Item 1 - Letter from Fr Thomas Scully SJ to Irish Fr Provincial in relation to his work with the Catholic Housing Aid Society

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Letter from Fr Thomas Scully SJ to Irish Fr Provincial in relation to his work with the Catholic Housing Aid Society


  • 3 September 1965 (Creation)

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(07 May 1922-20 January 1968)

Biographical history

Born: 07 May 1922, Menlough, County Galway
Entered: 07 October 1945, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 28 July 1955, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1963, Belvedere College SJ, Dublin
Died: 20 January 1968, Mater Hospital, Dublin

Part of the Belvedere College SJ, Dublin community at the time of death

◆ Fr Francis Finegan SJ : Admissions 1859-1948 - B.E and BSc at UCG before entry

In 1968 the galloping cancer which killed 46-year-old Tom Scully SJ must have been nourished by the tension in which he lived: between the demands of full-time science teaching in Belvedere, demands that were sharpened by an exigent headmaster, and the needs of the poor which Tom saw outside his door. When he died, the flats which he had funded and planned for the aged poor and for newly weds, were given his name. They have served their purpose for forty years, and now, they are being tossed with a view to replacement.

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 43rd Year No 2 1968
Belvedere College
On January 20th, Fr. Tom Scully who had been in the Mater Hospital for about three weeks, passed quietly away. For the previous fortnight he had suffered a great deal but remained ever cheerful at all times. Right up to the end he showed an active interest in all college affairs. The day before he died a group of the boys (from one of the three St. Vincent de Paul Conferences which he directed) visited him and he wished to know whether certain cases had been visited during his absence. On the same day he spoke to Fr. Rector in a moving way of his appreciation of the charity and kindness of the community to him and stressed how much he was indebted to them. His passing will leave a great void to be filled not only in the various activities in which he immersed himself in the College, but also in his St. Anne's Housing Aid Society which was his brain-child and of which he was the mentor in all its developments, material and financial.
January 23rd. Requiem Mass for Fr. Scully at which practically all the school participated. It was one of the largest funerals from Gardiner St. for some time with representatives from all walks of life. Various tributes to him appeared in the Press, all written in the same key - “to the memory of a kind and gentle Priest”. It is only since his death that we realise what a prodigious amount of work he fitted into his already overcrowded daily schedule. R.I.P.

Obituary :

Fr Thomas Scully SJ (1922-1968)

A writer of obituaries is often faced with the task of reconciling kindness with the truth. In writing of Tom Scully no such problem arises. To say that he was an exemplary religious, loved by his family and his friends, popular in Belvedere both among the community and the boys, cherished by those who shared his social work is not a kindly half truth, masking the darker side of his character. There simply was no dark side to Tom's character. Doubtless being human, he had his faults but they were mere trifling imperfections that flesh and blood must live with and accept.
Tom was born in Menlough, Co. Galway in May 1922. He attended the local National School and then spent a very happy period in secondary school at St. Joseph's, Ballinasloe. He was immensely proud of being educated at St. Joseph's, now called Garbally Park, and often remarked on the happy casualness of school life there in the golden thirties.
At U.C.G. he took, without undue effort his B.Sc, as well as a degree in civil engineering. He enjoyed the University, especially its social life, picking up at this time the bad habit of being a very good card player.
After leaving the University, he spent some time as an engineer in the Board of Works, before being appointed an Assistant County Surveyor for Co. Wicklow.
He entered the Society in October 1945, taking in his stride the traditional noviceship regime, which is now in process of being changed. In Tullabeg he enjoyed life greatly, philosophy, his new companions, card playing, talking, walking, boating, designing and building a swimming pool, in fact the lot! He was by temperament a Celt, but of the cheerful variety, full of fire and fun, quick and clever in everything, a strong personality with a most unCeltlike ability to control his moods. In this, he was helped by his temperament which was basically optimistic and cheerful.
He spent two years in the Crescent as a scholastic. He found teaching no problem, enjoyed the boys and in a different sort of way, the community. He had some good stories about those days, featuring the escapades of a bizarre contemporary, still alive, but alas no longer with us.
In Milltown he worked conscientiously, passed all the exams, accepted all the doctrines, had no doubts as far as one could see, played his game of bridge once a week and above all remained the same, vivacious, lively and reliable. He was, perhaps, by nature a conservative. He respected and admired the religious traditions of his country and in a sense it could be said that his piety was more Irish than Jesuit, more redolent of Croagh Patrick and Lough Derg than Farm Street or, dare we say it, Milltown Park.
He spent almost his last ten years in Belvedere as science master and had become one of the pillars of that great college. He taught his classes with great care and was respected by all his students. One of the greatest signs of his interest in teaching was the way in which he successfully obtained his H.Dip. in Ed. only two years ago. Some years previous to that he went to America for a summer-course in the teaching of science. The tidiness of the physics laboratory and his care of its instruments were other indications of his deep love for this work. His devotion to the school was very real, he liked both the community and the boys and greatly admired the past pupils, especially those in the Vincent de Paul Society and the Newsboys Club. He showed many of the signs of that devotion, varying from a certain deep contentment in his surroundings to a shared sympathy in all the joys and sorrows of the school. His intelligence, however, tempered the narrowing effects of devotion and he retained to the end a genuine interest not only in the other schools of the Society but in all the problems peculiar to Irish education.
His life work was in a sense crowned by his activities in the Catholic Housing Association. This group was founded by a number of Catholic laymen in order to provide homes for the aged poor of Dublin. Tom was invited to join the group as chaplain. In a short time he found himself playing a very important part in running the new organisation. Every spare moment was devoted to it, and he loved the work. In fact towards the end his greatest interest was in this problem of housing the poor and the old of Dublin. He felt deeply that a Christian country should above all else, aid its elderly impoverished citizens, whose misery we see all around us in the Ireland of today. Tom did not want to die. He had too many interests, too many friends, too much work on hand, to wish to leave this world. But when he was told the truth, he did not seem to mind. I think he had long suspected it and had already turned his mind away from this life and its seismic disturbances to the contemplation of eternity. It was in this spirit that he died, an outstanding Christian and a great priest.
His funeral was immense, a tribute from the good people of Dublin to an exceptionally good man. Those, whom he knew well, will never forget him. May he rest in peace.

