File 43 - Correspondence between Jesuits in Nothern Rhodesia and the Irish Fr Provincial during the year 1958

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Reference code

IE IJA MSSN/ZAM/43

Title

Correspondence between Jesuits in Nothern Rhodesia and the Irish Fr Provincial during the year 1958

Date(s)

  • 1 January-December 1958 (Creation)

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File

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16 items

Context area

Name of creator

(1911-2007)

Biographical history

Appointed Apostolic Administrator of the new Prefecture of Lusaka in 1950

Name of creator

(08 September 1911-07 June 1969)

Biographical history

Born: 08 September 1911, Cappagh, Ballinasloe, County Galway
Entered: 01 September 1927, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1941, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1945
Died: 07 June 1969, College of Industrial Relations, Ranelagh, Dublin

Summerhill College, College Road, Knocknaganny, Sligo student

by 1946 at Heythrop, Oxfordshire (ANG) studying

Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus, 31 July 1953-19 July 1959.

◆ Fr Francis Finegan : Admissions 1859-1948 - Summerhill College, College Road, Knocknaganny, Sligo student

Irish Province News 34th Year No 4 1959

GENERAL
On 20th July Fr. Charles O'Conor, former Rector of Gonzaga College was appointed Provincial in succession to Fr. Michael A. O’Grady. The best wishes of the Province are with the Provincial in his new office, and to Fr. O'Grady the Province offers its gratitude for his services during his Provincialate. He will be remembered, beyond doubt, above all for his outstanding kindness, under standing and sympathy. His great and quite genuine charm of manner made personal contact between him and his subjects easy. They could always feel that their position was understood even if it could not always be improved. And these qualities extended themselves outside the Society and won for Fr. O’Grady and for the Province the goodwill, esteem and affection of everyone with whom he came into contact.
When he became Provincial in 1953 Fr. O’Grady was faced with a task which demanded gifts of this high order, The period of office of his predecessor, Fr. T, Byrne, had been one of expansion after the war. It was for Fr. O’Grady to consolidate. He found himself with a number of new enterprises-the Catholic Workers' College, the Mission in Rhodesia, Gonzaga College - which he had to see firmly established. This involved, among other things, a heavy building programme. It has been his great achievement that he courageously carried through this programme, though the toll on his health was at times very great. Besides the buildings at Gonzaga and the Workers' College, there were the preparatory school at Belvedere, the Pioneer Hall, the extension to Manresa and the renovation of Loyola, Eglinton Road, which was purchased as a Provincial Residence in his term of office. That, in spite of the expenditure involved, the Province is in a sound financial position is a tribute to Fr. O'Grady's generous use of his great personal gifts and to his inexhaustible patience and zeal.
Other activities recently undertaken which received his wholehearted encouragement were the Missions to Britain and to the Irish workers in Britain, the work of teaching Christian Doctrine in the Technical Schools, and the Child Educational Centre, which was started in his Provincialate and was finally established in its new premises in Northumberland Road last year.
He visited both China and Northern Rhodesia, and it was largely through his tireless negotiation that a satisfactory status for the Rhodesian Mission was worked out and the Mission of Chikuni created. He also saw the expansion of the Mission to the Chinese in Malaya. In both Missions he supported extensive building schemes of which the most ambitious were the new Wah Yan College, Queen's Road, Hong Kong and the Teacher Training College, Chikuni. And for all this the Province is grateful to Fr. O’Grady.

Obituary :

Fr Louis O’Grady SJ (1911-1969)

To comply with the desires expressed by the writer of the following appreciation we prelude with a few chronological facts of the life of Fr. M. A. O'Grady; something has been said of his death and obsequies in the notes from Gardiner St.
He was born September 8th, 1911, a fact registered in the mind of the present writer in that he completed his sixteenth year only a week after he entered the Noviceship in 1927.
After the Noviciate he did the usual arts course at U.C.D. from Rathfarnham, with distinction. He caused great alarm by having a severe haemorrhage which necessitated a blood-transfusion while at the Castle; it, the transfusion, was the source of considerable merriment when the community was assured that he was out of danger and his merry acceptance of the quizzing was a temptation to persist.
He did Philosophy in Tullabeg, 1932-5 and was on the staff at Clongowes 1935-38 and thence to Milltown where he was ordained, 1941.
After the Tertianship he proceeded with his dear friend Fr. Scozzari, later so tragically to die, of the Sicilian province, to Maynooth where both distinguished themselves in their doctorates.
Apart from his double term as Provincial, 1953-9 it may be said that Milltown claimed him until his appointment to the College of Industrial relations. He was rector of Milltown from 1947 till he assumed his higher offices. These are the bare bones to which we hope the following will add life.

