File 18 - Documents and letters relating to Fr John Hayes’ career before becoming a military chaplain

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Documents and letters relating to Fr John Hayes’ career before becoming a military chaplain


  • 5 August 1925 –22 July 1939 (Creation)

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12 items

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Name of creator

(15 February 1909-21 January 1945)

Biographical history

Born: 15 February 1909, Limerick City
Entered: 01 September 1925, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1939, Milltown Park, Dublin
Professed: 07 February 1942, Mount St Mary’s College, Spinkhill, Derbyshire, England
Died: 21 January 1945, Katha (Yangon), Burma (Military Chaplain)

Second World War chaplain

Brother of Francis Hayes - LEFT 1932; Nephew of Francis Lyons - RIP 1933; Early education at Crescent College

Died as WWII Chaplain

◆ Jesuits in Ireland :

Fr John Hayes: a Jesuit at war
Limerickman Patrick McNamara has just published Their Name Liveth for Evermore, a book about the involvement of Limerick in the Second World War. Included is the story of Fr John Hayes SJ, a chaplain in the armed forces who died of typhus in Burma. John Hayes, the son of Michael and Agnes Hayes (nee Lyons), 21 Ascot Terrace, O’Connell Avenue, Limerick was born on 15th February 1909. His early education by the Jesuits at The Crescent College in the city was to be an introduction to the priestly life. He joined the Jesuits at St. Stanislaus College, Tullabeg where he started his novitiate in 1925. From 1934 until 1936 he taught as a scholastic at Belvedere College, Dublin. In 1936 he went on to study theology at Milltown Park, Dublin where he was ordained priest in July 1939. He was engaged in further studies until June 1941.
In July 1941, he was appointed as a chaplain to the British Army and writing back from Redcar, Yorkshire he expressed his feelings about his new appointment ‘completely at home and experiences no sense of strangeness’. In 1943 he was selected for overseas service and in May of that year, set sail for India. On arrival there, he was assigned to the 36th Division at Poona. In early 1944, the Division moved to the Arakan front, where it was committed to help stop the Japanese advance; the fighting was hard; this was John Hayes’ introduction to active service. He was to prove an outstanding chaplain who was both loved and respected by all with whom he came in contact with; he was a man of tireless energy and indomitable courage.
On the 31st August 1944, John, in a letter home, wrote:
The 36th Division is now fighting the Japs about 30 miles south of the ‘city’ of Mogaung, about 22 odd miles from Mandalay, to the north. Having left cool Assam (where I was able to help administer to many American troops who greatly edified by large numbers frequenting the Sacraments) we flew over the hills to Myitkyina and went by jeep-pulled train to the ruins of Mogaung, captured just before by our allies, chiefly Chinese. The fight started about 12 miles south of Mogaung (Hill 60) which was cleared by one of our brigades and continued (though not toughly) over 20 miles to the south, our men clearing the road and rail which run mostly together in the direction of Mandalay. We were ‘on the road to Mandalay’ for our sins!
I missed the first phase but fortunately was in for the second phase of the battle. I attached myself to a Scotch Regiment and gave them Mass, Confession and Communion standing by a stream. We were in a long narrow plain between hills. Our Chinese allies hold the hills: we advance along the road and rail southwards in the valley. Occasionally the heat is oppressive, but heavy rains and scanty overhead shelter are the great difficulties. Sickness: malaria, dysentery, bad feet, jungle sores are common. (I’m completely fit D.G.). Last Monday, the 28th of August, I buried a Catholic, Corporal Kelly; he lay dead 30 paces from the railway; 10 yards away a Jap sat, his back to Kelly, dead, with his hand resting on his knees. While the grave was being prepared the moaning of a dying Jap was heard 40 paces away. I baptised him conditionally; he died 15 minutes later. I was so thoroughly affected by his sufferings that I could hardly carry out the burial of Corporal Kelly for tears.
A Chinese interpreter is showing interest in the Catholic Faith. Our casualties were reasonably light. The Jap has displayed great heroism in spite of our dive-bombers, strafing and heavy guns (to which he has no reply in kind). He has stood his ground with sublime courage. I feel somehow that God will reward his enormous spirit of self-dedication. I find it an inspiration myself. The effect of actual work during action is terrific. One feels ready to sacrifice everything to save a single soul. So far God has given me the grace never to have felt fear on any occasion. No thanks to myself, for I know much better men who have felt fear. Largely, I think, a matter of natural complexion and texture of nerves. This monsoon-swept valley between low hills is beautifully and softly green with running streams, but it is a valley of death; many bodies lie decomposing; the villages are all smashed, the people homeless, and God is looking down, I think, with pity on it all …….
It was during the hard fighting to capture Myitkyina, that Fr. Hayes was to earn the soubriquet of ‘Battling Hayes’. After Myitkyina, the Division pushed on to the Irrawaddy. It was on the banks of the great river that Fr. Hayes was to die, not from battle wounds but from disease.
On 28th December 1944 he was evacuated to the casualty clearing station at Katha where he was diagnosed as suffering from typhus. His condition got progressively worse, pneumonia set in. Fr. Hayes must have sensed that the end was near; he requested the last rites on 6th January 1945. John died on 21st January 1945 on the banks of the Irrawaddy just two months before the 14th Army decisively defeated the Japanese at Meiktila, on the road to Mandalay and Rangoon.
John’s work as a chaplain is best described by an old Belvederian, Captain William Ward of the 36th Division, in a letter to the Rector of Belvedere after the death of John.
Dear Fr. Rector,
As an old Belvederian, I feel it my duty to give you the sad news of the death of an old member of the staff of Belvedere. I refer to the late Fr. John Hayes S.J. who died of typhus at Katha on the Irrawaddy in Central Burma on January 21st 1945. He was our chaplain here in the 16th Division and a more likeable man one would find it hard to meet. He was loved by one and all from our G.O.C., General Festing, who was a Catholic, to the most humble Indian.
He joined us at Poona in 1943 and came with the Division to the Arakan early last year and later flew in with us on our present operation. To one and all he was known as ‘Battling Hayes’, utterly devoid of any fear. It was only on the express order of General Festing that he took his batman to act as escort when on his rounds. No matter where one went, more especially in the height of battle, there one would find Fr. Hayes in his peculiar dress: Ghurkha hat, battledress blouse and blue rugger shorts. It was common to see him walking along a road known to be infested with the enemy, without any protection of any kind, happy in the thought that he was doing his job.
The highest praise I can pay Fr. Hayes, and this our present chaplain, Fr. Clancy from Clare, agrees with me, is that he reminded me very much of the late Fr. Willie Doyle. Nothing mattered; monsoon, rain, heat, disease, the enemy, his one thought was to be among his flock, doing all he could to help them. Nothing was too much trouble and the further forward a Unit was, the greater his delight in going forward to celebrate Mass. By his death all the Catholics of his Division and many of the Protestants, have lost a great friend and the finest chaplain one could wish to have ….
In a letter to John’s mother, General (later Field Marshal) Festing, wrote:
I would like on behalf of this Division and myself to express our very deepest sympathy to you in the loss of your son. We all were fond of Fr. Hayes who was an exemplification of all that a Catholic Priest and an Army Chaplain should be. He was a tireless worker, and if any man worked himself to death, it was he. Your son was an undoubted saint and he died fortified by the rites of Holy Church. May he rest in peace.
Fr. John Hayes was 36 years old when he died. He is buried in grave 7A. F. 24, Taukkyan War Cemetery, outside Yangon (formerly Rangoon) in Myanmar (Burma). He was the only Irish Jesuit chaplain to have died during the Second World War.
Their Name Liveth For Evermore by Patrick McNamara, is available from most book shops in Limerick city. The main centre is: Hamsoft Communication, Tait Buiness Centre, Limerick. Phone (061) 416688. Price €30.00 (hardback only) + P/P. ISBN 0-9554386-0-8.

