Our History


Bishop Ferdinand Terrien (1877-1929)

At sea, August 3, 1929, return to God of His Excellency Bishop Ferdinand Terrien, Vicar Apostolic of the Coast of Benin, at the age of 52 years.

Ferdinand Terrien, nephew of the delegate of the Propagation of the Faith in America, was born in Saint-André des Eaux, in the diocese of Nantes, in 1877. He studied at Saint-Laurent-sur-Sèvres and at the Petit Séminaire de Guérande . In 1896 he entered the African Missions and went to the seminary in Cairo. He took the oath in 1897 and was ordained a priest in 1900.

Father Terrien remained in Egypt and worked in Zifta until 1902. In October 1902 Father Terrien left for the Apostolic Vicariate of the Benin Coast. He worked in Lagos in the ministry and, soon, as a prosecutor for the mission. His indefatigable zeal and unusual charm won him the esteem and affection of the whole population.

On the death of Bishop Lang, the Holy See chose Father Terrien to succeed him. In March 1912, he was appointed titular bishop of Gordo and then consecrated in Nantes in July of the same year. The motto chosen by Monsignor Terrien very well characterizes the valiant and gentle missionary: "In Christo labor et suavitas".

Poor Terrien, who was obliged to return frequently to Europe, could not give everything he desired. Two works were particularly important to him: education and the local clergy. He multiplied the schools and created the secondary school Saint Gregory’s College in Lagos.

Bishop Terrien was delighted to ordain his first three priests in his cathedral in Lagos. He had done everything to lead them to the priesthood, but one month before the ordination, he had to embark urgently for Europe. In the Canary Islands, he received the last sacraments and died off Madeira. He was buried on 12 August in the small cemetery in his native village.

On August 18, the first three priests of the Vicariate of the Benin Coast were ordained in Lagos by Bishop Broderick, Apostolic Vicar of Western Nigeria.


Father James Patrick M. SAUL (1898 - 1978)

James Saul was born in the parish of Our Lady of Dolours, Dolphin's Barn, Dublin (the family address was at 35 Brookfield Road), on 30 July 1898. He died in Nazareth home, Mallow, Co Cork, on 7 March 1978.

No member of the Irish Province had as diverse a student career as Jim Saul. He came late to the Society, at the age of 21 years, having worked for a while in Guinness's brewery at St. James' Gate, Dublin. Subsequently he was to study not only in all the houses of the Society in Ireland, but also in houses in France, Belgium and Holland. The list is long. He studied in the following locations: the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo, which was the Society's intermediate school (June 1919 September 1919); St. Joseph's apostolic school, Wilton, Cork, the senior secondary school (1919 1921); the novitiate at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, (1921 1922); the house of philosophy at Chanly, Belgium (1922 1923); the major seminary, at Cours Gambetta, Lyon, France (he studied philosophy there between 1923 24); the major theological seminary of the Irish Province, at Blackrock Road, Cork (1924 25); the major seminary of the Dutch Province, at Bemelen, near Maastrict, Holland (1925); and finally the new major seminary of the Irish Province (transferred from Cork in 1926) at Dromantine, Co Down (1926 1927).

The reason why Jim had such a diverse route to priesthood is unclear. Part of it was coincidence. However the decision to send him to France and Belgium was prompted by a desire by the Superior General of the time that some Irish students would be trained on the continent, to reinforce solidarity within the Society and, more practically, to provide good English-language teachers for continental seminarians destined to work in British colonies such as Nigeria. Jim was received as a member of the Society on 29 July 1923, ordained to the sub diaconate at Bemelen, in March 1926, and ordained a priest in St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, on 16 June 1927. He was one of a group of eleven ordained on that day.

After ordination Jim was appointed to the vicariate of the Bight of Benin which had been first established in 1870 and which extended over much of south western Nigeria. Ferdinand Terrien was vicar apostolic there when Jim arrived. But two years later, in 1930, after the death of Bishop Terrien, the jurisdiction was entrusted to the Irish Province and Francis O'Rourke was appointed vicar apostolic. Jim served in the Benin vicariate (now the archdiocese of Lagos) from 1927 1949.

