- 2 January-27 December 1961 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
Appointed Apostolic Administrator of the new Prefecture of Lusaka in 1950
Name of creator
Born: 25 March 1906, Lisnagry, County Limerick
Entered: 01 September 1924, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1939, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1943, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin
Died: 02 November 1981, Hazel Hall Nursing Home, Clane, County Kildare
Part of the Clongowes Wood College, Clane, Co Kildare community at the time of death
Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus: 20 July 1959-1965
Early Education at CUS, Dublin and Clongowes Wood College SJ
by 1938 at Petworth, Surrey (ANG) health
◆ Companions in Mission1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
Note from Arthur J Clarke Entry
Arthur took as his model and ideal his Master of Juniors, Fr Charles O'Conor Don, whose motto, ‘faithful always and everywhere’, Arthur took as his own.
Note from Tommie O’Meara Entry
One summer on villa (summer holidays), the local parish priest was invited to dinner and was being introduced to the scholastics, one of whom was Charles O'Conor-Don (a descendant of the last High King of Ireland). He was introduced as ‘This is the O’Conor-Don’, when Tommie immediately pipes up ‘I'm the O’Meara Tom’.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 18th Year No 2 1943
The O’Conor Don, Owen Phelim O’Conor who died at Glenageary Dublin, on 1st March, was the last lineal descendant, from father to son of Roderick O’Conor, last High King of Ireland, who resigned in the 12th century. He was the second son of the late Right Hon. Charles Owen O'Conor and succeeded to the title on the death of his elder brother, Denis, in 1917. The new holder of the title is our Fr. Charles O’Conor, Minister of Juniors at Rathfarnham, the only son of the late Mr. Charles O’Conor K.M., Lucan House Dublin, and nephew of the late holder. He is the first bearer of an hereditary Irish title to be a priest, and not until his death will the title go to the son or grandson of a cousin of Owen Phelim O’Conor. This gentleman, Mr. Charles William O’Conor was once M.P. for Sligo and now lives in Herefordshire.
Irish Province News 23rd Year No 1 1948
Frs. G. Casey and C. O'Conor represented the Province at the Solem Requiem Mass celebrated at Kikeel Church, Co. Down on 22nd January for the late Fr. John Sloan, S.J., of Patna Mission (Chicago Province) who perished in the Dakota crash outside Karachi on the night of 27th December. Fr. O'Conor was the Celebrant. A brief account of his career appears below.
Irish Province News 34th Year No 4 1959
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 en couragement 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.
Irish Province News 57th Year No 1 1982
The Clongowes Community and boys suffered a grievous loss by the death of Fr Charles O'Conor. (See obituary notices, pp. 152 ff.] No one who reads this brief account of the man will wonder why we, his community, feel his passing so keenly, and share with all the people in the immediate and remoter vicinity a profound sense of loss.
Charles excelled in love of his neighbour. He could not offend in word or deed; he could not say or think present and a Jesuit Roman Catholic anything uncharitable; he was always priest was very well received. The Rector already to oblige; he was a humble man and Headmaster attended the annual who never gave the faintest impression of dinner of the Munster Branch of the being superior in any sense. He was Clongowes Union (28th November). always a pleasant companion and Like all other post-primary schools, gravitated towards the less popular, less Clongowes opened late (14th/15th attractive of his fellows. He was deeply September) on ministerial instructions. respected and beloved by all his fellow scholastics.
One could write of his tireless activity his great patience with himself, especially during the last few years when his memory was failing very and was causing him humiliating trouble in conversation, and that same patience with the poor arriving at our door, many of whom were humbugs with made-up hard-luck stories that went on With all inside and outside he showed the same restraint and respect: he himself all unawares won the greatest reverence from all the people around. Even the boys, thoughtless though they seem, regarded him with great affection and respect; and boys are seldom deceived in their judgments of their masters or superiors.
