1925-1926); director of students at Dromantine, Co Down (to which the seminary was transferred) (1926-1929); Provincial councillor (1925-1931); procurator at Liverpool (where missionaries en route to, or returning from, Africa were tended and equipped) (1929-1931); superior of the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, the junior apostolic school (1931-1934); and, finally, director of students at Wilton for a second term (1934-1937).

In 1937 Harry was appointed to Egypt, to the vicariate of the Nile Delta. This was a mission which had been established in 1877, with its seat at Helipolis, east of Cairo, and where Irish missionaries had made a significant contribution for many years, mainly in the educational apostolate. Egypt, with its dry heat, was particularly suited for the less robust members of the Province, and provided Harry with an environment in which he thrived. He spent 20 years in Egypt, in a teaching ministry and also working on Society assignments in collaboration with priests of the Eastern Churches. On his arrival in Egypt Harry joined the staff of St. George's College, Heliopolis. He was to serve as headmaster of this college between 1946-1950. St. George's, known as the 'English' college (because English was the language of tuition), and later as the Anglo-Copte College (because most of the pupils were either Europeans or Copts), was staffed almost exclusively by Irish priests. Between 1946-1950, in addition to his responsibilities as headmaster, Harry served as 'visitor', appointed by the Irish provincial administration to supervise the spiritual and temporal welfare of the Irish confrères in Egypt. From 1953 Harry combined his teaching responsibilities at St. George's with a chaplaincy to St. Clare's College.

In 1956, after over 40 years of active service for the Church, Harry was invalided home. He spent some months in the Bon Secours hospital in Cork before transferring to Bushmount home, Clonakilty (a home for retired priests under the care of the Sisters of St. Paul). It was here that he died.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.