Father Paul Neri Augustine Felix
The man of cordial manner
He loved the Comboni Institute and spared no effort to fulfil its aims and in the same way he loved the Church and spent his life in its service.
Fr. Paul Felix's sudden death on 10 November - he was only sixty-one - was a great shock to many. A Londoner by birth, Fr. Paul's mother was from Co Mayo, in Ireland. He was only eleven when he asked to join our Junior Seminary, with the enthusiastic approval of his parish priest. It was as a junior seminarian in Yorkshire that he first showed that spirit of kindness and innate goodness that made him so fit to be a missionary, never refusing to do cheerfully and willingly all that was asked of him and much more. Scotland was the scene of his novitiate, followed by studies at the Missionary Institute, London leading to his ordination in Morden, London, in 1981. After a period three and a half years as Vice-Rector of the Junior Seminary where he was very much appreciated also for his tireless work, he achieved his ambition to be a missionary in Africa. He ministered from 1984 to 1992 in the Ethiopian Province. This first experience of his was, like the language of the place, by no means easy.
In 1992, he was recalled to serve in England at Sacred Heart Church, Sunningdale where he was also Superior of the community. Two years later, he was asked to go to Leeds where, on his own, he ran the Missions Office on weekdays and did Mission Appeals at weekends. In 1999, he returned to the Province of Ethiopia-Eritrea. Haikota was a difficult area of mission but, with his inimitable style, Fr. Paul, threw himself into the work. War broke out between Ethiopia and Eritrea and the Ethiopian army invaded the territory. He was obliged to leave Haikota and go to the more secure city of Asmara.
In 2004, the General Council appointed him to the London Province of which he became Provincial that same year. He was also placed in charge of the Secretariat for Missionary Animation in the European Provinces. He was the deciding factor in assuming the commitment of the parish of Battersea (south-west London), for ministry among asylum-seekers, refugees and immigrants. During that period, he was also editor of 'Comboni Mission', and regularly preached Mission Appeals.
He spent the last three years of his life in Leeds, again in charge of the Missions Office and surprised everyone with his efficiency, his cordial manner and his ability to maintain good relations with everyone.
The real contribution Fr. Paul Felix made to the Comboni Institute is probably known only to the Almighty but it is certainly true to say that he was a man who struggled to see the meaning of this world of contradictions.
He got along well with people of many nationalities and yet was totally true to himself; He was a Londoner born and bred but never forgot his Irish roots; he loved the Comboni Institute and spared no effort to fulfil its aims; he loved the Church and spent his life in its service.
We thank God for the gift of Fr. Paul's all-too-short life among us and ask that we may understand what he struggled to teach us.
Vincent Anthony Maguire
With courage and determination
He spent 35 years in Africa in his dedicated work in the field of religious education in schools. During his last years spent battling with cancer that Fr. Vincent really showed the determination and courage. He was living proof that, like Daniel Comboni, the missionary must never consider any obstacle too great, any situation beyond redemption, as we take up the Cross and follow our Lord and Master.
Vincent Anthony Maguire was born in 1933, the youngest of ten children, in the County of Monaghan in Ireland. He had a sound Catholic upbringing but could only complete primary school as a secondary education was beyond the financial means of the family. From his early years, he had felt a strong desire to be a missionary priest but his options were few and he went to the capital city of Dublin where he worked as a footman at the Italian Embassy.
As Divine Providence would have it, Vincent was one day walking down the main thorough-fare of Dublin, O'Connell Street, when he stopped to chat at a Legion of Mary bookstall manned by a young man by the name of Sean Russell (who would himself become a Verona Father). In the course of their conversation, they discovered that they had something in common - a budding vocation to the missionary priesthood. Vincent expressed his own poor prospects of ever fulfilling his dream. Like a good Legionary, Sean informed Vincent that an Italian priest would shortly come to interview him and suggested he, too, come along and meet this missionary priest. Vincent did so, met Fr Polato FCCJ and, at the age of eighteen went to Sunningdale to commence his course of formation that would lead him to the marvellous adventures of his missionary life in England and Italy, then to Uganda, in Africa and eventually back to England and, last of all, to Bunnoe where his funeral took place on 3 December, 2016.
Sunningdale and a place in the Novitiate seemed to be a dream fulfilled but Vincent still had a long way to go. Unsurprisingly, he found philosophy difficult. He even found it difficult to read or speak at times due to his pronounced stammer.
It so happened that his Novice Master and one of the professors of philosophy recognised his intelligence and good will and took him under their wing. The result was that Vincent went through his studies with flying colours and crowned his academic achievements with a degree from the University of East Africa, Kampala, Uganda.
Although he willingly served on the home front as Rector of Mirfield Junior Seminary and as Chaplin to Overseas Student for a number of years, Fr. Vincent was most at home in his beloved Uganda. There he spent 35 years and was especially noted for his dedicated work in the field of religious education in schools. Those who worked with him testify to his respectful and gentlemanly way of dealing with people. This surely helped as he organised very active teachers' organisations, gaining the appreciation of the local clergy, his own confreres and all who worked with him.
Perhaps it was during his last years spent battling with cancer that Fr. Vincent really showed the determination and courage that had served him so well ever since he first heard the call to mission. He had overcome many obstacles in the past; not even his serious illness would discourage him.
Fr. Vincent liked nothing better than a nice meal with friends in a good restaurant. In fact, despite the protests of his 'more sensible' colleagues, he enjoyed a nice meal in a Chinese restaurant with an old friend the very day before he died (12 November, 2016).