Item 440 - Consultors letter from Fr Matthew Egan SJ to the Irish Fr Provincial concerning the creation of a Vice-Province

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Consultors letter from Fr Matthew Egan SJ to the Irish Fr Provincial concerning the creation of a Vice-Province


  • 15 October 192[5 ] (Creation)

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(08 July 1872-09 July 1941)

Biographical history

Born: 08 July 1872, Melbourne, Australia
Entered: 01 February 1888, Xavier Melbourne , Australia
Ordained: 1903
Professed: 15 August 1906
Died: 09 July 1941, St. Vincent's Hospital, Fitzroy - Australiae Province (ASL)

Part of the Manresa, Hawthorn, Melbourne, Australia community at the time of death

Transcribed HIB to ASL: 05 April 1931

by 1898 at Leuven Belgium (BELG) studying
by 1905 at St David’s, Mold, Wales (FRA) making Tertianship
by 1906 returned to Australia

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280 :
His early education was at St Patrick’s College Melbourne and finally at Xavier College Kew, where he gained honours in Classics at the matriculation exam. he then entered the Society at Xavier College in 1888.

1890-1891 He was a Junior at Loyola College Greenwich.
1891-1897 He was sent to St Aloysius College Sydney and Xavier College Kew for Regency
1897-1900 He was sent to Leuven Belgium for Philosophy
1900-1904 He was sent to Milltown Park Dublin for Theology
1904-1905 He made Tertianship at St David’s Mold, Wales.
1905-1921 he returned to Australia and was sent to Xavier College, teaching senior classes and was also Prefect of Studies (1906-1907)
1921-1927 He was sent teaching to St Patrick’s College Melbourne
1927-1935 He was sent to Corpus Christi College Werrribe, teaching Philosophy, Greek, Geology and Sociology. He was also Spiritual Father here and in 1932 was examiner of quadrennials, edited the “Jesuit Directory”, was a Consultor of the Vice-Province. In 1933 he was also the book censor for the Vice-Province.
1936-1941 In his final years at Loyola Watsonia and the Hawthorn Parish he was in ailing health, but he still gave Retreats, examined Ours, and became secretary to the Provincial and Archivist for the Vice-Province. He also assisted the editor of the “Messenger”, writing a series of articles on social questions.

He was a man of encyclopaedic knowledge and extraordinary ability, and he used these gifts to the full in the service of others. Utterly unselfish, he never seemed to give a thought to his own comfort or entertainment. His recreation was his work. He was a non-smoker and total abstainer. He was also kindness itself, and was greatly loved by all who came into contact with him. During his last three years he lived a hard life, as he was suffering from cancer that required many operations. He was never heard to complain about his illness.

He was one of the most brilliant and learned Jesuits to have worked in Australia, He was particularly well versed in the Classics and in Philosophy and made himself an authority in Sociology at a time when the subject was not a passport to fame or fortune. He wrote many articles on the social apostolate, especially during 1917-1919, making special contributions to the short-lived periodical “Australia : A Review of the Month”. His articles focused on social and economic issues, but also, in his “Notes and queries”, he responded to various questions arising from contemporary life. His articled included :
International Socialism; Wages?; Cooperation?; Religion and Progress; Catholic Action; Race, Culture and Morality; Miracles and Law; Sex Education; Social Study in Schools; Private Judgement; The New Democracy; Faith and Knowledge; Religion and Spiritism; Catholics and Public Life; The Church and the Bible; Unjust Methods of Profits.

He was a deeply spiritual man and it is noteworthy that in every house he served after his ordination, he was made Spiritual Father. His great gifts were somewhat marred by a painful shyness, which made it very difficult for him to take part in public meetings or discussions, and therefore somewhat reduced his potential impact. Those who did know him rated him very highly, but he was not as well known as he might have been.