◆ Fr Francis Finegan : Admissions 1859-1948 - Went to Juniorate without First Vows. Died in January 1945 from typhus while a Chaplain in the British Army in India

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 16th Year No 4 1941
General :
Seven more chaplains to the forces in England were appointed in July : Frs Burden, Donnelly, J Hayes, Lennon and C Murphy, who left on 1st September to report in Northern Ireland, and Fr Guinane who left on 9th September.
Fr. M. Dowling owing to the serious accident he unfortunately met when travelling by bus from Limerick to Dublin in August will not be able to report for active duty for some weeks to come. He is, as reported by Fr. Lennon of the Scottish Command in Midlothian expected in that area.
Of the chaplains who left us on 26th May last, at least three have been back already on leave. Fr. Hayes reports from Redcar Yorkshire that he is completely at home and experiences no sense of strangeness. Fr. Murphy is working' with the Second Lancashire Fusiliers and reports having met Fr. Shields when passing through Salisbury - the latter is very satisfied and is doing well. Fr. Burden reports from Catterick Camp, Yorks, that he is living with Fr. Burrows, S.J., and has a Church of his own, “so I am a sort of PP”.
Fr. Lennon was impressed very much by the kindness already shown him on all hands at Belfast, Glasgow, Edinburgh and in his Parish. He has found the officers in the different camps very kind and pleased that he had come. This brigade has been without a R.C. Chaplain for many months and has never yet had any R.C. Chaplain for any decent length of time. I am a brigade-chaplain like Fr Kennedy and Fr. Naughton down south. He says Mass on weekdays in a local Church served by our Fathers from Dalkeith but only open on Sundays. This is the first time the Catholics have had Mass in week-days

Irish Province News 17th Year No 1 1942
Chaplains :
Our twelve chaplains are widely scattered, as appears from the following (incomplete) addresses : Frs. Burden, Catterick Camp, Yorks; Donnelly, Gt. Yarmouth, Norfolk; Dowling, Peebles Scotland; Guinane, Aylesbury, Bucks; Hayes, Newark, Notts; Lennon, Clackmannanshire, Scotland; Morrison, Weymouth, Dorset; Murphy, Aldershot, Hants; Naughton, Chichester, Sussex; Perrott, Palmer's Green, London; Shields, Larkhill, Hants.
Fr. Maurice Dowling left Dublin for-Lisburn and active service on 29 December fully recovered from the effects of his accident 18 August.

Irish Province News 20th Year No 2 1945

Fr. John Hayes, Chaplain to the British Forces in Burma, died of typhus on January 21st, 1945.

Irish Province News 20th Year No 2 1945


Fr. John Hayes (1909-1925-1945)