Fr Charles O’Conor (1906-1924-1981)
The present writer first met Fr Charlie in Tullabeg noviciate on 1st September 1924, in the days when an entry-list of 26 first-year novices was looked upon as quite normal. He and his family had made a great sacrifice by his following a religious vocation, as he was the last direct descendant of the third-last High King of Ireland. Turlough O’Conor. For the tiine, however, he was just one of us novices and went through all the noviceship experiments like the rest of us. Tall and ascetic-looking, but of rather frail physique, he took little part in team games, but was exceptionally good at tennis and very popular with everyone.
After the noviceship he went with the rest of his year to Rathfarnham and attended University College, Dublin, gaining there a BA degree with honours. for the next two years (1929-'31), still in Rathfarnham, he went on to gain an HDE and (something quite exceptional in those days) an MA in History. His dissertation was on Charles O’Conor of Belanagare, a distinguished ancestor of his who lived in Penal times. As a result of the two extra years in Rathfarnham, when his contemporaries had moved on to philosophy, Charlie was out of step with them for the rest of his scholastic career. After philosophical studies in Tullabeg, instead of teaching prefecting in the colleges, he returned to Rathfarnham and spent two more years there, assisting the Minister of Juniors and doing some teaching in the juniorate.
His theological studies in Milltown Park (1936-41) were interrupted by ill- health. At the end of his first year it was discovered that he had contracted tuberculosis, so he was sent to Petworth, where the English Province maintained a sanatorium. Here within twelve months he made what seemed to be a satisfactory recovery. However, when he resumed theology in Ireland, doubt arose over the permanence of this recovery, so by special dispensation he was ordained a priest at the end of his second year. After theology he went to Rathfarnham (his third time there) as a tertian, and on his appointment as Minister of Juniors stayed on (1942-50). During this period also he was “Province Prefect of Studies” (inspector of colleges).
Since about 1945 Fr Charlie was “vice postulator” of the cause of Fr John Sullivan's beatification. He played a great part in drawing up the necessary documents for the Judicial Informative Process held in Dublin and in Kildare and Leighlin. The cause entailed an enormous amount of correspondence not only with Rome but also with a very large number of clients both at home and abroad, some seeking relics and others informing him of favours received through Fr Sullivan’s intercession.
[The next nine years of Fr Charles’s life - his Gonzaga period, 1950-59 - are dealt with separately, below. His Provincialate (1959-'65) presently lacks a chronicler! Fr Brendan Barry was his Socius and successor as Provincial: had he survived, we might have had a first hand account).
When Fr Charlie ceased to be Provincial in 1965, he came to Clongowes, where he spent the reinaining sixteen years of his life. He was made pastor of the people's church and was given charge of the garden and the pleasure grounds. For many years also he taught religion to one of the junior classes, to whom he became guide, philosopher and friend. He interviewed the boys regularly in his room, and in later life many of them returned to thank him for the help he gave them when they had succumbed to depression.
Besides his voluminous correspondence connected with Fr John Sullivan, he was also indefatigable in writing to Ours, especially to those working on the missions in Hong Kong, Zambia and Australia. Many an exile was completely dependent on him for news of what was happening here at home. As guestmaster he always gave them a hearty céad mile failte on their return from foreign parts.
Fr Charlie occupied one of the rooms near the hall door and so was in constant demand as confessor at unusual hours, He heard confessions also for long hours every week-end, on the eves of First Fridays and all the Church holydays. However, probably the greatest demand made on his time and patience was in listening to all sorts of down-and-outs who came regularly to him seeking help both spiritual and temporal. Frequently they arrived at mealtimes, but never did he show any resentment at the inconvenience they caused him. He took very literally the words of the Gospel: “As often as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me”. He was often asked also to bless invalids either in their own homes or in hospitals in Naas or Dublin or sometimes farther afield.
