Byrne, Thomas, 1904-1978, Jesuit priest

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Byrne, Thomas, 1904-1978, Jesuit priest

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  • 潘志清神父

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  • Tommy Byrne

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Dates of existence

30 November 1904-03 August 1978

History

Born: 30 November 1904, Dun Laoghaire, County Dublin
Entered: 31 August 1922, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1933, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final vows: 02 February 1941
Died: 03 August 1978, Coláiste Iognáid, Galway

Older brother of Patrick Byrne - RIP 1968

by 1935 at Aberdeen, Hong Kong - working
Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus, 15 August 1947-30 July 1953.
Mission Superior, Hong Kong, 09 May 1957
Father General's English Assistant (Substitute), at Rome Italy (ROM) 1962

◆ Hong Kong Catholic Archives :
Death of Father Thomas Byrne, S.J.
R.I.P.

Father Thomas Byrne, Superior of the Hong Kong Jesuits from 1957 to 1960, died in Ireland on 3 August 1978, aged 73.
Father Byrne was born in Ireland in 1904. He joined the Jesuits in 1922 and was ordained priest in 1933. In 1934, the Irish Jesuit Province lent him to Hong Kong, where he taught Philosophy (1934-1936) and Dogmatic Theology (1936-1939) at the Regional Seminary, Aberdeen. He returned to Ireland in 1939 to complete his Jesuit training.

After a period as Master of Novices, he was appointed provincial Superior of the Irish Jesuit Province.
He returned to Hong Kong as Superior of the Hong Kong Jesuits in 1957. In 1960, he was summoned to Rome to be Assistant to the Jesuit Superior General (1960-1963). In his last years he was assistant priest at St. Ignatius Church, Galway, Ireland.
Sunday Examiner Hong Kong - 11 August 1978

◆ Biographical Notes of the Jesuits in Hong Kong 1926-2000, by Frederick Hok-ming Cheung PhD, Wonder Press Company 2013 ISBN 978 9881223814 :
Educated at O’Connell’s School Dublin, he Entered the Society in 1922 at Tullabeg. He obtained a BSc and MSc and then did Philosophy at Milltown Park. He then went straight from Philosophy to Theology
In 1936 he was sent to the Regional Seminary at Aberdeen as Professor of Dogmatic Theology.
In 1939 he returned to Ireland to make Tertianship and was then sent to Tullabeg to teach Philosophy.
In 1945 he was appointed Master of Novices
In 1947 he was appointed Provincial of the Irish Province
In 1957 he was appointed Superior of the Hong Kong Mission

During his term as Provincial (1947-1953) he sent many Jesuits to Hong Kong, and then in 1951 he started the Irish Jesuit Mission to Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). He also saw the needs in Singapore and Malaysia and sent Jesuits to work there - like Kevin O’Dwyer, who built St Ignatius Church in Singapore; Patrick McGovern who built St Francis Xavier Church in Petaling Jaya, and also Liam Egan, Gerard (Geoffrey?) Murphy and Tom Fitzgerald. He opened the Novitiate in Cheung Chau in 1958, starting with 10 Novices.

In 1960 he was brought the Roman Curia as the English Assistancy Assistant to Father General, and held this role until 1965.
In 1965 he returned to Ireland and teaching Theology at Milltown Park.

He was an intellectual. His social contribution in public committees included the housing Authorities and Discharged Prisoners Society.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 53rd Year No 4 1978

Galway
The death of Fr Thomas Byrne on August 3 came as a great shock. He became unwell after dinner on August 2. When the doctor saw him, he ordered him into hospital immediately. His heart condition worsened that evening, and he died on the morning of August 3, R.I.P. The funeral Mass was on August 5. Dr Eamonn Casey, Bishop of Galway, presided. The Provincial, Fr Patrick Doyle, the Rector and Parish Priest, Fr Robert McGoran, and Fr Bernard Murray, were the chief concelebrants. Very many members of the Province travelled to Galway to pay their last respects to Fr Byrne.
Herewith is a tribute by Fr McGoran to Fr Byrne in the September issue of the Parish Newsletter
“Hardly had we recovered from the sense of loss at the death of Fr Jack Kerr, when God took to himself a second member of our Parish team, Fr Tommy Byrne. Although Fr Byrne had had a rather severe operation last February, he appeared to be holding his own in recent months - although everyone noticed that he had slowed down a great deal. However, for a week or two before his death he was visibly failing; yet he remained faithful to his parish duties right up to the eve of his death.
During his eight years here in Galway, Fr Tommy endeared himself to all the parishioners, and many felt his death as the loss of a close friend, and one who felt for them in their cares and difficulties. He was untiring in his visitation of families and utterly devoted in ministering to the sick and the aged. He took a keen personal interest in the families entrusted to this care and had a very special way with children. He was a kindly and encouraging man and seemed able to forget his own ailments in his solicitude for other people”.

