Le Père James HARROLD

Société des Missions Africaines - Province des USA
HARROLD James né le 5 décembre 1917 à Limerick
dans le diocèse de Limerick, Irlande
membre de la SMA le 2 juillet 1939
prêtre le 19 décembre 1942
décédé le 30 août 2009

1943-1946 collège de Ballinafad, professeur
1947-1948 Atlanta, ND de Lourdes, USA, paroisse
1948-1949 Saint-Benoît, Savannah, USA, paroisse
1949-1952 séminaire sma de Washington
1952-1953 école saint Pie X, Savannah
1953-1958 Tenafly, animation missionnaire
1958-1962 Tenafly, économe provincial
1962-1968 Doylestown, animation missionnaire
1968-1971 Monrovia, Liberia
1972-1974 Dedham, animation missionnaire
1974-1976 Dedham, supérieur
1976-1978 Cape Palmas, Liberia
1978-1982 Tenafly, animation missionnaire
1992-2004 diocèse de Limerick, Irlande
2004-2009 Blackrock Road, retiré

décédé à Cork, le 30 août 2009,
à l’âge de 91 ans

Father James HARROLD (1917 - 2009)

James Harrold was born in Kilmeedy, Newcastlewest, Co Limerick, in the diocese of Limerick, on December 4, 1917.
He died on August, 30th, 2009, in St. Theresa’s nursing unit, Society of African Missions House, Blackrock Road, Cork, Ireland.

Baptised on 5 December 1917, James (Jim) Harrold was the second of five children born to Daniel and Mary (nee Flynn) Harrold. Jim’s father was a fitter and engineer. He died in an industrial accident at Belville Creamery, near his home, in 1950 at the age of 60 years. Jim, who at the time was stationed in the U.S.A., returned to Ireland for the funeral. Mary Harrold was the sister of Fr. Michael Flynn S.M.A and Fr. James Flynn C.S.Sp. Jim attended Kilmeedy National School for eight grades. Here he came under the benevolent influence of John O’Grady who was to play a part in fostering his vocation. At the end his 7th year, Mr. O’Grady gave him a letter for his mother which read: ‘Since your son, James, has two uncles priests, he may follow in their footsteps. If he is inclined towards this, let me know in September’. Jim returned with the answer ‘yes’. Together with three others interested in the priesthood, he remained on for an extra hour in school each day, during which John O’Grady taught the four Latin, Algebra and Trigonometry.

On reaching the age of 15 years Jim wrote both to the S.M.A. in Cork and to the C.S.Sp. in Dublin, expressing an interest in becoming a missionary priest. He decided he would join the Society which first made reply and it was thus that he came to the S.M.A. Two days after writing he received a telegram from the S.M.A. informing him that he would be visited that very evening by Fr. Joe Donaghy. Jim entered the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad (the Society’s junior cycle secondary school), in 1932 completing his intermediate certificate in 1933. He then entered the senior secondary college at Wilton, Cork (St. Joseph’s College) where he matriculated in 1936. Jim was greatly impressed by his Spiritual Director at Wilton, Stephen Kyne, who had been first Provincial of the Irish Province (from 1912) and founder of the Liberia Mission where Jim was later to serve. After matriculating Jim remained on at Wilton for a further year while attending First Arts Lectures at University College Cork. He spent the years 1937-1939 in the S.M.A. house of formation and philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway. During these years he also attended lectures at U.C.G, as well as lectures given in-house by an S.M.A. priest designated by the university. In 1939 he was awarded a B.A. degree, with philosophy and education as his main subjects. Jim first became a member of the Society on July 2, 1939. He became a permanent member on June 13, 1942.

Between 1939 and 1943 Jim studied theology in the Society’s major seminary, at Dromantine, Newry, Co Down. He was ordained a priest, in the chapel of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart at Moyne Park, Tuam, on 19 December 1942. The ordaining prelate was Archbishop Joseph Walsh, of Tuam. Society ordinations normally took place in Newry cathedral, but a fifty mile limit on car travel due to the war would have prevented his family from attending. Several other classmates were faced with the same problem so the ordinations for that year were held at three centres, Dromantine chapel, Skibbereen, and Moyne Park. Jim was one of a class of nine ordained that year. He celebrated his first Mass in Kilmeedy, assisted by Fr. O’Dea, the parish priest.