In the school itself he was in daily demand to superintend the swimming pool and showers. On half-days, especially when there were visiting teams Charlie was taken and put under to be catered for, this was a long and sedation. very wearisome chore in the steaming atmosphere of the baths, to the accompaniment of a constant din of high-pitched youthful screaming and shouting to their hearts' content. At the end of the exercise, he always insisted on doing the mopping-up personally, even though many volunteered to help.
A few years ago, his tuberculosis showed signs of returning, so he had to go to hospital in Dublin. Afterwards he spent some time recuperating in his home atmosphere at Clonalis, Co Roscommon. He began to suffer from two great disabilities: deafness and loss of memory. Though he was supplied with a hearing aid, it never worked very successfully. He was not mechanically-minded, and so found it difficult to adjust: for all practical purposes he discarded it completely.
With his loss of memory, another man might have retired completely into his shell, but not Fr Charlie. At times admittedly when talking to him, it could be embarrassing to have to hear and answer the same question two or three times in the course of a short conversation. As a result of these disabilities, he had to give up offering Mass and hearing confessions in the People's church, but these were the only concessions he did make. He managed to keep up all his other activities right up to the end.
On Sunday, 25th October 1981, at breakfast (7.30 am) he looked pale and sickly, and admitted to feeling unwell. He took merely a cup of tea and was led back to his room. The doctor was sent for and diagnosed a heart attack, but not one requiring immediate intensive care hospital. He saw Fr O’Conor's immediate need as rest, preparatory to transfer to hospital, and himself suggested the nearby nursing home, Hazel Hall in Clane. The consultant assented to this course, so there Fr Charlie was taken and put under sedation.
During his first few days in Hazel Hall he appeared very anaemic and listless; then by degrees he seemed to regain both his colour and his interest in everything: happenings at home, goings and comings. Various members of the community visited him daily, as did his sisters, four of whom survive.
On All Souls' day (2nd November) two of the community visited him and found him ever better than he had been on previous days. Within an hour or so, as afternoon tea was being brought to the rooms, word came back that Fr Charlie had suffered another heart attack, to which he succumbed. Next evening his remains were brought to Clongowes. Dr Patrick Lennon, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, received the coffin at the main door of the 1932 building. The senior boys carried it down the corridors, the others lining the way, to the high altar of the Boys' chapel, where his Lordship spoke the final prayers. Among the dignitaries present that evening were Dublin's Lord Mayor, Alexis FitzGerald, who had been one of Fr Charlie's pupils at Gonzaga, and the ex-Taoiseach, Mr Liam Cosgrave. Dr Dominic Conway, Bishop of Elphin (the O’Conor home diocese), presided next morning at the funeral Mass concelebrated by some seventy
priests. The then Taoiseach, Dr Garret FitzGerald, was represented by his aide-de-camp, and the Knights of Malta, attired in their robes, were well represented: Fr Charlie had been their chaplain. The coffin was then carried once more in by the senior boys to the hearse waiting on the main avenue, with the rest of the boys fining the route; then all proceeded to the community cemetery, where the final farewell was spoken by Fr Provincial. Tributes carne from far and near from all classes of people who felt his death as a real personal loss. May he rest in peace!
Fr O'Conor's Gonzaga period
In the spring of 1950 Charlie left Rathfarnham to take up residence in Milltown Park and to set up Gonzaga College in part of the newly-acquired Bewley property. He had been Province
Prefect of Studies for some years, but had never been on the teaching staff of any of our colleges. With the thoroughness and dedication that was characteristic of him, he set about this pioneering task leading to an ever-mysterious future whose outlines he could barely have glimpsed.
Those who were posted to Gonzaga in 1950 received more sympathy than envy from their friends. One of them told the present writer that the postal delivery of 31st July, which brought the unwelcome Status news brought also another letter - a line of welcome from Charlie with a their ten-shilling note enclosed. This kind personal consideration was a marked feature of his life.
