Item 347 - Letter from Fr William Hackett SJ to Irish Provincial thanking him for his telegram on the occasion of his jubilee

Identity area

Reference code



Letter from Fr William Hackett SJ to Irish Provincial thanking him for his telegram on the occasion of his jubilee


  • 19 November 1945 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium


Context area

Name of creator

(02 May 1878-09 July 1954)

Biographical history

Born: 02 May 1878, Kilkenny
Entered: 07 September 1895, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 28 July 1912, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final vows: 02 February 1915
Died: 09 July 1954, Belloc House, Kew, Melbourne, Australia

Transcribed : HIB to ASL 05/04/1931

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

by 1900 in Vals France (LUGD) studying
by 1902 at Kasteel Gemert, Netherlands (TOLO) studying

◆ Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University onlne
Hackett, William Philip (1878–1954)
by James Griffin
James Griffin, 'Hackett, William Philip (1878–1954)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983

Catholic priest; radio religious broadcaster; schoolteacher

Died : 9 July 1954, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

William Philip Hackett (1878-1954), priest, teacher and propagandist, was born on 2 May 1878 at Kilkenny, Ireland, son of John Byrene Hackett, medical practitioner, and his wife Bridget, née Doheny. The Hacketts, a family of writers and bibliophiles, could trace their Irish patriotism to the battle of the Boyne (1690). Educated at St Stanislaus, Tullamore and Clongowes Wood colleges, William entered the Society of Jesus in 1896 and studied in France and Holland where he found his 'nerves' intolerable and theology intractable. He taught at Clongowes for six years and, after ordination in 1912, at Crescent College, Limerick, for nine. His friendship with participants such as Eamon de Valera in the 1916 rebellion, his republicanism and ardent loquacity influenced his removal in 1922 to Australia.

After teaching in Sydney at St Aloysius College and then in Melbourne at Xavier College, he was appointed parish priest of St Ignatius, Richmond, in 1925. Meanwhile his reputation for Irish patriotism, scholarship and energy had endeared him to Archbishop Daniel Mannix, who encouraged him to found the Central Catholic Library. It opened in May 1924 and by 1937 more than 2000 borrowers had access to about 60,000 books. Hackett's axiom was: 'a country that does not read does not develop; a community without spiritual ideas cannot survive'. Though he lacked business or administrative sense, he triumphed over financial problems owing to his humorous and courtly personality, and a showmanship backed by a wide-ranging acquaintance with literature. The library became a centre for discussion groups of graduates of Catholic secondary schools and at Newman College, University of Melbourne. Hackett fostered the emergence of an intelligentsia in the Campion Society, founded in 1931. As chaplain he took a heuristic line; laymen, he felt obliged to say, were not the clergy's inferiors.

Appalled by the Depression and the growth of communism, he helped to launch the influential Sunday Catholic Hour broadcast (3AW) in 1932 and was a frequent commentator; he watched over the foundation of the monthly Catholic Worker in 1936 and the national secretariat of Catholic Action in 1937 of which he became ecclesiastical assistant from 1943. While condemning both Nazis and Spanish socialists and extolling constitutional freedoms, he praised the pro-family and anti-communist policies of Fascist regimes. He helped to foster the Catholic Women's Social Guild, addressed the inaugural meeting of the Australian section of St Joan's International Alliance and supported the innovation of the Grail lay female institute.

Hackett's zeal did not make him generally popular during his rectorship of Xavier College in 1935-40. He ridiculed the emphasis on competitive sport (though he enjoyed vigorous bush-walking), joked about social committees, caused resignations from the Old Xaverians' Association by putting liturgical study groups before conviviality and, forming an elite student Catholic Action group, invited Campions to inspire students to reform capitalism as well as fight communism. In spite of a huge school debt he responded to Mannix's urging to found a second preparatory school, Kostka Hall, in Brighton and was held responsible for a later cheap sale of choice Xavier land to clear liabilities. His concern was less with curriculum and instruction than with activities such as the revival of the cadet corps. He farewelled the class in 1939: 'Keep fit. Don't grumble. Shoot straight. Pray hard'.

This militancy, and a vein of conspiracy, flowed through his later years. His health had been precarious: in the early 1940s he was confined to light parish work and from 1943 counselling at Xavier, then from 1948 at Kostka Hall. In 1952, however, he was appointed first superior of the pro-'Movement' Institute of Social Order. He wrote a pamphlet Why Catholic Action? in 1949, itemising its official bodies but failing to mention 'the Movement'. He voted for the Communist Party dissolution bill of 1951, admired John Wren's simple faith and marvelled at his ill-repute. He was a founder of the Aisling Society which propagated Irish culture, and he had a special knowledge of illuminated manuscripts. In 1942 he became a trustee of the Public Library, Museums, and National Gallery of Victoria.