An Appreciation

The following is part of an appreciation of Fr. Scully by one of the officials of the Catholic Housing Aid Society. Fr. Scully was the chaplain of this Society and often acted as its spokesman and advocate of its cause.
“He loved the poor. It was through his association with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul that he came to realise their many needs. It can truly be said that he was one of the first to pull back the curtain in Dublin City on the appalling conditions of cold, hunger and loneliness in which a large number of old people were forced to live. The lowliest were his friends, because he did not forget that the most humble piece of human flotsam is the dignified possessor of an immortal soul. He had a special gift for using all of his time. If it was even a half hour between classes in Belvedere, he used to drop in with equal facility on a leader of industry or an old person in a tenement. If it was the former, he might come away a little richer for the Catholic Housing Aid Society, or if the latter 10/- (very often his last 10/-) poorer. His dedication was to the aged poor of Dublin. He gave them everything he had, including his heart through the Society of St. Vincent de Paul and through our Catholic Housing Aid Society.
When we set out to collect £120,000 in the daring social experiment of building a block of flats for the old and the young (St. Anne's Court in Gardiner St.) we had little money and few helpers. However in just close on three years we had collected over £60,000 from rich and poor-company directors, trade unionists, workers in factories and in business houses and even the widow's mite. As well as that we had arranged for £33,000 in grants and received promises of another £15,000. It was a long, hard road. Fr. Scully spent every Wednesday afternoon (his half-day from classes) begging here and there. He went to the leaders of Unions and Industry and into the factories and workshops of the workers in his quest for funds. He was always happy to speak to factory workers. He called them the salt of the earth. He always stressed that his scheme was non-sectarian and many of his biggest subscriptions came from Protestants. In doing all his great charitable work he shunned publicity with the result that it was only the few he had around him who knew the colossal amount of work he put into his task. To the members of the Catholic Housing Aid Society he was a lovable leader. He never drove anyone to do anything; you were attracted towards him and felt that you had to do it. Just before he died this gentle and lovable Jesuit in a message to the members of the Catholic Housing Aid Society told them that this year would be a crucial one for the Society and he asked them to redouble their efforts to gather in the balance of the money. The members have already set about the task because they feel that the success of the venture will be a fitting tribute to the unselfish and inspiring work of Fr. Scully for the lonely and necessitous aged. It was a privilege and joy to have helped him and those who knew him will always remember him. Let our continuing work insure that his memory is perpetuated in the only memorial he would wish for a home for his poorer brothers and sisters. We are all sorry he did not live to see his dream take shape in bricks and mortar. We shall miss him on this earth, but it is good to know we have such a friend in Heaven."
J. Macs.

◆ The Belvederian, Dublin, 1968


Father Thomas J Scully SJ (Master in Belvedere 1957-1968

Father Thomas Scully was born in Menlough, Co Galway, in May 1922. He was educated at St Joseph's, Ballinasloe and later went to University College, Galway, where he obtained the BE degree (Civil) in 1942 and the BSc degree in the following year. After graduation he worked for some time as an engineer in the Board of Works and later obtained appointment as Assistant County Surveyor for Co Wicklow.