The Rector of Milltown, in whose name the Bewley property had been bought, had entrusted the reconstruction of the house - the future school and residence - to a group of tradesmen who undertook to do it after working hours. By the opening date, 8th September, they hadn't finished the job. However, classrooms and toilets were ready. The brethren's rooms had each a bed, a table and a chair: community meals were in Miltown Park, Every night Charlie went down to meet the workmen and enjoy a smoke with them, despite the irritation their broken promises occasioned him.
The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Charles McQuaid, had requested a school at the south side of the city. While meeting this request, the Provincial, Fr “Luigi” O'Grady, had decided that the Province should try to offer a preparation for third-level education other than that given by the Leaving Certificate and Matriculation courses of those days. A return to the Ratio
Studiorum was invoked, but it wasn't obvious how this was to be applied to the realities of Irish secondary education in 1950, when parents paid all school fees and university entrance standards had to be met. Charlie had his own ideas of what a school might be, and while not being a theorist, he had his own quiet way of converting his ideas into reality. I think he saw the school as ancillary to the home. Hence parents were invited to all school occasions, even to a cup of coffee after a Confirmation in the opening year, when standing-room scarcely existed for parents and boys. He had a deep personal interest in each of the boys and held private “chats” with them in his office. Many of them have told the present writer that they received help from him that carried them through post-school years.Charlie’s involvement in the school’s life was total. He taught Religion and supervised the lunchroom and the changing-room for games. He was constantly thinking of the immediate and future needs of the school, and planned community each change with great care, relying on listed arguments pro and contra before his decision, then really trusting in the power of prayer for every undertaking. Here his devotion to our Lady and confidence in her intercession was remarkable. When the theologians vacated the second Bewley house, variously known as Sandford Grove, Winkelmann’s and St. Joseph's, Gonzaga fitted it up as a classroom block. Charlie gave great care and attention to every detail of the plans for this, as he did for the building of the hall and library block, and on this latter he was more efficient than any clerk of works could be. Before the building was handed over, the whole community was paration for third-level education other asked to do a tour of inspection to note any omissions or defects; the result was a long list of 113 minor items for the builder's consideration.
As a superior, he was a man of his time. He expected co-operation with his ideas, though he listened to ours. It was possible to disagree with him without having a row about the matter. He was thoughtful and considerate for each individual. His expectations of others were high, but he never asked anyone to do what he himself was not willing to attempt
He had a real interest in people, indeed in all people, from the poor man begging for a shilling to those friends of his own family who were in a very different social class. He had a real love for the poor, evidenced by the fact that on one Sunday afternoon no less then 37 came to Gonzaga begging for a little help'. He didn't readily speak about himself, but one day he did tell us of his delight at receiving a letter from a woman in England, asking for his mother's name. She wished her child to take that name in Confirmation, because Mrs O'Conor had given this woman's mother a weekly gift of tea and sugar and the only new clothes she had ever worn,
In the community Charlie was very friendly, even though his shyness tended to make him seem aloof at times. His life with God may have affected his easy approach to people. It was certainly the hub of his life, about which all else revolved. The sincerity of his faith was an inspiration. He won the respect and affection of a large proportion of the boys and their parents, and the years have not blunted their perception of his simplicity, sincerity and saintliness.
A former pupil's appreciation
Mr Charles Edward Lysaght, born in 1942, was educated at Gonzaga and is a barrister and writer. He is the author of Brendan Bracken (1979) and of the following tribute, which appeared in The Irish Times and is reprinted here with a few excisions.]
Fr Charles O’Conor, O’Conor Don, was in every sense a prince among men. As the descendant of the O’Conor High Kings, he was heir to an aristocratic tradition which far antedated the Protestant ascendancy and stretched back beyond the Norman invasion. His forebears in the Penal days had paid a heavy price in worldly terms to hold on to their Faith. It was wholly in character that Fr Charles, the only son among ten children, should not have counted the cost of devoting his life to the priestly vocation in the Society of Jesus.
