Nigerian becomes first African priest to lead St Patrick’s Missionary Society

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St Patrick’s Missionary Society, whose members are known as the Kiltegan Fathers after the place where it was founded in Ireland, has for the first time in its 90-year history elected an African leader.

The 13th General Chapter of the society, delayed for two years due to the pandemic, ended on May 20 in Ireland with the election of the new central team leaders and with Fr Richard Filima as the new leader.

Father Filima comes from the very first mission the Fathers of Kiltegan went to in Southern Nigeria 90 years ago.

The General Chapter takes place every six years.

The meeting brought together delegates from Brazil, Ireland, Central Africa, East Africa, Southern Africa, Britain, West Africa and Grenada. Father Richard Filima, 43, attended the General Chapter as an elected delegate from the District of Southern Africa.

Father Filima, from Bodo, Rivers State, Nigeria, is the eldest of six children. He joined the company in 1997 when he started his initial training in his home country.

He studied philosophy and theology in South Africa and Kenya.

After a long pastoral year in Brazil, he was ordained in 2008 and assigned to Mato Grosso in Brazil where he had his first appointment.

As part of ongoing formation, Fr. Filima did his postgraduate studies in Dublin and Cork, Ireland, from where he went to KwaPatrick, South Africa, as Director of Formation.

In 2020 he did vocations promotion work in Britain and later became the promotions director based in East Molesey.

St Patrick’s Missionary Society was founded on St Patrick’s Day 1932 to assist in the work of spreading the gospel.

It has its origins in the 1920s when a few diocesan priests from Ireland volunteered to join Irish Spiritan Bishop Joseph Shanahan in his missionary work in southern Nigeria.

When the society started in 1932, all of its priests worked in Nigeria. Since then membership has grown and as other areas of need have been identified St Patrick’s Missionaries have moved to seven more African countries as well as South America and the Caribbean .

It was not until the early 1990s that the society became international, recruiting vocations in the countries where it ministered.

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