Dunne, Peter, 1917-1980, Jesuit priest

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Dunne, Peter, 1917-1980, Jesuit priest

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  • 鄭明理神父 (鄧明理)
  • Pinkie Dunne

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10 June 1917-31 August 1980


Born: 10 June 1917, Clonliffe Road, Dublin
Entered: 07 September 1935, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 28 July 1948
Final vows: 02 February 1951
Died: 31 August 1980, St Ignatius, Lower Leeson Street, Dublin

◆ Biographical Notes of the Jesuits in Hong Kong 1926-2000, by Frederick Hok-ming Cheung PhD, Wonder Press Company 2013 ISBN 978 9881223814 :

Note from Paddy Finneran Entry
He came to Hong Kong as a young priest with Peter Dunne and 5 Scholastics - Liam Egan, Paddy Cunningham, Matt Brosnan, Tom O’Neill and Tony Farren. He spent two years at the Battery Path Language School learning Cantonese.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 55th Year No 4 1980


Fr Peter Dunne (1917-1935-1980)

Peter Dunne arrived at the noviciate, Emo Park, on 7th September 1935, slight of build, pink of complexion (the boys in Belvedere later called him “Pinkie”) and with a very thin crop of blond hair that fought a losing battle to survive the years of his studies. He told us, as one of the many stories against himself, that the doctor had said that his hair was only baby hair and there would be no aftercrop.
Peter was pious, coming, as he did from a family that made great sacrifices to let him go. His mother was a widow and his only sister was a Little Sister of the Assumption. Peter was an only son though his mother has quite a number of brothers. Peter's piety was entirely natural and was filled with an active cheerfulness that saw him in the middle of every novitiate project from weeding the lake to exploring the Caves of Killowen. He had a very urban background, yet he took readily to life in the country, and his interest in nature stood him in good stead during his time in the colleges'.
His arrival in Rathfarnham at the end of the novitiate was a real home coming for him, and his three years at UCD were made happy by the many occasions he had to visit doctor, dentist or cross the Liffey to his own territory at Clonliffe Road, Yet he found the university studies hard going, and it was only sheer determination and his own spiritual resources that got him through. Tullabeg was in many ways a rest for him. There was not the rush of concentrated studies or the physical exhaustion that came with the daily ride to the 'Acad' and back that pulled so many down physically. Besides a reasonably slow pace of philosophical studies, there were plays and 'skits' to be performed - and Peter was always somewhere around in the wings or backstage: there was fishing on the river and, above all, there was the Ricci Mission Unit that was so active in those years in Tullabeg. Peter made a great success of its activities, chiefly because he took the trouble to answer personally the many who sent stamps and tinfoil, thanking them and encouraging their work. One sack of stamps arrived from a regular donor, containing besides parcels of stamps a whole roast chicken-alas, too long on the way to be edible.
Though Peter did come to like country life, it was with great joy that he set out again for his beloved Dublin to spend two happy years (1943-45) teaching in Belvedere, only a stone's throw from his home in Clonliffe Road. College life was really his métier, and it was a pity that his later career took a different turning. He was at his best training the under-13s in Jones's Road or leading the Field Club to Bull island or Donabate. He had an infectious cheerfulness, and with him the smallest incident of the day could be turned into a saga worthy of Seán O’Casey or P G Wodehouse. He was very much a man's man, and more often than not his contacts were those he met in 'The Buildings in Foley Street, Gloucester Street, and the places where the families of the Belvedere Newsboys Club members lived.
Peter went to theology after only two years in the colleges, and here his interest in the poor again showed itself. He was put in charge of those who came regularly to Milltown for material help. He had a little but outside the door of the Minister's House with seats where he would serve meals to those who were down and out or in temporary difficulties. Some times they were in need of cash, and Peter was a shrewd judge of the genuine and the bogus, I well remember one irate lady who had asked particularly for financial help. Peter judged that a large plate of sandwiches would be better for her. Having thrown the plate on the ground, she went off down the avenue yelling loudly that she was leaving the Church because the priest would not give her the cash her condition required:
His assignment to Hong Kong must have been a difficult one for his family and for himself. Indeed, he showed nothing but cheerfulness and enthusiasm for the work before him. The Chinese language he found difficult, not being gifted with great facility in academic fields, but he quickly found his niche as minister of the Language School. His duties often took him to the city, and he came to know as many shopkeepers and hawkers as he had known in Dublin. It stunned his contemporaries, as it must have stunned himself, when he was appointed editor of a new project: a weekly magazine for youth in Chinese. Having neither a strong grasp of the language nor a style of life that could stand up to the rigours of meeting a magazine deadline every week, his health declined and he became a prey to anxiety.
One compatible job he did have at that time (the mid 1950s) was that of chaplain to the Hong Kong Volunteers. He really relished the opportunities it offered him, and his return from the annual camp was the occasion of endless uproarious stories of doings in the New Territories during the fortnight. He always had an ear for those in trouble, and I well remember the many cases of Irish soldiers in the British army who were referred to him. He would spend hours with them at the detention centre where they were imprisoned for fighting and other misdemeanours. There were young girls that had got into trouble whom he would visit at the "homes, and he always had a ready ear for the domestic staff when any of them bad problems, financial or otherwise.
He returned to Ireland to visit his ageing mother, and his indifferent health did not allow his return to Hong Kong. It did not however sever his connections with the East and the Chinese. He noted the needs of Chinese students living in Dublin, and gave much of his time to running a hostel for them - he called it Wah Yan House - in Dublin's Waterloo Road.
His motto could have been: “Do what you can and do it with all the strength that is in you”.
Three things impressed me particularly about Peter Dunne. The first was his obedience, which in the best sense of the word was “a blind obedience”. Secondly, his real humility, that made him think little of himself, and finally his great affection for the ordinary people with whom he always identified himself. My last memory of him was one Sunday after he had said Mass in a little country church near Cong. He came out to the churchyard, and going across to a group of young men leaning against the wall and chatting, greeted them with a bright “Goodmorrow, men. What's the fishing like in the lake these days?” He was all things to all men.