On arrival he was assigned to the staff of St. Gregory's college, Lagos. This college, originally founded as an elementary school with a section for training elementary teachers, in 1877, became a fully-fledged secondary college in 1928, under Leo Hale Taylor (later first archbishop of Lagos). Jim Saul was a member of the founding staff. St. Gregory's was the first Catholic boy's secondary school in Nigeria and soon won a reputation for excellence. Jim served on the staff from 1928-1938 and was principal of the college from 1934. During his spell in Nigeria Jim also served briefly as principal of St. Theresa's minor seminary, at Oke Are, Ibadan, and at Lafiaji mission, Lagos.

In September 1949 Jim was invalided home and came to Blackrock Road. Here he was appointed to the promotion office and was placed in charge of correspondence. He showed a brilliant aptitude for business organization and was soon appointed manager of all promotion departments. In May 1952, given the title of director of propaganda by his superiors, Jim undertook a complete re-organisation of the promotion system and put in place procedures which were to work smoothly for decades.

In October 1959 Jim relinquished his post in promotion and was appointed superior of St. Xavier's university hostel, Doughcloyne, Cork, a base for African students attending U.C.C. opened by the Society in 1947. He occupied this post until 1961, after which he spent eight years as assistant bursar at Wilton. During this period his general health, never robust, deteriorated. In addition he suffered the affliction of increasing deafness. From 1969-1974 Jim lived in the Province's headquarters at Blackrock Road and took charge of the library in that house. He spent his four years of retirement in the same house, dying just before his eightieth birthday and a year after he had celebrated the golden jubilee of his priesthood. Jim was a quiet, sensitive, methodical, hard-working priest.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.

Thomas John

Father Thomas John MORAN (1904 - 1989)

Thomas Moran was born at Ballyduff, Claremorris, Co Mayo, in the archdiocese of Tuam, on 29 January 1904. He died in St. Patrick's hospital, Wellington Road, Cork, on 24 November 1989.

Thomas (Tommy) studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1920‑1921), and at St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork (1921‑1924), before entering the Society's novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway.

He studied theology in the major seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down, between 1926‑1930, being a member of the first class to follow its complete theological course in that seminary. Tommy was received as a member of the Society on 7 July 1926 and was ordained a priest, by Bishop Edward Mulhern of Dromore diocese, at St. Colman's cathedral, Newry, on 8 June 1930. He was one of a group of ten ordained on that day.

After ordination Tommy was assigned to the vicariate of the Bight of Benin, in south-western Nigeria, which in the same year had been entrusted to the Irish Province. Tommy was to spend forty-one years in Nigeria, in twelve missionary tours of duty. His first appointment was to Topo mission, near Badagry, where he spent six months.

He ministered too in Ibadan and at Holy Cross cathedral mission during his first tour.

However his closest association, over the many years he spent in Nigeria, was with St. Gregory's College, Ikoyi, Lagos.

This institution had been founded as a 'grammar school' (senior elementary school with a teacher‑training department) in 1877 and became a full secondary school (Nigeria's first catholic college) in 1928. St. Gregory's, was to become a vital instrument of the Gospel in south-western Nigeria. Its students were imbued with a love for God, for their country and for the Church and many went on to take a leading part in all aspects of Nigeria's life. Tommy first came to St. Gregory's in December 1935, serving there for two years.

At the time Jim Saul was principal and other members of the staff included Tom F. Hughes, William Deeley and John Reddington; in addition there were 10 African tutors. The secondary division comprised 140 pupils while there were 33 students in the training college department. Tommy became principal of the college in June 1945 and occupied that post until May 1959. Tommy was a most successful principal.

By the time he relinquished his principalship the school had grown significantly, with 350 students in the secondary division. The highest academic standards prevailed under his leadership. In sport too, especially in soccer, cricket and athletics, St. Gregory's was one of the leading colleges nationally.

In September 1959 Tommy was seconded to the English 'district' of the Society. At the time a process was being set in motion which was eventually to lead to the erection of that 'district' into a full Province of the Society in 1968. One of the prerequisites for granting Provincial status was the ability of a district to train its own priests and Tommy came to England to assist in this aspect of the plan.

In September 1959 he was appointed superior of the seminary at Dutton Manor (near Preston, Lancashire), a post which he held for five years.