Another tribute is paid by Fr Desmond O'Loghlen in the July/August issue of the Jesuits in Zambia News. Sincere thanks to him for it.
“Fr Thomas Byrne did not spend long in Africa, only three months. Nevertheless the occasion of his death calls for grateful remembrance of his lasting contribution of the Jesuit Mission effort in Zambia, To this end we may make use of a report on the Chikuni Mission written in 1967 for the Sociological Survey of the Society. (It should be borne in mind that at that time the Lusaka Mission and the Chikuni Mission had not yet amalgamated to form the Vice Province, but were still separate, attached to the Polish and Irish Provinces respectively).
Fr Thomas Byrne Irish Provincial at the time) arrived to visit Northern Rhodesia (as it then was) in April 1952. He spent about three weeks in Africa, met the Apostolic Administrator (Very Rev Adam Kozlowiecki SJ) and the Regional Superior (Very Rev Marian Folta SJ) and saw all the Irish Jesuits in the country. Fr Byrne was the Provincial, who, in 1950, had taken the generous step of Officially pledging the Irish Province to help the Mission. On his initiative nine new members, (eight priests and one brother) joined the Mission in 1950, and eight more in 1951 (five priests, two scholastics, and one brother) and others followed yearly. From this visit of Fr. Provincial, in consultation with the Apostolic Administrator and the Regional Superior, emerged the main lines of development followed by the Irish Jesuits for the next ten years, through the establishment of the Chikuni Mission in 1956 up to the establishment of the Diocese of Monze in 1962.
Plans were made to continue the pastoral and educational work already built up around Chikuni by Frs Moreau, Zabdyr, Prokoph, and others. Three new stations had been already started at Chivuna, Kasiya, and Fumbo. Plans were also made for pastoral coverage of Mazabuka, Monze, Choma, Kalomo, with an eventual westward thrust to Namwala. Provision was made for Irish Jesuits to work in Lusaka.
Fr Byrne again visited the Mission in 1963, now as Assistant of the English Assistancy, and took deep interest and evident satisfaction in the progress of the work, which owed so much to his earlier initiative. At this time he explored views about the possible union in one Province of the Jesuit Missions in Zambia and Rhodesia. However, this project was halted by the declaration of UDI to the south of us, and subsequent developments.
In December 1969, when the Zambia Vice-Province was established, Fr Thomas Byrne was an honored guest at an informal gathering in Dublin to mark the occasion. We can trust, now that he is in Heaven, his interest and his benign influence will continue to benefit the work in Zambia. May he rest in peace”.

Obituary :

Fr Thomas Byrne (1904-1978)

