Archbishop John Joseph McCarthy

Through the cherished desire by the Assumption Sisters of Nairobi (ASN) to know the life and apostolic ministry of their founder, Archbishop John Joseph McCarthy (C.S. SP), The views and opinions here were collected mainly from his own speeches, his sermons and written notes and from established written sources.

John Joseph McCarthy was born of Patrick and Mary McCarthy in Donegal, Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare, Ireland, on 27th April 1896 and baptized on 29th April 1896 at Kilmurry-Ibrickane, Killaloe Diocese, Ireland. He grew up in a large family. The young John Joseph McCarthy received his primary education at a National School in Donegal, Milltown Malbay, Co. Clare, before the family moved to Myllagh, about seven miles away.

 On 3rd September 1910, John Joseph McCarthy went for his secondary school, John Joseph began acquiring some background leadership skills from his parents; his father was a local Council in Co. Claire. When he was young, John Joseph used to go to County meetings with his father Patrick McCarthy. His family background became the foundation of his principles of approach to mission work.

John Joseph McCarthy’s treasured dream was to exercise public ministry as a religious by virtue of Baptism, Confirmation and a call to Charity. He had experienced the life of the Holy Ghost Fathers from his community and in the schools he had attended. A verse in the Gospel based Missionary hymn of the Holy Ghost Congregation touched and inspired his heart in a profound manner through these words: Go ye afar, go teach all nations; Bear witness unto me, on earth, in every clime; And l wish you shall be, until the end of the time… (Mt 28: 19-20)

Reflecting on this verse, John Joseph McCarthy began to feel the need to consecrate himself to the Lord. After reasonable preparations he made a decision and requested the Holy Ghost Fathers Order to be accepted in the religious life and priesthood. He took his perpetual vows on 28th September 1924 and was ordained a priest on 24th June 1925 at the age of 29 years. He was consecrated to the apostolate on 29th June 1926, and appointed as missionary to East Africa and it became the main arena for the life and work of the young Irish Missionary, Fr John Joseph McCarthy. His first mission was in Morogoro in the present-day Tanzania, and his second mission was in Dar-es-Salaam in the same country.

Monsignor John Joseph McCarthy was ordained Bishop in 1946 and became the Apostolic Vicar of Zanzibar. He took responsibility for the evangelization of present day Tanzania and the vast territory that encompasses the current dioceses of Nairobi, Mombasa, Kitui, Machakos, Ngong and Nakuru. He became the first Archbishop of Nairobi in 1953 and was very successful in the expansion of the Catholic Church in these areas.

Archbishop John Joseph McCarthy served in tough, challenging and often life-threatening situations but he never gave up. He remained focused and astute, serving the whole of East and West Africa during and after World War II as a diplomat. The story of Archbishop John Joseph McCarthy is a thrill, eye-opening and an inspiration; in fact, must read for priests, religious and lay people engaged in evangelization in their own local or in missionary settings.

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