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De Hindeberg, Piaras, 1912-1982, Jesuit priest and Irish language writer
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- Henebry, Pierce
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Dates of existence
01 December 1912-07 October 1982
Born: 01 December 1912, Portlaw, County Waterford
Entered: 03 September 1930, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1946
Final vows: 02 February 1949
Died: 07 October 1982, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin
Early education at Waterpark College, Waterford; Tertianship at Rathfarnham
◆ Fr Francis Finegan : Admissions 1859-1948 - Waterpark student
by 1938 at St Aloysius, Jersey, Channel Islands (FRA) studying
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 58th Year No 1 1983
Fr Piaras de Hindeberg (1912-1931-1982)
Piaras de Hindeberg's death occurred at about midday on Thursday, 7th October 1982, at Rathfarnham Castle, where he had lived for the last thirty years of his life. He was within two months of completing his seventieth year, and two years past the golden jubilee of his entry into the Society.
Piaras regularly joined a small group of the community for early tea at about 5.30 pm. This group missed him that Thursday. Br Andy Williams, the Minister, went up to his room at the top of the castle and on breaking in the door, found Piaras lying on his bed, fully dressed, his spectacles on, but obviously some hours dead – five, according to medical opinion.
This brief account of the circumstances of his death is revealing in itself.
They missed Piaras, whose company they always enjoyed so much. It was here he was most at home: here he showed his depth and wide range of knowledge, his sharpness of mind, his sense of humour and above all his charity. He was never cynical about the affairs of the Province, or critical about modern trends in the Society or the Church. He could see things in the context of the changed times in which we are living. They missed him. There are more people than we shall ever know of whom the same can be said.
Piaras passed away quietly, in the midst of his work, without being a cause of trouble to anyone - just as he would have wished it to happen. When I say that he died in the midst of his work, I have no doubt that it was this that brought on the attack from which he died. For the last two years or so he had been working against time as though he realised that he was living on borrowed time. There were some students in advanced studies in modern Irish who came to him by appointment in the late evening for sessions which went on into the late hours of night. In preparation for these sessions, he put in long hours of intensive work. One of these students was expected that evening and arrived at the time the announcements of his death were being prepared. It was he who prepared the announcement which was published in the press for the following day. Happily some of these students will be able to assess the value of Piaras's work of a lifetime. It would not be within my competence to evaluate what must contain a monumental collection of material of inestimable value. We must leave this task to the scholars in times ahead.
Unostentatiously but very solidly, Piaras was a man of prayer and religious fervour; his daily Mass, Rosary, pro longed visits to the Blessed Sacrament and the tattered breviary were the substance of his daily life. He believed in physical activity, and for one who sustained a deadly heart attack about nine years ago and suffered three heart arrests while in intensive care, it was unbelievable to see the strenuous exercises he would constantly undertake: brisk walking, work in the grounds with scythe or saw or even a sledge hammer. Always obliging, he would supply Mass at an early hour travelling by motor-bike or even on foot through snow and ice if no other transport were possible. He never failed to keep an appointment and never cared for himself no matter what difficulties he had to surmount.
The late Fr William Stephenson and Piaras de Hindeberg lived for about thirty years together. During all this time, Piaras never spoke a word to the Old man, an omission which the Old man felt very much. He just wasn't Piaras' cup of tea. But a time came when the Old man was no longer able to gather his own firewood and saw it up for the fire which he always had in his room. Piaras quickly saw the Old man's difficulty and, despite his own condition of health, for the last years of Father Stephenson's life, he gathered the fire wood, sawed it up into handy blocks, filled a large basket and day after day carried the load up the back stairs into the Old man's room and left the pile conveniently in the corner: in and out, day after day, and never a word spoken. For his part, Fr Stephenson sent out for a small bag of mints from time to time. He climbed up to Piaras's room, hung the bag of sweets on the door handle and left it there. 'He likes the sweets' the Old man used say to me. Love is shown in deeds.
Piaras was a man of high ideals. He had a clear vision of his calling both in the religious life and towards his kith and kin; his native land; its language, its culture and its people, and from these ideals he never swerved. It took courage and he had that courage, the courage that saints and martyrs are made of. He never curried favour. In him there was no personal pride or selfish ambition. He never gloried in his academic achievements and he had attained the highest. He did not expect others to emulate his standards. Towards others of different background and upbringing, he was tolerant and looked for nothing more in return. “I go my way and you go your way”. When I think of his dedication to the cause of the Irish language and how one might explain it, I am reminded of what was said by somebody when speaking about the miracles at Lourdes: to those who have the Faith, no explanation is necessary; to those who have not the Faith, no explanation is possible.
It was my privilege to have known Piaras from boyhood. We were classmates at Waterpark College, Waterford. There he was recognised as one of outstanding ability not only in Irish, which was bred in him and nurtured from infancy, but in the Classics and in all other subjects. Fr Ernest Mackey was quick to pick him out as a subject for the priesthood and for the Society, which he entered in 1930 and in which he lived out his life in complete fidelity to his religious vocation and to his hereditary culture and ideals.
Nothing could have been more fitting than the tribute paid to him on the occasion of his obsequies at Gardiner Street church. His religious brothers did Piaras royally. May I on behalf of his family thank you all most sincerely for this as they have requested me to do. A special word of thanks is due, I feel, to Fr Seán Ó Duibhir, chief celebrant, and to the choir under the baton of Brendan Comerford. Ar dheis Dé go raibh anam sár-uasal Phiarais.
Matthew Meade SJ
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De Hindeberg, Piaras, 1912-1982, Jesuit priest and Irish language writer
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