Conway, Joseph B, 1925-1981, Jesuit priest

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Conway, Joseph B, 1925-1981, Jesuit priest

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  • Joesph Benignus Conway
  • Joe Conway

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Dates of existence

07 March 1925-17 May 1981

History

Born: 07 March 1925, Kilmihil, County Clare
Entered: 07 September 1943, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1957, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 05 November 1977, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Died:17 May 1981, Cahercalla Hospital, Ennis, County Clare - Zambiae Province (ZAM)

Transcribed : HIB to ZAM 03/12/1969

by 1952 at Chikuni, Chisekesi, N Rhodesia (POL Mi) Regency - fourth wave of Zambian Missioners

◆ Companions in Mission1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
Joseph Conway was born in Co. Clare, Ireland on 7 March 1925. After the normal period of primary and secondary education, which latter he did at Mungret College, he entered the noviceship on 7 September 1943. He followed the usual university and philosophical studies and arrived in Chikuni in August 1951 with Fr Robert Kelly, the first two Irish scholastics to be sent to the Zambian mission. He spent three years at Chikuni teaching but at the same time made himself thoroughly fluent in Tonga. In 1954 he returned to Ireland to study theology and was ordained in July 1957. By August 1959, he was ready to return to Zambia to begin his real life's work, beginning as parish priest in Chikuni for 13 years. He had no difficulty in learning the ciTonga language and was the picture of a man who had the ability, determination and dedication to carry out his life's work. For the next 13 years he labored single-handed in Chikuni parish, which for part of that time included areas covered by the present Monze town and St. Mary's parishes.

As parish priest Joe was meticulously dedicated to his work. Not only did he take great care of the parish records but by degrees he equipped himself with pocket records of all the parishioners, village by village, which he brought up to date on his annual visitations. The people knew their parish priest and Joe was known and is remembered as a pastor who "spoke about God", as one .who “told us the ways of God", as one who "told us how God wants us to live". At times people referred to him in the same context as Fr Moreau. He was also manager of schools. In this capacity he once again had direct contact with his teachers now in their more professional and temporal needs. He built outstations at Chipembele, Choompa and Gwembe. Just before he left Chikuni, he supervised the building of the new parish church which was designed by his architect brother, Senan Conway and built by Br Martin Murphy.

Appreciating the value of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Movement in the promotion of strong Christian family life, Joe was the diocesan director of the Movement for most of his time at Chikuni. To promote recreation among the young men of the parish, he started a football league between the different districts. This league was most successful, culminating each year in the big event of the Bishop's Cup.

After 13 years as parish priest at Chikuni, he became secretary to the Bishop of Monze which post he held until he was forced to go to Ireland because of failing health in December 1980. On top of all this responsibility, his work also included being bursar of the diocese and coordinator of the diocesan building team.

Joe's greatest contribution was his service to the personnel in the diocese. Being at the same time superior of the Bishop's house, he kept an open door. Everyone experienced his hospitality and helpfulness, especially the sisters of the diocese.

Joe did not lose his pastoral interests during this long period of administration. Each weekend he did his "supplies", preferring the small and isolated communities to the centers of large congregations. Fundamentally, he was a community man, loved the Christmas get-together and other similar occasions. He never wore his spirituality on his sleeve. One of the dominant features of Joe's spiritual life seems to have been the sacramental life offered to us by the Church and about which he frequently preached.

In 1977 he went to Ireland on long leave. He had a complete medical check-up together with operations for gall stones and hernia. When he returned to Zambia, he was the picture of health.

For more than a year and a half, he remained in good form. Then his health began to decline and he was flown to Ireland in December 1980. Almost immediately on arrival, a tumor on the brain was diagnosed. His family took him home to Co. Clare and agreed to his own request to keep him there as long as possible. He became totally blind. Two days before his death, Joe became semi-comatose and was moved to a nearby hospital run by the Sisters of St. John of God. While in this state, he spoke Tonga and also answered Fr O’Driscoll in Tonga who was with him the day before he died. His two sisters, both of whom are nuns, were with him when he died on Sunday evening, 17 May 1981.

The Lord took Joe peacefully home though not at the time of life Joe would have planned for himself. One of Joe's last prayers was to the Lord of the Harvest to send more shepherds, especially Zambian shepherds, to the Church in Zambia.

Note from Bernard (Barney) Collins Entry
In 1951 he accompanied the first two scholastics, Bob Kelly and Joe Conway, and Br. Jim Dunne, on their way to the then Northern Rhodesia.

Note from Bob Kelly Entry
He followed the normal course of studies in the Society but for regency he went to Northern Rhodesia in 1951 with Fr Joe Conway.

Note from Fred Moriarty Entry
He inherited the Credit Union from Fr Joe Conway and was able to live with all the hassle involved.