In 1964 Tommy returned to Africa and was assigned to the staff of Saints Peter and Paul's college, the philosophical and theological seminary for south and western Nigeria, situated at Ibadan.

In June 1967 he returned to his first mission, formerly the vicariate of the Bight of Benin, and now the archdiocese of Lagos. Tommy spent three tours working in the Lagos mission stations before retiring in May 1976.

For a period he was administrator of Holy Cross cathedral and his last appointment was to the Church of the Assumption, Falomo, Ikoyi, near his beloved St. Gregory's.

During his retirement at Blackrock Road he kept active and spent each summer ministering at Knock Shrine.

Tommy celebrated his golden jubilee of ordination in 1980. Throughout his long life Tommy had enjoyed good health. It was only in the very last years that he grew feeble. He died peacefully.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.

James Noel

Reverend Father James Noel McCarthy

Principal of St Gregory's College from 1960-1969, Parish Priest at the Catholic Church of The Assumption, Falomo from 1978-1984 and Parish Priest at St Michael's Catholic Church, Lafiaji from 1984-1990.

He lived at St Gregory's College while he was Parish Priest at St Michaels. He retired and returned to Ireland in 1990. He passed away on October 13th, 2008. The school clinic is named after him.


Father Frank McGOVERN - (1920- 1999)

He died peacefully in Blackrock Road, after a short illness, on Friday, February 26th, 1999. Son of the late Peter and Matilda McGovern, Father Frank grew up in Windy Arbour, Dundrum, Dublin and he is survived by a brother, Vincent. For the past fifteen years he has been living in the SMA community at Blackrock Road, Cork where he spent nine years as Archivist until he retired in 1993.

In his early days as a seminarian Frank McGovern first caught the eye as a sportsman. Combined with an ability to kick with both feet, a fine pair of hands, great balance and boundless energy his towering presence soon earned him almost legendary status. Though competent in many sports it was as a gaelic footballer that he was best known.

In 1948 he took up his first missionary appointment in Nigeria where he was to spend the next thirty-six years. Most of his missionary life in Nigeria was spent in education.

Firstly, at St. Gregory's College, Lagos where he worked from 1948 until 1953 when he was asked to move to Aquinas College, Akure in the Diocese of Ondo where he spent six years. In 1959 he returned for another two years to St. Gregory's. In 1961 he was appointed Superior at Wilton where he had responsibility for SMA students attending U.C.C.

In 1964 he resumed his teaching career at St. Finbarr's College, Lagos and in 1972 he took up a fresh teaching appointment at St. Theresa 's Minor Seminary in the neighbouring Diocese of Ibadan.

Though he was primarily involved in education his enquiring mind and gregarious nature ensured that at some stage he would become more closely involved in parish work. His wishes were fulfilled in 1974 when he took up residence at St. Agnes parish, Maryland where he spent tell memorable years.

In the past few weeks of his life we knew that Frank was gathering himself for his final journey when he recoiled into silence. Words no longer occupied his attention and peace bloomed in whispers. As we watched the light fade in his room he quietly went away from us to another room where mysteries are no more. May his mightly heart rest in perfect peace. Amen.

Leo Hale

Archbishop Leo Hale Taylor (first principal of St Gregory's College, founder of Holy Child College and first archbishop of Lagos).

John William

Father John William McANDREW (1916 - 1987)

John McAndrew was born at Belmullet, Co Mayo (the family address was Main Street, Belmullet), in the diocese of Kilalla, on 10 June 1916. He died at the district hospital, Belmullet, on 6 August 1987.

John studied at the Sacred Heart college, Ballinafad, Co Mayo (1932 1933) and St. Joseph's college, Wilton, Cork, before entering the S.M.A. novitiate and house of philosophy, at Kilcolgan, Co Galway, in September 1937. Two years later, on 2 July 1939, he was received as a member of the Society. He received his theological formation in the Society's seminary, at Dromantine, Co Down. John was ordained a priest, along with eight colleagues, in the chapel of the Sacred Heart Missionaries at Moyne Park, Tuam, Co Galway, on 19 December 1942.