Fr. John Hayes died on the Feast of St. Agnes, Sunday morning, January 21st, 1945, as Senior Catholic Chaplain to the British Forces on the Burma Front.
Born at Limerick on February 15th, 1909, he was educated at the Crescent, and entered the Novitiate at Tullabeg on September 1st, 1925. Two years later he commenced his four years' Juniorate at Rathfarnham whence, in 1930, he returned to Tullabeg as one of the first group to do philosophy there. During these years of study he gave good promise as a writer, and had published a number of articles dealing with life and activity in the Mission Fields of the Church.
From Tullabeg he went to Belvedere for his three years teaching, 1933-36. In his final year there his love of the Missions found outlet through the Mission Society of which he was a zealous and capable Director.
At the end of three years' Theology at Milltown he was ordained by the Most Rev. Dr. Wall on July 31st, 1939. In September, 1940, Fr. Hayes was again at Rathfarnham for his Tertianship, which ended with his appointment in July, 1941, as a Chaplain to the British Army. He reported duty on September 1st, and by the following month wrote of himself as being “completely at home” in his new life . During the next year and a half he was stationed in various parts of England. On February 7th, 1942, he took his final vows at St. Mary's, Spinkhill. Early in the year 1943 he was selected for overseas service. At the end of a long sea voyage he found himself in India, where, as Chaplain to the 36th Division he did valiant work for many months prior to departure for the Burma front.
During practically the whole of 1944 Fr, Hayes was with his men in the jungle-fighting in Burma. It was a tough assignment, but the asceticism which for so long had moulded his character stood every test and strain. In their Chaplain the men saw a strong, fearless man of God fired by an intense passion to win all he could for Christ. Affectionately, they dubbed him “Battling Hayes”. Hardship and privation found him always cheerful. Weariness and fatigue seemed strangers to him. If he felt any fear of wounds or death he never gave sign of it. His courageous conduct through the long months of fierce jungle fighting was an inspiration to every officer and man who witnessed it. General Festing, under whom Fr. Hayes served, resisted every effort to have him transferred from his divisional command. The General being a Catholic, appreciated the sources of his Padre's tireless energy and indomitable courage. Writing of him after his death General Festing stated that “Fr. Hayes was an exemplification of all that a Catholic Priest and an army chaplain should be. He was a tireless worker, and if any man worked himself to death, it was he. He was an undoubted saint”.
On December 28th, 1944. Fr. Hayes was evacuated to the Casualty Clearing Station at Katha in Central Burma. His complaint was diagnosed as typhus. About the 6th of January, though the disease was taking its normal course, Fr. Hayes requested and received the last Sacraments. From that time until he was unable to swallow, he received Viaticum, every day. Pneumonia set in, and Fr. Hayes' condition became progressively worse. For about a week he was unable to speak to anyone, but he retained the use of his mental faculties up to the end. During his last night Fr. Hickson, a fellow chaplain who ministered to him during his prolonged battle with death, sat at his bedside until Mass time the following, Sunday, morning. Fr. Hickson's Mass was offered for his dying friend who passed away peacefully just as the Mass was finished.
A coffin was hard to come by, but thanks to the Providence of God one was secured, and vested in chaplain's Mass vestments the remains of “Battling Hayes” were laid to rest the same day, after an evening Requiem Mass, in the Catholic section of the public cemetery at Katha on the Irrawaddy river about 120 miles north from Mandalay. May he rest in peace.


In the last letter Fr. Hayes wrote to his people, received before the news of his death, he mentions that he had baptised a dying Japanese and made his first Hindoo convert.
The last message Fr. Provincial received from him, greetings for Christmas, was dated November 28th,

A letter from THE SISTER IN CHARGE OF THE HOSPITAL, written on January 12th, says he is still seriously ill, but expresses the hope that there will be more cheerful news soon. She adds : “I shall write every week until he is able to do so himself”.

Mrs. Hayes, Fr. John's mother, received the following letter from the COMMANDING OFFICER of the 30th Division : January 24th.
“Dear Mrs. Hayes, I would like on behalf of this Division and myself to express our very deepest sympathy to you in the loss of your son. We all were very fond of Fr. Hayes who was an exemplification of all that a Catholic Priest and an Army Chaplain should be. He was a tireless worker, and if any man worked himself to death, it was he. Your son was an undoubted saint and he died fortified by the rites of Holy Church. May he rest in peace. Yours sincerely, FRANCIS FESTING, MAJ. GEN.”

MGR. J. COGHLAN, Principal Catholic Chaplain, writing from London on January 29th to Fr. Provincial, says :
“I very much regret to have to inform you that your father J. Hayes died of typhus in India, on January 21st. R.I.P. Father Hayes was a grand priest and a splendid chaplain. He did magnificent work in every post he was given, and was held in the highest esteem by all ranks with whom he came in contact. I can ill afford to lose the services of such a good priest, and we can only say: 'God's Will be done.' I send you and the Society my deepest sympathy. You have lost a great priest, and I have lost a great chaplain. I should be glad to think that you would convey to his relatives my deep sympathy in their loss”.

In a later communication Mgr. Coghlan sent the following details furnished by the REV. JOSEPH GARDNER, Senior Chaplain, South East Asia, on January 28th. :
“Fr. Hayes was anointed at his own request in the early days of the illness, and received Viaticum daily as long as he was able to swallow. After pneumonia set in, he was again anointed and finally died quietly and peacefully on Sunday morning, January 21st, just at the moment of the conclusion of the Mass that Fr. Hickson was offering for him. He was buried, coffined and in his vestments, in the Catholic section of the cemetery at Katha, R.I.P.”

FR. A. CLANCY, O.F., H.Q. 36 Division, to Fr. Provincial, 29-1-45 :
“Fr. John Hayes became ill with typhus a few days before the beginning of the New Year, and was removed to the Casualty Clearing Station to which I was at the time attached. He went steadily down hill, but we hoped that his strong constitution would carry him through. As time went by it became evident there was no hope for him, and he died on Sunday morning, January 21st. Fr. Hickson, my successor at the hospital, was with him constantly till the end, and gave him the last Sacraments. He received Holy Communion until a few mornings before he died as long as he was able to swallow.
His death was a great shock to the Division where he was universally popular and especially to the three priests who were associated with him here. I myself feel a deep sense of personal loss, as we joined the Army from Ireland almost at the same time. We were both in Northern Command, travelled out to India together, and had been near one another since I joined the 36th Division six months ago.
He was an ideal chaplain and a worthy son of St. Ignatius. He was completely forgetful of personal risks when the spiritual welfare of the men was concerned. In this respect he always reminded me of Fr. Willie Doyle. When he heard of Fr. Hayes death General Festing said to me that he had killed himself for his men, and this remark is literally true.
May I offer you on my own behalf and for the other chaplains of, this Division our deepest sympathy on the loss the Irish Jesuit Province has sustained?”

FR. C. NAUGHTON, 29-1 -45 :
“I got quite a shock this morning on reading of the death of the Rev. John Hayes from typhus. R.I.P. I heard earlier in the week that we had a chaplain casualty, as a padre was suddenly posted off to the forward area to replace him. I never dreamed that it was the Rev. John. By all accounts Fr. Hayes was a second Willie Doyle. He seemed not to know what fear was, and was always in the thick of things. He will be greatly missed by his Division, as he was tremendously popular. About three months ago a young soldier after returning from Burma wished to be received into the Church. On being asked why he desired to change his religion, he replied : ‘Sir, we have a R.C. padre who has greatly impressed me. A man who exposes himself to so much danger to save souls must have the true religion?’ Fr. Hayes was his divisional chaplain, I am writing to our S.C.F. to find out as much accurate news as possible about him. May be rest in peace.

