Born: 24 April 1921, Limerick City
Entered: 07 September 1939, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1953, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1956, Wah Yan College, Hong Kong
Died: 04 September 2006, Cherryfield Lodge, Dublin
Part of the Coláiste Iognáid, Galway community at the time of death.
Transcribed HIB to HK: 03 December 1966; HK to HIB: 21 May 1993
by 1948 at Hong Kong - Regency
by 1958 at Cheung Chau, Hong Kong - Regency studying language
◆ Hong Kong Catholic Archives :
Hong Kong says farewell to a friend and a scholar
Around 500 people gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on 14 September for a memorial Mass, celebrated by the local ordinary, Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, to mourn the passing of a much-loved teacher and creative administrator, who began the process of systemising Catholic education in the diocese.
A revered teacher at both Wah Yan College in Kowloon and in Hong Kong, Jesuit Father Joseph Foley died in his native Ireland at 11pm on 4 September 2006 at a nursing home in Dublin. Born in Limerick on 24 April 1921, Father Foley entered the Society of Jesus at Emo, Ireland, in September 1939, and eight years later was appointed to the China mission, arriving in Canton for language studies in 1947.
Forced to leave the mainland in 1949, he taught as a scholastic in the Hong Kong Wah Yan campus for one year before returning to Ireland to finish his theological studies and final formation for priesthood. He was ordained at Milltown Park, Dublin, on the feast of St. Ignatius, 31 July 1953.
The year 1955 again saw him teaching in Wah Yan, once again at the Hong Kong school. Then after another year studying Cantonese at Xavier House in Cheung Chau, he was back teaching, an activity he continued for the next 13 years, alternating between the Kowloon and Wan Chai schools. He did a stint as principal in Kowloon from 1962-1968, then in 1970 completed a masters’ degree in education at Loyola College in Chicago, the United States of America.
The photograph published with this tribute to the man who is remembered as much for his joviality, good humour and ceaseless care for students as for his excellence in education, is one of fond memory for many alumni of both colleges. “It is how we remember him,” reads a short obituary on the alumni Website.
The tribute comments that the value of a teacher can be measured by the number of past pupils who take the trouble to revisit. “You may be comforted to learn that of late, many old boys have written to the late Father Foley and a few even made the trip (to Ireland) especially to visit him,” the Website tribute reads.
Father Foley spent 1973 and 1974 setting up a junior college of education in Singapore, returning to Hong Kong in 1978 to take up what was maybe his greatest professional challenge, an appointment as the first Episcopal vicar for education in the diocese. His successor, Alice Woo Lo-ming, said that it was a difficult time of “breaking the ice.” She explained that up until then, each school had operated quite independently, but Father Foley persistently wrote to the Education Department on various issues and “worked hard to promote “collaboration” between the different institutions.
“It was difficult work,” she said. “Many were not so willing to move.” However, she said that his legendary sense of humour assisted him to break through deadlocks and “he tried to make central management work and drew up guidelines for the Catholic Board of Education and the diocesan and religious councils.”
Woo said that “he achieved much, even though he was a one man office with only one secretary to assist him.”
Father Foley stepped down in 1991 and returned to Ireland to work in parishes until ill health forced his retirement earlier this year.
Sunday Examiner Hong Kong - 24 September 2006
◆ Biographical Notes of the Jesuits in Hong Kong 1926-2000, by Frederick Hok-ming Cheung PhD, Wonder Press Company 2013 ISBN 978 9881223814 :
He first came to Hong Kong as a Regent in 1947 and went to Guangzhou to learn Cantonese.
1949-1950 He was sent to Wa Yan College Hong Kong teaching
1950-1955 He went back to ireland for Theology and was Ordained in 1953.
1955-1968 He returned to Hong Kong and Wah Yan College Hong Kong. By 1962 he was Proncipal there (1962-1968)
1968-1971 He was sent to Wah Yan Kowloon
1971-1972 He went to the USA to gain a Masters in Education
1972-1973 He was sent to Singapore (Principal of Catholic Junior College)
1973-1977 He was back in Hong Kong at Wah Yan College, Hong Kong
1977 He was appointed Episcopal Vicar for Education. His task was to coordinate the work of all Catholic schools in the territory. An educationalist of many years standing, he said in an interview that there were many problems i Hong Kong’s educational system. A particular issue was about education in the vernacular. He believed that each school should form its own policy, but all parties locally must discuss the vernacular issue thoroughly before coming to any decision.