The ordaining prelate was Archbishop Joseph Walsh. Since 1927 Society ordinations had taken place in Newry cathedral, but wartime travel restrictions, which prevented families travelling long distances, led to a change in 1942. There centres were chosen, Dromantine chapel for the northerners, Skibbereen cathedral for those from the south and Moyne Park for the westerners.

During his last year in Wilton (1936 1937) John had attended lectures in the arts faculty at U.C.C. He continued his degree studies while in Kilcolgan, going to U.C.G. one day each week and receiving additional lectures in the house from a priest designated for that purpose by the university. He was awarded a B.A. degree (philosophy and education) in June 1939.

John's fine undergraduate record marked him out for a teaching ministry. After ordination he spent four years (1943 1947) on the teaching staff at Ballinafad where pupils studied up to intermediate certificate level. Changing circumstances in the Society's West African mission fields (especially Nigeria and the Gold Coast) had a bearing on John's next appointment. After the world war the colonial authorities began to develop secondary education and were prepared to subsidise voluntary agencies prepared to open schools.

The missionary bishops saw the provision of secondary education as important, not only for the welfare of the countries, but also for the progress of the Church. Thus it was that they requested the Society's authorities in Ireland to intensify the training of graduate priests, to recruit lay graduates and to release as many qualified personnel as possible for service in Africa. It was in response to such requests that John was sent to U.C.C. in September 1947 to study for a teaching diploma (necessary for secondary teaching in Nigeria).

After a year, during which he resided in Wilton and taught in the school (which prepared pupils for leaving certificate in a three year cycle), John was awarded his diploma in June 1948. He was then assigned to the Lagos vicariate, in south western Nigeria, a jurisdiction which had been entrusted to the care of the Irish Province in 1930.

On his arrival in Lagos in December 1948, Leo Hale Taylor, the vicar apostolic, appointed John to the staff of St. Gregory's college, Ikoyi, Nigeria's first catholic secondary school, founded in 1928. He joined a staff led by Tommy Moran, and which included John Guilfoyle, Frank McGovern, and Anthony Saliu Sanusi, a Nigerian who later become bishop of Ijebu Ode diocese.

There were over 300 students in the college which was one of the premier educational establishments in Nigeria. John went to Ireland on his first home leave in November 1952. He returned to the jurisdiction, erected as the archdiocese of Lagos in April 1950, a year later. In January 1954 John became principal of a new Native Authority grammar school in Badagry, near Lagos, living in a government rest house while the classrooms were being constructed. John returned from his next home leave in February 1956, resuming his principalship at Badagry.

Three months later he succeeded Tommy Moran as principal of St. Gregory's college, leading a staff which included Patrick J. Carroll, Brendan Haniffy, Martin Conboy and Pedro Martins (a Nigerian priest). John occupied this important post until August 1959 when he was appointed principal of St. Peter's secondary college, Aro, Abeokuta. This school had been opened in 1956, with John Guilfoyle as founder principal. The school was also known as the 'Fr. Coquard Memorial Secondary School', in memory of the celebrated S.M.A. missionary Jean Marie Coquard, a self taught surgeon, who founded the renowned Sacred Heart hospital at the turn of the century.

In March 1969 John was re assigned to the Province's mission in Perth, Western Australia. He was appointed to the staff of St. Brendan's college, situated in the S.M.A. parish at Beaconsfield. The school was located at York Street, Hilton, and had been opened in February 1964, under the principalship of Elisha O'Shea. John taught in St. Brendan's for ten years. After retiring from teaching he was attached to the S.M.A. parish. In 1981 John retired from the active ministry, remaining in Australia until 1987. He then decided to continue his retirement in Ireland, returning there in February 1987.

John was admitted to the district hospital, Belmullet, where he was on holiday, on the night of 5 August 1987, with an aneurysm of the aorta. He died peacefully three hours later at 2.45 a.m. John was a superb teacher. He taught many subjects, was particularly noted as a teacher of English, but is best remembered as a master of music. In 1949 he produced the first Gilbert and Sullivan opera to be seen in Nigeria. In St. Brendan's, Perth, his contribution in the area of music was invaluable. John's first cousin joined the Sisters of Our Lady of Apostles, taking the name Scholastica.

He is buried in Wilton cemetery.