Corboy, James, 1916-2004, Jesuit priest and Roman Catholic Bishop of Monze

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Corboy, James, 1916-2004, Jesuit priest and Roman Catholic Bishop of Monze

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  • Jim Corboy
  • Cibinda

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Dates of existence

20 October 1916-24 November 2004

History

Born: 20 October 1916, Caherconlish, County Limerick
Entered: 07 September1935, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 28 July 1948, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1953, Milltown Park, Dublin
Died: 24 November 2004, St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin - Zambia-Malawi Province (ZAM)

Part of the Milltown Park, Dublin community at Cherryfield Lodge at the time of death.

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

by 1951 at Rome Italy (ROM) studying
Transcribed HIB to ZAM : 03 December 1969
Bishop of Monze, 24 June 1962. Retired 1992

◆ Companions in Mission1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
The diocese of Monze was set up on 10 March 1962, an offshoot of the Archdiocese of Lusaka. Fr James Corboy S.J., at that time a professor of theology in Milltown Park, Dublin, Ireland, was appointed to be the first bishop of the new diocese. This new diocese was three-quarters the size of his own country of Ireland. It had a population of a million people, 16% of whom were Catholic. At that time there were 8 mission stations in the whole area centred at Chikuni. It was a daunting task ahead for the new bishop.

Bishop James was born in Caharconlish, Co Limerick, Ireland in 1916. He was the son of a country doctor who lived on a small farm. There he grew up appreciating nature and farming. He attended Jesuit schools and entered the Jesuits in 1935, followed the Jesuit course of studies, arts, philosophy, regency and theology, being ordained priest at Milltown Park on 28th July 1948. After tertianship, he went to the Gregorian University for a doctorate in Ecclesiology. Later as bishop he attended the Vatican Council and became really interested in theology, something that he continued to study passionately throughout his life.

He returned to Milltown Park to lecture and also take charge of the large garden. He always loved pottering around in the garden of any house he lived in. He became rector there in 1962.

At the age of 43 he found himself appointed to be the Bishop of a newly set-up diocese of Monze in Zambia, where the Jesuits had been working since 1905. So on 24th June he was consecrated bishop in Zambia. For 30 years he was the bishop of Monze. The task before him as he saw it was fourfold: development, pastoral work, health and education. He invited a number of congregations to help him in this task. Monze hospital was set up and run by the Holy Rosary Sisters. The Sisters of Charity and the Handmaids were already in the diocese. Presentation Sisters, Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Sisters of Charity of Milan and others entered into pastoral work, and the teaching and healing ministry. The Spiritans, Christian Brothers and John of God Brothers are the chief male religious groups who came to help in various fields.

As early as four years after becoming bishop, he put into effect a project after his own heart – promoting vocations from the people themselves. So in 1966, he built Mukasa, a minor seminary in Choma to foster and encourage young boys who showed an interest in the priesthood. Boys came here not only from the dioceses of Monze but also from, Livingstone, Lusaka and Solwezi. Over 50 Mukasa boys have been ordained priests and several are studying in the major seminaries.

Another project very close to his heart was the establishment of a local congregation of sisters – Sisters of the Holy Spirit – in 1971. The Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary helped out in this venture. These local Sisters are involved in teaching, pastoral work, nursing and formation work among their own people. The last eight years of his life Bishop James spent in Milltown Park, Ireland on the advice of doctors both here and in Ireland. Whenever anyone visited him from here, his first question invariably was: "How are the Holy Spirit Sisters”?

He regularised the eight mission stations as parishes and set up 13 more parishes. Development was another project close to his heart. With the help of Fr Fred Moriarty SJ Monze became the leading diocese in the country in promoting development

People found Bishop Corboy approachable, kind, caring and simple. He spoke simply (deceptively so, some said). He could explain himself in quite simple language, understood by all. He had to learn ciTonga in which he had a passable skill and even that was spoken simply but correctly. He was unassuming. Often in a crowd, one would often ask 'which is the Bishop?'. He loved to pray the Rosary. He was a very shy man and avoided large social gatherings when he could. Inevitably after doing a confirmation he would say, ‘Gosh, I’d love to stay for the celebrations, but I have some important business to get back to in Monze’.

On 24 October 1991 he was called to State House to receive the decoration of Grand Commander of the Order of Distinguished Service for his work in the Monze Diocese.