An Appreciation
He had been baptised Michael Aloysius, but in the noviceship in an unusual fashion he acquired a new name or a new form of name : he was henceforth Luigi or Louis. The Luigi came first. It was no accidental re-christening, no casual re-naming. It was rather a singular and striking tribute in which his fellow novices saluted if not another Aloysius at least a fellow novice whose total dedication of himself was in the Gonzaga mode.
The phenomenon of the “saintly” novice must be as old as the religious life. More often than not the phenomenon is happily ephemeral : either the prig disappears or his priggishness does. Luigi was the exception. He never changed and the epithet prig is the one no person would ever use of him. I feel sure that no act of his was ever insincere.
The peculiar character and the specific colour were already there in the noviceship. Though Louis was always what one would describe as a normal, an ordinary man, from the beginning he was in some sense set a little apart from his fellows. While it could never have been said of him that he was illiberal in his views or intolerant in his actions, yet from the earliest times his fellows knew that behind the warm and friendly exterior there was a core of utter intransigence. One did not think of this as obstinacy (the obstinate man might change his mind); in Louis's case the matter of principle was already prejudged and decided : it was not open to reconsideration. Those who knew Louis well will remenber the cloud which would suddenly transform his features and change the customary smile to a frown when in any cause a measure of either insincerity or uncharity appeared.
To my mind, when it strives to express what manner of man Louis was, the one complex which keeps coming to the front is the disproportion between his physical capacity and his spiritual potential. In a special and differing sense it could be said of him that “the spirit was willing and the flesh was weak”. In him the spirit was always willing more than the flesh could support. He would help everybody though no single body could sustain what everybody claimed. Of him one cliché is unavoidable, the one which says that he did not know how to say no.
About his own health Father Louis never liked to speak : it was. he said, a dull topic. In deference to that sentiment, I will allow myself only one sentence. Though I knew Louis very well and for a long time, it was only when (on more than one occasion) I shared a room with him on holiday that I realised how very ill he was at times, how much he suffered and how desperately hard the night could be before another day began.
Father Louis's genius could be described as an infinite capacity for making friends. There was something in him which invited confidence, the confidence of many both in high places in Church and State and of even more perhaps in lowly estate : he was equally at home at either level : he did not know how to look To comply with the desires expressed by the writer of the following appreciation we prelude with a few chronological facts of the life of Fr. M. A. O'Grady; something has been said of his death and obsequies in the notes from Gardiner St.
He was born September 8th, 1911, a fact registered in the mind of the present writer in that he completed his sixteenth year only a week after he entered the Noviceship in 1927.
After the Noviciate he did the usual arts course at U.C.D. from Rathfarnham, with distinction. He caused great alarm by having a severe haemorrhage which necessitated a blood-transfusion while at the Castle; it, the transfusion, was the source of considerable merriment when the community was assured that he was out of danger and his merry acceptance of the quizzing was a temptation to persist.
He did Philosophy in Tullabeg, 1932-5 and was on the staff at Clongowes 1935-38 and thence to Milltown where he was ordained, 1941.
After the Tertianship he proceeded with his dear friend Fr. Scozzari, later so tragically to die, of the Sicilian province, to Maynooth where both distinguished themselves in their doctorates.
Apart from his double term as Provincial, 1953-9 it may be said that Milltown claimed him until his appointment to the College of Industrial relations. He was rector of Milltown from 1947 till he assumed his higher offices. These are the bare bones to which we hope the following will add life.