On August 3rd Father Tom Byrne died at Galway, where for nearly eight years he had been engaged on Parish work. This period in Galway was the peaceful, retired conclusion to an exceptionally active, varied and front-line work as a Jesuit.
Father Tom Byrne was born at Dun Laoire on November 30th 1904. He entered Tullabeg as a novice on August 31st 1922. Having pronounced his First Vows on September 1st 1924 at Tullabeg, he passed through the rest of the scholasticate training in Ireland: from Rathfarnham he studied Science at UCD (1924-1927); 1927 to 1934 were spent studying Philosophy and Theology at Milltown Park, where he was ordained priest on July 31st 1933. He completed his Tertianship at Rathfarnham: 1939-1940.
From the end of his Tertianship in 1940 to his commencement of parish work in Galway in 1970, Father Tom Byrne was a “specialist” in one form or another. He was Lecturer in Sacred Scripture and Dogma in the Regional Seminary, Hong Kong: 1934-1939. He lectured in Philosophy in Tullabeg 1941-1945; 1953-1957. He was Master of Novices in Emo for two years (1945-1947). He was Provincial in Gardiner Street from 1947 to 1953: and it was by his enterprise and decision that the “mission” in what is now part of the Vice-Province of Zambia was begun by the opening of the Irish Mission at Chikuni: eight priests and one brother reached Chikuni from Ireland in August 1950. They began at once to work in the Mission Church at Chikuni, to open “mission stations” further afield, and to staff Canisius College which rapidly developed to become a splendid Secondary School. For many years after our arrival at Chikuni there was only one other Secondary school in “Northern Rhodesia” (now Zambia): the Government Secondary school Munali in Lusaka.
Father Byrne visited us within a few years of 1950 and continued generously to send brothers, scholastics and priests, so that Ireland's commitment in what is now the Vice-Province of Zambia developed rapidly.
After his second period as Lecturer in Tullabeg - after being Provincial - (1953-1957), Father Tom Byrne went to be Superior in the Hong Kong Mission. He remained in this Office until 1960 when he went to Rome for five years as English Assistant, substituting for Father J Swain who was Vicar General (1960-1965).
Father Tom Byrne was Prefect of Studies and Spiritual Father in Milltown Park from 1965 to 1968. There followed two years in Tullabeg as Spiritual Director of the Sisters there (1968 to 1970). In 1970 he moved to take up the parish work in Galway which occupied the last eight years of his work-filled life.

One of his many admirers - Father Harold Naylor, Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, writes:
“As a philosopher in Tullabeg I remember being impressed by the vigour of the religious observance of ‘Tommy’ who was then professing Psychology. He was the first at Morning Oblation at 6 am. I met him again in 1977 in Galway and found the same man I had always known, with alert mind and zealous heart. Assistant to the Parish Priest in St Ignatius, he was always ready to hear confessions and take calls at the door to help people. I noticed something else which is not common in Jesuits of over forty - he had great hope in the future of the Church and of the Society. He had well assimilated the thrust of the Second Vatican Council, and made his own the content of the last two General Congregations. He was at home in the new Church, and the modern Society and had no nostalgia for the past. He could appropriate to himself our new life style and see every advantage in it. I sometimes wondered if this was not partly due to what he taught on obedience of the intellect, and to a real self abnegation, seeing the Will of God in everything and having the real spirit of Ignatian indifference ...”
See also the special tributes included in the contributions from Galway, tributes from Galway and Zambia.

