Today we welcome Fr Joseph Archibong to make the annual mission appeal on behalf of the Kiltegan Mission Society. The St Patrick’s Missionary Society, to give its official title, was founded by an Irish diocesan priest, Fr Francis Whitney, who in response to an appeal made by the famous Irish pioneer Bishop Shanahan in 1920, volunteered to help the mostly French Spiritan priests in their mission in Nigeria.
There Fr Whitney witnessed the enthusiasm of the Nigerian people to the call of the Gospel. The urgent need for more priests gave him the idea of recruiting volunteer Irish priests and seminarians to work in in Nigeria.
The idea grew and the Kiltegan Fathers were established on St Patrick’s Day, 17th March 1932 and began training its own priests at Kiltegan in Ireland, hence the name. The Society then recruited qualified Irish laity, men, women and religious, to join them and help found and run desperately needed hospitals and schools.
The fledgling society rapidly grew and Rome asked the Kiltegans to take on missions in Kenya and later in Brazil. Propelled by the spirit of their motto ‘Caritas Christi Urget Nos’ (The love of Christ urges us on: 2 Cor 5:14) that growth continued and St Patrick’s Missionary Society priests now work in in Nigeria, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, South Sudan, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil and Grenada.
ln 1997 African students were accepted by the Society to train as missionary priests and in 2007 as Kiltegan celebrated its 75th anniversary the ﬁrst African members were ordained as full members of St. Patrick’s Missionary Society. As their numbers have grown, they represent a new beginning for St. Patrick’s Missionary Society changing it from a largely Irish organisation to a truly International Society.
In the 21st century their work concentrates on building up the local church through the establishment of small Christian communities within parishes, supporting families, training lay leaders, formation of young Christians, alongside their priority mission to the marginalised and the poverty-stricken in the teeming shanty towns of Africa’s growing cities. In South Sudan they work especially among the huge numbers of refugees.
Fr Joe will tell us more…