Sermon at the Requiem Mass for Fr Joseph Foley SJ, by Freddie Deignan SJ on 14 September 2006 (excerpts) :
“We gather here this evening to celebrate the Eucharist and to thank God for the gift of the life of Fr Joseph Foley who has passed away and to pray for the repose of his soul. We remember him as he touched the lives of many of us here. Today happens to be the Feast of the Triumph of the Cross.....His death on the Cross has made it possible for us to join him in the eternal happiness of Heaven. Father Foley is now enjoying that happiness......and we should celebrate that he has finally reached his home safely and joyfully after a life of service.......
He was born in Limerick on April 24th 1921. He entered the Society of Jesus when he was 18 years old and went through the usual course of studies. He got an Arts Degree at University College Dublin and this was followed by three years of Philosophy. He first came to Hong Kong in 1947 when he was 26 years old, studied Chinese in Canton for two years and then spent a year teaching at Wah Yan College Hong Kong.
He returned to Ireland to study Theology and was Ordained on 31st July 1953. So, he died having been 53 years a priest. In 1955 he came back to Hong Kog, which was to be his home for 34 years. He first spent a year at Cheung Chau trying to improve his Chinese, and in 1962 he was appointed Rector and Principal of Wah Yan College Kowloon. he held this post until 1968. He was fondly known as “James Bond”, as people thought he looked like Seán Connery, and his office was 007!
I knew him at this period of his life as I worked with him as Prefect of Studies. As a newcomer in education I learned so much from him about education in Hong Kong, about teaching and administration. I was only a raw recruit then.
So, I am very grateful to him. His example of personal care and thoughtfulness for teachers and students and of those he met or worked with was an example and inspiration to me.
So, I am very grateful to him and I owe him a lot.
He loved teaching, was lively and active in class, so no student would fall asleep in his class! He participated in all the school activities, and he particularly loved playing football, and he usually played in goal.
He was always concerned about the character formation of the students and made great efforts to instil in them Christian values. In his concern for the formation of the students, he organised groups of students to do social work for the poor, sick and the elderly during the summer months. He wished them to be willing to serve others. Of course he led them by example.
Students in the school obviously admired him for his care for each one of them, and his generosity, as he often visited them in their homes. In administration he had wonderful analytical abilities and he could sum up the main points of a book, document or article very easily. This was very useful when it came to dealing with documents from the Education Department.
He also had a very good memory. he was very good at cantonese, and in his good humour used love to make fun and joke in the language. His ability to lead was obvious and he earned the trust of teachers, staff and all with whom he worked. he won their cooperation and respect by his dedication, hard work, fairness and his friendship and care for each one. There was a break in his life in Hong Kong when he was sent to study for a Masters Degree in Education at Loyola University Chicago.. This was a preparation for him to take up a post as Principal at a Catholic Junior College in Singapore.. When this project failed to materialise, he returned to Hong Kong in 1973. he again taught in Wah Yan when Father Barrett was principal until 1977, when he was appointed by Bishop John Baptist Wu as the first Bishop’s Delegate for Education, and Chairman of the newly formed Catholic Education Board which replaced the Catholic Schools Council. There were then 309 Catholic schools in Hong Kong. This was a very challenging job. he helped coordinate, unify and improve the system of administration in the Catholic Schools of the Diocese, and helped set up the Central Management Committee of Diocesan schools. He wrote many responses to changes proposed by the Education Department on behalf of the Catholic schools after discussion with the Diocesan Schools Council and Religious Schools Council.
After 14 years of service he resigned his post as Delegate and was succeeded by Sister Marie Remedios, now Mother General of the Canossian Congregation.
Besides Father Foley was a member of the Inter-religious Committee on Religious Broadcasting and later became Chairman. He was a commentator for the broadcast Mass for Radio Hong Kong and often did the job of announcer and commentator in English for the Feast of Christ the King in the Government Stadium. He was Secretary in Hong Kong for the Jesuit Mass Media Apostolate, and was one time Chair if the Grant Schools Council.