Irish Province News 54th Year No 1 1979

Galway

Fr Thomas Byrne RIP
We are greatly indebted to an unnamed contributor to the Hong kong Vice-Province Letter/August, 1978, for the following account of Fr Thomas Byrne's life. Sincere thanks to him. The account arrived too late for inclusion in the October issue of the Province News,
Fr Thomas Byrne, Superior of the Hong Kong Mission from 1957 to 1960, died on 3rd August, after a few hours of illness, aged 73. The following account of his life has been contributed by one who knew him well.
Though he is a major figure in the history of the Hong Kong Jesuits, Fr Thomas Byrne spent in all only eight years here. For information about his pre-Jesuit years, his forty-five Jesuit years in Ireland, and his three years in Rome, I have had to rely on vague memories and hearsay. Much must be left vague, and some details may be inaccurate. .
He was born on 30th November 1904, and was educated at O’Connell’s School, Dublin. In 1922, he entered the novitiate at Tullabeg, where he had as contempararies R Harris, C Daly, and G Casey. As a junior, he did a brilliant BSc. He later - during his philosophy at Milltown Park, I think tried for a travelling studentship (in Philosophy?), but was beaten, to the surprise of many, by the Clonliffe student who, as Fr. Boyland, was to leave the Dublin Archdiocese to become a Carthusian.
Mr. Tommy Byrne, already destined for a professorial chair, did no “colleges”, and went straight from philosophy to theology. He came, I think, to regret this gap in his formation, especially when appointment as a major superior made him responsible for the well being of many schools.
He was ordained priest on St Ignatius Day, 1933. In 1934, the Regional Seminary, Aberdeen, found itself critically short of staff. The Irish Provincial, Fr L Kieran, lent Fr Byrne to Hong Kong, on the understanding that, when the Seminary could spare him, he should return to Ireland to do his tertianship and then settle down there as a professor, probably of philosophy. He came to Hong Kong, by ship of course, with Fr H Craig and two scholastics, F Cronin and T Sheridan, and for his first two years taught philosophy in the Seminary.
Since he had not come as a permanent member of the Mission, it was taken for granted that he should not even attempt to learn Cantonese - another gap in his formation that he was to regret in later years.
In 1936, he became professor of dogmatic theology in the Seminary. It was in that year that I first met him. I still feel gratitude for the warmth of the welcome he gave me on my arrival in Hong Kong. By then he had developed to the full his aptitude for giving lengthy analysis of any subject that might turn up - the state of the world, the calling of a bridge-hand, St Jerome’s outlook on bishops, or his own outlook on his duties as minister. This may suggest that he had turned into a bore. The suggestion is false. He was interested in your views as well as in his own, and he was unaffectedly delighted when you knocked him off his perch. This made all the difference.
He went to Ireland for tertianship in 1939, making no secret of his wish to return to Hong Kong if possible. However, when his tertianship ended, the course of World War II had made immediate return impossible. After tertianship, Fr Byrne went to Tullabeg to teach philosophy. In 1945 he was appointed Master of Novices.
He was appointed Provincial of the Irish Province in 1947. By then the world was beginning to settle down after the confusion and frustration of war and its aftermath. The time called for initiative, and Fr Byrne was ready to initiate. In the course of his provincialate the Manresa Retreat house and the Workers' College (now the College of Industrial Relations) were opened, and the Irish Province accepted a new mission in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia). Not since the legendary days of Fr Sturzo had any Irish Provincial added so much to the work of the province.
I myself left Ireland soon after Fr Byrne's appointment. I therefore know little about his administration or his dealings with individuals. I do remember an aged fountain of ideas. Fr R Devane,
saying rather sadly: “At last there is a Provincial who will listen to me; but I am too old now". There are rumours that scholastics were put off by Fr Byrne's highly characteristic habit of gazing into the middle distance and musing on the nature of things or giving gnomic advice. Presumably they felt inhibited from knocking him off his perch - unfortunate but inevitable.!
At the end of his term as Provincial, Fr Byrne returned to Tullabeg, and seemed likely to spend the rest of his days there. Then in 1957, to the surprise of the most highly skilled forecasters, he was appointed Superior of the Hong Kong Mission. He returned with delight; an eighteen-year-old dream had come true.
Neither Hong Kong nor Singapore was in great need of initiative. In Hong Kong, the two new Wah Yans had been built shortly before, and it would have been difficult to find staff for new works. In Singapore, the plans laid in the earlier 50s were moving towards fulfilment. In Malaysia, however, things were still tentative. The cancellation of a government invitation to undertake a major work faced the Superior with the decision: to go forward or to retreat. Fr Byrne decided to go forward. Perhaps nothing in his superiorship interested him more deeply than the problems of Petaling Jaya. A grasp of the geography of Kuala Lumpur and its environs became necessary for anyone who wanted to understand his conversation.
In Hong King, Fr Byrne’s main task was to encourage the work that was being done by individuals and institutions. For himself, he took up the work of public committees - the Housing Societry, the Discharged Prisoners Aid Society and so on. In Ricci Hall, where he lived, he quickly made many friends among the students. Equally quickly he made himself a welcome guest in all Jesuit houses. When he had to act as Superior he was unmistakably the Superior. At other times, like a famour duke, “he never remembered his rank unless you forgot it”. In spite of recurring bad health - stomach trouble and phlebitis - he enjoyed life, and he wished others to enjoy life. The brilliant frivolity of Fr J B Wood’s speech of farewell at the end of Fr Byrne’s Superiorship was a tribute to the friendliness and personal equality that he had made characteristic of his period of authority here.
He was Superior for only three years. In 1960 he was summoned to Rome as Substitute Assistant for the English Assistancy. Of what happened at that high level I know nothing except that Fr Byrne seemed to enjoy it.
He returned to Ireland after the 31st General Congregation, but his interest in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia never waned, as returning visitors from these parts will testify.
He spent his last years as curate in St. Ignatius' Church, Galway, and it was there that I last met him. He was unchanged - full of interest in the Vice-Province and better informed about it than I was - ready to speculate about the state of the world and of all things in it, and full of philosophical interest in the future of the Jesuit parish in Galway,
No hint had been received here that his health was failing. The news of his death came as a shock, and to many it meant, not “a former Superior has died”, but “a cherished friend is dead”.

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

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