Father Norman Davitt SVD, who celebrated his 100th birthday on 29 March, died on Saturday 16 October in Donamon, Co Roscommon, after 80 years in religious life.
Father Davitt possessed an independent and lively spirit as well as his humour and closeness to people. He became well known all over the country for delivering cards and meeting people. He said that he travelled about 200,000 miles, making great friends wherever he went.
According to Father Timothy Lehane SVD, Provincial of the Divine Word Missionaries in Ireland and Great Britain, “Father Norman could trace his Irish roots back to his grandfather Thomas Davitt, who hailed from Ballyhaunis, Co Mayo. He arrived in Ireland the day the Second World War broke out in 1939 to begin his noviciate in the newly opened Divine Word Missionary House, Donamon. Fr Norman used to say, ‘While my brothers were fighting the Germans on the battlefields, I was living with fellow priests from Germany, who were serving in Donamon.’ He was a much loved and respected priest.”
Born in 1921 in Birmingham, to Thomas Davitt and Annie Elizabeth Wolfe, he joined the Divine Word Missionaries in 1933 as a minor seminarian in Droitwich, near Birmingham. After three years in Donamon, he went back to England to study philosophy at the Birmingham Diocesan Seminary in Oscott before studying theology at the Divine Word College, Techny, northeast of Chicago. He was ordained in Techny on 15 August 1947, before returning to England. However, the pull of Donamon proved irresistible, and in 1952 he returned to work there, visiting diocesan colleges all over the country, in pursuit of vocations for the SVD.
In 1955 he travelled to Rourkela, India. In 1963 he was sent to Papua New Guinea, where he remained until 1997, mostly spent in the remote highlands of the country.
On his 100th birthday, he wrote: “I’m very content and at peace with myself. I wouldn’t change a thing; I’ve enjoyed my life. I’ve lived here in Donamon for 18 years and when I first returned, I felt immediately at home and love my time here. I don’t feel 100… I’ve lived a good life. I’ve always been busy, never idle. I’ve enjoyed life and I avoid stress: I’ve never got too stressed about anything in life.”