Fr John Nolan OMI 1936 – 2020
Fr John Nolan OMI
1936 – 2020
A native of Wexford Town, John Nolan was born on 1 March 1936. Sadly, his mother died when he was child, leaving John and his sister, Marie, the older of the two. They were reared as part of their aunt’s family; their father had to find work in England to support them. When John spoke of his early life, he marvelled at the goodness of his aunt who treated them as she did her own children. He remembered a happy childhood and young adult years. He and Marie were life-long close friends. Her death a few years ago was a great loss.
John’s vocation story began with a year in Belcamp College to study Latin— then a requirement for priesthood. He hadn’t taken Latin for his Leaving Certificate at St Peter’s College, Wexford. One of his contemporaries in Belcamp remembers him going from Latin class to Latin class (from 1st Year to 6th Year) all day, every day… perhaps developing resilience for the future!
He entered Cahermoyle, the Oblate novitiate in Co Limerick, in 1955. He made his Final Profession as a Missionary Oblate of Mary Immaculate 4 years later at Oblate Scholasticate, Piltown, Co. Kilkenny, where he was also ordained priest, 23 February 1963.
His first obedience was for the South African Oblate Central Province of Kimberley-Bloemfontein. On arrival in South Africa (1964) as one of the earliest Irish Oblates assigned to work with the German and Flemish Oblates in this Province, John was sent Assisi Mission, to work with the Basotho people in their rural village communities. It was here that learned to speak Sesotho, the language of the Basotho.
These were difficult years in South Africa; the apartheid regime race separation laws were in full force, governing all aspects of life, and making a missionary’s work and life among the Basotho stressful and difficult. The people, however, were simple and beautiful. In order to appreciate John’s impact as a Missionary Oblate, and the quality of pastoral and social relationships he lived with the peoples he served in various missions, one need look no further than the Sesotho name given to him by these simple rural people in 1964. Their name for John was “Ramosa”, meaning, the father of kindness.
John went on to serve in other missions: Dewetsdorp (1964-’65), Wepener (1965-’75), Jagersfontein (1975-’81), Sacred Heart Cathedral, Bloemfontein (1981-’17).
Failing health led to his return in retirement to the Oblate House of Retreat community at Inchicore. Here too his gratitude and kindness endeared him staff and his Oblate brothers alike. Now living in Dublin, he took every opportunity to visit family and his many friends in his beloved Wexford.
John was not only ‘Ramosa’ to the African people; he was ‘Ramosa’ too to all of the younger Irish Oblates who came to join his Province in later years. ‘He looked out for us, and looked after us all very well. We too recognised him as an icon of kindness and care.
All of us, from the Basotho people who named him ‘Ramosa’, to the many communities he served for over 50 years in Africa, and all who were part of his life here and back home in Ireland, have been privileged and blessed by this touch of kindness and care… which for John was a reflection of God’s care for us’.
Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.
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