Société des Missions Africaines –Province d'Irlande

MURRAY Brendan-Joseph né le 14 février 1938 à Dublin
dans le diocèse de Dublin, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 17 mars 1969
décédé le 7 mars 1996
à Ndola, Zambie

1969-1970 Blackrock Road, Cork

1971-1989 missionnaire au Nigeria, Ondo, Ekiti, Ibadan
1989-1992 maison sma de Maynooth
1993-1996 missionnaire en Zambie, Ndola

décédé à Ndola, Zambie, le 7 mars 1996,
à l'âge de 58 ans

Brother Brendan Joseph Kevin MURRAY (1938 - 1996)

Brendan Murray was born in the parish of St. Nicholas of Myra, in the archdiocese of Dublin, on 14 February 1938. He died in Ndola, Zambia on Thursday, 7 March 1996.

Born into a family of two boys and two girls, in Dublin's 'Liberties' (one of the oldest and most historic areas of the city), Brendan received his primary education in the Francis St. Christian Brothers school (1944-1952). Gifted with his hands and possessing exceptional artistic ability he then took courses in the High School of Commerce (1953-1958) and in the Technical Institute, Capel Street (1952-1954), acquiring certificates in woodwork, metal work, drawing and design; and also a Vocational Education Art certificate. His studies complete Brendan commenced work as a commercial artist. He worked for Higginbottom & Son, Cabinet Makers (1953-1953), Charles Displays Studios (1953-1954), Art Framing Ltd. (1954-1958), and Taylor Neon Signs (1958-1960), before becoming self-employed (1960-1963). Next he joined the staff of the Assisi Press (Franciscan Friary, Merchants Quay) where he was involved with drawing & design, magazine artwork, woodwork, electrical and reconstruction work, and photography). Although Brendan met with much success in his business life, he experienced an underlying restlessness which gradually developed into a call to a religious vocation. Those who knew him well thought that he might join the Cistercians at Mount Mellary, Co Waterford, a place which he visited frequently. However during a visit to Mount Mellary Abbey he met a member of the S.M.A. and began to consider the missionary life.

Brendan entered the Society's novitiate at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in March 1968. A year later, on St. Patrick's Day, he took his temporary oath of membership which he renewed every two years until 1977 when he took his perpetual oath. After his first oath, in October 1969 Brendan was assigned to the staff at Blackrock Road, Cork (the Province's motherhouse); he also commenced a course in building construction at the Crawford Municipal Technical Institute, Cork. Having completed his studies successfully he was appointed to Ondo diocese, in south-western Nigeria, where it was understood he would teach while completing his senior City and Guilds examinations. Brendan left Ireland for Nigeria on 22 May 1971. The despatch of brothers of the Irish Province to the missions was a relatively new development. Although Irishmen had become brothers in the Society in its early years and had distinguished themselves in Africa, the Irish Province, from the time of its foundation in 1912, retained brothers for work in Ireland. This not only deterred young men from joining the brotherhood, but it caused several excellent candidates who had hoped to serve in Africa, to leave the Society. At the Provincial Assembly of 1958, after requests by the Society's bishops for brothers to assist with the schools apostolate, and a general realisation of the redundancy of the old policy, it was decided to give brothers mission appointments. In the years that followed members of the brotherhood were to make an outstanding contribution to the Province not only at home but on the missions. Brendan Murray was an outstanding example of the invaluable contribution of the brotherhood to the Province's work.

Brendan worked first in Ondo diocese, teaching art in the technical college in Akure. Then, with the division of the diocese into two separate jurisdictions, in 1972, he was appointed to the newly-erected Ekiti diocese. Brendan was posted to the town of Ado-Ekiti where he taught technical skills in the trade school and also completed his City and Guilds examinations. In August 1974 during his leave in Ireland, the Provincial Council, seeking to strengthen the promotion team, appointed Brendan as a member. This was a position to which he was well suited because of his first-hand experience of Africa and his skills in audio-visual communication. Nonetheless Brendan would much preferred to have remained in Africa and made his views known to his superiors. In January 1975 Bishop M.O. Fagun of Ekiti wrote to the Irish Provincial, Lawrence Carr, suggesting that Brendan might return to Ekiti to supervise religious instruction in primary and secondary schools. A month later the Director of Religious Education in Ibadan diocese, John McGee, wrote to Fr. Carr asking for Brendan to be assigned to the Religious Education Centre in Ibadan, where his specialist skills in art, photography and publishing would be of particular value in the development of audio-visual catechetical materials. Conscious that this was a time of great renewal in catechetics following the Vatican Council, the Provincial Council acceded to this request and in May 1975 Brendan returned to Africa.