An Appreciation
He had been baptised Michael Aloysius, but in the noviceship in an unusual fashion he acquired a new name or a new form of name : he was henceforth Luigi or Louis. The Luigi came first. It was no accidental re-christening, no casual re-naming. It was rather a singular and striking tribute in which his fellow novices saluted if not another Aloysius at least a fellow novice whose total dedication of himself was in the Gonzaga mode.
The phenomenon of the “saintly” novice must be as old as the religious life. More often than not the phenomenon is happily ephemeral : either the prig disappears or his priggishness does. Luigi was the exception. He never changed and the epithet prig is the one no person would ever use of him. I feel sure that no act of his was ever insincere.
The peculiar character and the specific colour were already there in the noviceship. Though Louis was always what one would describe as a normal, an ordinary man, from the beginning he was in some sense set a little apart from his fellows. While it could never have been said of him that he was illiberal in his views or intolerant in his actions, yet from the earliest times his fellows knew that behind the warm and friendly exterior there was a core of utter intransigence. One did not think of this as obstinacy (the obstinate man might change his mind); in Louis's case the matter of principle was already prejudged and decided : it was not open to reconsideration. Those who knew Louis well will remember the cloud which would suddenly transform his features and change the customary smile to a frown when in any cause a measure of either insincerity or uncharity appeared.
To my mind, when it strives to express what manner of man Louis was, the one complex which keeps coming to the front is the disproportion between his physical capacity and his spiritual potential. In a special and differing sense it could be said of him that “the spirit was willing and the flesh was weak”. In him the spirit was always willing more than the flesh could support. He would help everybody though no single body could sustain what everybody claimed. Of him one cliché is unavoidable, the one which says that he did not know how to say no.
About his own health Father Louis never liked to speak : it was. he said, a dull topic. In deference to that sentiment, I will allow myself only one sentence. Though I knew Louis very well and for a long time, it was only when (on more than one occasion) I shared a room with him on holiday that I realised how very ill he was at times, how much he suffered and how desperately hard the night could be before another day began.
Father Louis's genius could be described as an infinite capacity for making friends. There was something in him which invited confidence, the confidence of many both in high places in Church and State and of even more perhaps in lowly estate : he was equally at home at either level : he did not know how to look up or look down. Many of the friendships which he made began with an appeal to him for help. The truth was that men came to Louis not so much because they wanted the benefit of his judgment as because they needed the strengthening of his understanding and kindness.
As time went on the number of those who depended on him grew. Unfortunately his physical strength did not grow apace, and he began to be at times desperately tired. He spoke to me once about that well-known exhortation to moderation which takes the form : if you were dead, people would get along all right without you. Characteristically his comment given with a tired smile was : that argument is useless : the difficulty is that I am not dead.
He is dead now, God rest him, and what can we do who are saddened by his death other than thank God for the precious goodness which shone so brightly amongst us. Under God's grace the cost in effort and determination was great; in later years the cost included perhaps inevitably some small measure of irritability, At times he drove himself very hard with an intensity which few could emulate : there was never any doubt about the high grade of asceticism to which he attained : but of this few were aware. Surprisingly this achievement of his increased rather than diminished his humanity: it gave him a freedom of action beyond the ordinary, and allowed him to disregard convention for convention's sake.
Speaking of Louis's humanity it should be recorded that those who had always the first claim on his affection were the members of his own family, especially, in later years, his ageing mother but not less indeed his brothers and sisters.
Father Louis's life was totally at the service of the Society which (within or after the Church) had claim on his whole loyalty. Some who did not know him might think from what I have written that he was an invalid who from his sick-bed gave counsel to many. Not true this: in any case he was never that long in a sick bed. The Society made a full claim on him, as a teacher and administrator at the highest level both separately and together. His gifts of intellect were considerable and had he been chosen for a purely scholastic career he might have made a name for himself as a philosopher or a theologian. He was not good at languages and I know he found the use of Latin as a medium of teaching a burden. As a consequence the movement away from Latin in post-Vatican II days he welcomed; but of many other changes in the same time he felt less happy.
Father Louis, one may surmise, might have been happier had he been born a quarter of a century earlier or a quarter of a century later. By nature and taste he had always been in church affairs more liberal and progressive than otherwise. In the pre Vatican II world he might have been said to be left of centre. When the centre moved rapidly to the left, like many of his contemporaries, he was perplexed to some degree and to some extent unhappy.
When I was asked to write this notice of my friend, I hesitated, because I did not think that it would be easy to do justice to the subject of it. In many ways Father Louis O'Grady was a conventional religious, not differing that much from his fellows. As a teacher and an administrator he was possibly more competent than brilliant. The record in the books may not put him in the first dozen. That does not matter, because in the case of Louis O'Grady it is not what he did which counts but what he was. Father John Ryan has said somewhere that in Ireland there was never any need for a judicial process of canonisation : if a man, especially a religious, could pass the scrutiny of his fellowmen, especially his fellow-monks, it was enough. Most of his religious life Father Louis, as rector or provincial or superior, underwent that extra sifting which the monks reserve for those who sit in the chair of Moses; he passed that stringent test splendidly, and as far as I know nem. con.
The ability of the man, about whom I write, to make friends was a purely natural asset, with nothing about it which was either studied or artificial. But the synthesis of this natural gift with the purer and more intense flame of Christian charity was the work of a lifetime. No one could know Louis for long without realising how near to God he was at all times. And this was the source in him of that rare sensitive personal integrity which was with him in the noviceship and was with him to the end : and this too was the source in him of that expansive, universal, dynamic. fearless love for men which knew no limit of moderation or even of prudence.
The strain and the tension in this man's life could have but one ending, for the conflict was unequal. During the night of June 6:7 the persistently over-taxed energy finally ran out, and Louis was dead.
It is not easy to link with him the notion of rest and peace. Nevertheless one feels that the change from life to death (or from life through death to life) in Louis's case cannot have been great; perhaps now that he is dead, with more truth he can say what he could surely have said at any time in his life : I live now, not I, but Christ liveth in me.

Name of creator

(18 August 1911-14 April 1980)

Biographical history

Born: 18 August 1911, Dublin
Entered: 14 September 1931, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1944, Dublin
Professed: 15 August 1968
Died: 14 April 1980, Mater Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya - Zambia Province (ZAM)

Part of the Chivuna, Monze, Zambia community at the time of death.

Mission Superior Lusaka Superior of the Poloniae Minoris Jesuit Mission to Lusaka Mission : (POL Mi) 11 August 1955
Superior of the Irish Jesuit Mission to Chikuni Mission: 01 January 1957

Transcribed HIB to ZAM : 03 December 1969

by 1951 at Chikuni, Chisekesi, N Rhodesia (POL Mi) working - third wave of Zambian Missioners
Mission Superior Lusaka (POL Mi) 11 August 1955
Mission Superior Chikuni (HIB) 01 January 1957

◆ Companions in Mission1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them’ (Shakespeare, Twelfth Night). These words in some way could be applied to Fr Louis (nobody called him 'Daniel'). In human qualities Fr Louis was very ordinary. He saw himself as a great 'chancer' (his own word), meaning that he was willing to try his hand at anything, though not highly gifted for anything in particular. In fact, he found the studies in the Society extremely difficult but he realized that they were a preparation for the works of the Society like preaching and retreat giving. His tremendous determination and great sense of mission carried him through these difficulties so that at the end of his training he was better equipped to carry on apostolic works than many others more talented than he was. He had ‘greatness thrust upon him’ as he was appointed superior of the Irish Jesuits in Zambia a few years after arriving there.

