Birmingham, Alan, 1911-1991, Jesuit priest and chaplain

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Birmingham, Alan, 1911-1991, Jesuit priest and chaplain

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  • 彭光雄神父
  • Birmingham, Alfred Alan

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02 January 1911-03 October 1991

History

Born: 02 January 1911, Ballinrobe, County Mayo
Entered: 01 September 1928, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 13 May 1942, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 08 December 1976, Hong Kong
Died: 03 October 1991, St Paul’s Hospital, Causeway Bay, Hong Kong - Macau-Hong Kong Province (MAC-HK)

Part of the Wah Yan College, Hong Kong community at the time of death

Transcribed HIB to HK : 03 December 1966

by 1937 at Aberdeen, Hong Kong - Regency

Second World War Chaplain

◆ Hong Kong Catholic Archives :
Death of Father Alan Birmingham, S.J.
Former editor of “Sunday Examiner” dies in Hong Kong
R.I.P.

Father Alan Birmingham, a long-time editor of the “Sunday Examiner” died here after a brief illness on 3 October 1991.

Father Birmingham, a Jesuit, had lived in Hong Kong for almost 50 years, having first arrived here in November 1936.

Born in Co. Mayo, Ireland, in 1911, he joined the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1928 after secondary school and went on to take an honours degree in mathematics in the National University of Ireland.

After his arrival in Hong Kong in 1936 he studied Cantonese and then taught for a year in Wah Yan College, then in Robinson Road, before returning to Ireland a few months before the outbreak of the Second World War to complete his Jesuit training.

Ordained a priest in Dublin on 13 May 1942, he became a Catholic chaplain, with the rank of Captain, in the wartime British Army, thus delaying his return to Hong Kong.

Having served in England and Northern Ireland, he was assigned to land with the Allied forces sea and air assault on the north coast of France on “D-Day”, 6 June 1944.

He afterwards said that his main task on those fateful first days ashore was burying the dead on the beaches where they had landed.

He stayed with his soldiers in France, Belgium and finally Germany until mid-August 1945.

He was then re-assigned to India from where he was “demobbed” (returned to civilian life) in October 1946.

After returning to Hong Kong in February 1948, he was sent for some months to Canton (Guangzhou) where a Jesuit colleague, Father John Turner, was lecturing at Chung Shan University.

That summer he moved back to Hong Kong, becoming a professor of Dogmatic Theology and later of Sacred Scripture at the then Regional Seminary in Aberdeen where Chinese priests from many dioceses in South China received their professional training. He held these posts for nine years.

During those years he also lectured briefly on philosophy and English literature at the University of Hong Kong.

In 1957, he was appointed editor of the “Sunday Examiner.” He was by far the longest-serving editor of the paper, remaining in the position for 33 years until his 80th birthday on 2 January this year.

On the death of Father Fergus Cronin SJ, Father Alan took over as rector of the busy Catholic Centre Chapel.
Sunday Examiner Hong Kong - 9 November 1990

◆ Biographical Notes of the Jesuits in Hong Kong 1926-2000, by Frederick Hok-ming Cheung PhD, Wonder Press Company 2013 ISBN 978 9881223814 :
Having graduated from UCD with an Honours degree in Mathematics he was sent to Hong Kong in 1936.
He studied Cantonese in Hong Kong and then did some years of teaching in Wah Yan Hong Kong.

After Ordination in 1942 he was appointed Catholic Chaplain with the rank of Captain in the wartime British Army. He was assigned to land with the Allied force on “D-Day”, June 6th 1944. He remained with his soldiers in France, Belgium and finally Germany until mid August 1945. He was then reassigned to India until October 1946, when he returned to civilian life.

He returned to Hong Kong in February 1948and took up a post as Professor of Dogmatic Theology, and later Scripture at the Regional Seminary in Aberdeen. He also lectured in Philosophy and English Literature at the University of Hong Kong.

He was the Editor of the “Sunday Examiner” for almost 33 years (1957-1991). For more than twenty years he edited the English writings of László Ladányi in the “China News Analysis”. He also celebrated Mass regularly at St Joseph’s Church on Garden Road for over thirty years.

◆ The Belvederian, Dublin, 1992

Obituary

Father Alan Birmingham SJ

Learned Priest Who Served Faithfully for “Fifty” Years in Hongkong.

