Our group of Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Nigeria on January 3rd, 1963.
We spent approximately one week of orientation in Lagos. I was assigned to the "North." Those of us going to the North were then given an overnight train ride from Lagos to Kaduna. In Kaduna, we were given several days of orientation. Then, my new housemate and I were given a train ride to Minna which was about 60 miles from our assigned destination of Bida. And the train arrive only about 3 hours late. The next day or so, we finally made it to Bida and the Bida Provincial Secondary School.
My housemate had a physics major and theology minor in college. When we started teaching, he began a Bible course for the few Christian students at the school. The Etsu Nupe would not authorize the school to pay for Bibles, so my housemate was able to obtain some from some Christian Missionaries in the area.
My background differed from my housemate in that I am descended from a long line of American-Irish-Catholics. And, seeing that he was able to obtain "Protestant" Bibles, I, naturally, had to search for "Catholic" Bibles for the small handful of Catholic students at the school.
Unfortunately, I was unable to get copies of "Catholic" Bibles from the Irish Missionary priests who covered our town.
Several months later, I was in Kaduna, the regional capital, on school business. Ah ha, I thought, perhaps I can get some "Catholic" bibles from the Chancery [Bishop's] Office.
So, mid-afternoon I went to the Irish SMA mission house. I knocked on the door and was greeted by a youngish [ 30's ] Irish priest. I cannot remember the exact date, but we sat inside, so it must have been during the rainy season. Anyway, he was dressed like most priests, big baggy British military shorts and a shirt. We went inside were we both enjoyed an afternoon Star Beer and cigarettes. I told him that I was with the Peace Corps and was teaching at the Bida Provincial Secondary School and was there to ask about getting some "Catholic" bibles for our school. He understood about the local Etsu Nupe not paying for them.
As we were chatting, an "older" [ 60's] priest walked in. He was noticeable because he was actually wearing a white cassock! Quite unusual during the week. About the only time that priests wore cassocks was on Sunday, to say mass. Likely, the warm climate had something to do with our dress.
I stood up and introduced myself "...I'm Brian Boyle..."
In a fairly thick Irish brogue, he replied "...I'm Jack McCarthy..."
Then, in his brogue he asked, "...where are you from?..."
I replied "...the States.."
He then asks "...where in the States?..."
“...New Jersey.." I answered. "
...Oh, where in New Jersey?..." he said.
"...Bayonne.." said I. "
...oh, I have relatives in Elizabeth, I know where you are from. I have been there to visit them..."
We chatted for a few more moments and then he excused himself and left.
I then turned to the young priest to whom I had been talking and asked "...who was that?..."
"...that..." he said "...is the ARCHBISHOP!..."
It was then that I realized that the white cassock had purple buttons down the front!
Then, the young priest went on to tell me a little about the Archbishop.
He had been a mission priest in Nigeria for about 30 years. After he was ordained a Bishop, the diocese had a Bishop's house built for him. He donated it to the Catholic nuns to be used as orphanages. When he was made an Archbishop, they built another Bishop's residence for him. Again, he turned it over to the nuns to be used as an orphanage.
He was still living in the same mission room that he had occupied for years.
And, at that time, the Vatican II was about to start in Rome. He did not want to go! He did not want to spend the diocese money on the airfare and hotel bills. Additionally, he did not want to have to buy all the fancy church robes that he would be required to wear at the Vatican Council. He had looked into renting the robes and found out that he could not. He didn’t need all the finery and didn’t want it. All he wanted to be was a mission priest in Nigeria.
Oh, they didn’t have any Catholic Bibles either. I thanked the “young” missionary priest and left.
You know, I never forgot "Jack McCarthy", or rather His Eminence Archbishop John McCarthy!
Brian Boyle, Nigeria VI
Archbishop John MacCarthy, S.M.A. (1959.07.16 – 1975.06.12) Born: 1902.06.21 (Ireland) Ordained Priest: 1929.06.09 Consecrated Bishop: 1954.08.15 Died: 1975.06.12 († 72) Prefect Apostolic of Kaduna (Nigeria) (1943.05.14 – 1953.06.29) Bishop of Kaduna (Nigeria) (1953.06.29 – 1959.07.16) Metropolitan Archbishop of Kaduna (Nigeria) (1959.07.16 – 1975.06.12)