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Calter, John A, 1885-1946, Jesuit priest
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Dates of existence
06 May 1885-10 November 1946
Born: 06 May 1885, Newry, County Down
Entered: 20 June 1916, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1924, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final vows: 02 February 1934
Died: 10 November 1946, Ms Shuley's Home, Dublin
Part of St Mary’s community, Emo, County Laois at the time of his death.
by 1932 at St Beuno’s, Wales (ANG) making Tertianship
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 22nd Year No 1 1947
Fr. John Calter (1885-1916-1946)
Fr. Calter died at Miss Shuley's Home, Mount St. Crescent, Dublin, on Sunday, 10th November, at 8 a.m. Some four weeks previously he had been motored up from St. Mary's, Emo, suífering from serious asthma trouble. He appeared to be improving despite recurrent attacks, when he died very peacefully and somewhat unexpectedly. The funeral took place to Glasnevin after Office and Solemn Requiem Mass, at which Fr. Mahony, his Rector, was celebrant, on 12th November. R.I.P.
Fr. Calter was born at Newry on 6th May, 1885, and educated at the school of the Christian Brothers in the same place. Before his entrance into the Society on 20th June, 1916, he was for some fourteen years working as an accountant, first at The Newry Mineral Water Co., and later on the staff of Messrs. Knox, Cropper and Co., Chartered Accountants, Spencer House, London, E.C. After his two years' noviceship at Tullabeg he studied philosophy and theology at Milltown Park, where he was ordained priest on 31st July, 1924. From 1926 to 1931 he was master and prefect at Mungret College and in the following year did his tertianship at St. Beuno's, North Wales. He was on the teaching staff at Clongowes during the years 1933-1938, when he was transferred to Belvedere College, where he remained, as procurator, till 1944, when failing health rendered a change advisable. He was at Milltown Park for a year, and then last July was given a rest at St. Mary's, Emo.
A former fellow-novice of Fr. Calter sends us the following appreciation :
“Father John Calter was what our telescopic vocabulary calls ‘a late vocation’. I well remember the evening - it was a lovely June day's close - when he first arrived in Tullabeg. Outwardly, he was certainly the average man's idea of the religious novice, but it did not take any of us long to discover that our new Brother (the very name would have jarred upon him) was going to be ‘up against it’. He was neat, fastidious, sensitive, frail and already in his thirties, and he had set young in his ways. We were for the most part breezy, care free, jovial and hefty young men. I shall always remember his noviceship as something akin to heroism. One visualises J.A.C. in a once smart and fashionable suit of light grey cloth, now the colour of Joseph's coat and the consistency of plate-mail from many layers of paint. It was his somewhat startling manual works outfit. In it he toiled leaf-collecting on the avenue and weed hacking on the long vanished Spiritual Meadow or performed the Weekly Offices and cleaned the fowl-run with nose physical and moral slightly averted, but hands and heart steady enough. One recalls, too, a memorable July day, his first in the noviceship and one which he loved to recall to the very end, when he carried - he alleged - an endless chain of buckets filled with scalding water from Coffee-scullery to the Old Dormitory, relaxing only for one minute to sit on the bottom step of the stairs and draw breath for the climb, but to be implored by the master of the company to rouse himself, praise God and pass the ammunition. Of course it was not all toil. He spent happy hours in the Sacristy, where his great taste in decoration and an enduring capacity for putting on a good show staged floral festivals that would have delighted the kind lady who sent the December roses and early lilies he enjoyed so much.
Perhaps it is true that Superiors tested this unusual late-starter more than most. He would have been the first to admit the justification for it. But he came through, not so much with flying colours as with colours nailed to the mast, surviving gallantly a last trial, the postponement of his vows until a ruling could be obtained that the ‘New’ Code of Canon Law did not abrogate the Jesuit privileges of making swiftly a perpetual self-dedication.
Noviceship over, he did not go to the University, but embarked at once, on his priestly studies, carrying them through without the usual break in Colleges. It was again a formidable task, for he had no special scholarly taste, and though his mind was orderly and his judgement good, he was well aware, as he told me during our student days, that he could aspire to nothing more than a good standard of priestly efficiency. It requires little effort to imagine the strain nine years of unbroken student routine meant to a man who was over forty when he was ordained.
