First African SMA appointed as Director of the FVC, Munster.

“The arrival of Fr Ignatius in Ireland is, without doubt, a tribute to the success of the tireless efforts of our FVC members and the many SMA missionaries whom they helped sustain and train. It is a cause of genuine celebration and gratitude.”

New FVC Director, Munster

Fr Ignatius Malwa SMA

Fr Ignatius Malwa SMA, from Zambia, arrived in Ireland last January to join the SMA Promotion team. Specifically, Fr Ignatius will take over as the Family Vocations Crusade [FVC] Director for Munster, replacing Fr Fergus Tuohy SMA who is moving on to a new assignment after six years in the post. 

The arrival of Fr Ignatius in Ireland is, without doubt, a tribute to the success of the tireless efforts of our FVC members and the many SMA missionaries whom they helped sustain and train. It is a cause of genuine celebration and gratitude.

The Family Vocations Crusade

In 2019, the Society of African Missions will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its Family Vocations Crusade (FVC). It was established first at our African Missions College, Dromantine, Co. Down, in 1959, to support the Society’s missionary work. The FVC has been sustained by the loyalty of dedicated lay people across six decades who are committed to the prayerful support of the Society and to help raise funds for the training of SMA missionaries worldwide.

In the 50s, 60s and 70s, the work of the Family Vocations Crusade was primarily engaged in the training of Irish SMA seminarians. However, since the early 1980’s its focus has shifted to assisting with the training of African SMA seminarians, as we move towards the fulfilment of our Founder’s vision – the establishment of an indigenous clergy and, by extension, an indigenous SMA branch. 

Towards that end the FVC family, which numbers over 10,000 members from every county in Ireland, have been actively engaged in supporting, both spiritually and financially, SMA training programmes in seven African countries as well as in India, the Philippines and Poland. Without their support, the reach and achievements of the Society in Africa simply could not have happened.

The following introduction is based on an interview conducted by the SMA Communications Department:

Introducing Fr. Ignatius Malwa SMA

Q: Tell us a little about who you are:

Fr Ignatius: I was born on the 12th December, 1980, in Kabwe, the Central Province of Zambia, the fifth of seven children. I have four sisters and two brothers. I speak four languages: Hausa, Bemba (Zambian dialect); English and French.

I served as an altar boy in my parish and I was greatly inspired by the life of my parish priest, Fr. Felix Kalebwe, a Zambian Jesuit missionary priest. He gave so much of his life to the service of people in my home town; helping the poor, the sick and homeless. I admired his selfless life and hospitality.

When did your journey with the Society of African Missions begin?

I started my journey with the SMA in 1999. Seven miles from the town where I was born, Kabwe, is the Mpima major seminary, which SMA students attended for Philosophy studies. In charge of the SMA formation house in Kabwe was Fr. Michael O’Shea SMA, from Cork, a good and influential man, who was later succeeded by Fr. Derek Kearney SMA. On many occasions during secondary school, I had to travel to the Copperbelt Province of Zambia where many SMA priests were based and I met some of them who influenced my path to the priesthood. These included: Fr. Michael Igoe, the late Fr. Fergus Conlan, Fr. Sexton Doran (who was our Vocations Director) and Fr PJ Gormley.

Sadly, Fr Doran also passed away on 9 September 2014. I happened to be in Ireland and I was able to attend his funeral in Loughinisland, Co Down.

After completing my Philosophy studies I went to the SMA Spiritual Year program in Benin Republic and then spent one year there learning French and the day-to-day responsibilities of an SMA priest, living with a French SMA. This is the SMA “Stage” program. I did my Theology studies at the Catholic University of West Africa in Anyama CFMA, Ivory Coast.

When I completed my Theology studies I returned to Zambia as a Deacon to live in Lusaka with four Irish SMA priests: Frs Paddy Barry, MartinO’Farrell, Jim O’Kane and Michael Igoe. With these four missionaries I had a rich experience that has left good memories of community life.

Your Ordination and early appointments?

I was ordained on 26 June 2008 by Bishop Noel O’Reagan SMA and my first missionary appointment was to northern Nigeria where I worked for eight years until my new appointment to Ireland. 

Fr. John O’Keefe introduced me to Nigerian culture and the history of evangelisation in Nigeria, mostly done by Irish SMA priests. At one stage there were 53 Irish SMAs in Nigeria. According to statistics  gathered published in January 2016, the situation has changed. There are now just 13 Irish and the others are from Benin Republic, England, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, Togo and Zambia.

My first appointment within Nigeria was to Kontagora Vicariate with Bishop Timothy Carroll SMA. I was later transferred to Kano diocese and worked with Fr Tom Treacy before spending a year with Fr John Haverty in Kachia, Kaduna Archdiocese. At the end of 2010 I came to St Peter’s SMA parish in Kaduna City where Fr Dan O’Brien was in charge. Following his return to Ireland for health reasons I took over as Parish Priest of St Peter’s until October 2016. 

I have learnt a lot and had rich experiences from these missionaries. They have contributed immensely to my vocation and I follow their footsteps in trying to make the best of my priesthood. My priestly story cannot and would not be complete without mentioning them.

What are your thoughts about your new role in Ireland?

I am in Ireland to work in the Family Vocation Crusade. I arrived on the 15th of January, 2017. I hope to be in Ireland for a period of three years.

I hope my presence will bring new supporters and new life into the FVC. I hope to learn from what is already in existence and offer the best of my talents and gifts and definitely try to bring something new to the Family Vocation Crusade. I also want to spend my time thanking all of the FVC members for their tireless work and generosity, including their support of my own training.

Ireland is a great nation with good people. I have been touched by the love the people have shown me since I came. The Irish people are welcoming and accommodating.

I thank God for choosing me to be part of the first Africans on mission to Ireland. To be a pioneer comes with it’s own challenges. I pray that God gives me the grace to achieve success in this new assignment and to help me to always remain faithful to His mission.

For further information on the SMA Family Vocations Crusade please click here:

We wish Fr Ignatius every blessing and much success during his Irish appointment.

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