He retired as Bishop in 1992, worked for four years at St. Ignatius in Lusaka before returning to Ireland because of his blood pressure. A short time before he died in St Vincent's Hospital, Dublin, his nephew, Dr John Sheehan, was with him and thought the Bishop looked distressed and asked if he was in pain. Bishop James replied. "No. God bless you, and good bye"! He died on 23 November 2004, aged 88 years.

Note from Patrick (Sher) Sherry Entry
”Sher is a great loss. Apart from his work, he was a great community man”, said the Bishop of Monze. “He was part and parcel of everything that went on in the community. He was interested in parish affairs. He never stinted himself in anything he did. In community discussions he often brought them back to some basic spiritual principle’.

◆ Jesuits in Ireland : https://www.jesuit.ie/news/celebrating-bishop-corboy-sj/

Celebrating Bishop Corboy SJ
The life and work of James Corboy SJ, Bishop of Monze, Zambia, was celebrated with the launch of his biography by Sr Catherine Dunne, in the Arrupe Room, Milltown Park on Thursday 24 January. It was a great occasion described by some there as a “reunion of the diocese of Monze”. Over fifty people attended the launch, including members of Bishop Corboy’s family, who had an opportunity to meet many of those who had known him in Zambia.

The Irish Jesuit Provincial, Tom Layden SJ, warmly welcomed the publication of Catherine Dunne’s book, ‘The Man Called James Corboy’, published by The Messenger Office and sponsored by the Irish Jesuit Missions. He recalled meeting Bishop Corboy, whilst studying for his Leaving Certificate at Clongowes, and he remembered how he spoke about the plight of farmers in Zambia with real concern.

The Provincial said reading the book he was struck by the impact Vatican II made on James Corboy and how its vision of the Church as the people of God was always to the fore in everything he did in the Monze diocese. It permeated his leadership style and his sense of purpose, he said.

He also referred to the fact that James was given the Tonga name of “Cibinda”, meaning a wholesome person who knows where he is going and where he is leading others. Listen here to his talk. (http://www.jesuit.ie/content/onsite/irish-jesuit-podcasts/two-funerals-for-jesuit- bishop)

Two of James Corboy’s nieces, Joanne Sheehan and Ann Ryan, painted an intimate picture of their uncle, especially in his later years at Cherryfield, far removed from his beloved Zambia.

Ann recalled how she and he shared a great love of gardening, flowers and muck! She said he also took great interest in the progress of his great nephews and nieces. Indeed, his great-nephews, Josh and Alan, and his great-nieces, Anna and Alice, were all present and received copies of the book from Catherine Dunne.
Joanne Sheehan told of how there had been Jesuits in the Corboy family for nearly 200 years. She said her uncle “gave his whole life to other people and in that way he was a real Jesuit – a true man for others.” But he only ever claimed a tiny role for his work in Zambia acknowledging the tremendous group of Irish people who had made an enormous contribution to the country besides himself.

Damien Burke from Jesuit Archives provided a recording of Bishop Corboy’s own words from 1962 on the occasion of his consecration as Bishop, along with slides from his early life and time in Zambia. In the recording Bishop Corboy said that “Africa owes a tremendous debt to the Irish people” and thanked everyone for their continued prayers and financial support.
Sr Pius, an 89 year old missionary nun who worked with him in Monze, recalled his attempts to teach them about Vatican II on his return from Rome. “He said that the Council changed his life forever, and he talked about ‘communio’ so often. Something about him touched our hearts as he tried to teach us about the Second Vatican Council – even us ‘noodley’ heads were moved.” She said he valued people and valued particularly the wisdom of women. “We owe him a great debt.”
Sr Catherine Dunne also spoke and read an appreciation of the book from Sr Rosalio of the Holy Spirit Sisters, the order founded by the Bishop with the assistance of Catherine herself.
She said she was encouraged to know the book meant so much to people because, “many’s a time whilst writing it I heard his voice from behind me saying ‘have you nothing better to do with you time?’ I’m glad I didn’t heed that voice now”.
After the launch and a celebratory lunch, Sr Catherine spoke in depth to Pat Coyle of the Jesuit Communication Centre about ‘This Man Called James Corboy”: Listen here : (http://www.jesuit.ie/content/onsite/irish-jesuit-podcasts/the-man-from-monze).

