From all the team at Irish Jesuits International we would like to send our thoughts and prayers to the family, friends and loved one’s of Brother Gabriel McKinney who departs this life leaving behind fond memories of his time and work in Zambia.
Gabriel McKinney was born on 27 February 1934 in Derry, Northern Ireland, of Thomas and Mary (née Crossan) McKinney. He went to primary school at St Eugenes and then later at St Columbus College.
He entered the Society at Emo in 1956. Afterwards he did some juniorate in Milltown Park before being missioned to Northern Rhodesia in 1962. He spent two years at St Ignatius, Lusaka gaining mechanical experience in a city garage preparing himself for his life’s work in the garage at Chikuni.
He took his final vows in Chikuni in 1966 and later joined the newly founded Vice-Province of Zambia in 1969. In Chikuni he took charge of the garage and all things regarding the up-keep and functioning of a large and varied fleet of motor vehicles. These were absolutely essential in the pastoral activities that were carried out not only from Chikuni itself, but also from the more-or-less dependent parishes of Monze, Chivuna, Fumbo and Kasiya.
In addition, there were the tractors and other machinery for the farm, as well as the pumps that crucial for the water irrigation. Gabriel and his team were always there to keep them in good working condition, even if at times they had to coax some of them back to life after the daily wear and tear.
A noteworthy factor in all of Gabriel’s garage work was his success in transmitting his knowledge and skills to many local young men. Some of these stayed with him for years, working alongside him. Others left and went on to start small-scale mechanics business and centres of their own. Gabriel may not always have been aware of it, but the work he was doing made a major contribution to the economic independence of the people and to their all-important food security.
Having spent more than 50 years in Chikuni, Gabriel became almost the embodiment of that community. He was a warm-hearted man who dedicated his life to making the lives of others better through his mechanic hands, upskilling and outreach to teachers and the wider parish community.
Go well, Brother Gabriel. Rest in Peace.