FitzGerald, Thomas, 1905-1967, Jesuit priest

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FitzGerald, Thomas, 1905-1967, Jesuit priest

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  • 謝致力神父
  • Tom FitzGerald
  • Tommy FitzGerald

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Dates of existence

08 February 1905-12 July 1967

History

Born: 08 February 1905, Glin, County Limerick
Entered: 20 September 1922, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1936, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1939, Loyola, Tai Lam Chung, Hong Kong
Died: 12 July 1967, St Francis Xavier, Kingsmead Hall, Singapore - Hong Kongensis Province (HK)

Transcribed : HIB to HK 03/12/1966

by 1938 at St Beuno’s Wales (ANG) making Tertianship

◆ Hong Kong Catholic Archives :
Father Thomas FitzGerald, S.J., who worked in Hong Kong from 1938 to 1955 and in Malaysia or Singapore for the past twelve years, died in Singapore on Wednesday, 12 July 1967, aged 62.

Father FitzGerald was born in Ireland on 8 February 1905. He entered the Jesuit novitiate there in 1922 and was ordained priest in 1936.

He came to Hong Kong in 1938. After two years spent studying Cantonese, he went to the Regional Seminary, Aberdeen, where he taught philosophy and later theology. Towards the end of the war he went to Macao to teach in the College of St. Luis Gonzaga. After the war he taught English Literature in Wah Yan College, Hong Kong till 1955. For many years he combined this teaching with a vigorous chaplaincy to the R.A.F.

In 1955 he went to Singapore to lecture in the Teachers’ Training College. In 1958 he moved to Penang as chaplain to a very large complex of educational works run by the Sisters there. In 1964, with seriously impaired health of which he took singularly little notice, he returned to Singapore, still ready for hard work. In the last year of his life he took over the editorship of the Malaysian Catholic News and the wardenship of Kingsmead Hall.

The extraordinary variety of posts filled by Father FitzGerald - lectureship in philosophy and theology, secondary school teaching R.A.F. chaplaincy, convent chaplaincy, administration, editorship - and the success he achieved in them testify to his extraordinary power of concentration on the matter in hand, whatever it might be. In ordinary conversation this concentration amounted to and endearing eccentricity - he would concentrate fully on the subject under discussion if he was distracted from that subject; he was totally distracted and showed no memory of the original subject. In his work this was no eccentricity, but and astonishing power of focusing all his remarkable powers on whatever task lay before him.

Even the onset of very bad health could not rob him of this invaluable gift, He was a sick men, already in his sixties, when he started his highly successful editorship of the Malaysian Catholic News, but he greeted the work with all the enthusiasm with which he had greeted the first work that had fallen to him as a young priest.

A Solemn Requiem Mass for the repose of his soul was celebrated in the chapel of Wah Yan College Hong Kong, on Monday, 17 July, by Father F. Cronin, S.J., Regional Superior.
Sunday Examiner Hong Kong - 21 July 1967

◆ Biographical Notes of the Jesuits in Hong Kong 1926-2000, by Frederick Hok-ming Cheung PhD, Wonder Press Company 2013.
His early education was at Laurel Hill Convent in Limerick and then he spent 8 years at Crescent College, before he Entered the Society in 1922.

He got a 1st Class Degree from University College Dublin and then a H Dip in Education.. He then studied Philosophy at Milltown Park.
He was sent for three years Regency, 2 at Mungret College SJ in Limerick and 1 at Belvedere College SJ Dublin. He then returned to Milltown Park for Theology and was Ordained there in 1936, followed immediately by Tertianship at St Beuno’s, Wales.

1938-1940 Immediately after Tertianship he came to Hong Kong and spent the first two years at Tai Lam Chung Language School
1940-1943 He was sent to teach Philosophy at the Regional Seminary in Aberdeen.
After WWII he taught briefly at St Luis Gonzaga College in Macau
1946-1955 He was sent to Wah Yan College Hong Kong
1955-1958 He was sent to Singapore as a Lecturer at the Teachers Training College
1958 He was sent to Penang as Chaplain to the HIJ sisters.
1964-1966 He was engaged in Retreat work in Singapore and Malaysia. His final post there was as Editor of the Malaysian Catholic News and as Warden at Kingsmead GHall.

