In September 1908 the Society of African Missions opened Ballinafad College to accommodate students preparing for the missionary priesthood as a secondary school or minor seminary. The original house was a gift to the society by Llewellyn Count Blake in May of that year. The society itself was founded in France in 1856 and came to Ireland (to Cork) in 1876.
Ballinafad College became the SMA Minor Seminary and thousands of young men from all over Ireland received their secondary schooling there until the mid-1970s, when the school was sold to Balla mart and became an agricultural college for a period. During that near 70-year period, between 400 and 500 pupils went on to be ordained to the missionary priesthood in the SMA. A number also went on to other seminaries and were ordained priests. A whole host of Ballinafad students went on to enjoy very successful careers as lay people.
The society’s noviciate during this same period was located near Kilcolgan, Co Galway. This noviciate was relocated to Cork in about 1970. Today the base for the SMA fathers in the west is in Claregalway, where it continues to receive widespread support throughout the west for its missionary work in Africa.
To mark the occasion of the centenary of the opening a function will be held for all the neighbours, friends and past pupils of Ballinafad College. It will take place in Mayo Abbey parish church and hall, the parish where Ballinafad is located, tonight (Friday) September 26. It will consist of a thanksgiving Mass followed by a social, where there will be refreshments and some dancing. The Mass will begin at 8pm.
The SMA fathers are expecting a good turn-out and a great night of memories and meeting old friends, of music and dance is assured. Anyone with any connection with Ballinafad College will be most welcome to attend.