- 4 January-11 December 1962 (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: 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
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.
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 No 123 : Special Issue February 2005
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.
Name of creator
Born: 18 August 1911, Dublin
Entered: 14 September 1931, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1944, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 15 August 1968, Sacred Heart, Monze, Zambia
Died: 14 April 1980, Mater Hospital, Nairobi, Kenya - Zambia Province (ZAM)
Part of the Chivuna, Monze, Zambia community at the time of death.
Older brother of Paddy Meagher - RIP 2005
Cousin of John P Leonard - RIP 2006
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
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.
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A file of letters written during the year 1962 relating to the Chikuni Mission, Northern Rhodesia.
- Includes a letter from Fr Patrick Cummins SJ, Mater Dei Church, Box 11, Kalomo, Northern Rhodesia to Irish Fr Provincial Charles O'Conor SJ concerning the ongoing difficulty in choosing an Ecclesiastical Superior (4 January 1962, 2pp).
- Includes a letter from Fr Daniel Meagher SJ, Superior of the Mission, Kasiya Mission, PO Box 54, Pemba to Irish Fr Provincial (Fr. expressing his delight at the appointment of the Ecclesiastical Superior - Fr James Corboy SJ (consecrated on 24 June 1962) (2 May 1962, 2pp).
- Includes a souvenir booklet of the consecration of the Right Reverend James Corboy SJ at Chikuni (24 June 1962, 1 item).
- Includes an extract from a letter written by Irish Fr Provincial Charles O'Conor SJ on the occasion of the consecration of Bishop Corboy (26 June 1962, 1p).
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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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No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the Archivist. Copyright restrictions apply. Photocopying is not available. Digital photography is at the discretion of the Archivist.
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Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Name access points
- 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)
- Meagher, Daniel Louis, 1911-1980, Jesuit priest and missioner (Subject)
- Cummins, Patrick, former Jesuit priest (Subject)
- Corboy, James, 1916-2004, Jesuit priest and Roman Catholic Bishop of Monze (Subject)
- Irish Jesuit Mission to Zambia, 1946-1969 (Subject)