After his ordination, with the rest of his class, Jim returned to Dromantine to complete his theological course. On his arrival he fell ill was admitted to the Corry Square Nursing Home, Newry, with an acute form of pleurisy. He spent four months there, followed by a period of recuperation in Blackrock Road (September-December 1943), after which (in January 1944) he returned to Dromantine to resume his theology course. In September 1944 he was appointed to the Sacred Heart College, Ballinafad, where he taught Maths, and Elementary Science.

In 1947 Jim was assigned to the American Province of the Society which had been formed in 1941 and was short of staff. Jim was one of seven confreres from the Irish Province sent to assist the American Province during these early years, although he was the only one from his own class. Doubtless his serious illness after ordination played a part in the decision to send him. The group sailed in April from Southampton aboard the Queen Elizabeth, disembarking at New York. The American Province had been pioneered in the first decade of the 20th century by Alsatian missionaries under Ignace Lissner, later joined by a group of Irish missionaries under Peter Harrington. Fr. Lissner had instituted six parishes of largely African-American membership in the state of Georgia. When Jim came to America the segregation laws in the South were in full force – separation in schools, public toilets, ticket offices, and other public places and services. No African-American could sit in front of a White person in bus or train. Many parks and most seaside resorts were off- limits to African-Americans. Coming from a culture without racial problems it proved something of a shock to Jim and his Irish colleagues. It must be said that within the Society the African-American parishes were reckoned to be less taxing than mission parishes in Africa. This belief was not always justified by experience. Indeed circumstances in some of the Society's missions in Georgia, Southern Illinois, and elsewhere, were often extremely difficult.

Jim served in Our Lady of Lourdes parish, Atlanta, Georgia, between 1947-1948. He spent the next year ministering in St. Benedict's parish, Savannah, Georgia. In 1949 he became Vice-Superior and Spiritual Director of the recently-established S.M.A. seminary at Washington D.C. At the time there were twelve students in residence, pursuing theological studies at the nearby Catholic University. During this period he became a co-founder of the Irish-American Social Club in Washington D.C. In 1952 he returned to Savannah as first Principal of St. Pius X High School. This fine institution catered for Catholics from three S.M.A.-run African-American parishes. To prepare for his work Jim took a three-month’s course in the Catholic University (Washington D.C.) on High School Administration. The school opened with classes to the 10th Grade and was staffed mainly by Franciscan Missionary Sisters from Ireland. As well as his other duties in the school Jim taught Mathematics. Having established the school on a secure footing, in 1953 Jim was succeeded as Principal by Ben Burke S.M.A. who had just acquired a Master’s degree at St. Louis University. At the same time the school added 11th and 12th Grade classes, bringing it up to the full complement. The school was situated within the bounds of St. Benedict’s parish, Savannah, to which Jim was now posted as Pastor. There he lived with Fr. Burke and Maurice McCarthy S.M.A. (who had joined the school staff).

In 1955 Jim was appointed to promotion work at the S.M.A. headquarters in Tenafly, New Jersey. He proved to be a skilled and energetic apologist of the missionary ideal, particularly among the various Irish American communities. In 1958 Jim took on the assignment of Provincial Bursar, based at Tenafly. He occupied this important administrative post for a decade. At the commencement of this appointment, which took place after the 1958 Provincial Assembly, the Province was faced with the task of paying off the hefty loans required to build the seminary, the Provincial Headquarters and the community residence in Tenafly. To accomplish this three promotion teams were set up, located at Dedham in Boston, Tenafly in the New Jersey/New York area, and in Washington D.C. Jim was a member of the three-man Tenafly team. During this period he also took on further promotional responsibilities in the S.M.A. foundation at Doylestown, PA. In a Memoir written in 2004 and preserved in the archives of the Irish Province, he gives a detailed and fascinating account of how the fund-raising progressed.