FR. C. PERROTT, 5-2-45 :
“You have heard no doubt by this time of the death of Fr. John Hayes, R.I.P. I am very sorry that up to the present I have no news to give you beyond the bare fact. His death came as a great shock to me, I can assure you, and upset me very much. I had heard from Fr. Nevin that Fr. Hayes had gone down sick with typhus at the beginning of January or the end of December, and then got no news till I received a note from the same source last Friday announcing his death. I wrote at once to Fr. Nevin asking him to give me all the details and particulars he could about it. I have heard many people out here speak very highly of Fr. Hayes and of the tremendous work he was doing. His death will be a great loss to us, - but he will get a great reward for his zeal and enthusiasm”.

FR. C. PERROTT, 5-3-45: The cemetery in which he is buried is only a temporary one, and later on the remains will be moved into a central one, and due notice of its location will be sent you. All his personal effects will come through, after some very considerable delay, through the usual official channels”.

FR, GEORGE HICKSON, C.F., to Fr. Provincial, 15-2-45 :
“Fr. Hayes took ill with typhus on December 28th, 1944, and was evacuated to the 22 C.C.S. Typhus is a pretty terrible disease. It is heartbreaking to watch a patient suffering with it grow progressively worse. This is what happened to John. I gave him at his own request all the Sacraments and the Papal Blessing. That was about January 8th. He received Holy Viaticum daily as long as he could swallow. We had hopes of his recovery till the 18th, then pneumonia set in, and I gave him Extreme Unction again. He was conscious, in our opinion, right up to the end, although for the last week or so he was unable to speak. He was quite reconciled to death, which he did not dread in the least. I think he offered himself in reparation for the sins of the world, and almost gave the impression that he desired death for this end. was greatly influenced by the life of Fr. W. Doyle. He passed away very peacefully at 8.55 on the morning of Sunday, January 21st, 1945, just as I was concluding a Mass which I offered for him. He was with me in the 36th Division for the whole year in which we have been in action. He was loyal and devoted to his work, and, I think, worried himself over perfecting every detail. Everyone who knew him said that he was not of this world, and non-Catholic officers were unanimous in their good opinion of him. I buried him in his vestments, and I am glad to say that I was able to secure a coffin. He lies in the public cemetery at Katha, which is on the River Irrawaddy about 120 miles north of Mandalay. We erected a nice cross and railings around his grave. In his life and in his death he was an example and an ornament to the priesthood”.

FR. E. J. WARNER, S.J., of the Chaplains' Department of the War Office sent to Fr. Provincial, 22-3-45, a short letter addressed to Mgr. Coghlan by the REY. M. J. O'CARROLL, S.C.F., now in England. The latter was Senior Chaplain in India when Fr. Hayes went out there :
“Fr. Hayes was an exceptionally fine Chaplain. Would you, please, convey to his next-of-kin and to his Religious Superior an expression of my deep sympathy ? At the next Chaplains' Conference Mass will be offered up for the repose of his soul. R.I.P.”

From an OLD BELVEDERIAN, attached to the 36th Division, to the Rector of Belvedere :
Dear Fr. Rector, As an old Belvederian I feel it my duty to give you the sad news of the death of an old member of the staff of Belvedere. I refer to the late Fr. John Hayes, S.J. Fr. Hayes died of typhus at Katha on the Irrawaddy in Central Burma on January 21st, 1945. He was our chaplain here in the 36th Division, and a more likeable man one would find it hard to meet. He was loved by all, from our G.O.C. General Festing, who is a Catholic, to the most humble Indian. He joined us in Poona in 1943, and came with the Division to the Arakan early last year, and later flew in with us on our present operation. To one and all he was known as Battling Hayes, utterly devoid of any fear. It was only on the express order of General Festing that he took his batman to act as escort when on his rounds. No matter where one went, more especially in the height of battle, there one would find Fr. Hayes, in his peculiar dress : Ghurka bat, battle-dress blouse and blue rugger shorts. It was common to see him walking along a road known to be infested with the enemy, without any protection of any kind, happy in the thought that he was doing his job. The highest praise I can pay Fr. Hayes, and in this our present chaplain, Fr. Clancy from Clare, agrees with me, is that he reminded me very much of the late Fr. Willie Doyle. Nothing mattered : monsoon, rain, heat, disease, the enemy. His one thought was to be among his flock, doing all he could to help them. Nothing was too much trouble, and the further forward a Unit was, the greater his delight in going forward to celebrate Mass. By his death all the Catholics of this Division, and many of the Protestants, have lost a great friend and the finest chaplain one could wish to have. I hope you will be good enough to pass this sad news to Fr. Provincial. I believe his address is Gardiner Street, but, as I am not sure, I thought it better to inform you. No doubt either Fr. Hayes' mother, who was next-of-kin, or Fr. Provincial will be informed in due course by the War Office. Another Belvederian whom I may meet again one day is Fr. Tom Ryan, whose voice I often hear on the Chunking radio, giving talks on English literature. My very best respects to any who knew me in Belvedere, and your good self. I am, dear Fr. Rector, your's very sincerely, W. A. WARD, CAPT. (1923-1931).

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father John Hayes SJ 1909-1945
Father John Hayes was born in Limerick in 1909 and was regarded by his contemporaries as a saint and mystic.

As a philosopher he kept the minimum of furniture in his room, a bed which he seldom slept in, and an orange box which served as a wash stand and general work-table. The rest was put out in the corridor. Superiors had to check his austerity. While these signs of singularity disappeared in later life, he maintained and extraordinary communion with God, and a single-mindedness of dedication, which as a priest was turned into a burning thirst for souls.

He got his chance in the Second World War. He became a Chaplain and was stationed in Burma in the thick of the jungle-warfare. To the troops he was known as “Battling Hayes”. He was tireless in whi work and seemed consumed with a burning passion to save souls for Christ. General Festing was his close friend and admirer.

