Keane, Gerard, 1926-2018, Jesuit priest

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Keane, Gerard, 1926-2018, Jesuit priest

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  • Gerry Keane

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Dates of existence

02 December 1926-27 November 2018

History

Born: 02 December 1926, County Limerick
Entered: 07 September 1944, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1958, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 22 April 1977, Kingsmead Hall, Singapore
Died: 27 November 2018, Assisi Hospice, Thomson Road, Singapore - Indonesiae Province, Malaysia-Singapore Region (IDO-MAS)

Part of the Kingsmead Hall, Singapore community at the time of death

Transcribed HIB to HK : 03 December 1966; HK to IDO (MAS) 1991

by 1953 at Hong Kong - Regency

◆ Jesuits in Ireland : https://www.jesuit.ie/news/gerard-keane-deeply-loved/

Gerard Keane SJ – down to earth and deeply loved
Fr Gerard (Gerry) Keane SJ passed away on 27 November 2018 at Assisi Hospice, Singapore aged 92 years. His funeral took place in St Ignatius Church, Singapore on 30 November. He was the last of the Irish Jesuits who served in the Region of Malaysia-Singapore. Fr Gerry was a great friend of Paul Andrews SJ. Extraordinarily, they both entered the novitiate together and were ordained together; finally, they both died on the same day, and both of them had their funerals on 30 November, Paul in Dublin and Gerry in Singapore.
The Catholic News in Singapore provided the obituary. Born in Limerick in 1926, Fr Gerry once observed about his calling: “I thought that if what Christ is all about is true, then it [the priesthood] is the only thing worth doing.” He entered the novitiate at 17 years old and later did his regency training in Wah Yan College, Hong Kong. He returned to Ireland for his theological studies and was ordained a priest in 1958.
Fr Keane then missioned as an assistant parish priest and spiritual director of St Ignatius in Singapore when it was first established. He was editor of the Malaysian Catholic News and broadcasted on Radio Singapore. Other roles included chaplain at a junior college, superior of the Jesuit community and director of an Ignatian spirituality and counselling centre.
When Fr Gerry lost his voice to cancer in 2001, he retired from active service at St Ignatius Parish but continued to write for the weekly parish bulletin up to a few months before his passing. The parish celebrated Fr Keane’s Golden Jubilee of Priesthood in 2008. He was much loved and will be remembered for his wonderful gift of friendship.
Archbishop William Goh Seng Chye of Singapore was a former student of Fr Keane who gave the homily at his funeral. He said: “Deep in our hearts, truly, when we think of the life of Father Gerard Keane we are filled with joy because he has lived the fullness of life. He is one of those very rare, true blue, missionaries and pastors...a man who was called early, a man who responded to God’s call and a man who was faithful to his call until death.”
The archbishop spoke of Fr Gerry’s fatherly love where in recent years he was still able to connect with young people and who expressed a holiness through his simplicity. He joked that the secret to his long life was due to his drinking of Irish whiskey which killed all the germs in his body. “He was a man who was able to feel the humanity of others, a very down-to-earth person, a person who can feel the struggles of the ordinary man and woman...a true human being because he was just himself.”
There was also a reference to the latter stage of Fr Keane’s life when he could not speak due to cancer. The archbishop commented on the value of elderly people in a country where euthanasia is considered by some to be a good option.” Fr Gerard Keane was still doing something by doing nothing,” he said.
Irish Jesuit Fr Jimmy Hurley joined the Society of Jesus along with Fr Gerry and Fr Paul Andrews in 1944 and were also ordained together in 1958. Fr Hurley said that Fr Keane was very highly regarded among his peers. He noted his exceptional football skills and language skills when they were sent as missionaries to Hong Kong.
“He was very perceptive and he anticipated the changes of the ecclesiastical Church before Vatican II,” said Fr Hurley. After ordination, Fr Hurley returned to Hong Kong and Fr Keane went to Singapore, but they remained friends over many years. Fr Hurley visited his fellow Jesuit when he lost his voice. They communicated with each other for several hours and their friendship strengthened.
They met again a few years ago in Thurles, County Tipperary along with John K. Guiney SJ and Paul Andrews SJ. “A testament to his character,” said Fr Hurley, “was that even during this brief stay in Ireland, his parishioners back in Singapore were anxious that he would return and live out his remaining years there. He was deeply loved.”
Fr Gerry is the beloved son of the late Jim and Nellie Keane. He is predeceased by his brothers Paddy, Michael & Seamus and sister Marie (Lambe), formerly of Bon Accord, Ennis Road, Limerick. He is survived and lovingly remembered by his brother Louis, sisters-in-law Grace & Tanis, nephews, nieces, grandnephews, grandnieces and great grandniece. He is sadly missed by his colleagues in the Jesuit Community, his wonderful carers, his loyal parishioners in the Parish of St Ignatius and by his many friends in Ireland and Singapore.