On his return from Hong Kong ,Peter spent the remaining 23 years of his life (1957-80) in Ireland as chaplain to the College of Technology, Kevin Street. Among his fellow-chaplains there down those years were Frs Laurence Kearns, Michael Morahan, Edmund O'Keefe and Brendan Murray.
In his early days at Kevin Street he took on a full work-load, teaching from 9 to 5 and even came back for more: from 7 to 9 pm. he attended to his bakery students. (At these late hours he used literally sit on one of the ovens!) This heavy burden of work was increased rather than diminished by the physical expansion of the College in the mid-1960s, when with the large new buildings, the student roll and staff numbers grew. When Peter first came to Kevin Street, it had only 30 whole-time teachers and less than a thousand students. Now (1980) it has about 200 whole-time teachers, and the students number over 2,000.
It is noteworthy that Peter’s heart attacks of c 1970 and 1972 followed this period of the College's growth and expansion, and were no mere coincidence. After these attacks, he had to adapt his life-style, take a less stressful pace of work, and even withdraw from class time-schedules. Instead, while undertaking full responsibility for teaching and chaplaincy work within the Bakery School, he had perforce to adopt a casual, by-the way approach to the students: loitering with intent' he called it, (Incidentally, for the last few years of his life the Bakery School, for both apprentices and student technicians, was running two shifts a day, 9 am-9 pm) Peter had an unusual gift, attested to constantly and appreciated by his Bakery School colleagues: that of being able to relate to the apprentice baker. The Bakers' Union, Dublin No. 1 Branch, sent a note of condolence on his death.
For a long time Peter ambitioned the setting up of a St Vincent de Paul Conference in Kevin Street: this in fact came about last Lent (1980). The “kids”, though not having time for meetings, offered two hours of their leisure time per week and did many a job of repair and renovation in the homes of the old, As regards his apostolic influence, being a fisherman, used to playing his fish for long hours, Peter was not out for a 'quick kill' or instant conversion: goo relations were more important. His philosophy, where students and staff were concerned, could be summed up in the ideal of the happy family.
The newly-elected President of the local Students' Union, at the grave side in Glasnevin, turned to a companion and said: “To me Peter Dunne was a unique priest”. A member of the Kevin Street staff said: “There are some people in this College that you wouldn't like to be seen talking to; there are some you wouldn't talk to, but everyone could talk to Fr Dunne”. May he rest in peace!


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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830-


Dunne, Peter, 1917-1980, Jesuit priest

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