He had a flair for languages - he knew Cantonese, Latin, Greek, Irish, French and Spanish.

Note from Timothy Doody Entry
Another passage in this book also describes Mr. Doody busy amid shelling and bombing. During a lull in his billeting work he found a new apostolate. Two priests were sheltered in the M.E.P. Procure on Battery Path. Mr. Doody took up his position outside the Procure and boldly enquired of all who passed if they were Catholics, and, if they were, did they wish to go to confession. The results were almost startling. The most unexpected persons turned out to be Catholics, from bright young things to old China hands, and after the first start of surprise at the question in the open street in staid, pleasure-loving Hong Kong, they generally took the turn indicated by Mr. Doody and found Father Grogan of Father Fitzgerald of Father O’Brien ready to meet them inside.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 21st Year No 1 1946

Arrivals :
Our three re-patriated missioners from Hong Kong: Frs. T. Fitzgerald, Gallagher and G. Kennedy, arrived in Dublin in November and are rapidly regaining weight and old form. Fr. Gallagher has been assigned to the mission staff and will be residing at St. Mary's, Emo.

Irish Province News 21st Year No 4 1946

Leeson St :
We were very glad to have several members of the Hong Kong inission with us for some time: Frs. P. Joy, T. Fitzgerald, and H. O'Brien, while Fr. George Byrne has joined us as one of the community.

Irish Province News 22nd Year No 1 1947

Departures for Mission Fields in 1946 :
4th January : Frs. P. J. O'Brien and Walsh, to North Rhodesia
25th January: Frs. C. Egan, Foley, Garland, Howatson, Morahan, Sheridan, Turner, to Hong Kong
25th July: Fr. Dermot Donnelly, to Calcutta Mission
5th August: Frs, J. Collins, T. FitzGerald, Gallagher, D. Lawler, Moran, J. O'Mara, Pelly, Toner, to Hong Kong Mid-August (from Cairo, where he was demobilised from the Army): Fr. Cronin, to Hong Kong
6th November: Frs. Harris, Jer. McCarthy, H. O'Brien, to Hong Kong

Irish Province News 42nd Year No 4 1967

Obituary :

Fr Thomas Fitzgerald SJ (1905-1967)