Fr Biriningham did not say Mass in the Catholic Centre Chapel, in busy Hongkong Central District on Wednesday, October 4th. He had done so the day : before, and for many months since Fr F Cronin had died. Instead, Fr S Coghlan and Fr M McLoughlin took him to St Paul's Hospital Causeway Bay. He was feeling groggy and could not lift one of his arms. That afternoon, in the Intensive Care Unit, he died. A little more than a year previously, he had had heart surgery (aneurysm) but recovered. But he had a long beard which made him look like a retired sea captain. All his life he had had good health. He fought a cold on his feet, and though he did not feel so well in the mornings, regained his strength by the afternoon. For thirty years, he was never a patient in a hospital.Priests throughout East Asia and beyond will have known him as the editor of the Sunday Examiner, which was appreciated for his wide cover age of church news in the world, as well as for its well written editorials. In the diocese, he was not so much widely known, as well known. Some priests remember his kindness from the days he taught them Theology in the Seminary (1949-1956). Those who went to the nine o'clock Sunday Mass at St. Joseph's remember him since the days of Fr Franelli, which go back more than thirty years previously. His deep voice was often remembered as a mutter, inspiring devotion and trust. He often heard confessions in St Joseph's and the Catholic Centre Chapel.

He first went to Hongkong in 1936, where he spent time learning Cantonese, and then teaching in Wah Yan College, Robinson Road. He was born in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, where the family had a wholesale business. His father qualified as a medical doctor, but never practised, taking on the family business, but retiring to Dublin when he was 45 years old. Alan first went to the Carmelite Fathers in Terenure, and retained an affection for the Carmelites. He then went to the Jesuit Colege, Belvedere, and after five years entered the Society of Jesus in 1928. His university studies at UCD were in Mathematics, and sometimes it was said that, in later life, the prime numbers gave him sleepless nights. After three years in Hongkong he returned to Ireland to study Theology and was ordained in 1942. While he was a priest in the Jesuit Church of Gardiner Street, the Provincial requested him to be a Chaplain in the British Army. He gave family reasons for not doing so, and he was told that these were valid but not sufficient to refuse the pastoral needs of those in the War. He joined as an Army Chaplain as part of christian charity and out of human solidarity. He was with the first wave to land on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day June 1944. He remembered a day when he saw 700 wounded and 250 burials. He was demobolised in 1947, and did Tertiaship in Dublin under Fr J Neary, who also had been in Hongkong.

When he returned to Hongkong as a priest in 1948, he went to join Fr Tumer at Chung Shan University, Gaungzhou, but after a few months was asked to teach in the South China Regional Seminary, Aberdeen. He taught Dogma and Scripture until he was asked to assist Mgr C Vath at the Catholic Centre, with the editing of the Sunday Examiner. And he did it for 33 years! Quietly working as a priest, he slowly did his writing. He always used a pen, and never a typewriter. He was a very slow worker, and always worked deliberately and accurately. He was never in a hurry and always had time for people. His clear English style was highly esteemed. His funeral was at St Joseph's Church, where he was known as the priest at the Sunday Masses for thirty years. The main celebrants were Cardinal Wu, whom he taught, Archbishop Tang, Fr W Lo, and 39 of his fellow Jesuits, thirty other priests; more than a dozen diocesan, a dozen Maryknollers, and those of other con gregations, not least being the PIME Fathers. The Mass was at 12.30 to enable the people from government and business offices to be present, and about
150 of them were there.

His brother had been a medical doctor teaching at University College Dublin. His father was anti-clerical, but a devout Catholic. “Alan” was more pastoral than clerical, and though his theological thinking was conservative, it was always kind, and at the service of people. Learned and kind, writer and at the service of all, such was the man all remembered.

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830-

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Birmingham, Alan, 1911-1991, Jesuit priest and chaplain

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Hong Kong Vice-Province, 1966- (1966-)

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IE IJA MSSN/HONG

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hierarchical

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Hong Kong Vice-Province, 1966-

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Birmingham, Alan, 1911-1991, Jesuit priest and chaplain

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Irish Jesuit Mission to Hong Kong, 1926-1966 (3 December 1926-3 December 1966)

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IE IJA MSSN/HONG

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Irish Jesuit Mission to Hong Kong, 1926-1966

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Birmingham, Alan, 1911-1991, Jesuit priest and chaplain

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IE IJA J/642

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