He had come to Zambia in 1950, one of the original nine Irish Jesuits appointed to come to Chikuni Mission. The appointment came as a shock to Louis but he faced up to the situation as he had faced up to all the difficulties in his life. He was also appointed Vicar General of the Monze diocese where he was so highly appreciated by all.

After school at St Finians and Belvedere, he entered the Society at Emo in 1931. For regency he taught at Clongowes Wood College and then proceeded to Milltown Park where he was ordained in 1944. Afterwards he went to the Crescent, Limerick, to teach there until he came to Zambia in 1950.

In the early 60s, he began to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis which crippled him increasingly until his death. It was in this that Louis ‘achieved greatness’ in the way he bore his illness for nearly 20 years. He could laugh and talk as if he had not a care in the world. He was an 'Easter person' who by word and deed reflected the good news of the victory of the Cross and of the joyfulness of the Resurrection. It is possible to resign oneself to suffering but it is a very different thing to bring sunshine into the lives of others at the same time. This calls for great faith, hope and charity. Louis retained a warm and appreciative interest in everyone to such a degree that all considered themselves to hold a special place in his heart.
He had a happy interest in the life of the secondary school at Chivuna and helped the community there through his visiting, his counselling, his concern for each one's welfare, for their academic achievements as well as their prowess in sports.

Finally when arthritis made him almost unable to walk, he made the journey to Nairobi in Kenya to see if anything could be done for his feet. While there in hospital, he was anxious to get back to Chivuna for the opening of the school term. However, cardio-respiratory failure was the final cause of his death there at the age of 68.
His remains were flown to Zambia and he was buried at Chikuni on 14 April 1980. The most noticeable thing about Louis' funeral was the manner in which the ordinary Tonga people seemed very clearly to take over the burying of their priest. It would have been unthinkable to bury Louis elsewhere, he who had lived and worked among them for 30 years

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 55th Year No 3 1980

Obituary

Fr D Louis Meagher (1911-1931-1980)

(The following piece, by Fr Socius, Zambia, is copied from the VPZ Newsletter:)

Normally I would ask someone else to write an obituary. But in this case I wish to do it myself; partly, I suppose, because my friendship with him goes as far back as 1948, when I was a schoolboy at the Crescent in Limerick.
Fr Louis died in the Mater hospital, Nairobi, on 14 April, 1980, having said Mass on the same day. Cardio-respiratory failure was the final cause of his death at the age of sixty-eight.
Requiem Mass was celebrated for the repose of his soul in the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Holy Family, Nairobi, with a cardinal and about 50 priests concelebrating. His remains were flown home to Zambia, and he was buried at Chikuni on 19 April. Though both Bishop Corboy and Bishop Munhandu conducted the funeral services, with nearly 50 fellow-priests concelebrating, I would say that the most noticeable fact of Louis’s funeral was the manner in which the ordinary Tonga people seemed very clearly to take over the burying of their own priest. It would have been unthinkable to bury Fr Louis elsewhere.
Ordained in 1944, Fr Louis taught for a while in the Crescent College and then came to Zambia in 1950, working principally in the Chikuni area till he was appointed Superior of the Jesuits of the Chikuni Mission in 1955. In the early 1960s he began to suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, which crippled him increasingly till his death. His work as Vicar-General of the Monze diocese was highly appreciated by all. In recent years, as chaplain to St. Joseph's secondary school, Chivuna, Louis was the friend and inspiration to all.
At a special requiem Mass at St Ignatius, Lusaka, I was asked to preach the homily, in which I tried to highlight three outstanding characteristics of Louis - in an attempt to learn the meaning of his life. I would like to repeat these briefly:
His undiminished interest in other people: You would excuse interest diminishing through age or sickness; but in him there was none of these. Louis retained a warm and appreciated interest in everyone, to such a degree that they all considered themselves to hold a special place in his heart. And of course this deep interest enabled Louis to converse with absolutely anyone - on any subject under the sun.
His humility and freedom from conceit: In human qualities Fr Louis was very ordinary. He saw himself as a great “chancer” (his own word), meaning that he was willing to try his hand at anything, though not highly gifted for anything in particular. He would never have considered himself outstanding - a gifted preacher, an intellectual, a specialist, a famous Jesuit (!) or a holy priest. In God’s own wisdom it was the way he bore his illness for nearly 20 years that made Louis extraordinary. To listen to him talk and laugh you could easily imagine he hadn't a worry in the world, though he was largely crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. Such inspiring acceptance indicated a very deep spirituality.
“Let there be sunshine in my world together with you” are the words of a popular song today. And they apply very much to Fr Louis. It is possible for people who suffer seriously over a long period of time to find solace in the mystery of the Cross; but often such people communicate a faith which stays at the Cross. Louis however was definitely an “Easter person”, who by both word and deed reflected the good news of the victory of the Cross and the joyfulness of the Resurrection. It is possible to resign oneself to suffering, but very difficult to bring sunshine also into the world of others; this calls for great faith, hope and charity.
I think it was Louis’s remarkable ability to proclaim charismatically “Praise the Lord” with his crippled body that was his outstanding gift to us all.
In his obituary notice on Louis Meagher, Fr Tom O'Brien has rightly emphasised Louis' courage and cheerfulness in his sickness and often painful suffering during the last twenty years of his life. I would like to add that this courage and determination was something which was built into Louis's character during his years of formation and his early work in the Society before bad health came upon him.
Louis found extremely difficult not only the studies in the Society but also the preparation for many of the works such as preaching and the giving of retreats. Study for him was always a real grind, but he had tremendous determination and a great sense of mission and this carried him through, so that at the end of his training he was better equipped to carry on the apostolic works of the Society than many others who were endowed with greater intelligence and other natural gifts.
There was however one gift with which Louis was endowed to an extraordinary degree, and that was a very attractive and cheerful personality. This natural charm enabled him to make friends with people of every, age and sex. It was quite an experience to see Louis meeting strangers (sometimes unfriendly strangers) and in no time
they were at ease and enjoying his company.
When Louis came to Zambia he needed all his courage and determination. A few years after his arrival he found himself saddled with the job of religious superior of the Irish Jesuits here and that of vicar-general of their section of the archdiocese of Lusaka. These were difficult times for Louis due to lack of finance and other circumstances beyond his control. The appointment came as a great shock to Louis. I can well remember that for once he looked really down in the mouth. However he faced up to the situation as he had faced up to all the difficulties in his years as a scholastic. To a large extent he concealed all his worries and anxieties and he surprised us all by his ability to lead and to govern during those difficult years.
I would like to single out one special virtue which was very evident to me in his administration of the Mission. I was closely associated with him as a consultor for most of those years, and I can honestly say that I don't think that he was ever influenced by self-interest in any of the decisions he made. His likes and dislikes of other people (and like any normal person he had his likes and dislikes) never influenced his decisions. When he made mistakes they could never be attributed to selfish motives.
When sickness and pain came upon Louis it was no surprise to me that he bore it with courage and unselfish cheerfulness to the end. Louis was only continuing to live his life as he had always lived it.