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 37th Year No 3 1962

GENERAL
On April 18th the midday news from Vatican Radio contained the announcement that Fr. James Corboy, Rector of Milltown Park, had been appointed bishop-elect of the newly-created diocese of Monze, Northern Rhodesia.
The bishop of Monze entered the Society at St. Mary's, Emo, in 1935.. and from 1937 to 1941 studied at U.C.D., where he obtained his M.A. Degree in Irish History. He studied Philosophy at Tullabeg and taught at Belvedere 1944-45. His Theology was done at Milltown Park, where he was ordained in July 1948. After his Tertianship at Rathfarnham, he attended the Gregorian University, where he obtained the D.D. in Dogmatic Theology. Since 1952 he has been Professor of Fundamental Theology and Rector since 1959.
The diocese of Monze comprises the mission area assigned to our Province in 1957 and, before its constitution as a separate entity, formed part of the archdiocese of Lusaka.
Bishop Corboy left Ireland on May 31st for Rome and thence to Rhodesia. The consecration has been fixed for June 24th at Chikuni and the consecrating prelates are Most Rev. Adam Kozlowiecki, S.J., Arch bishop of Lusaka, Most Rev. Francis Markall, S.J., Archbishop of Salisbury, and Right Rev. Timothy O'Shea, O.F.M.Cap., Bishop of Livingstone.
The Province and the Mission received with great joy the news of the erection of the diocese of Monze and of the election of its first bishop, who can be assured of the good wishes and prayers of all for a long, happy and fruitful pastorate.

Milltown Park
It was during the same week that news came of the appointment of our Rector, Fr. Corboy, to the newly-created diocese of Monze. Our pleasure at this compliment to Fr. Corboy and at the progress it signifies in the development of Rhodesia was marred only by our regret to be losing so kind and capable a Superior. A special lecture was organised on May 9th, the proceeds of which were presented to the bishop-elect. We are grateful to Fr. Moloney of the Workers' College for speaking on the title “Education for Marriage, 1962”. At a reception afterwards in the Retreat House Refectory, the Ladies Committee and the Men's Committee both made presentations to Dr. Corboy. A dinner was given in his honour on May 23rd and after it several speeches were made. Fr. Patrick Joy, Acting Rector, took the opportunity to assure Dr. Corboy of the continuing support of all those associated with Milltown, including the Ladies Committee. Fr. Brendan Barry, having prefaced his remarks with the words “Egredere de domo tua”, congratulated the mission on the erection of the new diocese and the election of its bishop. Fr. Tom Cooney then rose to voice on behalf of the missionaries their pleasure at welcoming one so young and capable to the government of Monze diocese. In fact he had to apologise for mistaking the bishop-elect a few days previously for a scholastic. In more serious vein, he went on to trace for us the history of the whole question of the Province's responsibility for a mission territory, since the appointment of a bishop has always been the corollary to that issue. He told us that it all went back to before the war, when it still seemed that we could expand in China. When that proved impossible there was question either of a territory in Rhodesia or of educational work in Malaya. Eventually it was Fr. General who decided on our taking responsibility in Rhodesia. Fr. Cooney viewed Dr. Corboy's appointment in the light of all that development and he wished to pay tribute to the constant generosity of the home Province, towards Australia, the Far East and Rhodesia. Fr. Kevin Smyth spoke on behalf of the Faculty, remarking that he was glad to note the departure from usual practice in selecting the bishop not from the canonists but, as he said, from the theologians. To the speeches of the upper community Mr. Guerrini, our Beadle, added his “small voice” on behalf of the scholastics. He proposed his tribute in the form of a thesis. This thesis, he said, was theologically certain, since it met with the constant and universal consent of the Theologians - not to mention the Fathers. There were no adversaries, and he went on to prove his point from the experience of the last few years. Dr. Corboy then spoke. He expressed his attachment to Milltown and of the debt of gratitude he felt towards all who had worked with him in Milltown. He commended the diocese of Monze to our prayers.

◆ Interfuse

Interfuse No 123 : Special Issue February 2005

Obituary

Bishop James Corboy (1916-2004) : Zambia Malawi Province

Oct. 20th 1916: Born in Caherconlish, Limerick
Early education at The Crescent, Limerick and Clongowes Wood College
Sept. 7th 1935: Entered the Society at Emo
Sept. 8th 1937: First Vows at Emo
1937 - 1941: Rathfarnham - Arts at UCD
1941 - 1944 Tullabeg - Studied Philosophy
1944 - 1945: Belvedere College - Teaching (Regency)
1945 – 1949: Milltown Park -Studied Theology
July 28th 1948: Ordained at Milltown Park
1949 - 1950: Tertianship at Rathfarnham
1950 - 1952: Gregorian, Rome - Studied Fundamental Theology
1952 - 1962: Milltown Park:
1952 - 1959: Lecturing in Theology and in charge of farm
Feb. 2nd 1953: Final Vows
1959 - 1962 Rector; Lecturing in Theology; Prov. Consultor
June 24th 1962: Consecrated Bishop of Monze, Zambia
1962 - 1996: Pastor of Monze Diocese.
1996 - 2003: Retired as bishop; returned to Milltown Park; writer, House Librarian.
2003 - 2004” Cherryfield Lodge.
Nov. 24th, 2004: Died in St. Vincent's Hospital, Dublin