On December 28th he retured to hospital, not too ill, but his complaint turned out to be typhus, and he died on January 21st, 1945, young in years but ripe in merit. A coffin was hard to come by, but the difficulty was overcome, and vested in his chaplain’s robes, he was laid to rest at Katha, in the Irawaddy rover, 120 miles from Mandalay.

Name of creator

(11 May 1906-19 March 1991)

Biographical history

Born: 11 May 1906, Northcote, Melbourne, Australia
Entered: 08 March 1925, Loyola, Greenwich, Australia (HIB)
Ordained: 30 June 1940
Professed: 02 February 1979
Died: 19 March 1991, St Xavier’s, Bokaro Steel City, Hazaribag, Jharkhand, India - Ranchiensis Province (RAN)

Transcribed HIB to ASL 05-April 1931; ASL to RAN 12 March 1956

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :

Note from Francis Keogh Entry :
His death was keenly felt by those who served under him, especially at Sevenhill. Mr Lachal there wrote “He was the kindest of Superiors, a real father to the Novices, keeping a particularly keen eye on their health. I wish I had Father Rector’s ticket to heaven, Father Master once said to his Novices.’

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
Lou Lachal received his early education at the local parish school and his secondary education at Xavier College, Kew, where his father had been before him. Though he excelled perhaps more in sports than in studies, he graduated in 1924 with honours in French and Latin in the final examinations.
In March 1925 he joined the Jesuits at Greenwich, Sydney, and in 1927 he went to Rathfarnham for his juniorate studies, gaining a BA from the National University of Ireland. Philosophy studies followed in France, and he did regency at St Ignatius' College, Riverview, from 1933. He was rowing master among other things, and received a reprimand from the general for allowing the boys to mix with non-Catholics in the rowing sheds!
Theology studies followed at Naples, Italy, but World War II broke out and he moved to Liverpool in 1940 with a letter of commendation to any bishop to ordain him. He was ordained in Liverpool, completed his theology at Heythrop, Oxford, and then spent a few months caring for the needs of working class people in the city of Glasgow, Scotland.
Towards the end of 1941 Lachal returned to Australia via the Panama Canal. He was once again sent to Riverview. Tertianship at Loyola College, Watsonia, followed in 1945, after which he taught for two years at St Patrick's College. He worked in the parish of Richmond in 1948. He enjoyed his time there, and they appreciated the tall, strong, modest, pipe-smoking priest who could he relied upon for service at any time of day or night.
Lachal was among the first Australian Jesuits assigned to the mission in the Hazarihag region of India in 1951. He was 45 years old at the time, and was to spend another 40 years in India. He found Hindi studies difficult, but could generally make himself understood. His good humor and friendliness did the rest. Soon after arrival in India he became involved with direct missionary work at Chandwa, then one of the two parishes in the district of Palamau.
Later, he became parish priest of the Chechai region, which stretched for 130 miles, and then at Mahuadanr, followed by Hazaribag, Chandwa, Bhurkunda and Bokaro Steel City
Wherever he worked, his constant aim was first to provide an adequate education system, followed by health and other development projects to uplift poor people.
One of his greatest triumphs was setting up the Christian Centre at Bokaro Steel City in the vanguard of the ecumenical movement, Lachal proposed the Christian Centre as his
solution to the problem of how to share one small piece of real estate allotted by the Steele Authority to no less than ten groups all claiming to be Christian.
He was a caring father to all Jesuits in the Hazaribag diocese and to religious and lay people all over the Daltonganj diocese. Many sought his wise advice, encouragement and
companionship. People meant much to Lachal. He was a great conversationalist with a quick wit. In addition, he wrote thousands of letters, especially to the mission's friends and
supporters in Australia, assuring them of his interest and concern.
Lachal, commonly known as 'Lou', was greatly loved, respected and trusted by everyone, Jesuits and lay friends alike. He had a strong, outgoing personality, a man of immense charm, wisdom and optimism. His life was characterised by his availability to people anywhere at any time. He was rarely seen alone, he always had people around him. He had a solid, simple spirituality with a great devotion to Our Lady. He was regularly seen saying the Rosary, or heard singing Marian hymns during Mass. He regularly said two public Masses a day, even when he could only travel by rickshaw. When asked what he had been doing, he jokingly said that he had been “witnessing”, a constant feature of his long and happy life.

Name of creator

(22 April 1881-18 January 1945)

Biographical history

Born: 22 April 1881, Rathbrist, County Louth
Entered: 07 September 1898, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 26 July 1914, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final vows: 02 February 1917
Died: 18 January 1945, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

by 1903 at Kasteel Gemert, Netherlands (TOLO) studying
Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus, 2 March 1931-7 September 1941.

◆ Jesuits in Ireland :

JESUITICA: The flies of Ireland
Only one Irish Provincial has had a genus of flies called after him. In 1937 Fr Larry Kieran welcomed Fr Hermann Schmitz, a German Jesuit, to Ireland, and he stayed here for about four years, teaching in Tullabeg and doing prodigious research on Irish Phoridae, or flies. He increased the known list of Irish Phoridae by more than 100 species, and immortalised Fr Larry by calling a genus after him: Kierania grata. Frs Leo Morahan and Paddy O’Kelly were similarly honoured, Leo with a genus: Morahanian pellinta, and Paddy with a species, Okellyi. Hermann served Irish entomologists by scientifically rearranging and updating the specimens of Phoridae in our National Museum. He died in Germany exactly fifty years ago.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 9th Year No 3 1934

On 14th May the following notice was sent by Father Socius to all the Houses of the Irish Province. : “Rev. Father Provincial (Kieran) has been ordered a period of rest by his doctor, and in the meantime, with Father General's approval, Father Cyril Power has been appointed to act as Vice-Provincial.”

Irish Province News 16th Year No 4 1941
General :
Fr. John R. MacMahon, Rector of Milltown Park since August. 1938. was appointed Provincial by Very Rev. Fr. General on 8th September. The best wishes and fervent prayers of the Province are tendered to him on his elevation to his new post of responsibility.
The best thanks of the Province follow the outgoing Provincial Fr Kieran, whose fidelity to duty, understanding ways and kindly charity during the many wears in which he guided the destinies of our Province will long be remembered with gratitude and appreciation. A special feature of his humanity was the quite remarkable devotion and charity which he ever showed to our sick.
We wish him many years of fruitful work for God’s glory and much happiness in his new post as Director of the Retreat, House Rathfarnham Castle.
Fr. Patrick Joy was appointed Vice-Superior of the Hong Kong Mission on 29th July.