◆ Irish Jesuit Missions : https://www.jesuitmissions.ie/news/443-uncle-gerard-the-gregarious-missionary

IRISH MEN BEHIND THE MISSIONS: FR GERRY KEANE SJ
“Christ on a bike!”—or, a priest on a Honda 50—was rare in 1970’s Ireland, well in Tipperary anyway. I suppose it was summer 1974 when Uncle Gerard, as we referred to him, was on one of his visits to Ireland. In my hometown Thurles, he appeared up the lane unannounced and under the radar as usual. He took the windy mountains road from Limerick to Thurles. No one knew who it was until he lifted the helmet and beamed a big smile.
Then after we all sat looking at him for an hour, he said in his calm quiet voice: “Take it for a spin”. I think I was 11—this was some laugh—we had a long lane up to the house so we spent the afternoon wobbling and weaving up and down, my first and last time riding a motorcycle. To us Uncle Gerard was alternative and novel and fun and didn’t wear a collar, so the contrast was refreshing and “cool” in Ireland of the time.

Growing up in Thurles, Ireland
Our childhood and growing up years were marvellous in Thurles. We were fortunate: a big house with many people coming and going, family shop and pub and filling station. Marie Keane, my mother, was Gerard’s only sister and married my dad, Patrick Lambe in 1953. She was a student of the Ursuline Convent in Thurles and latterly a PE teacher there, which explains how she came to meet my father. She died from cancer in 1975 at the ridiculously young age of 48.
My Uncle Gerard looks so familiar to me, at 88, he now looks more like his mother and my mother, the big face-changing smile is a dead giveaway. One wonders how he heard the news of his only sister’s passing thousands of miles away and how he coped without close family with whom to grieve.

Our Uncle Gerard, a Jesuit priest in Singapore
In his all too rare visits to Ireland he would bring gifts for the women, dresses and kimonos and shawls, all in traditional far-eastern patters and styles, silks and satins: beautiful and graceful gowns in fantastic colours. For the men, linen summer shirts with outrageous colours and patterns, only worn in public for a bet!
Our earlier impressions and memories of Uncle Gerard are episodical, for the main part we only ever saw, or knew, of his life when he visited Ireland and there were long gaps in between. Strangely, Uncle Gerard didn’t discuss his missionary work at any length with us when he came to visit. He suffered from that false modesty and self-deprecation that we Irish do all too well. Only recently we have become aware of his writing and broadcasting accomplishments in Singapore.

“Please, no fuss”
When Uncle Gerard was in Thurles he would stay for a few days or a week. He loved nothing more that to sit in kitchens and talk into the late hours, and sip the whiskey, and smoke Consulate—my goodness those all-white menthol cigarettes I remember so well—and the laughing and the smoke filled room. He never had a tourist agenda, all he wanted was to meet people and spend time together.
He has just returned to Singapore after a visit to Limerick and Tipperary, only made possible by the unbelievable generosity and love of his friends in Singapore. And again this time all he wanted was just to meet friends and family and spend time: “Please, no fuss”.
I remember when he visited in a summer of the late sixties: he was driving a brown Morris Minor. We all piled into it with towels and swimmers and careered around the roads of Tipperary. I especially remember he drove us to our cousins in Templemore who had a marvellous garden and swimming pool. Well, the squeals of laughter can be still heard and the memories everlasting. Uncle Gerard is a dude and our coolest uncle.
When you try too hard to impress kids they are reticent and wonder : “What’s with this guy?” A gentle demeanour and a sense of humour are all you need and the communication lines are established, no in-your-face inquisition, just understated and calm. They say the loudest person in the room is the weakest. Well if this has merit, then the corollary is true of Fr Gerry.

In the heart of his family
We were and are immensely proud of him and his pioneering spirit. We loved to tell people of “our Uncle Gerard, a Jesuit priest in Singapore”. Even now in the globalised world of instant communication and fast travel, there is great kudos in having a gregarious missionary in far-flung places, and to have one as cool as Gerry Keane is a bonus.
Approaching our last few years, we would all want to have our loved ones close and to spend time just listening and talking and sharing. Gerard is our flesh and blood, our pride and joy, but his true family is with him where he lives, and has lived for most of his life, and we thank God for that.
It gives us great peace and comfort to know for sure that our dear and much loved uncle and brother is right in the heart of his family.
Author: Patrick Lambe, October 2015

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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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Keane, Gerard, 1926-2018, Jesuit priest

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Irish Jesuit Mission to Hong Kong, 1926-1966 (3 December 1926-3 December 1966)

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Irish Jesuit Mission to Hong Kong, 1926-1966

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Keane, Gerard, 1926-2018, Jesuit priest

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IE IJA J/819

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