Bishop James Corboy Pioneer of Catholic Church in Zambia

From: Times of Zambia, 18 Dec. 2004 Written by: James P. McGloin, S.J. (Socius, ZAM Province)

Bishop James Corboy, S.J., the retired bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Monze, died in Dublin, Ireland on 24th November 2004. On 10th December a well-attended memorial Eucharist was held at the Monze Cathedral with Bishop Emilio Patriarca of Monze presiding. Bishop Raymond Mpezele of Livingstone and many clergy from the diocese and elsewhere concelebrated at the Eucharist. Fr. Colm Brophy, S.J., the provincial of the Jesuits, preached.

In 1962 the Diocese of Monze was established from the southern part of the Archdiocese of Lusaka. In March of that year Fr. James Corboy was appointed its first bishop. At the time he was a professor of theology and rector of the Jesuit School of Theology in Dublin. He had never been to Africa before. Looking from our perspective, it seems like a very strange appointment. However, the area of the new diocese was a mission area under the auspices of the Irish Jesuits based in Chikuni. These Jesuits ran the mission, Canisius College and Charles Lwanga Teachers' College in Chikuni along with seven other mission stations in the new diocese. Perhaps the Jesuit missionaries who were already there were thought too independent minded to accept one of their own as bishop. Perhaps it was thought that someone from the outside might bring a new perspective to the work. Whatever the reason, James Corboy, without any experience of Africa, was appointed the first bishop.

Bishop Corboy was born in the small village of Caharconlish in County Limerick, Ireland in 1916. Being from a rural area, he grew up appreciating nature and farming, an appreciation he kept all his life. He did his primary school in the village and got a good basic education. For early secondary school he had to travel to the nearest town. This meant using a bicycle to the train station, then by train to the town, then a walk to school, and back again each day. Since, his travel took so much time each day, his parents later sent him to a Jesuit boarding school to finish his education.

After his secondary school in 1935, he entered the Jesuits and was ordained a priest thirteen years later in Dublin. He went to Rome, then, and studied at the Gregorian University, receiving a doctorate in theology. Returning from Rome, he began his career as a professor in the school of theology, where he eventually was made rector.

At the time of his appointment as bishop, the great reforming council of the Catholic Church, Vatican Council II, began in Rome. Bishop Corboy attend all four sessions of the Council from 1962 to 1965. The Council had an immense influence on him. He was wont to say that, despite his doctoral studies, he never really studied theology until the Council. During the Council he studied and read theology, something that he continued to do passionately throughout his life.

When he was ordained bishop in Monze in June 1962, there were about twenty Jesuit missionaries working in the area, some Religious Sisters of Charity, and one eminent Zambian priest, the late Fr. Dominic Nchete. Bishop Corboy began inviting other missionary groups into the diocese to improve the education and health services of the area. The Holy Rosary Sisters opened Monze Mission Hospital (now District Hospital) and Mazabuka Girls' Secondary School; the Christian Brothers began St. Edmund's Secondary School in Mazabuka and Mawaggali Trades Training Institute in Choma; the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary managed St. Joseph's Secondary School in Chivuna while the Presentation Sisters managed Kasiya Secretarial College; the Sisters of Charity of Milan opened a mission hospital in Chirundu and the John of God Brothers began a rehabilitation centre for the handicapped in Monze. Many lay volunteers came from overseas in these early days to help staff these new institutions.

In the area of development a well-run diocesan office was opened in Monze which, among many projects, offered agricultural advisory services and courses throughout the diocese. The Monze Youth Projects, managed by the Sisters of Mercy, was opened, offering catering, tailoring and carpentry training. In almost every parish in the diocese a homecraft or tailoring centre was begun.

Much of this development took place during the initial, exciting years of Zambian Independence. Bishop Corboy's vision of a better Zambia for all its people went hand in hand with the vision of the newly independent government. His contribution was recognized by President Kenneth Kaunda, who awarded him the honour of Grand Commander of the Order of Distinguished Service in 1991.

