Headon, Maurice F, 1912-1960, Jesuit priest

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Headon, Maurice F, 1912-1960, Jesuit priest

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  • Headon, Maurice Fanahan

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22 November 1912-06 August 1960


Born: 22 November 1912, Ballyporeen, County Tipperary
Entered: 03 September 1930, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1944, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1948, Sacred Heart College SJ, Limerick
Died: 06 August 1960, St Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin

Early education at Schoil Mhuire, Marino and O’Connell’s School;

Studied for BSc at UCD; Tertianship at Rathfarnham

by 1936 at Vals, France (TOLO) studying

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 35th Year No 4 1960
Obituary :
Fr Maurice Headon (1912-1960)
When the news came to Hong Kong that Fr. Maurice Headon would not be returning to the mission people were surprised. When the reason given was that he was in ill-health, there was a temptation to incredulity. It was harder still to believe when it was told that he was suffering from hardening of the arteries, that there was danger of gangrene setting in, that his leg might have to be amputated. He was in the Mater Hospital during last summer, cheerful, unconcerned, yet the doctors said he would never again be able to walk more than a hundred yards. It was all very puzzling. Last autumn he gave a retreat in Galway to the Women's Sodality and he seemed in very good health. One day last August a friend called to see him in Gardiner Street whither he had returned from the Mater. Fr. Headon seemed to be in very good health and spirits; the next day he was found dead in his room. He was never a man to fuss about himself. Unselfishness was outstanding in his life as it was outstanding in the days leading up to his death.
Maurice Headon was born in Ballyporeen in Co. Tipperary in 1912. He finished his secondary studies in O'Connell Schools, Dublin, and in September 1930 he entered the Novitiate, in Emo. It was the first year of the Novitiate in its new surroundings; the Philosophers had taken over Tullabeg. Mr. Headon studied Science in the University and took his degree in 1935. Philosophy in Vals followed and then came three years of teaching in Clongowes. In his first year there he was in charge of the meteorological station and took his Higher Diploma in Education. He was prefect of the Gym for his three years and left a memory among those he taught for his kindness and for the trouble he took to help on those who were weak in their studies; he even gave special classes to those who could not manage their mathematics.
He studied Theology in Milltown Park and was ordained there by the Archbishop of Dublin in the summer of 1944. Tertianship was in Rathfarnham under Fr. Neary, 1945-1946, and then he was sent to the Crescent where he taught Science for three years. Even in his first year he was a favourite with the boys; and it was remarkable how many continued to write to him all during his years in Hong Kong. Prefects of Studies always placed a high value on Fr. Headon's teaching, though his preference was for more directly apostolic work.
The Hong Kong mission was in great need of additional competent Science masters and in the summer of 1949 Fr. Headon left Ireland and his many friends for a few field of labour. He was then thirty-seven years old and the assignment was not an easy one. Fr. Headon on his arrival in the mission did not go to the Language School. He was needed in the Colleges and to Wah Yan, Hong Kong, and to a heavy round of teaching in the “Afternoon School” he now gave himself. For at least three of his teaching years in China he taught Science, but he also found time to begin a study of Chinese which he later used to great effect in preaching and hearing Confessions. Great praise is due to Fr. Headon for the extraordinary diligence with which he studied Chinese. At the end of his ten years in Hong Kong there were few Fathers on the mission who knew as many Chinese characters as he did and all those years he studied with the sole aim of being able to preach better and with a wider vocabulary.
In 1952 Fr. Headon began to work in Wah Yan, Kowloon, first in its temporary quarters in Nelson Street, later in the present fine building. In 1955 he was editor of the college magazine, The Shield, and for his last two years in Hong Kong he was Prefect of Studies in the same college, He kept up an interest in his pupils, even after they had left his care and he undertook the heroic labour of keeping in touch by letter with all the past students of Wah Yan who had gone abroad for further studies. The summer of 1959 saw him on his way back to Ireland after ten busy years to a well-deserved rest. He spent most of his time in St. Francis Xavier's, Gardiner Street, and it was there that death found him on Saturday, 6th August. He was forty-eight years old. Unobtrusiveness, perhaps, was the main characteristic of Fr. Headon's work inside the house and out. He rarely referred to either; he rarely made use of the personal pronoun “I”, so if we learned of his apostolate outside, it was from those who benefited from it. In Hong Kong, he was confessor to the Good Shepherd Sisters and their charges after their expulsion by the Communists from Shanghai. His sympathy, his patience and understanding, his personal charm and friendliness, and his readiness to help made him greatly loved by them all, and it was with intense regret they saw him leaving when his canonical period as confessor had ended.
His heart was in this direct apostolic work, so he jumped at the chance of a weekly supply in the parish church of St. Francis of Assisi. Here, again, his friendly spirit, his zeal and his understanding of human nature made him extremely popular. He preached every Sunday in Chinese at the public Masses, drew big crowds to his confessional and was ever at the beck and call of the parish priest who had the greatest esteem for him and the highest appreciation of what he was doing for his Catholic flock. The parish priest was shocked enough when he heard that he was losing Fr. Headon for a year at home; he was overwhelmed when he heard of his death. He is having a special Requiem Mass said for Fr. Headon; and he knows that he will have a packed church. The number of people who have come to the school to ask if it is really true that he is dead has revealed to us the breadth of his hidden apostolate and the number of Masses for his soul asked for shows their affection for him. . Here in the school the boys were boys were utterly shocked when news of his death arrived. He was a good teacher, and as Prefect of Studies had shown himself most approachable, and the boys knew that they would always get a fair and sympathetic hearing in his office. Those boys “in trouble” would present their appeal without any fear, and if they left his office, the “trouble” remaining withal, they recognised at least that they had got a fair hearing. His death will be a great loss to the community. Many, indeed, is the recreation he enlivened with his keen sense of humour and his love of argument. Philosophy, theology, the different methods of the apostolate, the school curriculum and the means of dealing with boys--these were all rich grain to his mental mill, and he enjoyed nothing better than a hammer and tongs discussion about them. After winning an argument, he might be reminded that he had defended the opposite opinion some months before just as vigorously, and he would break out into laughter and state that he “had read another book on the subject since” or that he “had changed his mind as we must march with the times”. Then he would be ready for another discussion on “changing your mind”!


Schoil Mhuire Boys NS, Griffith Avenue, Marino, Dublin

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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-


Headon, Maurice F, 1912-1960, Jesuit priest

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IE IJA J/181

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