He returned to Ireland in 1992 to rest and change his apostolate from education to pastoral work. He served as an Assistant to the Parish priest in S Francis Xavier’s Church in Dublin until 2000, when he took similar work in St Ignatius Galway. Early in 2006 he began to show the effects of terminal cancer and he was moved to Dublin and the Jesuit nursing home. When I was back in Ireland this summer I went to visit him on July 18th, and again before I left on August 7th. I noticed his condition had deteriorated from the time of my first visit. He had little energy but he was very resigned, peaceful and still very humourous. He knew his life on earty was coming to a close. He wanted to know all the news about Hong Kong, about the Church, education and Wah Yan Past Students. He expressed his gratitude to all who wrote to him and sent “get well” cards, and to those especially who came all the way from Hong Kong or Canada to visit him. He knew that I was going to attend the Wah Yan Alumni conference in Vancouver and said “Tell them how I am and thank them for their kind invitation”.
A former teacher in Wah Yan, Helen Lee went to visit him from Toronto and she wrote a letter to the Past Students : “Some of you may cherish fond recollections of Father Foley. Others may remember him by his nickname 007! He taught us the best thigs to choose. Yes I mean us, including myself. As a former colleague in Wah Yan and a friend ever since, I have benefitted much from Father Foley’s teachings, not just his words, but in deeds as well.
When I paid him a brief visit at the end of April this year, I was impressed by his calm disposition in his illness. He was quite frail and lacked energy. Most of the time he stayed in bed. Yet he made quite an effort to entertain visitors. He showed much concern and consideration for others around him. He was very courteous to the staff caregivers. he lived Christ’s teaching of being meek and humble of heart.
The Alumni of ‘62 compiled a book entitled “To Father with Love” for him. It is a collection of photos and writings from them. he showed me this invaluable souvenir. As I read through it, I learned more about the good he had done for his students. It was little wonder that they held him with love and affection”.
What inspired Father Foley was his deep love of Christ who loved him.......
We thank God for him, and I know he would like me to thank all those people who shared their love and care with him, especially during his illness........."
Interfuse No 133 : Special Issue September 2007
Fr Joseph (Joe) Foley (1921-2006)
24th April 1921: Born in Limerick
Early education at Model School, CBS Sexton St. Limerick
7th September 1939: Entered the Society at Emo
8th September 1941: First Vows at Emo
1941 - 1944: Rathfarnham - Studied Arts at UCD.
1944 - 1947: Tullabeg - Studied Philosophy
1947 - 1950: Hong Kong
1947 - 1949: Language studies
1949 - 1950: Wah Yan, HK -Teaching.
1950 - 1954: Milltown Park - Studied Theology
31st July 1953: Ordained at Milltown Park
1954 - 1955: Tertianship at Rathfarnham
2nd February 1956: Final Vows at Hong Kong
1955 - 1992: Hong Kong
1955 - 1962: Wah Yan, Hong Kong - Teaching
1956 - 1957: Cheung Chau Language School
31st July 1966: Transcribed to Hong Kong
1962 - 1968: Wah Yan, Hong Kong - Rector
1968 - 1970: Wah Yan, Kowloon - Teaching
1970 - 1973: Loyola, Chicago - M.A. in Education
1973 - 1974: Singapore - Junior College of Education
1974 - 1977: Wah Yan College, Hong Kong - Teaching
1977 - 1992: Vicar for Religious
1992 - 2000: Gardiner Street -
1992 - 1995: Parish Curate
31st July 1993: Transcribed to Irish Province
1995 - 2000: Assisted in the Church
1998 - 2000: House Consultor
2000 - 2006: Galway Assisted in Church, Spiritual Director (SJ)
4th September 2006: Died in Cherryfield Lodge
Frank Doyle writes:
Two days after his birth, Joe Foley, son of Denis Foley and Alice Gould, was baptised in St Michael's Church in Limerick and at the age of 12 received the Sacrament of Confirmation from Bishop D. Keane in St Joseph's Church, also in Limerick, on the feast of Sts Peter and Paul, 1933. He received his secondary education at the Irish Christian Brothers' School in Sexton Street and completed it by doing' his Leaving Certificate in 1939.
On September 3, 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. It was the formal beginning of the Second World War. Four days later, on September 7, Joe entered the Society at Emo Park in Co. Laois. His novice master was Fr John Neary.