As a Jesuit he has a fruitful life. Before his ordination he read History at University College, Dublin, and did important historical research for his Master's degree on the history of his family in the Penal days. In 1950 he founded Gonzaga College and quickly established it in a position of eminence in Dublin life ... He was a man of vision and he realised the importance of establishing in Dublin a first-class Catholic day-school.
Of course he had his foibles. His picturesque turn of phrase and well-bred mannerisms evoked occasional mirth among the boys. He could be rigid in some ways and may have lacked an understanding of human frailty in dealing with the wayward. He was very much the child of the old preconciliar Church, where the maintenance of standards was considered as important as the apparent dictates of human compassion.
It was a recognition of Fr O’Conor’s achievement as first rector of Gonzaga that he was appointed in 1959 to be Provincial of the Irish Province of the Jesuits. ... When his term as Provincial ended in 1965, he returned to Clongowes and sought to promote for canonisation the cause of Fr John Sullivan, the convert son of an Irish Lord Chancellor, who had taught him as a boy at the school. He also acted as chaplain to the Irish Association of the Order of Malta, which his father, Mr Charles O’Conor of Lucan House, had helped to found..
The memory which abides is of the man himself, a gaunt delicate figure, shy, reticent, earnest and somewhat tense, who walked very much alone in God’s path through life’s journey. There was about him a graciousness and elegance, epitomised by his handwriting and use of language, which adorned all he touched. It went to the very core of his being and was combined with a deep spirituality and true humility. In his last years he accepted with true Christian resignation his declining mental powers and the great cross of not being able to say Mass. To have been taught by him and to have known him was an inspiration in life, for through that experience one could not help but feel closer to one’s God.
Name of creator
Born: 11 April 1916, Dublin
Entered: 12 November 1938, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1951, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 05 November 1977, Canisius College, Chikuni, Zambia
Died: 08 March 1995, John Chula House, Lusaka, Zambia - Zambiae Province
Transcribed HIB to ZAM : 03 December 1969
Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ
◆ Companions in Mission1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
After leaving school at Clongowes Wood College in 1933, Arthur worked for about five years in the Hibernian Bank. Later he enjoyed recalling his days as an oarsman in a crew of eight, racing on the river Liffey in Dublin.
Arthur took as his model and ideal his Master of Juniors, Fr Charles O'Conor Don, whose motto, ‘faithful always and everywhere’, Arthur took as his own. He was noticeable for his observance of rules, regularity at prayer, simple faith, thoroughness in his work – even polishing the floor of his room. He was outstanding for his charity especially towards those in trouble or unwell. These traits remained with him all his life. One who lived with Arthur said that he had a characteristic blend of the ridiculous with a stern sense of duty.
When he finished tertianship, Arthur became socius to the Master of Novices for about two years and then became Minister at Clongowes Wood College for two years. The job of Minister seemed to have followed him in all the houses he was posted to.
1958 saw him in Zambia, in Chivuna where he studied ciTonga and acted as Minister. He was transferred to Chikuni, again as Minister, but after two years became Rector there, In the role of rector, as in the rest of his life, Arthur never once showed the slightest trace of malice, vindictiveness or favouritism. During his six years as rector, he was blessed with such outstanding heads of Canisius as Dick Cremins and Michael J Kelly. Arthur's vision for Canisius as a leading secondary school was influenced by his experience of Clongowes Wood College in Ireland. First, he wanted a proper house for the community. Though the actual building was the responsibility of Fr McCarron and Br Pat McElduff, the siting and design of the spacious community house are largely Arthur’s. Then came the expansion of Canisius with better quality classrooms and dormitories, a fitting dining room and kitchen. Arthur was deeply involved too in the design of the college chapel.