When Fr. Thomas FitzGerald died in Singapore on 12th July 1967, the Hong Kong Viceprovince lost one of its most attractive characters. At his funeral Mass in St. Ignatius Church the presence of an archbishop, a bishop and a large crowd of priests, religious and layfolk gave eloquent testimony to the respect and affection with which he had been regarded. One of the priests, in fact, had travelled 500 miles to attend his funeral.
Fr. FitzGerald had spent the last twenty-nine years in the Far East. After the usual course of studies he went out to Hong Kong as a priest in 1938. His two years in the language school at Taai Lam Chung gave him a knowledge of Cantonese which made him one of our best Chinese scholars. Afterwards, he was to be for several years a member of a government examining board to test the proficiency in Chinese of European police-officers. Throughout his life Fr. FitzGerald was an excellent linguist and had a real interest in languages. Although he never lived in France he became a fluent French speaker - which was later to prove a useful asset in dealing with the French clergy in Malaya - and he learned Spanish just because he liked the language.
From 1940 to 1946 Fr. FitzGerald was on the staff of the Regional Seminary in Hong Kong. Here, at various times, he professed ethics, theology and dogma. These were difficult years, covering as they did three and a half years of the war in the Far East. The main difficulty was the shortage of food. Fr. FitzGerald used afterwards recall how, when he was sent down to Macao towards the end of the war, his brethren there failed to recognise him in his emaciated state.
Immediately after the war he came back to Ireland for a rest. Here he puzzled the doctors with a peculiar fever which turned out to be a recurrence of malaria, already contracted in the Far East. Many years later he used to take pride in the fact that a slide of his blood was still being used in U.C.D. to teach the medical students what malaria looked like!
In 1946 Fr. FitzGerald went to Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, where he spent the next nine years. In addition to his classwork he took a lively interest in the school dramatics and revealed unsuspected talent as a make-up artist. He also, during these years, took on the extra-curricular post of officiating chaplain to the R.A.F. in Hong Kong.
Fr. FitzGerald was sent, in 1955, to the newly-established house in Singapore, to take up an appointment as Lecturer in English at the Teachers Training College. Three years later he suffered the first of a series of heart-attacks. After a spell in hospital he was sent back to Ireland to recuperate. Having spent six months there he was returning to Singapore by ship when he got another attack and had to be taken ashore and hospitalised in Bombay. He finally reached Singapore in January 1959. On the night of his arrival his condition caused concern and the doctor was summoned at 11 p.m. The following evening Fr. Tommy was calmly strolling round a trade exhibition on the other side of Singapore! This was typical of the man and of his attitude to life. For the last nine years of his life Fr. FitzGerald was told by every doctor who examined hiin that he had a heart so badly damaged that it could stop at any moment. His only reply was : “Well, the only thing to do with a heart like mine is forget about it”, and he acted accordingly. Time after time he suffered minor setbacks, but as soon as he felt a little better and he seemed to recover with incredible speed he wanted to be up and about at once.
After a couple of months in Singapore Fr. FitzGerald was sent to Penang where he spent the next four and a half years, living with a French parish priest and acting as chaplain to a large convent school and spiritual director to several religious institutions in the diocese. Although very fruitful in apostolic work these were rather lonely years for a community-man like Fr. Tommy.
He was happy, then, to be recalled to Singapore in 1963 to be Director of Retreats in Singapore and Malaya. During the next few years Fr. FitzGerald toured the peninsula giving retreats to priests, religious and lay-people. This was the sort of thing he liked - to be a member of a community without being tied down for too long to any one place. There was an element of wanderlust in Fr. Tommy.
Last year, at a time when his doctor was surprised that he was still alive, he opened a new chapter of his life by accepting two posts in which he had had no previous experience, Warden of Kingsmead Hall and Editor of the Malaysian Catholic News. It was these posts that he was filling with distinction when he suffered another massive heart-attack and died.
Among the many letters of condolence received from his friends after Fr. FitzGerald's death, there was one from Mr. Frank James - the father of our Fr. Brendan. In it he writes :
“There was so much that was loveable about Fr. Fitz. He had a genius for putting you at your ease and for making friends. My wife and I have known him for many years, and always he was so unruffled, so much at peace with himself and with the world around him”.
This comment aptly describes one of the most notable features of Fr. FitzGerald's character. He was a simple, uncomplicated man. He liked people and they liked him. Totally unselfconscious, he moved through life in an abstracted sort of way, with only an intermittent grasp, one felt, on reality. His phenomenal absent mindedness, his tendency to disrupt a conversation with an apparently utterly irrelevant remark, could at times be mildly exasperating. But exasperation soon gave way to amusement, especially at the look of oblivious innocence on Fr. Tommy's face. Sometimes, particularly in later years, when he realised from the sudden silence that he had stopped the conversation dead, he would try, with an apologetic smile, to trace the wavering line that connected in his mind the former topic with his abrupt intervention. This was always listened to with great interest. The connection was usually quite fantastic.
In view of his disjointed manner of conversation it is perhaps surprising that Fr. FitzGerald was such an excellent teacher. The fact is that when he put his mind to one subject he had a tremendous power of concentration. And he was extremely painstaking about his work. Often, when he was lecturing at the T.T.C. he would write out a whole lecture in full, and it would be a model of clear and interesting exposition. It is no wonder that his students remembered him with gratitude and affection many years after.
And so do we remember him. He was a man of peace, and his influence on any company of which he was a part was to quiet discords and reduce tensions. We may hope, with considerable confidence, that he has received the reward promised to the peace makers, that his childlike eyes now gaze at God.

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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-

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FitzGerald, Thomas, 1905-1967, Jesuit priest

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