There then followed the usual six years of Juniorate in Rathfarnham from 1941-1944 and Philosophy at St Stanislaus' College, Tullabeg, 1944-1947. For his regency he was assigned to the Irish Province's Mission in Hong Kong and spent three years there from 1947 to 1950. As was the custom, he spent the first two years studying the Cantonese dialect, used in Hong Kong, and then taught for one further year in Wah Yan College, Robinson Road, in the Mid-Levels district of Hong Kong Island.
It was during this period that Joe became part of an “incident” which could have had unpleasant consequences. He was with two other scholastics - Donal Taylor and Martin Cryan - in Macau, the Portuguese enclave about 40 miles down the coast from Hong Kong. They passed through an archway on the edge of the territory with the intention of taking photographs on the other side. However, they had unwittingly crossed the border dividing Macau from China. They were arrested by Chinese police and taken into custody. Fortunately, through the good offices of a wealthy Portuguese in Macau, their early release was arranged.
In 1950 Joe returned to Ireland for his theological studies and finished with a Licentiate in Theology. At the end of his third year he was ordained to the priesthood on 31 July 1953. Theology was followed by Tertianship in Rathfarnham Castle in 1954-55 where the directors were Fathers John Neary and Hugo Kelly.
With the completion of his Jesuit formation, Joe returned to the Hong Kong Mission and took up teaching again at Wah Yan College. Just at this time, in 1955, Wah Yan moved from its original location in Robinson Road to a brand new building on Mount Parrish in the Wanchai district of Hong Kong Island. A year after his return, Joe made his Final Vows on 2 February 1956.
In 1957 Joe was made Minister at Xavier House on the offshore island of Cheung Chau and held the post for one year. Xavier House had become the language school for Jesuits arriving for the first time in Hong Kong. It replaced some previous venues - Loyola in the New Territories, which was used up the time of the Second World War, Canton (before the Communists moved in), the Missions Etrangeres de Paris (MEP) house in Battery Path in downtown Hongkong.
In 1957, however, there were plans to open a novitiate at Xavier House and this involved putting up a new building for the novices. The absentee superior of the house was Fr Eddie Bourke, who had been sent down to Singapore to relieve Paddy Joy. The acting superior was Canice Egan, who was to be the new novice master, with Joe Foley as his minister and Socius. There were also three scholastics in the house that year – John Jones, Joseph Shields, and Frank Doyle. It was here that the author first came to know Joe. It turned out to be one of my most enjoyable years in the Society, not least because of Joe's and Canice's constant teasing of each other. We did have a lot of fun together that year.
The original plans, however, were changed. Canice was replaced as novice master by John O'Meara and took up teaching in what were known as post-secondary colleges. Joe Foley, for his part, moved back to Wah Yan College in Wanchai and returned to teaching. In 1958 he was also made Minister at Wah Yan and four years later took over from Cyril Barrett as Rector, a post he held until 1968. It was during this period, in 1966, that the Hong Kong Mission became the Vice-Province of Hong Kong and Joe, with all the other members of the former Mission, was now transcribed to the new Vice-Province.
It was about this time that the Singapore government began implementing a plan to open special “Junior Colleges” for pre university (Form 6) students. The government opened one of its own but also invited other groups including the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, and the Buddhists, to open colleges of their own. In 1972, Joe went to Loyola College in Chicago and spent one year there doing a Master's in Education. The idea behind this move was a proposal that he become the first Director of the new Catholic Junior College in Singapore. However, he never did take up the post. For some reasons – perhaps because he was a European and from Singapore's rival territory of Hong Kong - he was not given the appointment. Instead a local De la Salle Brother was assigned to the post.
In the year 1978, Joe was appointed by the Bishop of Hong Kong as Vicar for Education for the diocese. He held this post for 14 years until he returned to Ireland in 1992. He now had his own office in the Catholic Diocesan Centre, beside the Catholic Cathedral. In this post he was basically responsible for co ordinating all the Catholic diocesan schools in the territory - of which there were many.
After 14 years in the post, Joe was expressing a desire to retire and hand over to someone else. The Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Wu, was, however, reluctant to let him go. Joe then decided that his best recourse was to take a year off and return to Ireland. He was assigned as a curate in St Francis Xavier's, Gardiner Street. He found this new apostolate so much to his liking that he decided to stay on in Ireland and, and in the following year, was transcribed back to the Irish Province. His assignment as curate was modified to 'assists in the church in 1995. In 1998 he became a consultor in the community.