He entered the Society of Jesus on 7th October 1945 and studied Philosophy at St Stanislaus College, Tullamore, for three years, after which he spent two years teaching in Crescent College, Limerick. He then went for his theological studies to Milltown Park, Dublin, where he was ordained in 1955. He spent the last 11 years of his life as a science teacher in Belvedere College. During that period (in 1964) he attended a Physics course at the Rutgers University summer session in New Brunswick, New Jersey, USA. This seven week course was sponsored by the American National Science Foundation.

In Belvedere Fr Scully was regarded as a very competent teacher. He had the gift of winning the confidence and loyalty of his pupils. Never robust - he was not an active games man - he was nevertheless a staunch supporter of the School Teams in their annual Cup-winning quests. He appreciated the finer points of Rugby and never failed to appear at the Schools Cup matches. But it is perhaps for his work in the social field that he will be most remembered. In the school he had the direction of the two Conferences of the St Vincent de Paul Society and the enthusiasm he inspired among the members was apparent to all. He was also the Director of one of the Old Belvedere Conferences of the Vincent de Paul Society. He was not content with interesting the boys of Belvedere in the plight of the poor under his inspiration a wide circle outside the College came to share in his Christlike attitude to the suffering, for whom, as he himself put it : “Pity is not enough”.

For some years the plight of the aged poor of Dublin, living on their own, had come very much to his notice. With the help of the boys in the school conferences he did what he could to help with this problem in the locality. Much more important, however, was the fact that he initiated some surveys of the conditions in which old people are living on their own in Dublin and published a number of articles calling attention to their plight. Thus it was that at an early stage he became associated with the Catholic Housing Aid Society which is planning a number of flats to accommodate some of the aged poor, as well as newly-wed couples. Fr Tom devoted a great deal of the time and energy of his last years to this work. The importance of what he was trying to do was recognised by the Lord Mayor when he dedicated this year's annual Lord Mayor's Ball (on St Patrick's Day) to the memory of Father Scully and appealed for support so that the proceeds might be greater than usual and could be used for the projects of the CHAS. After his death, the Lord Mayor, in a letter to his sister, paid tribute to Fr Tom's work for the aged poor of the city.

We have already mentioned his writings on social questions which aroused a good deal of interest; for instance his advice was asked and generously given to the Limerick Housing Aid organisation and to the Methodist work on the same line in Dublin. But Father Scully over the years produced a number of other items which were published, both of a spiritual and engineering nature. First we should mention his booklet on “The Mass in Your Life” and the series of articles which he contributed in 1963 to the Irish Messenger of the Sacred Heart on “The Devotional Life of the Soul”. In the now defunct publication “The Irish Monthly” there appeared under his name (in 1949) articles on such diverse topics as “Peat Electrical stations”, “Arterial Drainage”, “The Tennessee Valley Authority” and “New Land for Old”. He was certainly a man who made the most possible use of his talents and energies in good causes but particularly in the field of social problems.

So far this tribute has been mainly factual and may have given little impression of Father Scully the man. To say that he was a gay companion and an edifying religious may sound trite, but it was true - as those who lived with him can testify. He was generous, sympathetic and interested in the work and problems of everyone, and this despite his own very busy life and the many cares that burdened him increasingly. It was perhaps only at the end that we really appreciated his qualities and the amount of work that he had been doing.

Fr Tom became ill last summer, and serious illness was diagnosed. Those who were close to him knew that it was very probable that he had not long to live. Still, he went back to the classroom and continued to work with increasing fervour for the aged poor. Just before Christmas he became ill again and died most peacefully after some weeks in the Mater Nursing Home. But during those weeks, in spite of devoted nursing, he suffered very greatly and those who visited him will not forget the example of fortitude that he gave and his continued interest, up to the day before his death, both in the affairs of the school and in the social work to which he was so deeply committed.

Father Tom died on Saturday, January 20th 1968. The removal took place on the following Monday at 5.15 to the Church of St. Francis Xavier and the remains were preceeded and followed by a large attendance on foot. They included many of the old people for whom he had worked so hard. Among the attendance was the late Minister for Education, Mr. Donogh O'Malley, an old friend from University days in Galway.

There was a very large attendance at the Office and Requiem in St. Francis Xavier's on Tuesday at 10.45, and at the funeral which followed to the Jesuit Cemetery in Glasnevin. Some of the Belvedere boys who had been in the Vincent de Paul Conference carried the coffin from the hearse to the mortuary chapel and many of the school lined the path to the grave.

Our sympathies go to Father Tom's sister and brother Sr Colombière, Presentation Convent, Galway, and Dr Eamonn Scully, Moycullen, Co. Galway.

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Letter from Fr Thomas Scully SJ to Irish Fr Provincial in relation to his work with the Catholic Housing Aid Society. Encloses a brochure on a proposed scheme of flats at Lower Gardiner Street (included; see 86).

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