After a year, during which his work was an unqualified success, he formally joined the staff of Ibadan diocese (under the leadership of Bishop Felix A. Job) and on 1st July went to live at the Lay Apostolate house in Oke-Ado, to continue with the work he had been doing, to look after the Lay Apostolate Hostel, and to examine the feasibility of developing a bookshop. In addition to these responsibilities he taught art in St. Louis college, Mokola (a girls secondary school). On 17 March 1977 Brendan took his perpetual oath of membership of the Society in Ibadan. Among his many contributions at this time were the art work for the Nigerian National Catechism and the production of slides for catechumen classes. He also began the study of the Yoruba language and 'pastoral methods' in the tyrocinium at Esure, with a view to deepening his involvement in pastoral work and especially the organisation of catechumen classes and visitation. He took an interest too in the Catholic Scouting movement, which was not surprising in view of the fact that he had been a member of the Merchant's Quay Scout troop in Dublin, from an early age until the time he joined the Society.

In August 1983 Brendan collapsed and was hospitalised in Abeokuta. He was diagnosed as suffering from coronary artery disease and this was confirmed when he returned to Ireland some weeks later. However after a due period of convalescence and determined to continue his missionary work despite the severity of his illness, he persuaded his doctors and his superiors to allow him return to Ibadan. He went to live in the parish of Eleta (where the Medical Missionary Hospital was located) where, in addition to his teaching commitments, he assisted the parish priest, Lawrence Dolan. For a period of eighteen months he served as pastor of a mission where there was no priest, conducting communion services and visiting the people. He also had responsibility for several outstations. Later, transferred to Igboro parish to serve with Fr. Tom Casey, he added counselling to his activities. St. Theresa's minor seminary, at Oke Are was his next appointment. There he taught art, carpentry and church decoration. He also found time to publish a youth bulletin with illustrations and helped to run a house for destitutes. In an interview published in the African Missionary (Summer 1986) he stated: 'I like pastoral work best. There is tremendous scope... I believe there will be more emphasis on social work in the future. There is a need for greater witness in looking after the poor. It is a long-term work with little tangible results. I find myself engaged in a great variety of works but I think this is the most important'. Brendan had a surfeit of Christian charity.

Early in 1989 Brendan's health, always precarious, deteriorated, largely as a result of overwork, and on the urgings of his superiors he decided to take a sabbatical year, commencing in September of that year. In March 1990 in the middle of his sabbatical, but already preparing for a return to Nigeria, Brendan went to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, for a medical check. He was informed in no uncertain fashion that there could be no question of his returning to Africa. His superiors made it clear that this advice should be taken and, at the conclusion of his sabbatical, appointed him to serve in the Communications Secretariat of the Province. Brendan took up residence in the S.M.A. House, Maynooth in August 1990, attending a course in film production in the Media Centre of the Society of the Divine Word, Moyglare Road (affiliated to Maynooth College), for which he received an 'extra mural studies certificate in video' (16 March 1990).

In September 1991 Brendan was appointed assistant to the Rector of S.M.A. House Maynooth. At much the same time he had made a request to go to India to assist in the development of the Society's Asian Foundation. The Irish Provincial administration, however, felt that the pioneering work in India would have an adverse effect on Brendan's health. Nonetheless impressed by his zeal and satisfied that his health had at least stabilised, Brendan was eventually offered an assignment in the diocese of Ndola, Zambia. Brendan's departure was delayed due to the final illness of his brother, Jimmy, whom he attended with the greatest love and care. After Jimmy's death, Brendan set out for Zambia on 14 June. There he began to work with young people with special needs, in the Cheshire Homes, Catholic Youth Groups and with the Franciscan Sisters. Brendan celebrated the silver jubilee of his membership of the Society in 1994.

Brendan's death came suddenly but not altogether unexpectedly. He complained of severe chest pains and died in the arms of his confrère Don Burke some 400 yards from the house of Dr. Eileen Keane, a Holy Rosary Sister, to whom Fr. Burke was taking him for attention. The Bishop of Ndola, Bishop Dennis de Jong was chief celebrant at the Requiem Mass (held in the cathedral of Christ the King) and also preached the homily. The liturgy was simple as was Brendan's wish. The readings were done by his co-workers. The singing was by his young handicapped friends from the Cheshire Home as well as co-workers and Sisters. Donal Toal, the S.M.A. regional superior, spoke after Communion in appreciation and gratitude for Brendan's life and work. The coffin was carried in and out of the church and into the cemetery at Francisdale by S.M.A. priests. A Mass for the repose of Brendan's soul was also celebrated in his parish church of St. Nicholas of Myra on 13 March 1996. The chief celebrant was Brendan's colleague, Noel O'Regan who some months previously had been appointed bishop of Solwesi diocese in Zambia, and the homily was preached by John Quinlan, Provincial of the Irish Province. Among the attendance was Brendan's sister Ita who had been a great support to him throughout his missionary work and who accepted his death with dignity, courage and faith.

Brendan will be remembered for his many gifts but above all for his love of the poor and disadvantaged. Everywhere he went he gravitated towards the poor. Brendan always quoted Matthew 25:35-36 - 'I was hungry and you fed me, thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you received me in your homes, naked and you clothed me, in prison and you visited me'.

He is buried in the diocesan cemetery, Francisdale, Ndola, Zambia, East Africa.