A RELIGIOUS brother from Tralee who was slaughtered along with six other Catholics in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) nearly 30 years ago will be specially remembered at the vigil Mass in St John’s Church on Saturday, October 22.
John Conway, a member of the Jesuit Order who was born in Brogue Lane in 1920, is one of 14 Irish missionaries to die violent deaths who are being remembered in their own places around Ireland that weekend and again on Sunday, October 30, at a joint celebration in Dublin presided over by Archbishop Sean Brady of Armagh.
Fr WJ Reynolds, a Jesuit, will be celebrant of the Mass in Tralee which will be attended by many of Brother Conway’s Tralee cousins and their friends. They also have been invited to attend the Dublin ceremony on October 30.
The slaughter of Brother Conway and his fellow missionaries stunned the civilised world when it happened on February 6, 1977. He had been working on St Paul’s Mission in Musami since 1954 and had built up the mission single-handedly. He erected a house and school, taught the faith, was nurse and doctor to the people and was at everybody’s beck and call whenever it was necessary to drive the mission lorry.
His contribution to life in his adopted country added to the sense of outrage which followed his massacre.
John Conway got his primary education at Strand Road School and was only 14 when his aunt, the late Mrs Nora Timoney of St John’s Park, helped get him his first job as a driver’s helper with the Shell Oil company in Tralee.
When he was 16 he took on odd jobs while attending evening classes at the old Technical School in Moyderwell.
Like many people of the time, he emigrated to England when he was 20 and initially worked in the building trade before becoming a long-distance lorry driver.
He was 28 when he joined the English province of the Jesuits as a lay brother. That was in 1948. His first — and only — posting abroad was in Rhodesia, the land where his martyr’s blood was spilled.
Mission colleagues remembered him as a prayerful Kerryman with a great sense of humour — a man with a twinkle in his eye who could tell a good Kerryman joke, often at his own expense.
John Conway is survived by his brother, Michael, in Cahills Park, and his cousins: Philly McDonagh, Ballinorig Close, Marina Lehane, Killeen Heights, Kitty Hannafin, Stacks Villas, and Martha Potts, Glenard, Monavalley.
They will all be happy that John Conway, to whom a memorial stands in St John’s Park, will be so publicly remembered for his supreme sacrifice in the coming weeks of October, a month dedicated by the Catholic Church to the missions.