In 1968, at his own request, Jim was assigned to Liberia, West Africa, where the American Province had its principal mission. Working in the Monrovia jurisdiction, under Bishop Michael Kpakala Francis, Jim was assigned the task of building a Guest House in the suburbs of Liberia’s capital, for missionaries who needed rest and recuperation, for those travelling (or returning from) overseas and for hosting Society meetings. Staying first with the Holy Cross Brothers and then renting a house near the airfield, by the end of 1969 the building, set on a good location (at the edge of the ocean) and funded largely by the American Province, was ready for occupation. Jim also acted as purchasing agent for the mission stations in Cape Palmas Diocese. At that time all supplies were sourced in Monrovia and taken by mission plane to the coast. Jim also assisted in the local parish, named after St. Joseph. During the latter phase of his Liberian tour he founded a mission at Gardnersville, in a far-out suburb of Liberia’s capital, where five American sisters were to die in 1992, caught up in Liberia’s catastrophic civil war.

Jim worked in Monrovia until 1972 when he had to return to the U.S. for spinal surgery. After recuperating he engaged in promotion work from Dedham, Mass. He also served as superior of the Dedham house between 1974-1976. Next, returning to Liberia, he took on the post of financial controller for the diocese of Cape Palmas, residing with Bishop Boniface Dalieh. At weekends he ministered in adjacent mission stations . Always delicate, in 1978 Jim’s health sharply deteriorated and he was compelled to return to the U.S. where, after a period of recuperation, he resumed promotion work at Tenafly. Among his activities during these years was the ‘Books in Africa Program’ which he founded to promote literacy among African youth.

In 1982, at the age of 65 years, Jim returned to Ireland, ministering in the diocese of Limerick. He served as chaplain to Corbally Nursing Home, to the Alexian Brothers and to the Brother Russell Hostel for the Homeless. He also assisted in the parish of Our Lady of the Rosary and was Chaplain to that branch of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul which catered for the spiritual needs of the Traveller community in Limerick. During this time Jim lived with his sister Betty and her husband. Jim retired from the active ministry in 2004, taking up residence in the S.M.A. house at Wilton.

Jim lived a long life, celebrating his Golden Jubilee in 1992, his Diamond Jubilee in 2002 and living into his 92nd year. A profile on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee described him well. ‘Spry and cheerful, he works regularly, pens his own homilies, and demonstrates that amazing resilience that enabled him to overcome numerous serious health challenges over the years which included tuberculosis, spinal problems and brain cancer.’ In retirement Jim put pen to paper writing an account of the death of a fellow-student, Paddy Waters, who had died on 22nd January 1939. Paddy was infirmarian at Wilton during a severe influenza epidemic. Eventually he caught the virus and died from pneumonia. Jim recorded the poignant event with no mean literary skill. ‘No student could attend the funeral. The top floor of the present building was one long dormitory. Those of us who were able, jammed the windows facing the Church. I was one of them and watched Paddy’s coffin being brought from the College, up the steps of the Church, for the funeral Mass and burial.’

In 2006 Jim wrote an amusing account of the circumstances which led Boniface Nyema Daileh to become a priest (and eventually a Bishop). He penned a number of other interesting pieces, one on ‘The S.M.A. donation’ (a highly-charged story of intrigue relating to the S.M.A. presence in Doylestown PA), another titled ‘the Agony and Ecstasy of Missionary Life’ (dealing with his work in promotion), and further offerings on ‘Piux X High School, Savannah, Georgia’, and ‘The S.M.A. in Doylestown, PA’ ). He wrote also of his work in the African-American Parishes, an extract of which merits inclusion here: ‘Although the (African-American) parishes overlapped White parishes, there was very little contact pastorally with, or between, the two groups. Segregation ruled. While in Savannah I was never in a White priest’s home, though many were natives of Ireland. We were never invited to a Diocesan Meeting or Retreat. This did not cause us any anxiety. We accepted the situation as it was.’

In his later years, as well as the companionship of his S.M.A. confreres, Jim enjoyed the company of his sisters, Betty and Joan, and the extended family of nieces, nephews and their children. During the last two years of his life, after suffering a stroke, he came to live in the S.M.A. house, Blackrock Road, where intensive nursing care was provided. He settled in well, despite his incapacity and managed to restore some of his speech in the months before his death.

He is buried in the S.M.A. cemetery at Wilton, Cork, Ireland.





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