Irish Province News 20th Year No 2 1945


Fr. Laurence J. Kieran (1881-1898-1945)

Fr. Kieran, Instructor of Tertians and a former Provincial of our Irish Province, died in Dublin very suddenly on 18th January, 1945. Travelling in the forenoon of that day (which was the Tertians' villa day) in a Bus on the Stillorgan Road, he had a heart seizure and died almost immediately. A Franciscan, who providentially happened to be a fellow-passenger, gave him the final absolution, and shortly after wards he was anointed by the chaplain of St. John of God's, Stillorgan. He was dead on admission to St. Michael's Hospital, Dunleary.
Born at Rathbrist, Co. Louth, on 22nd April, 1881, he was educated at Clongowes Wood College and entered the Society at Tullabeg on 7th September, 1898. Having completed his novitiate and two years of rhetoric there, he made his philosophical studies at Gemert in Holland from 1902 to 1905, and then began his career as master and prefect in his alma mater, Clongowes. He studied theology at Milltown Park, where he was ordained priest on 26th July, 1914, by the Most Rev. Dr. Brownie, Bishop of Cloyne. On the completion of his tertianship, under Fr. Ignatius Garlan as Instructor, at Tullabeg, he succeeded the late Fr. James Daly as Prefect of Studies at Clongowes, a post he held till 1925. After spending a year at Rathfarnham Castle as Minister and Procurator, he was transferred to Mungret College where he was appointed Rector on 31st July, 1927. He was made Provincial in March, 1931, and governed the Province for over ten years. When Fr. Henry Keane returned to his Province to take up the post of Rector of Heythrop College, Fr. Kieran succeeded him as Instructor of Tertians at Rathfarnham Castle in the autumn of 1942; he had been Director of the Retreat House, Rathfarnham, after relinquishing the post of Provincial.
Fr. Kieran's unexpected death caused great grief throughout the Province of which he was such an exemplary, efficient, loyal and kindly member. The principal note of his spiritual life was his unfailing meticulous fidelity to his spiritual exercises from the days of the noviceship to the sudden close of his life.
He was an indefatigable WORKER, with a tremendous sense of duty; and it was the happy combination of these two characteristics which rendered him so efficient. No pains were too great when there was question of duty, whether that city was study, teaching or administration. Though not gifted with outstanding philosophical ability, he studied so methodically and consistently that he occupied a very high. place in a very good class in the French Philosophate at Gemert and was more than once chosen to defend theses or make objections in the usual public disputations, acquitting himself well. Studying in the same manner at Militown Park, he completed a very good course of Theology. Though not much of a reader, he would study and read with meticulous care all that his work demanded. And this was true of him as a teacher, as prefect of studies, as Provincial and as Instructor of Tertians. He was always perfectly prepared for any tasks assigned him by Superiors.
His LOYALTY to the Society and to his own Province in particular was admirable. In Gemert, in the olden days, he was always instilling into the minds of his companions of the Irish Province the need of giving a perfect example of observance and hard work to the members of other Provinces. He scouted the idea of any Irish scholastic asking for any dispensation from common life. He led the way by his own example, and his inspiration had not only a striking effect on his Irish companions but established also a tradition, which continued when he left.
Fr. Kieran was a very LOVABLE companion, whether as an ordinary member of a community, or as a Superior. He was unusually homely and natural and sincere, and these qualities shone with special lustre in him when in office and made it particularly easy for all his subjects to approach him without embarrassment. He was full of common sense and understanding. He loved to laugh and to see others laugh, told a story excellently, and, in his younger days showed a great gift of acting.
As a SCHOLASTIC at Clongowes from 1905 till 1911, Mr. Kieran (as he then was) had charge of College theatricals in addition to strenuous work in Line or Class-room. Past students will still retain vivid recollections of the success he achieved as producer of plays like ‘Guy Mannering,’ The Ticket of Leave Man,' operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan To this sphere of 'side-shows,' as he used later call them, he devoted the same meticulous care in preparation and rehearsal which he brought to the more serious duties of his calling.
Returning to CLONGOWES as a young priest, he served a short apprenticeship under Fr. James Daly, the famous Prefect of studies, before he inherited his mantle, and with it that singleness of purpose and devotion to duty which continued to be rewarded with great successes in the public examinations. As confessor, too, of the boys he exerted the widest influence for good, and won that affectionate which prompted so many of them to turn to him for help and guidance in the trials and perplexities of life.
Fr. Kieran's transfer from Clongowes in 1925 came as a surprise to many, including himself. Providence, however, through his Superiors was preparing him for the heavier responsibilities which lay ahead. At Rathfarnham and Mungret he was to acquire an experience in the details of administration and in the handling of new and delicate problems which was to be so useful to him some years later when called upon to govern the Province As RECTOR OF MUNGRET College Fr. Kieran took his responsibilities very seriously. While allowing subordinate officials every scope for initiative, he retained a personal and active direction of every department of school life. His talks to the boys at the beginning of the school year and of each new term, setting forth the lofty purpose of life and the opportunities they were being afforded of developing their God-given talents, made a deep and lasting impression on their young minds. He got to know each boy personally and used every occasion for individual guidance. He taught classes himself, especially in religious knowledge and in philosophy, fostered proficiency in Irish with wise solicitude and no mean success, as is attested by the remarkable results Mungret pupils attained more than once during his term of office at the Thomond Feis in the matter of Irish conversation and dialogue. He never failed to put in an appearance at games on half-days, at concerts and other school entertainments.
The same kindly interest he extended to the APOSTOLIC SCHOOL, with whose Superior he ever remained in the closest and most cordial touch. He gave monthly talks to the apostolics, which were greatly appreciated, as not a few have testified in later life. He erected a two storey building for them, to serve as study-hall, class-rooms, dormitory, kept in close touch with past alumni, promoted the founding of a magazine to link them more closely with their alma mater. In these and other ways he made apostolic students, past and present, feel that the Society, faithful to the best traditions of Mungret Apostolic School, was promoting its true interests to the utmost. The historic visit to Mungret on 21st July, 1928, of the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda did but confirm these happy impressions : Cardinal Van Rossum, O.SS.R., was visiting Limerick for the jubilee celebrations of the men's Confraternity in the Redemptorist Church, and came out to Mungret at Fr. Kieran's invitation. Before returning, His Eminence left in writing a gracious message of appreciation of the work of the Apostolic School and his blessing, and consented to be photo graphed. These photos were later sent Very Rev. Fr. General at Frascati, where the Curia were in sun mer residence, and occasioned him the liveliest satisfaction and pleasure.
On a day in early February, 1931. Fr. Fahy journeyed from Limerick to tell Fr. Kieran that he had been chosen to succeed him as PROVINCIAL. This news was a heavy blow to the Rector who could not contain his tears of emotion and apprehension at the burden to be laid on his shoulders. His only comfort was the assurance Fr. Fahy gave him that he would govern the Province in the same constitutional way in which he had administered Mungret College.
In this new post which he was to hold for ten years (1931-1941), Fr. Kieran's exceptional talents for ADMINISTRATION were given their widest scope. These may be particularised as prudence and practical judgment joined to a rare dexterity and vigour in the conduct of affairs. From his high sense of duty, coupled with his love for the Society, flowed the determination which enabled him to master so completely the details of his exacting and responsible office. Indeed, at the beginning of his Provincialate he tended to overdo his reading of the Institute during free hours, and to neglect his health, which suffered for some years from overstrain. On three occasions (in August, 1931, in the beginning of the following year and in the summer of 1934), a Vice-Provincial had to be appointed in order to allow him a complete rest. Thereafter his health was quite robust and enabled him to put in a further period of over seven years of strenuous activity and achievement.