Irish Province News 56th Year No 4 1981

Obituary

Fr Joesph Benignus Conway (1925-1932-1981)

Joseph Conway was born in Co Clare, and after secondary education at Mungret College entered the noviceship. After the usual university and philosophical studies he arrived in Chikuni in August 1951, being one of the first two scholastics of the Irish Province to be sent to the Zambian Mission. He spent three years in Chikuni and made himself thoroughly fluent in Tonga, did some teaching and helped in the building of some of the out-stations and schools. In 1954 he returned to Ireland, and after theology, ordination and tertianship, returned to Zambia in August 1959.
I remember well the arrival in Chikuni of himself and Fr Robert Kelly - the first scholastics to return as priests. Both Joe and Bob were full of enthusiasm for the building of God’s Kingdom among the Tonga people. In his first Sunday sermon, in the old parish church, Joe told his people of all the questions the people of Ireland had asked him about Zambia and Chikuni in particular. He exhorted all present to live up to the answers which he gave to their questions. He was buoyant after Mass and was warmly greeted by the Bapati, the Kachosas, the Nkandus, the Choobes, by teachers and past students who had known him previously. As he met group after group under the shade of the great fig-tree (which alas was soon to disappear!) he had no language difficulty. He could even joke and enjoy jokes in Tonga. For the next thirteen years he laboured singlehanded as priest of Chikuni parish, then including areas covered by the present Monze town and St Mary's parishes.
He was meticulously dedicated to his work. Not only did he take great care of the parish records, but by degrees equipped himself with pocket records, village by village, which he brought up to date on his annual visitations. He aimed at visiting all areas in his far-flung parish at least once a year. He carried out this heavy programme during the dry season, staying out from Tuesdays to Fridays, sleeping in classrooms and cooking for himself; later he acquired a caravan. His people knew their parish priest. He met them at home in their villages. He had first-hand contact with the teachers. He expected a lot from his Catholic teachers - perhaps too much at times - but he saw that they were key figures in the planting of the faith in the hearts of the youth. He did all he could to help them keep their families together and to be faithful to their marriage. His flock saw him baptising, offering the Eucharist, blessing marriages, preaching, looking after and visiting the sick and the dying, conducting funerals. Before the day of the catechetical training centre at St Kizito’s, Joe took care of his own catechists. Every First Friday they were brought into Chikuni for instruction, Mass and an opportunity of the sacrament of Penance from some priest other than himself.
For a period he was also Manager of Schools; he ferried supplies of textbooks and school materials to his near and distant schools, and planned the siting and the building of new schools or extensions to existing ones. Later he had to take responsibility for the diocesan building programme: the building of out-churches at Chipembele, Choompa and Gwembe; and just before he left Chikuni, he was able to supervise the building of the new parish church designed by his architect brother Mr Senan Conway,
Joe was diocesan director of the Pioneer Total Abstinence movement for most of his time in Chikuni. Because of their growth, the annual Pioneer rallies had to move out from the original small classroom to larger and larger halls. Joe saw the great need for the Pioneer movement if family life was to be rescued from near destruction.
The temporal side of his parishioners’ life also interested him. He started a football league between the different districts of his parish. In this also he was a pioneer! - seeing the need of wholesome social activity. The league was most successful, culminating each year in the big event of the Bishop’s Cup. So successful was the league that later on, local football organisers copied the idea, and in the end robbed the Chikuni league of many of its best players! Joe felt this deeply, but did not become embittered.
To improve his parishioners’ standard of living, he started a parish credit union - a most successful and lasting venture. He preached the need of Zambian vocations among both boys and girls.
Following the call of obedience (September 1971) Joe took up the post of secretary to the Bishop of Monze, which post he held until forced to return to Ireland because of failing health (December 1980). As well, he was a diocesan consultor, consultor of the Vice Province, and bursar of the diocese. When Br James Dunne returned to Ireland for medical reasons, Joe had to assume the extra responsibility of the full diocesan building programme. As Superior of the Bishop’s house he kept an open door. All diocesan personnel and visitors alike experienced his hospitality and helpfulness. Fundamentally, at heart, Joe Conway was a community man. He loved the homely game of cards. He greatly enjoyed week-ends with the community and Christmas get togethers.
Sickness was something almost foreign to him, but from 1976 onwards he began to experience ill-health; sudden attacks of numbness in jaw and arm. In 1977 he went to Ireland and had a complete medical check-up together with operations for gallstones and hernia. The doctors failed to get to the root cause of the numbness: a brain scan revealed nothing. Back in Zambia, seemingly the picture of health, occasional attacks of the numbness recurred, this time with vomiting and severe headaches, from which he had never before suffered, and depression. On medical advice he was flown home to Ireland, where almost immediately a brain tumour was diagnosed, unknown to Joe himself. From Belvedere he was taken home to his family in Co Clare. Despite nursing, day and night, his health steadily declined. Total blindness set in. After Easter he was visited by Frs J Dargan (Irish Provincial), V Murphy and his brother Msgr Kevin Conway, who anointed him. After that he became increasingly resigned and peaceful. Two days before his death Joe was moved to a hospital at Cahercalla, Ennis, run by the Sisters of St John of God. His two sisters, both of whom are nuns, were with him when he died late on Sunday evening, 17th May, 1981. .
Even though in nursing Joe at home his family carried a great burden of love, yet I am convinced that nobody was more relieved at his passing than Joe himself. Some weeks before his death he had admitted that it had been “a long haul”. May the presence and peace of the risen Lord be felt by his sorrowing family. To his aged father, his brothers, sisters, relatives and friends let us offer the consolation and certainty of our faith in the Resurrection.

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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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Conway, Joseph B, 1925-1981, Jesuit priest

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Zambian Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1969- (1969-)

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Zambian Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1969-

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Conway, Joseph B, 1925-1981, Jesuit priest

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