The bishop was also concerned with the pastoral development of his diocese. Besides inviting the Spiritans and Fidei Donum priests from other dioceses to open new parishes, he realised the importance of developing a local Zambian clergy. In 1966 he opened Mukasa Minor Seminary in Choma as a secondary school for boys considering a vocation to the priesthood. At present there are nearly 50 ordained priests from the boys who began their schooling in Mukasa. These priests work in the Monze Diocese and in other dioceses that send boys to the seminary. He also saw the need for Zambian Sisters and in 1971 began a diocesan congregation of sisters, called the Sisters of the Holy Spirit. Today the sisters have convents in Chikuni, Choma, Chivuna, Mazabuka and Monze and offer a variety of services in the schools, hospitals and parishes.

From the Vatican Council, Bishop Corboy learned deeply that the Church was not just bishops, priests and sisters. Rather the Church, to use the Council's great image, is the People of God. Bishop Corboy wanted a well informed Catholic laity in his diocese, good Christians who could run parish councils effectively, preach and offer Sunday services when a priest was not available, teach young people the essential truths of their faith and prepare them to receive the sacraments. During his time as bishop, St. Kizito Pastoral Centre outside of Monze was open to offer courses in Christian and pastoral formation for the people of the diocese. Oftentimes, the bishop himself would present much appreciated talks on scripture and on different theological topics.

When Bishop Corboy came to Zambia, he studied Citonga and had a passable knowledge of the language. Whenever he preached in the language he spoke simply but clearly and correctly. Even in English, he always preached simply and sincerely also. Every year when he came to Charles Lwanga Teachers' College, his homily was essentially the same. He remembered still his own primary school teachers, men and women, who were dedicated to their work and concerned about the children. Then, he told the Lwanga students that they had chosen a noble profession and how they could be a force for good in the lives of so many young people.

True to his rural roots, Bishop Corboy loved nature and farming. For a day off he might spend a few hours bird watching at nearby Lochinvar National Park. He always had a small garden behind his house in Monze and would often be found there watering or weeding. It is said that sometimes. visitors who did not know him would be told that he was outside. They would meet the old man working in the garden saying, "Brother, we would like to meet the bishop." He would tell them to go back to the office and the bishop would be there in a few minutes. Shortly, the bishop, out of his garden clothes, would introduce himself to the surprised visitors.

A very shy man, the bishop avoided large social gatherings when he could. Inevitably, after doing a confirmation at one of the colleges or parishes, he would say, “Gosh, I'd love to stay for the celebrations, but I have some important business to get back to in Monze." Although shy, the shyness did not deter him from working well with different organisations and groups of people. He was able to listen, to offer advice and to give his lay and religious colleagues plenty of leeway to do their work without interfering.

Bishop Corboy tried always to defer to the opinions of the Zambian bishops in the Episcopal Conference. Archbishop Mazombwe, in a condolence letter, recalled an event in 1973 when he had just taken over from Bishop Corboy as president of the Zambia Episcopal Conference. Bishop Corboy wrote to him, "I am not coming to the Executive Board Meeting of ZEC and I am not going for the AMECEA (the Bishops of all of Eastern Africa) Plenary Meeting in Nairobi. I am tired, I have been teaching mathematics at Mukasa Seminary and I will be in retreat." The Archbishop, who was then Bishop of Chipata, relates how he interrupted his own retreat and said, "My Lord, I have never chaired a ZEC meeting, this will be my first time. I need you. I have never attended an AMECEA Plenary Meeting, I need you.” Bishop Corboy's response was immediate and to the point. "I will come to the ZEC Executive Board Meeting, but I will not go for the AMECEA Plenary because there are enough African bishops with experience."

Looking forward to the day when a Zambian would replace him, Bishop Corboy had his dream come true in 1992, after thirty years as bishop of Monze. In that year Bishop Paul Lungu, S.J. succeeded him as bishop. From the 8 mission stations at the origin of the diocese, there were 21 parishes when Bishop Lungu took over, Bishop Corboy was able to hand over a well-established diocese with an active and effective body of Zambian clergy, religious and laity.

