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Egan, Eamon, 1923-1973, Jesuit priest
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Dates of existence
04 July 1923-11 August 1973
Born: 04 July 1923, Dublin
Entered: 06 September 1941, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 28 July 1955
Final vows: 02 February 1959
Died: 11 August 1973, New York NY, USA (in a drowning accident)
Part of Milltown Park community, Dublin at time of his death.
Died in boating accident in New York;
by 1959 at Louvain (BEL M) studying
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 48th Year No 4 1973
The Province was well represented by Irish Jesuits at the memorial Mass held for Fr Eamon Egan at the parish where he had been on supply prior to his tragic death. Brian Grogan reports that the clergy and parishioners turned out in large numbers, and that the homily preached by the pastor emeritus was most eloquently delivered. Numerous tributes were paid to Fr Eamon, indicating the place he had gained in the hearts of many, though he had been with them only a brief while.
Fr Eamon Egan (1923-1973)
Shortly before he left for the United States in July of this year Fr Egan said to a friend that now that he was fifty he must think about reorganising his life. A fortnight later he was dead. What he might have done in the years which he could reasonably have expected to lie before him is now, of course, a matter of futile speculation. The fact is that a freakish accident carried off some one who had already served his Province and, indeed, his fellow countrymen well; who was at the height of his powers and, to all appearances, seemed to have much more to give.
The circumstances of his death were almost grotesque, if for no other reason than that it is, at this moment, almost impossible to determine them precisely. What we know is that he was drowned by a freak storm off Rockaway Point, Jamaica Bay, New York Harbour. All the other occupants of the boat were rescued. What happened to Fr Egan is unsolved, but the most likely (and merciful) explanation is that he was knocked unconscious; for, though not a good swimmer, he could swim.
Eamon was the son of Robert Egan, the first news editor of The Irish Press. He was born in Dublin in 1923. He was sent to school at Scoil Mhuire, Marino where he attained a grasp of Irish which was eventually to bear fruit in a first class degree in UCD. He finished his secondary education at Belvedere. In 1941 he entered the noviciate at Emo Park. There then followed the usual sequence of studies : Rathfarnham, where he distinguished himself as a debater; Tullabeg, where he again distinguished himself in the, now defunct, disputations (circles and menstrua); teaching in Belvedere and Galway; theology in Milltown. He was ordained in 1955.
After his tertianship in Rathfarnham, Eamon was assigned to Tullabeg to teach rational psychology. However, it was decided that he should first acquire a doctorate, so he was sent to Louvain for two years, which ultimately extended to three. He returned to Tullabeg in 1961, his doctorate still unfinished, and began to teach philosophy.
In 1963 the Visitor closed Tullabeg as a house of philosophy and Eamon, joining the ranks of displaced persons, found himself in Milltown. In 1964 he was appointed to teach philosophy in Mungret. This was something which he took to with all his heart, the work and atmosphere being congenial. When the Institute of Philosophy and Theology was set up in Milltown he became a member of the staff and taught, with great success and flexibility, courses in the history of ancient and medieval philosophy and the philosophy of man (formerly rational pyschology).
While in Milltown he began to come more and more into contact with the outside world. He was invited to teach foundation courses in philosophy at Maynooth and did so with great success. He became the guiding figure in the Irish Philosophical Circle which included philosophers from Trinity College and Queen's, Belfast, when, in its early days, it was threatened with extinction. Thanks to Fr Eamon’s astute advice the Circle not only survived but emerged into tranquil waters as the Irish Philosophical Society of which, at his death, he was the chairman. In the enormously successful Milltown lectures he was one of the most popular lecturers and chairmen.
Among the subjects of these lectures he was assigned some facets of Père Teilhard de Chardin's much discussed thought. Eminently a perfectionist his own exacting standards impelled him to seek an intimate acquaintance with Père Teilhard's work. He shared the reserve of the Society generally towards his author's ideas but he was more sympathetic possibly more understanding, to them than most. With his exceptional sense of impartiality he was able to present them in such a way as to be recognised as a key exponent in the Teilhard debate.
More important, he came increasingly to be a spokesman on Marx to Marxist groups as an informed but not, again, un sympathetic critic. He was also a member of an ecumenic group that met once a month.
There were occasions when he appeared positively perverse but his endearing ingenuousness and honesty, pursuing truth quocum que duxit, and the humorous, to the observer, hesitancy that betrayed his sensitiveness won instant condonation for his ebullitions. It may be admitted he had not yet attained that equipoise that the years which alas were not to be would give. Dolor atque decus!
