Vincent O’Brien, class '43
1925 - 2001
“Vinny” as he inevitably came to be known, was in many ways a walking miracle. During his preparation for priesthood in the seminary in Blackrock, he began his studies for a Science Degree in U.C.D. This was interrupted after one year. He was duly ordained in Clonliffe on 28th May 1950. He recently celebrated his Golden Jubilee, with his six original companions.
For the next 20 years he taught Maths and Physics in Castleknock College, after taking a B.Sc. in Cork University followed by a H.Dip. in Education. In many ways, Science was his life, though he used his inventive genius to involve himself in various extra-curricular activities with the students. These included the construction of boats which were used successfully on the nearby River Liffey.
After that he took a M.A. in Religious Studies in St. John’s University in New York. From then on he entered the second phase of his life when he joined the Nigerian Missions. There he accomplished some great and varied achievements.You could well describe this period as the “full flowering” of his talents and abilities.
His special contribution was in the field of education. He was almost obsessed with the idea of the inequality of the educational opportunity available to Nigerian youths in comparision to their counterparts in Ireland, and he determined to make his personal contribution to remedying that. In fact he felt that half the staff in Castleknock should follow him out for that reason. He taught briefly with the Holy Ghost Fathers at Mount St. Michael’s Secondary School in Aliade. He moved from there to Emmanuel Sceondary School, Ogbokolo, which he soon came to head up. This became a Vincentian-undertaking and other Vincentians joined him there. He gathered a very good staff around him and the school came on in leaps and bounds. He spent some thirteen years there, until 1986.
When he transferred to Ogobia in 1988, his educational bent sill remained strong. He established a Nursery/Primary School and eventually a Secondary School from scratch with the involvement of the local community. By dogged perseverance, this school proved very successful. Even when he was in hospital in Ireland one of his main concerns was how things were in the school.
By this time he had developed another wing which came to be at least as large. This was the developmental side of his life where he worked wonders for the local community which no doubt contributed greatly to his being offered the chieftainly title of “Ogone of Uboju” (‘The Accomplisher’).
His deep concern for the economic welfare of the people around him became a driving force in his life. He devised a great many schemes and undertakings from rice mills to water tanks, from growing of sisal to rearing of pigs and poultry. He proved himself to be expert in whatever he undertook. His trips home involved him in a great deal of fundraising. There are few aid agencies that he left untouched. His home people played an important part in this. In the midst of major projects, Vinny had time for the small man too and on many occasions I have seen a host of people outside his door in Ogobia.
Vinny’s skills were many sided. He became an accomplished accordion player and no social occasion was complete without his giving a performance. Vinny was a man of strong and definite ideas. At the Annual General Meeting of the Community he would wax eloquent on the need to ensure an adequate level of academic performance by our students, and if needs be to set up our own examinations. The formation values he believed in, he held fast to and was quite willing to share them.
Vinny was certainly a bit of a genius. I suspect he would have done well in a space programme but he was happy to exercise his genius in a remote village in the middle belt of Nigeria. He was humble and didn’t look for praise or renown for himself. His likes are not easily come by. He will be a hard act to follow.
Vinny always remained devoted to his family. Shortly before his own death, he left his sick bed to be present at the funeral of one of his brothers and even took an active part in it. At his request he was buried close to his family grave in Nurney, Co. Kildare, after courageously enduring some months of illness, during which he was in the loving care of the Daughters of Charity.
Rod Crowley CM
VINCENT O’BRIEN CM
Born: Kildare, 9 April 1925
Entered the CM: 7 September 1943
Final Vows: 8 September 1945
Ordained priest: 28 May 1950 in Holy Cross College, Clonliffe by Dr John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin.
1950-’60: St. Vincent’s, Castleknock
1960-’62: University College, Cork – B Sc degree
1962-’70: St. Vincent’s, Castleknock
1970-’72: St. John’s University, NewYork – MA in Religious Studies
1972-’73: Mt. St. Michael’s Secondary School, Aliade, Nigeria
1973-’86: Emmanuel Secondary School, Ugboklo, Nigeria
1986-’88: St. Vincent’s Secondary School, Anwule, Nigeria
1988-2000: St. Justin’s Seminary, Ogobia, Nigeria
2000-’01: St. Vincent’s, Castleknock
Died: 26 April 2001
Buried: Nurney, Co. Kildare
Tribute to Fr. Vincent O’Brien C.M.
The only reason I got up here is because if UncleVin was here he would get up and say something. There are a few things he would do – number one he would write it down beforehand (he might have to search in 4 or 5 pockets before he found it but he would have it written down); Number two, even though he would know and respect where he was he would be somewhat casual and informal and you would not know what he might say next. As well as that he would be light-hearted and he would have some moral or message that we were to take home.
Anyway, I was thinking of Vin arriving in heaven and I could envisage him having terrible problems getting in. Saint Peter would be at the gate and he would say “Sure you know me,Vin” andVin would be sturnped. Ye might not know it but even though Vin had a great brain and was very intelligent, he was a bit of a scatterbrain. Eventually Vin would see someone else coming and would quietly ask of them “what’s your man’s name?” They would reply “Peter” and Vin would be relieved. Then Peter would say “what did you do on earth Vin?” to which the response would be “Well, I was a priest for over 50 years and I set up all sorts of schools and orphanages and did great work in Nigeria and other places and so on.” Peter would of course say “came on in”.
When Vin would arrive in he would have lots of people to see – Uncle Tommy, his father, his two mothers, his brothers and baby sisters. Someone would land a piano in front of Vin and he would play (‘head and shoulders, knees and toes’ and a few more). There would be a few beers and maybe a good few beers and a general party into the night. Then I realised all of us down here would have a problem because we wouldn’t be able to get in. Vin would be up in the high office with God and he’d install a lap-top for God and as we know God is a loving God who forgets and forgives all our sins; well now God would have everything on file and when you’d arrive up there you would be asked your name and Peter would tap it in and God wouldn’t be able to forget any more.
Then I realised it wouldn’t matter if you ended up down below anyway because Vin was always a man for the underprivileged especially in Nigeria and if he didn’t come down beside you and give you a lift up he would sink a well in heaven and pipe down water to you.
Anyway I’m sure Vin is looking down on us now as he always liked to keep in touch with what was going on and with the developments in the Church and in technology (besides he won’t need to read about evolution any more as he will know it all). He will of course want us to use all the modern technologies but would remind us to still make time for one another.
All in all he was a priest. As they say “By their fruits ye shall know them”. Well, I think Vin’s fruits were evident for everyone to see so I think the moral is that when we have talents in different areas to try and use them well like Vin and not put our lamp under a bucket.
Finally, I heard him say recently that we should not say of people who have died “may he rest in peace” but rather “may he rest in continuous activity”. So I’ll say it now “May he rest in continuous activity, Amen”.