RICHARD M. WOLFE (1919–2003)
Richard Michael Wolfe was born on December 9, 1919, on New Street, Abbeyfeale, County Limerick. He was the son of Richard Barrett Wolfe, a pharmacist who lived with his family above the shop, and Catherine Elizabeth Colbert Wolfe. His siblings were Johanna Frances (b. 1914), Hanora Josephine (b. 1915), Cornelius Colbert “Con” (b. 1917), and Michael Joseph Colbert (b. 1922). All of them became priests or nuns.
Wolfe’s parents were active nationalists before and during the War of Independence (1919–1921). Catherine Wolfe’s younger brother, Con Colbert, participated in the Easter Rising of 1916 and was one of fifteen men executed at Kilmainham jail, in Dublin. Dick Wolfe’s pharmacy became a hub of nationalist activity, and in 1920 it was damaged by the Black and Tans after the Irish Republican Army killed a local constable.
Richard Wolfe joined the same Spiritan Congregation, in Kilshane, County Tipperary, as his brothers Con and Michael Wolfe, professing his vows on September 10, 1938 He was ordained a priest on July 13, 1947. Founded in 1703, the Spiritans, also known as the Holy Ghost Fathers, began working with former slaves in Haiti in the 1840s and in Africa in the 1860s, opening schools and hospitals.
Father Wolfe worked in The Gambia, in West Africa, for nine years, before transferring to Killmambogo Teachers College, in Kenya, in 1960. He moved to Nairobi in 1969 and lived there for the rest of his life. He died after a short illness on October 11, 2003, and is buried in Saint Austin’s Cemetery, Nairobi.