On the conclusion of his studies, he was sent before and after his tertianship to the Colleges, first to Mungret and then to Clongowes, finally to Belvedere, each time as a bursar, a post which his pre-Jesuit activities as an accountant in his native town of Newry and in London made rather obvious. In addition he taught Religious Knowledge clearly and painstakingly, and business methods with uniform and rather marked success. At Mungret, now many stages behind him, I overtook him again and found him good to live with. He was loyal to a friend, up to and perhaps beyond partisanship. I remember an occasion on which a cherished scheme seemed about to fail, and J.A.C. came to the rescue, holding, on the last night of term, an impromptu concert at which he accompanied every item on the piano and provided the hit of the night by an undignified contest in mere speed with the boy who manufactured the violin music for the Irish dancing. At this time he had a strong hold on boys, not as much perhaps through their affection, for his character made little natural appeal to them, but rather by his determination to make them do their best for their own sake. Some years ago one of his pupils described to me ruefully, but gratefully, the appalling ordeal of being coached for an ‘interview’ for a position by this master of business-methods. It included a close examination of seventeen-year-old's ill-kept nails. But he got him the job.
At Clongowes he had less to do with boys, and in Belvedere scarcely anything. It was perhaps a pity, for the conventional clerk, which was certainly part of his make-up, became more apparent. But it was a scarcely avoidable pity, for with advancing years his health failed notably. He was forced to abandon the care of the little study which he had ruled with a rod of iron (but a minimum of strap) and in which office, as I can testify, no Prefect of Studies could have had a more faithful or reliable coadjutor. Year after year he would have one, two or three bouts of bad flu, and those who for the first time saw him down with one could easily believe his half-joking and often reiterated statement that he was dying. But he kept on. Gone in the end was much of his gaiety. He had a keen sense of humour and could give the most redoubted wit a Roland for an Oliver, but he used it chiefly in defence. In the end, too, he tended to be at times and in ways more difficult to work with, a little exacting and not always consistent. He himself was naturally so orderly and accurate in figures and papers and details that he perhaps exaggerated their importance or overlooked the difficulty they present to many not trained as he was. He had a great admiration for the Brothers' vocation, which he often expressed to me, and I think the late Br. James O'Grady had more of his affection and respect than any other friend. But he easily over looked the difficulties which lack of experience in a Brother or his lay staff.could create, and like many an admirer, tended to set quite impossible standards. With all this he did loyal service, and his twenty years of hard toil and uphill fight against ill health almost continuous and finally crushing, deserve recognition.
His more intimate life as a Jesuit was not so easy to fathom. Exact, he was, devout, conventional, a zealous retreat-giver, a steady upholder of law and rule, whether it pinched or not, and there was behind all a strength of will approaching passion and a simple devotion to Our Lord and His Mother which made him, at a word from Fr. Willie Doyle, leave his worldly prospects to go to the Irish bog and take up an uncongenial life and pursue it with dogged persistence in ever deepening pain and weariness till God crowned his efforts with a swift and peaceful death. I saw little of him in his last years, for I was much away, but am glad to remember that our last contacts were two trifling points of business, in one of which he served me and in the other of which I served a friend at his request. The request reached me in a letter, written a matter of days before his death. In it he characteristically said nothing of his illness, but made a wry half jest at his retirement to country life. That was the J.A.C. with whom those who really knew him were proud to share their vocation. May he rest in peace.
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Calter, John A, 1885-1946, Jesuit priest
Dates of relationship
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Place access points
- County Down » Newry
- County Dublin » Dublin City
- Wales » St Asaph » Tremeirchion » St Beuno's
- County Offaly (King's) » Ballycowan (Bar.) » Tullabeg » St Stanislaus College
- County Laois (Queen's) » Emo » St Mary's (Emo)
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Sandford Road » Milltown Park
- County Limerick » Mungret » Mungret College SJ, 1882-1974
- County Kildare » Clane » Clongowes Wood College SJ
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Great Denmark Street » Belvedere College SJ
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Mount Street Crescent » Miss Shuley's Home
- County Down » Newry » Ashgrove Road » Abbey Christian Brothers’ Grammar School
- County Down » Newry » Downshire Road » The Newry Mineral Water Company
- England » London » South-place » Spencer House » Messrs. Knox, Cropper and Company
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