Pádraig Ó Máille was born to Anthony and Jane (nee Burke) O’Malley of Doughmakeon, Louisburgh, on June 4, 1931. He was their second child and first son. He attended Accony National School from 1936 to 1945 and St Jarlath’s College, Tuam, from 1945 to 1949. He came to Kiltegan for the Spiritual Year in September, 1949 and then moved to St Patrick’s, Douglas, Cork, in September, 1950. He attended University College Cork and was conferred with a BA degree in 1953. He completed his Theology studies in St Patrick’s College, Kiltegan, and was ordained in St Mary’s Church, Killamoat on Easter Sunday, April 21 1957, by Bishop Patrick Cleary SSC, exiled bishop of Nancheng, China.
After ordination Fr Pádraig was appointed to Calabar, Nigeria. He taught in Regina Coeli Secondary School, Essene and in St Columbanus Secondary School, Ikwen, where he was the first principal. He also taught in Holy Family College, Abak. He was forced to leave the country in 1968 due to the Civil War. While in Ireland he did the Higher Diploma in Education in University College Galway and taught at St Mary’s College, Galway. In 1970 he was appointed to Mzuzu Diocese, Malawi. He did a four month course in the local language, Chitumbuka, with the four others who made up that pioneering team. He was then appointed Parish Priest of St Teresa’s Parish. As well as parish work he did some secondary teaching in Chaminade Secondary School. In 1972, at the suggestion of Dr Felix Mnthali, he registered for an MA programme at the University of Malawi in Chancellor College, Zomba. Because of his many other commitments it took him four years to complete the degree. In March 1976 he was appointed lecturer in the English Department where he became a friend and supporter of many other academics who had fallen foul of the President, Dr Kamuzu Banda. This story is told in Pádraig’s book ‘Living Dangerously’.
The book ends when the Catholic bishops of Malawi issued their lenten pastoral letter “Living Our Faith” on March 8, 1992 and Pádraig and some of his fellow missionaries including the Apostolic Administrator of Mzuzu, John Roche, were expelled from Malawi and declared prohibited aliens.
However, that was not the end of Padraig’s relationship with Malawi. Two years later he was back there and, on arrival, was invited by the democratically elected President, Bakili Muluzi to dinner in his official residence, Sanjika Palace.
Pádraig did not spend all the years from 1970 to 1992 in Malawi. Following the 1978 chapter he was appointed Society Director of Renewal. He served in that post from 1978 to 1981. He was based in Kiltegan and travelled to the different society regions to help the members with updating and renewal. After a sabbatical at the Richmond Fellowship in London he returned to Malawi, taught in Malosa Anglican Secondary School for a year and then returned to the staff of Chancellor College.
Pádraig was very ill when he was deported from Malawi in 1992. He had been unconscious for eight days and on his way home for medical treatment he was served the deportation order at Blantyre Airport. He was therefore medically unfit to return to reside permanently in Malawi although after the overthrow of President Banda he was able to visit. He taught in St Patrick’s College, Carlow, from 1993 to 1996. He took a keen interest in the Movement for a Better World. He was invited to take on the post of Honorary Consul for Malawi. He did this out of the Society House in Leeson Park, Dublin, and with the help of the Association of Malawians in Ireland (AMAI) was a great help to Malawian people in difficulty. He also developed strong links with ‘Pobal an Aifrinn’, the group that organises masses in Irish for communities throughout the city.
He wrote several books and wrote regularly for the society magazine ‘Africa’. He visited Malawi on a number of occasions and on Saturday, November 24, 2001, he was conferred with an honorary doctorate by the University of Malawi.
Pádraig’s health necessitated frequent stays in hospital and after one such stay in the spring of 2015 he decided to transfer to the Care Unit in Kiltegan. He was very happy there. He enjoyed sharing views and stories with other residents and continued to write and to publish. His retirement as Honorary Consul was marked by a celebratory dinner hosted by the Malawian Ambassador to Ireland. On March 4, 2017, the new Ambassador of Malawi, H.E. Kena Mphonda, made a special trip from London where he is also High Commissioner to the UK to visit Pádraig in Kiltegan. Even though Pádraig was not long out of hospital he enjoyed the visit very much.
Pádraig was a man of many callings. He was a missionary, a priest, a teacher, a poet, a writer, a raconteur, a champion of justice and peace, an Irish republican, a Mayo man and a loyal member of St Patrick’s Missionary Society. He brought huge energy and passion to all his undertakings. He had a special place in his big heart for the underdog, for those on the margins and for those without a voice. He had a way with words and was a truly gifted writer, translator and literary critic. He had a life-long love of the Irish language and spoke it with the fluency of a native Irish speaker.
Pádraig is survived by all his siblings, Mary Rita, Tom, Brigid, Frank and Austin and by his nieces and nephews and their families.
I líonta Dé go gcastar sinn.