Bishop Corboy did not leave Zambia immediately on retiring. He moved to St. Ignatius Jesuit Community in Lusaka where he frequently helped in the church and served as librarian at the Jesuit Theological Library in Chelston. In 1996 when his health began to deteriorate, he returned to his native country where he continued his reading and writing until his death.
His nephew, Dr. John Sheehan, who worked for sometime in Monze Hospital, was with him when he was dying. Dr. Sheehan saw his breathing was very bad and asked him if he could give him something for the pain. Bishop Corboy, in his typical way, held out his hand and shook hands with his nephew, saying, “No, thanks very much, I'm all right...and then continued, “Good-by now, God bless you”. Then he died. "Good-by. God bless you”-his final words to his nephew-but also to the people of the Diocese of Monze whom he loved so much and served so well.

Tom McGivern wrote in ZAM Province News, Dec. 2004:

The diocese of Monze was set up on 10" March 1962, an offshoot of the Archdiocese of Lusaka. Fr. James Corboy, S.J., at that time a professor of theology in Milltown Park, Dublin, was appointed to be the first bishop of the new diocese. This new diocese was three-quarters the size of the whole country of Ireland from which the new bishop came. It has a population of a million people, 16% of whom were Catholic. At that time there were 8 mission stations in the whole area centred at Chikuni. A daunting task ahead for the new bishop!

At the age of 43 he found himself appointed to be the bishop of the newly established diocese of Monze where the Jesuits had been working since 1905. On the 24h of June 1962 he was ordained bishop in Monze.

For 30 years he was the bishop. The daunting task before him was fourfold as he saw it: development, pastoral work, health care, and education. He invited a number of congregations to help him in this task. The Sisters of Charity and the Handmaid Sisters were already in the diocese. The Holy Rosary Sisters, Presentation Sisters, Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary, the Sisters of Charity of Milan and others entered into pastoral work, health care and education. Spiritans, Christian Brothers and John of God Brothers were some of the men religious groups who came to help in various fields.

As early as four years after becoming bishop, he put into effect a project after his own heart-vocations from the local people themselves. In 1966 he built Mukasa minor seminary in Choma “to foster and encourage young boys who show interest in the priesthood”. Boys came from the dioceses of Monze, Livingstone, Lusaka and Solwezi. At present there are about 50 of these boys who have been ordained priests and there are numbers in the major seminaries.

Another project very close to his heart was the establishment of a local congregation of sisters, the Sisters of the Holy Spirit. In 1971 the congregation began and the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Mary helped out in this venture. As the bishop wished, the sisters are now involved in teaching, nursing, pastoral and formation work among the people of the Monze Diocese. The last eight years of his life Bishop James spent in Ireland on the advice of doctors. Whenever anyone visited him from Zambia, the first question invariably was, “How are the Holy Spirit Sisters?”

As bishop, he regularised the 8 mission stations as parishes and set up 13 more. He also set up a development office in Monze, headed for many years by the late Fred Moriarity, S.J. Because of it, Monze became one of the leading dioceses in development in the country.

In Matthew's gospel when Christ sent out the Twelve, he advised them to be as clever as snakes and as simple as doves. Bishop James was extremely clever and yet very simple. To set up hospitals, schools, parishes, churches et al., money and personnel had to be found mostly from overseas. A frequent question on his lips to his secretary, the late Joe Conway, S.J. was, :Joe, has that cheque come through yet?”

When the war in Zimbabwe was raging, the Zambezi Valley was strewn with land mines, yet Bishop James drove down alone to Chirundu to make sure the people there were safe and to encourage them. After the war some government official wanted to close down the hospital there, but unsuccessfully, as he had to deal with Bishop James.

The bishop was a good theologian, and, for any important conference he had to give, he would retire to Chikuni to pray, read and prepare. Once sisters involved in health care had a day's seminar on the Theology of Healing. His phrase, "Healing begins at the door of the hospital” lasted with them for a long time.

People found him approachable, kind, caring and simple. Simple? He spoke simply (deceptively so, some said). He could explain himself in quite simple language, understood by all. He had to learn ciTonga in which he had a passable skill and even that was spoken simply but correctly. And he was unassuming. Often in a crowd, one would ask, “Which is the bishop?”

From Colm Brophy's homily at a Memorial Mass in Monze:

His nephew, Dr. John Sheehan—who worked here in Monze hospital—was with him when he was dying. John saw his breathing was very bad and asked him if he was in pain and could he give him something for the pain. Bishop James, in his typical way, said: “No, thanks very much, I'm all right”. - and then held out his hand and shook hands with his nephew John and said: “Good-by now, God bless you”. And then he died, That handshake, that “Good-by now, God bless you” was his “Good-by, God bless you” for all of us.

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