With Louis Meagher’s death, the communities at Civuna have lost a great friend and a loyal support. The mission at large will miss him for his great enthusiasm and inspiration; but as Christ said to the Apostles, one feels that it is better that he should go to his Father because now he will help us all the more and his spirit will continue to inspire us.
“I only want to complete the work the Lord Jesus gave me to do, which is to declare the good news about the grace of God”. In Louis’ last days in a Nairobi hospital he still had one great wish, namely to return to Civuna and continue his apostolate. That was not to be; but the tributes at his burial at Chikuni were a sign that not only at Civuna but in the diocese as a whole, his life and work made a lasting impact on the people. About 50 priests concelebrated Mass with our bishop, James Corboy, and the bishop of the neighbouring diocese of Livingstone, brothers, sisters and the ordinary people in great numbers.
Louis could have called a halt twenty years ago when he first developed arthritis and the doctors declared that he had only a few months to live. But that wasn’t Louis Meagher. He fought against his illness every day since then, never giving in and never complaining, but took all the medical attention he could get, including the hip operation. Finally, when the arthritis made him almost unable to walk, he made his journey to Nairobi to see if anything could be done for his feet.
As a community man he was always cheerful and available. He was interested in everything that was going on in the parish; the numbers at Mass in each centre, the leaders, the catechists, development work and the youth. He had a deep impact on the life of the Secondary school and helped to form both staff and pupils into a happy community through his visiting, his counselling, his interest in each one's welfare, the academic achievements of the girls and in sport. Probably one of the best tributes to his time in Civuna is the formation of the new diocesan congregation of sisters, the Sisters of the Holy Spirit, who celebrated their 10th anniversary on Pentecost weekend (24th-25th May). They now have 12 sisters, all past pupils of the school; four are teaching here and others are still in training for their future ministries. They always came to him for advice and help, and the encouragement they received is evident in the very pleasant family spirit which they have developed: each one's personality and talents are able to be brought together for the good of all.
I think if there is one single lesson that Louis's life teaches it is this, . to use whatever talents the Lord has given us, perfect them through developing them for the sake of others, until we all attain maturity, contributing to the completed growth of Christ. It is no coincidence that Louis took to the Charismatic Renewal in the Church as a fish takes to water, and in spite of his ill-health, attended the local and national conferences and inspired many people by his presence. The Spirit of the risen Lord was certainly evident in him, but it was a light shining from the daily cross of physical suffering. May he enjoy a rich reward for his life of faith and service to others and may he always inspire us to go and do the same.