From 1967 to 1973 he was at Namwala Government Secondary School as teacher and later as Deputy Head. Arthur revelled in giving himself to the demands made on him: teaching, conscientious correction of assignments, availability to students, and counsellor to his fellow teachers. Becoming Deputy gave him the extra load of maintaining discipline and setting high standards of behaviour and work among the students. This seems to have been one of the happiest times of Arthur's life in Zambia and every indication was that he had excellent relations with the staff and pupils, due no doubt to his inherent kindness and generosity. He actually wore himself out and was then transferred to the smaller Mukasa minor seminary in Choma in 1974.
However, in 1974, he went on long leave to Ireland where he was exposed to new styles of living the religious life and nuanced modifications of traditional ways of expressing Catholic doctrine. Arthur became confused and deeply upset, as his simple faith had always delighted in accepting the traditional textbook expression of the Catholic faith which he had learnt in theology. So he held on grimly to his convictions for the rest of his life, as he continued to think and preach in scholastic categories. He found Mukasa too small for him after the vastness of Namwala and was moved after two years. His eight years (1976–1984) at Charles Lwanga T.T.C. gave him fresh scope for his zeal and energies. He enjoyed being in a large community house which he kept spotlessly clean during his years as Minister. His lecturers were meticulously prepared and all assignments corrected. He was tireless in supervising teaching practice. He worked hard to build up the morale of a small group of Catholic pupils at Rusangu Secondary School.
In the end he wore himself out again and was transferred to St Ignatius in Lusaka as assistant in the parish (1984-1990). He was especially devoted to hearing confessions and generous in answering calls on his time. When Fr Max Prokoph began to fail, Arthur was as assiduous as ever in helping him. Ascetical in his own life, stern towards those for whom he felt responsibility, Arthur was surprisingly indulgent towards the various strays and ‘inadequates’ who quickly detected in him and easy touch and flocked around St Ignatius.
He was moved to the infirmary at John Chula House as his mind began to fail even though his body was strong and healthy. It was painful to see him slowly losing touch with the outside world as Alzheimer’s took its inevitable toll. At the end, Arthur died quite suddenly. It was discovered that he had widespread cancer of which he never complained. He was never one to vacillate or waffle and when the time came he took his leave of life as he had lived it, with dispatch and no nonsense.
Note from Bernard (Barney) Collins Entry
Barney moved to Namwala parish from 1968 to 1973 with Fr Clarke as his companion in the community to be joined later by Fr Eddie O’Connor (and his horse). From 1973 to 1977 he was parish priest at Chilalantambo and returned to Chikuni in 1977 to be assistant in the parish to Fr Jim Carroll.
Interfuse No 82 : September 1995
Fr Arthur Clarke (1916-1995)
Arthur Clarke was born on April 11th 1916 in Dublin and went to school in Clongowes, After he left school he entered the Bank of Ireland, but was not fully satisfied. A close friend told me that both he and Arthur considered going to Kenya under a British Government scheme to grow coffee. On a solitary walking holiday in the South of Ireland Arthur stayed in a Trappist monastery and decided that this was what he wanted. A short stay with the monks led to their advising Arthur that “he was too introspective” for their way of life and directed him to the Society of Jesus. There he stayed until he died in the retirement home in Lusaka Zambia on 8th March 1995.
He entered the novitiate in Emo on November 5th 1938 and followed the usual course of formation, doing his regency in the Crescent College Limerick. After Tertianship he was Socius to the Novice Master and then Minister in Clongowes, where he learnt of his appointment to Northern Rhodesia in the normal way, by someone telling him casually on the way into the refectory.
Five of us travelled out by Union Castle to Cape Town. At the Rhodesian border in Bulawayo, Arthur, always a man of integrity, insisted on paying duty on all his new clothes, despite the efforts of the Customs to assure him that as all our goods and chattels were going to Chikuni Mission there was nothing to pay.
