A Hyde Park priest was recently honored in Nigeria for his missionary work in that country more than 50 years ago.
The Rev. Peter Nolan, who heads the Most Precious Blood parish, was named a chief of the Nimo tribe for his work during the Nigerian Civil War.
“I never expected that this was going to happen,” said Nolan, 79.
The title of “chief” is given by the tribe to honor those who have made an impact on the community. Nolan was presented with beads to wear around his neck and other adornments. Many of the villagers also gave him gifts of live chickens and squash, though he couldn’t bring them back with him to Boston.
In the 1960s, a 30-year old Nolan was stationed in Eastern Nigeria as a missionary for the Holy Ghost Roman Catholic Missionary Society, and worked to create schools and preach Catholicism.
When the Nigerian Civil War began in 1967, many missionaries left the country, but Nolan stayed to help organize the import of food and medicine into the village, said Reverend Dr. Tony Byrne, who was the director of the relief program for the churches in the area.
He also transported some local children out of the country to save their lives, since thousands were dying from malnutrition, said Byrne.
“Every day, children were dying in that area,” he said. “They gave him a great honor because they still remember him.''
After the war, Nolan worked in other countries, and eventually ended up in Boston, where he has been for the last 30 years. He now heads the Most Precious Blood church, as well St. Pius X, a parish in Milton.
Dshaikh Izuchukwu, a member of the tribe who left Nigeria and now lives in Los Angeles, tracked down Nolan for the honor.
“He didn’t recognize me, but I recognized him," said Izuchukwu, who was about 12 or 13 during the war and confirmed Nolan achievements during the war.
“It was a great thing and an honor for us to make sure he was still alive and make him part of the community where he did so much,” he said.