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 17th Year No 1 1942
Obituary :
Father Matt Egan

After a long and trying illness, borne with the greatest fortitude Rev. Matthew Egan, SJ., passed to his eternal reward on Wednesday night, July 9, at St. Vincent's Hospital. An outstanding member of the Jesuits in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, he has left a fine record of faithful service in the various institutes to which he was attached. He will be greatly missed by his colleagues, who held him in the highest regard, and by the hundreds of students who came to love him in the classroom.
Born in 1872 Fr Egan was educated at St. Patrick's College East Melbourne, and Xavier College, Kew, and at both schools he stood out as a, student of exceptional ability. He studied philosophy and science for three years in Louvain, Belgium, and theology in Dublin, where he was ordained to the priesthood. Two years after his ordination, he returned to Australia, where he spent the greater part of his remaining life on the staff of Xavier College and St Patrick’s College, with periods at Corpus Christi College, Werribee, and the Jesuit Novitiate, Watsonia, and latterly in the Immaculate Conception Parish, Hawthorn.
He had an insatiable appetite for work, and even when he was suffering great pain he wished to continue. He made a close study of social questions, and his expositions, which revealed him as a deep thinker and a wide reader, were much appreciated by his colleagues and students. He was indeed. a distinct ornament to the Society. His memory will be long cherished by those who were fortunate enough to have been closely associated with him. Of a retiring disposition and very charitable, he never refused a request for a service that was in his power to render, no matter how troublesome it might be to himself. His recreation was his work. He never darkened the door of a picture theatre or other place of entertainment, and he never went to a cricket or football match, or ever looked for a holiday. In addition, he was a total abstainer and a nonsmoker.
During the last three years, Fr. Egan lived the life of a martyr, and underwent several surgical operations. He bore his sufferings with inflexible patience and courage, and was never known to murmur.
Solemn Office and Requiem Mass for the repose of the soul of Fr Egan were celebrated in the Church of the Immaculate Conception Hawthorn, on Friday morning. There was a large and representative congregation, including members of religious teaching; Orders, Ladies of the Grail, college prefects, and pupils of St. John's School, Hawthorn, and representatives of the Old Xaverians' and Patrician Associations and various parish organisations.
His Grace Archbishop Mannie presided at the Requiem Mass. Preaching the panegyric, his Grace the Archbishop said “The prayers of the priests and people are most earnestly requested for the repose of the soul of Fr. Matthew Egan, S.J. I am not surprised that there should be a large gathering of the faithful and clergy to pay this last tribute to Fr. Egan. Like me, I think you are confident you are farewelling one who undoubtedly is a saint. If there be anybody for whom we can confidently say that his awakening was with Christ and his repose in peace, we can say it of Fr. Egan.
We have come, of course, to show sympathy with his relatives and with the Order to which he belonged, and of which he was such an ornament. But while we sympathise with them very warmly, I think we all feel that it is a relief as it were, and almost a joy that Fr. Egan’s long purgatory in this world should come to an end. Only for the skilful care of his medical attendants and the unremitting attention of the Sisters and nurses at the hospital, Fr. Egan would have long since gone to his reward. Many times during his illness I saw him and never once did he give the smallest indication that he had the least suffering. Other people talk of their illness and their symptoms, but with Fr. Egan everything seemed to be taken from the hand of God with absolute resignation and with almost a joy that to me seemed to be preternatural or supernatural. I have never known anybody in my experience, at all events, who suffered so much and suffered always without complaint. Fr. Egan has had a comparatively long life. He was one of those who, in spite of indifferent health, at all times never spared himself. Indeed, he was at the beck and call of anybody who needed his assistance. Whoever came to Fr. Egan looking for help, which he could well give, he always threw himself into whatever he was asked to do with a thoroughness that left no misgivings, and one could be sure that he had put his best into any work that was given him to do. When he had given a solution to any problem that had been placed before him, one could rely upon getting a sound and impartial judgment. He was a man of great parts, of wide learning and wide reading, and he had sound judgment, on which anybody could with confidence rely. I am sure that the students who studied under him will be amongst those who will regret his passing. But yet, like us all, they will feel that Fr. Egan had done his work, and that he had through his sufferings, so heroically borne, atoned for any faults in his own life,, and that also, by his sufferings, he had helped to bring mercy upon those whom he assisted. He helped his own Order and the hospital in which he was so tenderly nursed, and he helped us all by his prayers that were constantly on his lips and heart, and by the sufferings which he went through for many months and years. The Jesuit Fathers have lost one of their brightest ornaments. He was one, I suppose, amongst the pioneers of Australian apostolates for the Jesuit Order, and he certainly gave an example which all those who come after him may well follow. He is a loss to the teaching staff of the Jesuit Order, for which he gave great service in Corpus Christi College and other places. However, his work is done. and he has gone to the place where we hope one day we will meet him once again”.

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Consultors letter from Fr Matthew Egan SJ, St Patrick's College, East Melbourne to the Irish Fr Provincial John Fahy SJ concerning the creation of a Vice-Province and the shortage of men. Refers to the Novitiate and advises that a Juniorate should be established.

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