Fr Michael Walsh, from Kinnitty, who recently marked the 50th anniversary of his arrival on the missions in Africa.

Priest's 50th anniversary of work in missions

Fr Michael Walsh C.S.Sp., a Spiritan missionary from Lettybrook, Kinnitty, marked the 50th anniversary of his arrival in Zambia recently. On February 3, 1971, he and another five Irish Spiritans were the first of their congregation to set foot in the southern African country.

Ordained in 1965, Fr Michael would study development in Kimmage Development Studies Centre, now part of Maynooth University, and did human development in St. Anselm's in Kent.

He served in Nigeria until the Biafran War prematurely ended his mission there.  During the 2019 Christmas Holidays of the Spiritan Postulancy where he is assistant to the director, he took up an invite to make his first return in over half-a-century, witnessing the phenomenal growth of the Church in Nigeria in the last 50 years. His old Umuma-Isiaku parish, for example, with not one ordained priest or religious in 1969, now had more than 40 local priests and religious sisters, while there are more Spiritans today from Nigeria than from any other country.

Following five months of Tonga language studies, Fr Michael served firstly in the Diocese of Monze, was priest-in-charge in Kasiya and opened a new parish in Zimba. After further studies, he was Director of the Spiritan Postulancy for many years until 2017. The sole Irish Spiritan remaining in Zambia, he founded the ‘Orphans and Vulnerables Organization’ to cater for the emotional, educational and material needs of over 1,000 children in a total of eight centres.

Elsewhere in the continent of Africa, Spiritans of the Irish Province are also currently based in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mauritius, Moçambique, Seychelles, South Africa and South Sudan.

With the death earlier this year of Fr Paddy Reedy from Birr, Fr Brian Starken from Kilcormac who missioned in Sierra Leone for many years, and Fr Michael are the last two living Spiritans from Offaly.

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