Dennis Austin Daley was born in Peoria, Illinois, on August 25, 1930, the only child of Lawrence A. and Alfreda Zeller Daley. His primary education was taken at St. Mark Catholic Grade School in Peoria from 1936 to 1938, and Washington Public School in Washington, Illinois from 1938 to 1944. He attended Spalding Institute in Peoria from 1944 to 1948, for his seconadary education, then went on to Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa from 1948 to 1950.
In late Summer of 1950, he entered the Dominican Order, receiving the habit and his religious name of Colum on August 30 of that year, at St. Peter Martyr Priory in Winona, Minnesota. First profession was made on August 31, 1951, after which he moved to the Dominican House of Studies in River Forest, Illinois, to study philosophy, attaining the degree of B.Ph. in 1953. He then moved on to St. Rose Priory and Aquinas Institute in Dubuque, Iowa for his theological studies. On May 25, 1957, he was ordained to the priesthood in Dubuque, then completed another year of studies there in theology.
Because he had carpentry and other practical skills, Father Daley was assigned to the young Dominican mission in Nigeria, arriving in Kano on June 15, 1958. Assigned first to Gusau, he quickly mastered Hausa and also learned quite a bit of Yoruba and Igbo. To the end of his life, in every house in which he lived, he always spared time for practical services: plumbing, carpentry, mechanics and any other kind of maintenance. After a leave, in 26 January 1962 he went on to open the parish of St. Vincent Ferrer at Malumfashi, at first living in a mud hut with a grass roof. At the end of April 1964 he went up to Katsina as the first resident priest of St. Martin de Porres Church “outside the walls,” and was stationed there until, as a result of the riots of June 1966, he left for St. Dominic’s, Yaba on 10 June 1966.
In April 1975 he became pastor and superior of St. Dominic’s, Yaba, at the same time editing The Vicarate newsletter and running a homily series in The Independent. In 1979 he also began working on the Marriage Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Lagos.
In September 1981 he moved back to the Ibadan priory where, besides itinerant preaching, he served as an Officialis for the Dioceses of Lagos, Ibadan and Ijebu-Ode, developing his expertise in Canon Law, which he shared in a weekly column in The Independent. He celebrated his 25th ordination anniversary in Ibadan on 8 June 1982. In October 1983 he published Love and marriage.
In 1984 he was appointed a member of the Canon Law Commission of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN), a position which he held until his death. When the Vice-Province of Nigeria was established by the Master of the Order (2 April 1985), he elected to affiliate with the new vice-province. In 1985 he moved to Agbor as associate pastor, at the same time serving as judicial vicar for the Lagos Interdiocesan Tribunal and the Diocese of Issele-Uku. On 31 May 1989 he was transferred to Gusau as pastor of Our Lady of Fatima Church, as well as Promotor of Permanent Formation for the vice-province. In the latter job he issued a monthly study guide which was well researched and practical.
In May 1993 Colum Daley went on leave after cancer of the colon had been diagnosed in Ibadan. He had an operation at Loyola in Maywood, and after convalescence was given a clean bill of health. After returning to Nigeria, in Gusau he developed joint pains and came to Ibadan for examination. A return of cancer was suspected, but the tests turned out negative. Meanwhile, he had been diagnosed as having malaria, and hindsight showed that all his symptoms could be explained by a case of severe malaria. Fr. Lawrence Agu visited him at U.C.H. on the afternoon of 10 February 1994 and came back telling the community that Colum was in a serious condition, finding it difficult to breathe. Many brothers promptly went to be with him. He was sitting up in bed, and commented that he really said his prayers that day. Then he began joking with us as we excused ourselves for not bringing some “green bottles.” Around 10:00 P.M. he said we should be getting home, since it was late, but we said, “Let’s wait at least until the drip finishes.” A little later his breathing became more difficult and he announced to Fr. Chukwubikem that he was dying. “Give me absolution. I forgive all who have offended me and I ask pardon of all whom I have offended.” Afterwards Chukwubikem rushed back to the house to bring Communion, which Colum devoutly received. We asked if we should say the rosary; he said no, but after a minute said to go ahead. He even loudly joined in some of the Hail Marys. At a point he said he could not breath sitting in the bed, and asked to go to a chair. He got out of bed and sat on the hard chair almost unaided. Around then the doctor came and commented that he would be all right. Colum answered, “Sorry, doctor, you failed. I will be dead in ten minutes.” The rosary went on and shortly after midnight his breathing stopped and his eyes went blank, but he continued to sit erect. The doctor got him on the bed and tried to pump his heart, but in a few seconds we realized he and gone. It was November 2, 1994. We at once began the Dominican Salve, then gathered his things and went back to the Community to summon everyone to the Office of the Dead in the church.
The funeral Mass was celebrated on November 15, 1994 with Archbishop A. O. Okogie as chief celebrant. Concelebrating were Bishop S. A. Sanusi, bishop emeritus of Ijebu-Ode, Bishop A. O. Gbuji of Issele-Uku, Bishop A. Faina of Ijebu-Ode, Bishop Ay-Maria Atoyebi, O.P., of Ilorin, and over a hundred priests. Laity from Lagos, Gusau etc. added to the throng. Fr. Peter Otillio delivered the homily. Burial took place at the Priory cemetery in Ibadan.
From the “The Lives of the Brethren 1990-1994” page on the Web site of the Dominican Friars Province of St. Joseph the Worker (Nigeria and Ghana).
This article is reproduced, with permission, from the “The Lives of the Brethren 1990-1994” page on the Web site of the Dominican Friars Province of St. Joseph the Worker (Nigeria and Ghana). All rights reserved.