In spite of his intellectual ability and success as a lecturer Eamon Egan published very little. That is not unusual in the Irish Province, but in Fr Egan’s case it was due to a paralysing self depreciation. He was incredibly diffident. After delivering a brilliant lecture or course of lectures, which would have more than satisfied most other people, he would be genuinely dissatisfied, That is not to say that his lectures could not be unsatisfactory; at times they went over the heads of his listeners and at other times he tended to debate with himself in public, but in most cases his dissatisfaction was totally unfounded.
He was most scrupulous about giving his students the effort and time he believed they deserved. Indeed, his attitude to life in general verged on the scrupulous. He would reproach himself for laxity in circumstances where others might not be aware that there was any problem of conscience.
To those who have lived and worked closely with Fr Egan over the years his sudden death has been a shattering blow and his loss is likely to be more rather than less keenly felt a stime goes on. In varying degrees this loss will be felt within the Province, particularly among the younger members, and in the wider circle of those who had come in contact with him. Though in years he was middle-aged, in mind he was not only young but he had that elasticity which can compass the problems and aspirations of the present time. He was a man for this season. They are not numerous. His loss is therefore all the greater.
We add an appreciation from The Irish Times of August 22nd; we sincerely thank the editorial staff for their courtesy in allowing a reproduction :
“Many of us even outside his immediate family circle felt in expressibly bereaved as we met to render our last respects to Father Eamon Egan, who had died in a boating accident outside New York at the age of 50. At the Mass for him in St. Francis Xavier's Church, Gardiner Street, Dublin, which preceded the interment, a lovely service instinct with Christian hope and faith and love. Father Doyle, Rector of Milltown Park, where Father Egan taught philosophy, spoke for us all in recalling his gentleness and sensitivity, his kindness and integrity.
Eamon can, I think, have had no adequate idea of the affection and regard with which he was held by those who knew him. By some miracle, he had come through untouched by a pretension, all too common among clerics, however cloaked. Never gauche, he was diffident.
His thoughtfulness for others could sometimes become anxious, and occasionally fretful, concern, yet he was too firmly grounded in the Christian faith to allow that to govern his thought or conduct for long. For a man capable of identifying with so very many different sorts of people, his own life was in ways curiously patterned and predictable. He could at times seem conservative to a fault; basically, however, he was courageous and well balanced, refusing (just to take a few instances) to be over impressed by Lonergan, on the one hand, yet still very typically, on the other hand, showing himself warmly if critically appreciative of his controversial fellow-Jesuit, Teilhard de Chardin.
His characteristic attitude was open-hearted and generous, and he did good almost by stealth. Those of us privileged to know him loved his shy smile, his patience, his friendly humanity, his intellectual honesty, his refusal to impose a particular interpretation or conclusion on anyone, And may I say, as one not of his communion, how deeply I appreciated the naturalness with which he brought us, his friends, to God in occasional simple acts of wor ship. Prayer to him was like breathing.
In iothlainn Dé go gcastar sinn. Ba de bhunadh Bhaile Átha Cliath Éamon, ach bhí Gaeilge aige, agus i nGaeilge a labhraíodh sé le mo leithéidse i gcónaí nuair a bhímís i dteannta a chéile.
Ba bhall de Chumann na Sagart é. Canadh 'Ag Críost ag Síol' ag an Aifreann an lá a cuireadh é. Sin rud ba dheas leis."
Risteárd Ó Glaisne
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Egan, Eamon, 1923-1973, Jesuit priest
Dates of relationship
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- County Dublin » Dublin City
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Sandford Road » Milltown Park
- United States of America » New York
- Belgium » Leuven
- County Laois (Queen's) » Emo » St Mary's (Emo)
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Griffith Avenue » Schoil Mhuire Boys NS
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Great Denmark Street » Belvedere College SJ
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Rathfarnham » Rathfarnham Castle
- County Offaly (King's) » Ballycowan (Bar.) » Tullabeg » St Stanislaus College
- County Dublin » Dublin City » St Stephen's Green (Dublin) » University College, Dublin
- County Galway » Galway City » Sea Road » Coláiste Iognáid SJ
- County Limerick » Mungret » Mungret College SJ, 1882-1974
- County Kildare » Maynooth » St Patrick's College (Maynooth)
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