This illustrates Arthur's characteristic blend of a keen sense of the ridiculous with a stern sense of duty. When these two clashed, Arthur would resolutely do what he considered was his duty, while muttering the while that it was all a lot of nonsense, but we had to do it. This he applied to his stints as Minister in our communities. He made no secret of his dislike of the job, but laboured might and main to keep the house spotless, and turn out magnificent meals on big occasions, even though he was not at ease in celebrations. From time to time Arthur would recount hilarious incidents of his formation years, normally involving the deflation of some pomposity or affectation. The following morning there would be an attack of conscience resulting in a stern admonition to us scholastics to show more respect in speaking of the very people Arthur had been taking off the previous evening.
Arthur had a difficult time adapting to life in Africa at first, though not through lack of trying. He was of that generation which had done no studies outside Ireland and this must have been his first experience of another culture. He took a long time to shake free of the conventions of the Irish Province, many of which were ill suited to life in the bush.
Arthur became Rector of Chikuni where he ruled with an utterly unbiased if somewhat stern hand. Sean McCarron, in Zambia to build the Teacher Training College, would point out that even he had been taken to task by Arthur for some misdemeanour, leaving us mystified as to why he should consider himself immune to Arthur's sense of what was appropriate behaviour. In the role of Rector, as in the rest of his life, Arthur never once showed the slightest trace of malice, vindictiveness or favouritism.
After his stint as Rector, Arthur went to teach in Namwala Government Secondary School. The Zambian Principal, no doubt in recognition of Arthur's commitment to order and discipline, appointed him Vice-Principal and then allowed him to get on with running the entire school, while he pursued a more leisurely way of life. This seems to have been one of the happiest times of Arthur's life in Zambia and every indication was that he had excellent relations with the staff and pupils, due no doubt to his inherent kindness and generosity.
While stationed at St. Ignatius parish in Lusaka Arthur showed his compassionate side in his care for Fr. Max Prokoph who was deteriorating in health and required constant care around the house, which Arthur showed him to a remarkable degree of patience. Fr. Dominic Nchete, a Zambian priest, said that if for nothing else, this would assure Arthur's going straight to heaven. Ascetical in his own life, stern towards those for whom he felt responsibility, Arthur was surprisingly indulgent to the various strays and inadequates who quickly detected in him an easy touch and flocked around St. Ignatius.
For someone who led such an organised and full life, it was painful to see him slowly losing touch with the outside world as Alzheimer's took its inevitable toll. Increasingly it was clear that he did not recognise those who had lived with him over the years. At the very end Arthur died quite suddenly. He was never one to vacillate or waffle, and when the time came he took his leave of this life as he had lived it, with despatch and no nonsense.
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A file of letters written during the year 1961 relating to the Chikuni Mission, Northern Rhodesia.
- Includes a letter from Fr Arthur Clarke SJ, Chikuni Mission, PO Chisekesi, Northern Rhodesia to Irish Fr Provincial Charles O'Conor SJ expressing the need for a new community house at Chikuni. Outlines the needs of the community at Chikuni and costs involved (20 April 1961, 8pp).
- Includes a memorandum on the financial needs of Canisius College, Chikuni (14 August 1961, 15pp).
- Includes a letter from Fr Arthur Clarke SJ, Chikuni Mission, PO Chisekesi, Northern Rhodesia to Irish Fr Provincial Charles O'Conor SJ thanking him for providing £10,000 for a new community residence at Chikuni.
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The Irish Jesuit Archives are open only to bona fide researchers. Access by advance appointment. Further details: [email protected]
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- Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Lusaka (Subject)
- Kozłowiecki, Adam, 1911-2007, Archbishop of Lusaka (Subject)
- Chikuni Mission (Subject)
- O'Conor, Charles D, 1906-1981, Jesuit priest (Subject)
- Charles Lwanga College, Chikuni, 1959- (Subject)
- Canisius Secondary School, Chikuni, 1949- (Subject)
- McCarron, Seán J, 1907-1975, Jesuit priest (Subject)
- Clarke, Arthur J, 1916-1995, Jesuit priest (Subject)
- Irish Jesuit Mission to Zambia, 1946-1969 (Subject)