Name of creator

(17 April 1912-05 January 1986)

Biographical history

Born: 17 April 1912, Dublin
Entered: 03 September 1930, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 28 July 1943, Milltown Park, Dublin
Professed: 02 February 1946
Died: 05 January 1986, Monze Hospital, Zambia - Zambiae Province (ZAM)

Part of the Kasisi Parish, Lusaka, Zambia at the time of death

Early education at O’Connell’s School Dublin

Transcribed HIB to ZAM : 03 December 1969

by 1956 at Chikuni, Chisekesi, N Rhodesia (POL Mi) working - fifth wave of Zambian Missioners

◆ Companions in Mission1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
Because Joe was such a ‘character’ - widely known and admired (as it were from a distance), fondly mimicked, amusedly quoted in his characteristic phrases like ‘old chap’, ‘nonsense!’ ‘My community’ etc, perhaps the full depth of his humanity and Jesuit identity were known only to a small circle of friends with whom he felt totally comfortable. His achievements as a missionary can easily be narrated for the edification of others or the annals of history.

Born on 17 April 1912, to a Dublin family of Cork stock, Joe had to compete with several brothers and sisters for the approval of his father; his mother had died when Joe was very young. After secondary school with the Christian Brothers, he entered the novitiate at Emo on 3 September 1930. As a junior he finished with a B.Sc. in Mathematics from U.C.D. Philosophy, regency and theology brought him to ordination at Milltown Park on 29 July 1943. He went to teach at Clongowes Wood College and was looked upon as a very competent teacher. From his oft repeated anecdotes of his life there, it is very clear that he enjoyed himself immensely.

A call for volunteers to meet the needs of the Jesuit Mission in the then Northern Rhodesia, saw Joe packing his bags to say goodbye to Clongowes. His ability to discard the comforts of life would be a feature of his life right up to his dying moments, despite the fragility of his body and the poor state of his general health. He came out with the first nine Irish Jesuits in 1950.

In the late 50s, Joe pioneered the Chivuna Mission where he built the community house, church and Trade School with the co-operation of Br Jim Dunne and won the esteem and affection of the people in the locality who fondly spoke of him as ‘Makacki’. For four years he was in Namwala, again building the mission house, a sisters' convent and outstations. In both these places he was full time parish priest.

The new Bishop of Monze, in his wise fashion appointed Joe as his Vicar General in the newly established diocese of Monze. Few (if any) could match Joe's qualifications for such a post: clear-sighted, wide experience in pioneering Church expansion, adroit in negotiating with local authorities, well able to collaborate with so varied a group of people, and an ability to make most of the limited funds available. Joe contributed enormously to the expansion of the church in Monze diocese during those years.

At the Bishop's request he was assigned to Chirundu, to the Zambezi Farm Training Institute, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Milan. In those ten years Joe became known in the vicinity and was highly appreciated by government officials, trainees and their families.

It was characteristic of Joe that wherever he lived and worked soon became ‘his’. He would speak of ‘my’ mission, ‘my' road, ‘my’ community etc. He loved to reminisce about the good old times of his life as he got older, amusedly recalling the characters of the old days, their witty sayings that indicated their nimbleness of mind. Such memories provided him with immense entertainment. The older he got the more he tended to repeat himself.

The Society he loved and felt part of was the Society of pre-Vatican II days, the Society in Ireland before the 60s; or the pioneering Society of Chikuni Mission characterized by the thrust and energy of the newly arrived Irish Jesuits, enjoying a degree of autonomy and homogeneity. How often would he later recall those great times. The present-day emphasis on community meetings, faith-sharing, more open dialogue between the members of the community continued to baffle him and defeat him to the very end.

His health was never very good and began to wane. After surgery in early 1977, Joe realised the strong possibility of the recurrence of the cancer. However some years later, the end came quickly. Jim Carroll was with him for his last four hours of life. When taking his leave of Jim in his final moments, Joe revealed so much of himself in his final words: ‘I think you should leave me here, old chap; there are certain formalities to be undergone from here on’! Within minutes Joe had died, leaving behind so many friends regretfully but at the same time looking forward to meeting so many others.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 61st Year No 2 1986

Obituary

Fr Joseph McCarthy (1912-1930-1986) (Zambia)

17th April 1912: born. 3rd September 1930: entered SJ. 1930-32 Emo, noviciate. 1932-35 Rathfarnham, juniorate. 1935-38 Tullabeg, philosophy. 1938-39 Clongowes, regency, 1939-40 Tullabeg, philosophy. 1940-44 Milltown, theology. 1944-45 Rathfarnham, tertianship.
1945-50 Clongowes, teaching. 1950-86 Zambia.
1950-51 Chikuni, learning language. 1951-57 Chivuna, administering trade school (1954-57 Vice-superior). 1957-58 Chikuni, assistant administrator of schools. 1958-59 Kasiya. 1959-62 Namwala. 1962-66 Kasiya, acting vicar general of Monze diocese. 1966-68 Monze, building Chirundu. 1968-75 Lusaka, St Ignatius, administering Chirundu. 1975-77 Chikuni, teaching. 1977-86 Kasisi: 1977-82 Superior, 1982-86 administering Kasisi farm. 5th January 1986: died.

The following obituary notice is taken from pp. 6-9 of the Zambian Province news-letter, February 1986.

