Archbishop C. Heerey

Born on 27 November, 1890 at Oldcastle, Meath, Ireland. He graduated from Blackrock College of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers in 1909 and prefected for two years at Rockwell. On 8 September, 1912 he made his vows at Kimmage as a member of the Congregation. He did his senior studies at Rathmines, earning a B.A., and at Kimmage. He was ordained a Priest on 19 September, 1921 in Dublin.

After ordination, Father Charles Heerey left his home in Cavan for Nigeria, and his first appointment was to Calabar, on the oil rivers coast. His stay there was short; nevertheless it was sufficiently long to convince his Bishop that here he had a priest who, by fervent priestly zeal and religious observance, could enable the Bishop to fulfil one of his life’s ambitions – the founding of a seminary for a Nigerian Clergy. Father Heere was accordingly appointed for this to Igbariam, on the bank of Anambra river – the first seminary in Eastern Nigeria for the native clergy.

Scarcely six years ordained, Father Heerey was appointed Coadjutor Bishop to Shanahan, now in failing health. At the time, the new appointment was a most welcome one. Shanahan wanted to ordain him a bishop in Nigeria itself, but just then Fr. Heerey became seriously ill and had to go to Ireland for several months of medical attention. He was ordained by Bishop Shanahan at Killeshandra on 29 May, 1927.

When Bishop Shanahan retured in 1931, Heerey became the Bishop of Onitsha till 1950 when the see was upgraded to the status of a Metropolitan. Subsequently Bishop Heerey became the first Archbishop of Onitsha archdiocese and the Metropolitan of the province.

In general Archbishop Charles Heerey continued the policy of his predecessor. With great foresight he founded a Native Brotherhood and a Native Sisterhood of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

By nature Archbishop Heerey was humble, quiet and reserved. His everyday priestly and religious observance was tghe source and explanation of his own zeal, Christ-likeness and approachability that endeared him to all. Essentially zealous, his zeal was never aggressive or overwhelming yet when the rights of the Church or individuals required it, he knew no compromise or underhand measures; grave issues and circumstances simple revealed the courage and loyalty to principles of the true Shepherd of souls.

Called to a position of eminence for the Church in Nigeria, he accepted with patience and charity the sufferings eminence entails. Under misrepresentations of his motives and convictions he never showed resentment. What sometimes appeared to be impetuousness was in reality nothing more than emphatic expression of loyalty to principles and to the sacred trust of his high office.