In the year 2000, he was transferred to St Ignatius Church, Galway, 'assisting in the church and spiritual director of the Jesuit community. He became the house historian in 2004. It was during these years that he began to have problems with cancer and, when it became more serious and without any prospect of a cure, he was moved to Cherryfield Lodge where he spent the last months of his life there. He died there peacefully on 4 September 2006.
In his younger days, Joe would be remembered as a vigorous footballer. Most of his life in Hongkong was devoted to some aspect of education - either as a teacher, a headmaster or the bishop's representative for education. He made no claims to being an intellectual but was competent in the posts he held. He had a good sense of humour and enjoyed teasing and being teased. He is missed by those who knew him.
Eulogy given in late September, 2006, by Helen Chia Chih Lee, former teacher at Wah Yan, Hong Kong, at a memorial Mass in Toronto for a gathering of Wah Yan alumni:
We gather here today to remember Rev. Fr. Joseph Foley, a fine Jesuit, and to celebrate his fruitful life. The last letter Fr. Foley sent me was dated April 12 of this year. Unlike his usual handwritten ones, it was typed, responding to a question I had asked him on prayer. In early June, I was shocked to learn that he was quite sick in the nursing home. It touched me deeply to realize that he still cared so much about me in his illness.
When I visited him some weeks later, I was impressed by his good spirits and quick wit despite suffering from terminal cancer. The concern he showed to those around him was edifying. His command of Cantonese, particularly the slang, was as amazing as ever. When he said 'wuun buun' in Cantonese, looking at the lotus paste bun in Fr. Doyle's hands, I couldn't understand the reason for the remark. It was when he said in English that Fr. Doyle was eating one bun that I got the pun.
I was privileged to have worked with Fr. Foley at Wah Yan HK in the mid 1970's. As a colleague, he was very friendly and helpful. He inspired me to instil moral values through teaching English. Up to this day, I adhere to his idea. As an adult ESL instructor, I often choose topics related to values, particularly Canadian ones, for my immigrant learners. After Father Foley left Wah Yan, he gradually became our family friend. His advice, moral support and prayers were invaluable, especially during the early years of our immigration to Canada,
Most alumni of the two Wah Yans knew Fr. Foley in different capacities, but everybody referred to him by his heroic nickname, “James Bond” or “007”. Students of the 1950's and 60's on the Hong Kong side had Fr. Foley as either their teacher or principal. Later, he served on the teaching staff of either school at different times. In 1978, the late Cardinal Wu appointed Fr. Foley to be the first Episcopal Vicar for Education, a position he held until 1992. Then he returned to Ireland and served the Irish Jesuit Province. In May this year, he was admitted to the Jesuit nursing home in Dublin. On September 4, with close relatives by his side, Fr. Foley passed away peacefully, aged 85.
Fr. Foley dedicated his whole life to the service of God. In his own words, “to be able to help people” was the most rewarding aspect in his priesthood. Indeed, he enriched innumerable people. Wah Yan students and staff benefited greatly from his words, his deeds and his remarkable personality. He was highly intelligent, full of humour, very caring and most generous. In the 14 long years of his tenure as the Cardinal's delegate for education, Fr. Foley's contribution was more widely felt, influencing the direction of Catholic education in Hong Kong.
Fr. Foley was much respected and loved by his students. Some alumni made special trips to Ireland to visit him. The class of 62 compiled a sentimental souvenir book entitled "To Father with Love" for him. In his illness, he received lots of cards from former students. All these show what a great teacher he was.
Before closing, I'd like to share with you a thought from a homily I heard Fr. Foley deliver when I visited him in Galway, Ireland, back in 2002. It has special relevance to those of us brought up in the traditional Chinese way. We were taught to be humble by declining praise. Fr. Foley said that true humility does not lie in denying or diminishing one's talents or achievements. Instead, when being praised, a humble person realizes his/her strong points and accomplishments are gifts from God and is, therefore, thankful for His blessings.
All of us whose lives have been touched by Fr. Foley are truly blessed. As we mourn the loss of such a fine Jesuit, let us be comforted at the thought that he is enjoying his well-deserved heavenly rewards. Let our fond memories of him prompt us to follow his good example. Let us ask Fr. Foley to intercede for us, especially for Wah Yan which he so loved.