As we stood mournfully round Fr Joe McCarthy's grave at Kasisi Fr Felix Kalebwe asked the Jesuit novices to kneel round the grave and realise that they were blessed to have been able to participate in the burial of a great Jesuit; and they were invited to remember this event for the rest of their lives, and to try to emulate Fr McCarthy in his zeal and dedication.
Later, as we came away from the burial-ground, avoiding the large pools of rain-water, one of the loveliest things of my life happened: many people, Jesuits and non-Jesuits, expressed their sympathy for me personally, in words like, “You will miss him greatly; you were such great friends”.
Because Joe was such a “character”, widely known and admired (as it were from a distance), fondly mimicked, amusedly quoted in his characteristic phrases like “I say, old chap”, “Nonsense”, “My community”, perhaps the full depth of his humanity and Jesuit identity were known only to a small circle of friends with whom he felt totally comfortable. Yes, his achievements as a missionary are part of history, can easily be narrated for the edification of others or the annals of our history. But lest his shyness with so many, and his inclination to resort to eccentric behaviour would hide the warm and gentle character of Joe, I would like to try to describe Joe the man who was a dedicated Jesuit and a very warm friend to a few of us.
Born on 17th April, 1912, to a Dublin family of Cork stock, Joe had to compete with several brothers and sisters for the approval of his father; his mother died when Joe was very young. After secondary school with the Irish Christian Brothers Joe entered the Jesuit noviciate at Emo on 3rd September, 1930. University studies followed at University College, Dublin, and despite being incapacitated by tuberculosis he finished with a good BSc Mathematics. On to Tullabeg for philosophy, where his keen intellect continued to reveal itself. Regency at Clongowes, followed by theological studies at Milltown Park; he always claimed in later life, in his characteristically boastful way, that he was an outstanding moral theologian of that era! What is clear from his studies throughout his Jesuit formation is that Joe could easily have gone on to lecture in any of the three fields of mathematics, philosophy or theology - and would have made his mark in whichever he chose.
Instead, after ordination on 29th July, 1943, fourth year of theology and tertianship, Joe went to teach at Clongowes Wood College. He was looked up to as a very competent teacher while at Clongowes. And from his oft repeated anecdotes of life in Clongowes at that time it is very clear that Joe enjoyed himself immensely while there, and later treasured fond memories of characters like The Prince McGlade and Patch Byrne. A life of satisfying teaching, accompanied by the gracious- ness of castle life lay before him; an inviting prospect for a humanly intellectual person like Joe.
But the Irish Provincial of the time, Fr Thomas Byrne, called for volunteers to meet the need of the Jesuit mission in the then N. Rhodesia. Joe packed his bag and said goodbye to the status and comradeship of Clongowes. In no way did he gladly turn his back on Ireland, the land and people that he loved so much, whose history and literature were so much part of him. That innate asceticism in him, the willingness to leave what he treasured so dearly and with which he was so personally involved, led him to offer himself for the challenging work of a new mission. This ability to discard the (justifiable) comforts of life would be a feature of Joe's life till his dying moments, despite the fragility of his body and the poor state of his general health.
The long boat and train journey to Chisekesi, language study at Chikuni, and then assignment to Kasiya Mission, where he quickly proved his qualities as a missionary. In the late '50s Joe pioneered Chivuna Mission, where he built the house, church and Trade School with the able cooperation of Br Jim Dunne, and won the esteem and affection of the people in the locality, who fondly spoke of him as “Macacki”.
At this stage of his life Joe had entered into the zenith of his apostolic life. Besides being a pioneering missionary and full-time parish priest, he was soon to be an invaluable consultor of the regional Jesuit superior of the Chikuni Mission. His clear-mindedness, coupled with an imaginative zeal and appreciation of the people's needs made Joe a very valuable consultor. Besides providing the superior with the benefits of his knowledge, Joe was energetically pursuing his own expansion of the church. Teachers, headmen and chiefs appreciated his efforts to extend education in their regions. His working relations with all of them were always amicable, and highly appreciated - often still recalled with great admiration and affection even thirty years afterwards. Numerous primary schools in the southern province of Zambia are monuments to Joe's zeal and competence.
Whether as planner, builder, adminisrator, pastoral worker, negotiator, adviser, fruit farmer, cattle farmer or whatever, Joe could not only turn his hand to it, but excel in it. And could (and would!) talk per longum et latum on any of these achievements; as indeed he could talk on any other subject on this earth. He needed to talk about what occupied his time and energy, to think aloud and sound out his grasp of the subject, rather than to learn from another. He was very much a self-made man, believing that with intellect nearly everything could be mastered practically by personal trial and error). Of course he found it next to impossible to admit to others that he ever made a mistake!
The new Bishop of Monze, James Corboy, in his wise fashion appointed Joe as his Vicar-General in the newly established diocese of Monze. Few (if any) could match Joe's qualifications for such a post: clear-sightedness, wide experience in pioneering the church expansion, adroit in negotiation with local authorities, ability to collaborate with so varied a group of people, and an ability to make the most of limited funds. Joe contributed enormously to the expansion of the church in the Monze diocese area in those years. Up to last year Bishop James was still in the habit of calling on the services of Joe when negotiations had to be made with some government ministry. Joe always looked on such a task as a great honour to himself . . , “to help James”.