Many IMPORTANT EVENTS Occurred during his term of office : the separation (prepared by his predecessor) from the Irish Province of Australia which became an independent Vice-Province (5th April, 1931): the world economic depression so severely felt in the first years of his Provincialate during which he implemented Fr. General's recommendations for succouring the distressed poor, the International Eucharistic Congress at Dublin in June, 1932, during which he led the way in extending to many. Prelates and members of Foreign Provinces of the Society that remarkable hospitality which drew from Fr. General a special letter of appreciation the celebrations in connection with the Centenary of St. Francis Xavier's Church and with the Golden Jubilee of Mungret Apostolic School, both of which fell in the summer of 1932. The completion of the new building in Clongowes, the extension of the Theologians wing and erection of a fully-equipped library on the most modern lines at Milltown Park, the opening of the Language School at Loyola, Hongkong (September, 1937), the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war (1937), the fourth Centenary of the foundation of the Society (1940-41), the outbreaks of the world war the previous year, which necessitated many adjustments, such as the recalling from Houses abroad of our scholastics, the reception into the Province of members of continental Provinces and Missions, the sending of military Chaplains to the Forces, the providing at very short notice of a Tertianship in the Province, (October, 1939), when Fr. Kieran's dynamic energy was never shown to better advantage. He presided at the three Provincial Congregations held in 1933, 1936 and 1938. the last of which was preparatory to the General Congregation held in Rome, at which he assisted.
The outstanding QUALITIES which Fr. Kieran admired so much in the late Fr. Ledóchowski he possessed himself in a marked degree : a supernatural outlook upon all the problems be had to handle, a burning zeal for the interests of the Church and our Society, a definite conviction that our way to God and to success in our apostolic ministry lay in the acquiring of the true spirit of St. Ignatius, in observance of our rules, fidelity to Ignatian asceticism and those spiritual arms God has confided to our Society : the Spiritual Exercises, devotion to the Sacred Heart through the Apostleship of Prayer, devotion to Our Lady through the Sodality, accuracy in sizing up a situation, and remarkable skill and prudence in advising as to the steps to be taken, a deep sympathy and understanding which enabled him to make allowance for human weakness and human shortcomings while at the same time standing firm where questions of principle and observance of the rules were involved, finally, accuracy and expedition in the transaction of business.
He WORKED TIRELESSLY for the promoting of vocations to our novice ship and for the spiritual advancement of our young men with whom he kept in close touch, made wise provision for the training of professors in our scholasticates, and showed ever a great readiness to oblige His Paternity by sending subjects, as occasion demanded, to the Curia or the Gregorian University. The Hong Kong Mission he promoted to the utmost, and was rewarded by repeated commendation, from Fr. General for the quality and number of the missioners he sent out, with no small sacrifice to the Province. Towards the needs of other Provinces he showed a practical sympathy and to their members who came to Ireland an overflowing charity, which called forth letters of appreciation from their Provincials.
Fr. Kieran was a great believer in the utility of CONFERENCES, held in order to discuss the various problems connected with our work and ministry. He presided at the four he convened in Dublin (in the years 1933, 1936, 1937 and 1941) to discuss the work of our missions and retreats, the development of the Sodality and Apostleship of Prayer and Catholic Action.
Fruit of such Meetings were the BOOKLET he issued in 1938 on the method of adapting the Exercises to various categories of exercitants, the Report on Catholic Action in the Province (1936), the printed Instructions he gave from time to time containing detailed recommendations to missioners, sodality directors, promoters of Catholic Action.
The COLLEGES, of whose working and study programmes he had such accurate knowledge, came in for a large share of his solicitude. Arising out of the Commission appointed by his predecessor to examine the status of our Colleges, he issued in December, 1934, an important document, entitled 'A Memorandum on Aims and Methods in the Colleges,' In November of the same year he appointed an Inspector of the Colleges; and, to implement later one of the Decrees of the General Congregation (1938), set up a Concilium Permanens to advise Superiors on the problems connected with programmes and co-ordination among our Colleges of studies of the pre-examination classes, supervised the proper training of the scholastics during the years of their magisterium and furthered measures to improve a working know ledge of Irish for masters. In September, 1938, he appointed a Committee to advise on the introduction of scholastic philosophy in our schools. Two Conferences he convened in 1935 and 1937) to discuss school problems, and be prepared the material for that useful booklet issued later. 'Hints on the Colleges' for masters and prefects,
In connection with the carrying out of DECREES OF THE GENERAL CONGREGATION already referred to, Fr. Kieran convened in December, 1938, a Meeting of Rectors, and also appointed & Committee to draw up a draft Ordinatio studiorum inferiorum for the Juniorate studies. He had previously sent to Rome a draft Custom Book of the Province for consideration by Fr. General, as well as one for the Novitiate at St. Mary's.
With his practical and thorough-going knowledge of the details of FINANCE, and his desire for greater uniformity in matters touching temporal administration, Fr. Kieran warmly welcomed Fr. Ledóchowski's Instructio de administratione Temporali, issued in 1935. In forwarding Superiors copies of this document he wrote a very able letter to them, drawing attention to its main provisions. Not content with this, he later made a detailed synopsis of the Instructio, in three parts, for the use of Superiors, Ministers, and Procurators respectively, and issued in 1937 a useful Memorandum on the Duties of Minister and Procurator.
In fine, there was no province of our life and ministry which did not benefit by Fr. Kieran's wise and able administration.
Though Fr. Kieran could, and often did, write a forthright and vigorously worded letter, especially to Superiors, his pen was NEVER HARSH or intemperate. And if his correspondence ever hurt, and it did sometimes, the effect was speedily neutralised and forgotten by a personal approach and interview. Then it was that his affectionate heart and understanding humanity were shown to such advantage. This warm humanity made many conquests during his life in the Society, among the boys with whom he had to deal at Clongowes and Mungret, so many of whom kept in touch with him in later life, among the staff' or farm hands, in the houses in which he lived (who for him were never 'hands,' servants,' but, very personally, 'Joe,' or 'Bill,' or 'Bridgie'), among the exercitants at Rathfarnham Castle during the all too brief period he was Director of the Retreat-House there, among his own brethren most of all, especially the scholastics and, in the closing years of his life, the Tertian Fathers with whom he lived on such fondly intimate and brotherly relationship, in that simple naturalness and humility which was his special characteristic.
In an early issue of the Clongownian' we are given a glimpse of L. Kieran, the SCHOOL-BOY chosen for a principal part in the 'Mikado'; This is how a visitor to the College on the night of the entertainment wrote of him :
“L. Kieran as Pooh-Bah could scarcely have been surpassed by any amateur. Without much voice, he went through his songs with skill and taste. But it is his acting which will have won for him a bright place in the memory of all who saw him. Simple naturalness, un marred by any excess of stage gestures or declamation, was his characteristic. There was no straining after effect. He came on and went off, he spoke and was silent, as if he was only moved by his own individual will in such matters, and had never seen such a thing as a stage edition of the play”.
On the wider stage of life Fr. Kieran played his part with the same simple naturalness, the same self-restraint and self-effacement. And when the curtain fell with such tragic suddenness at the close, he passed away, leaving a host of friends, sorrow-stricken, it is true, but inspired by his example to play their parts, shoulder their responsibilities, as he had done with a like simplicity and naturalness, with the same detachment from self, the same consideration for others and the same heroic devotion to duty.
May he rest in peace.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father Laurence Kieran SJ 1881-1945
Fr Laurence Kieran will go down in the history of the Province as the man who ruled its destinies for over ten years, a record among Provincials of his own day, and certainly a record in the history of the Irish province.

