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Fr Flynn’s strong devotion to Nigerian mission


The late Fr Leo Flynn.

The late Fr Leo Flynn.

The late Fr Leo Flynn.


FR Leo Flynn of the 1962 St Patrick’s Missionary Society passed away peacefully in the Care Unit of St Patrick’s, Kiltegan, aged 84.

Leo Anthony Gabriel Flynn was born on March 29, 1937 to Patrick Flynn and his wife Margaret (née McHale) of Ballymoneen, Castleconnor, Co Sligo. He was from a family of one girl and nine boys.

He received his primary education at Carragarry National School and for his secondary education he attended St Muredach’s College, Ballina; this involved a round trip of 14 miles every day on his bicycle for four years. He was a boarder for his final year and sat the Leaving Certificate in June 1955.

Leo joined St Patrick’s Missionary Society in September 1955 and completed the Spiritual Year in June 1956. He then studied philosophy at St Patrick’s, Douglas, Cork, before returning to Kiltegan in September 1958 for a four year course in theology. He was ordained on April 22, 1962 (Easter Sunday). The ordaining prelate was Most Reverend Patrick Cleary SSC, Exiled Bishop of Nancheng, China.

After ordination Leo was appointed to the Diocese of Calabar. Within one year of his arrival a new Diocese was carved out of Calabar, the Diocese of Ikot Ekpene.

It was in that area Leo was to spend the first six years of his priestly ministry.

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During that period there was growing civil unrest in South Eastern Nigeria; this unrest would later lead to the outbreak of the Nigerian Civil War which was a very stressful time for all missionaries.

Leo served first at Urua Akpan and later at Nko. He left Nigeria in 1968 and was appointed to promotion work in the USA. He was based first in Camden, New Jersey, and later in Chicago.

For a decade he was very involved in fund-raising for the Society. He travelled all over the USA making mission appeals in parish churches. He also helped to organise other income generating events such as dinner dances and bingo.

During his time in the USA Leo built up a large network of friends who remained loyal to him for the rest of his life.

After ten years in the USA Leo returned to Nigeria and this time he was appointed to the Archdiocese of Lagos. For the next forty years he ministered in some of the poorest parishes in Africa’s most populous city.

He began in 1978 in St Mary’s, Ajegunle, and from there helped establish St Charles’ Parish, Olodi. From St Charles he founded many outstations including St Margaret’s, Our Lady of the Rosary, St Vincent’s, Our Lady Help of Christians (all in the greater Olodi area) and finally he established St Philomena’s in Ajegunle. Most of these outstations are now flourishing parishes.

Leo was noted for his hard work and dedication all through his life. He put his heart and soul into everything he did whether it be pastoral work in Lagos or mission promotion work in the USA. He was a very far-seeing pastor and very shrewd.

He identified sites for future churches years before anyone set foot in them and with his innate business acumen he was able to purchase the sites for a modest price. He encouraged the people to be self-sufficient and to take ownership of their parish communities. The churches, parish houses and community halls that Leo left behind were funded mostly by contributions from the local people. He fostered strong lay involvement in the pastoral life of the parishes where he ministered.

He also introduced lay Eucharistic Ministers and promoted Group Weddings. Care of the poor and the sick was an integral part of Leo’s ministry.

He was always willing to make a sick call no matter what hour of the day or night it came.

The promotion of vocations to Religious Life was also a hallmark of his ministry.

Through his guidance, encouragement and support many young people from the parishes where he ministered went on to join Religious Congregations and Missionary Societies.

Forty years of intense pastoral work in many parishes in Lagos eventually took its toll on Leo’s health. He was forced to leave his beloved people in St Philomena’s in 2017 and return to Ireland. He retired to Kiltegan.

In the autumn of 2021 he was diagnosed with a serious illness. After a short spell in hospital he returned to Kiltegan in late November 2021. A few days after Christmas his condition deteriorated.

He died peacefully in the Care Unit at Kiltegan shortly after noon on Friday, January 7. At his bedside were his niece-in-law Barbara Flynn along with some members of the Care Unit Staff and members of the Kiltegan community.

Leo was predeceased by his sister Maura and by his brothers Paddy, Eamon, Vincent, Michael and Fr Mattie. He is survived by his brothers Kevin, Eugene and Brendan, by his sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews and their families.

Fr Leo’s Funeral Mass was celebrated on Wednesday January 12th at 12 noon at Our Lady Assumed into Heaven Church, Enniscrone, Co Sligo, followed by burial in Killanley Cemetery.