At the Bishop's request Joe was assigned to Chirundu, to launch the Zambezi Farm-Training Institute, sponsored by the Archdiocese of Milan. In those years (about ten) Joe became known in the vicinity, had cordial relations with all officials in the locality, and was highly appreciated by government officials, personnel of the Archdiocese of Milan, as well as by the trainees and their families who passed through the Institute. During those years, often living alone, Joe was able to give free rein to his personal eccentricities, that would make it difficult for him to re-enter into ordinary community life. To all practical purposes he was Chief of Chirundu, and would later recall the advantages of that way of life. Life at Chirundu also afforded Joe opportunity to find pleasure in the wonders of nature; his knowledge of fossils, birds and trees was very extensive indeed; and his enquiring mind found such delight in so many simple objects of nature.
It was characteristic of Joe, that wherever he lived and worked soon became “his”. He threw himself totally into whatever he was doing, mastering it and achieving his goals in it; never withholding himself from a place or a work. I guess this partly explains why he developed the habit of claiming districts, missions, churches, schools, roads, farms, communities, even cattle for his own: “my” mission, “my” community, ...
This praiseworthy characteristic, to make anything his own, might account for Joe's long-standing resistance to the formation of the Province of Zambia. It took him years to accept that such a change did not inevitably mean a neglect of the Chikuni area or of the diocese of Monze. Those areas, where for the best part of twenty years he had spent himself untiringly - often to the neglect of his health - were to remain, even to the end, of great concern for him.
As the strenuously active part of his life came to an end, other aspects of Joe's character began to manifest themselves more. He always held that he came from a long line of traditional Irish bards or poets, and was convinced that he had the gifts of oratory. He loved to reminisce about the good old times in his life, amusedly recalling the characters of those days, their witty sayings that indicated nimbleness of mind: the memorable incidents of life in Clongowes, the victories of McCarthy and O'Riordan in the early mission days, the achievements of Namwala and Chirundu, brought to life by accolades for the colourful characters of those of those days. Such memories provided Joe with entertainment. And the older he got the more he tended to repeat himself; he was aware, to a degree, that such constant re-living of the past could bore his listeners; but that did not deter him from an exercise that gave him such great delight!
The competitive element of Joe's character, which had helped make him such a zealous missionary in the 50s and 60s, remained with him in later life. How he yearned to preach the greatest sermon, even to the children of Kasisi primary schools, or to be the most heal-ing of confessors to the people of the parish! How he wanted to be the best cattle farmer, the best buyer of necessities for the community! How he was spurred on by a crossword puzzle, by a debate. Such competitiveness quite often could lead him into what seemed rudeness towards others, as he grabbed the limelight in company. Joe was never content to sit back and listen, allowing someone else to be the 'soul of the party'. He had to be the one who dazzled!
The Society he loved and felt part of was the Society of pre-Vatican II days, the Society in Ireland before the 60s; or he pioneering Society of the Chikuni Mission, characterised by the thrust and energy of the newly-arrived Irish Jesuits, enjoying a degree of autonomy and homogeneity; how often he would later those “great times”. The present day emphasis on community meetings, faith-sharing, more open dialogue between all members of the community continued to baffle and defeat him to the very end. Of course he was incapable of admitting to this bafflement, and so tended to dismiss it all as emotional immaturity, decrying the absence of the old solid virtues of self-reliance and selflessness.
How remarkable that Providence : should lead him, for the last eight years his life, to Kasisi, a non-Irish environment, As superior he was able to show his innate kindness to members of his community, to the Sisters in the nearby community and to guests who visited Kasisi to rest or make their annual retreat. All were the recipients of Joe's hospitality.
After surgery in early 1977 Joe realised the strong possibility of a recurrence of the cancer in him. But he would never discuss his anxiety with anyone else. He preferred to carry on as if
everything was okay, doing his duty; and whenever close friends tried to get him to share his anxieties with them, he would quickly switch the conversation into less personal channels. And few people were better than Joe at giving direction to a conversation, in fact at taking over the conversation completely and not giving the other conversant (!) a chance of changing it back on course!
The end came quickly: fighting for life in the intensive care unit at the University Training Hospital, imbalance of body fluids with intermittent hallucinations, infection of the surgery wound, removal to Chikuni and Monze hospitals, an apparent recovery, a lapse into pneumonia, accompanied with a great peace and acceptance of the inevitable. Jim Carroll, who was with Joe for his last four hours, describes his death as a most beautiful one, with Joe eagerly looking forward to seeing his mother and Jesus. When taking his leave of Jim, recall in his final moments, Joe revealed so much of himself in his final words: I think you should leave me, here, old chap; there are certain formalities to be undergone from here on! Within minutes Joe had died, leaving behind so many friends regretfully, but at the same time looking forward to meeting so many others.
In recent annual retreats Joe had confided in me that he had been over- whelmed by God's love for him. I honestly think that he made great efforts in returning that love through his deeds; may he now rest in that same love.

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A file of letters written during the year 1958 relating to the Chikuni Mission, Northern Rhodesia.

  • Includes a memorandum on the Ecclesiastical Administration of the Chikuni Mission in the Vicariate of Lusaka, Northern Rhodesia by Fr Joseph McCarthy SJ (9 August 1958, 2pp).
  • Includes the minutes of a missionary conference held in Lusaka (28 October 1958, 32pp).

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