Born at Rathbrist, County Louth on April 22nd 1881, he was educated at Clongowes, entering the Society in 1898.

At the conclusion of his training, he was chosen to succeed Fr James Daly as Prefect of Studies in Clongowes, an appointment which was no mean compliment in itself. He became Rector of Mungret in 1927, and eventually Provincial in 1931 to 1942.

Many important events took place during his term of office. The Mission of Australia became an independent Vice-Province in 1931. He celebrated the Centenary of Gardiner Street Church and the Golden Jubilee of Mungret in 1942. The new building was completed in Clongowes, the Theologian's Wing was extended at Milltown and the new Library built. He founded the Language School at Loyola, Hong Kong, and finally celebrated the fourth Centenary of the Society in 1940.

After relinquishing office in 1942, he became Instructor of Tertians. His end came quite suddenly on January 18th 1945,

He was a man dedicated to God, the Society and his work.

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Documents and letters relating to Fr John Hayes’ career before becoming a military chaplain. Includes:

  • Letter of John Hayes to the Irish Fr Provincial John Fahy SJ in reply to Fr Fahy’s instructions that Mr Hayes goes to Tullabeg (Novitiate), County Offaly on 1st September (Fr Hayes entered the Society on 1 September 1925) (5 August 1925, 1p);
  • John Hayes’ confidential medical report, prepared by Dr M.S. McGrath for the Provincial (25 June 1925, 1p)
  • ‘Informatio de Candidato’ – reports on John Hayes by five Jesuits for the Provincial (n.d., 5 items);
  • Letter from Mr John Hayes SJ to Irish Fr Provincial Laurence Kieran SJ regarding his application to go on the Mission in Alaska (6 August 1932, 1p) and
  • Copy letter to Mr John Hayes SJ from the Irish Fr Provincial Laurence Kieran SJ relating to ‘two faults…(that)…have been mentioned in the Informationes taken recently concerning you to which I must call your attention’ (26 July 1936, 1p);
  • letter to Irish Fr Provincial John R MacMahon SJ from Fr Louis Lachal SJ, Loyola, Watsonia, Victoria, Australia (20 February 1945, 2pp) enclosing 'a letter for Frank Hayes, John's brother'...'The news of John's death was a big knock to those of us out here who knew him well'. Mentions Fr Victor Turner SJ in POW camp, Tokyo.
    See also CHP2/35 (43);CHP2/35 (44) and CHP2/31
  • Dog collar identification for Rev. John Hayes C.F. RC, 199879. See CHP2/18

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1998; 2020




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Maddie Ball, July 2020

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