Obliged as a confidant to consult with and entertain Mannix on Monday evenings and to accompany him on his annual vacations at Portsea, Hackett appeared to relish both these privileges and the role of court jester but his letters show he disliked being 'a quasi-episcopal hanger-on'. A man of 'gasps, grunts and angular gestures', he was a facile butt for Mannix's friendly if sharp jibes, but he was revered by Catholic intellectuals for his kindliness, enthusiastic piety, scrupulous poverty and scattered erudition. He boasted of his schooldays acquaintance with James Joyce and then castigated himself in private for such vanity. On retreat he complained of spiritual emptiness, occasionally scourged himself lightly but wondered if this were not self-indulgence. A feckless jay-walker, he died on 9 July 1954, a week after being hit by a car on a rainy Melbourne night. He was wearing a penitential hair shirt. In his panegyric Mannix called Hackett the founder of Catholic Action in Australia, praised his vibrant humour and said he was the humblest man he had ever known. He was buried in Boroondara cemetery.

Select Bibliography
G. Dening, Xavier (Melb, 1978)
U. M. L. Bygott, With Pen and Tongue (Melb, 1980)
Catholic Worker, Aug 1954
Irish Province News (Dublin), Oct 1954
Xavier College, Xaverian, 1954
Herald (Melbourne), 28 Jan, 4 Feb 1935
Argus (Melbourne), 10 July 1954
Advocate (Melbourne), 15 July 1954
C. H. Jory, The Campion Era: The Development of Catholic Social Idealism in Australia (M.A. thesis, Australian National University, 1974)
Hackett papers (Society of Jesus Provincial Archives, Hawthorn, Melbourne)
private information.

Note from Jeremiah M Murphy Entry
With another Kilkenny Jesuit, W. P. Hackett, he became confidant and adviser to Archbishop Mannix; this influence may explain what was, for his Order, an unusually long rectorship

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
William Hackett came from a large family in Kilkenny. His father, a doctor, was a friend of Charles Stewart Parnell who had been in trouble with the Irish clergy for his radical politics. Together with his five brothers, William was given a free education at Clongowes Wood College. He entered the Jesuits at Tullabeg, 7 September 1895, studied philosophy at Vals, France, and taught at Clongowes, 1902-09. After theology studies at Milltown Park, Dublin, 1909-13, he taught at Belvedere College, Dublin, until 1922, when he was sent to Australia.
He performed parish duties at Richmond, Melbourne, 1924-34. From 1934-40 he was rector of Xavier College, Kew, founding Kostka Hall, Brighton, in 1936. Work in the Hawthorn parish followed, 1940-42.
From 1943-52 he lived at Xavier College and Kostka Hall, but his main work was as founding Director of the Central Catholic Library, which began it 1925. This locale became the meeting place for those associated with the “Catholic Worker”, a newspaper founded in 1936 influenced by the social teaching of the Church, especially “Rerum Novarum” of Leo XIII, and campaigned for the rights of workers. Hackett became the ecclesiastical assistant to the Secretariat for “Catholic Action” and the “Movement” in those years, roles that meant attendance at meetings, and advice given to those who sought it, but an appointment that never implied clerical control. Later, Hackett was elected a trustee of the Melbourne Public Library and National Gallery in 1942, and also became a foundation member of the “Aisling Society”, an Irish Australian cultural society whose main interests were the study of the history, life and culture of Ireland, and of the effect of Irish heritage on Australian life.
A lecturer and writer on a wide variety of subjects, Hackett contributed to “Studies”, “The Irish Ecclesiastical Record”, “Twentieth Century”, the “Advocate”, and other periodicals. He became Director of the Institute of Social Order at Belloc House, 1952-54, which was established by Archbishop Mannix as a centre for the education of trade unionists. Not only was it a place for training Bob Santamaria's Movement personnel, but also for anyone interested in exploring Catholic teaching on social justice. Hackett living at Belloc House meant that he became an important observer of Movement activities for the archbishop. Unfortunately, he had a sad end, dying ten days after being hit by a taxi crossing Cotham Road on a dark rainy night. At his funeral Mannix spoke fondly of his friend of 30 years. It was a sad loss to Mannix.
Oral history has perpetuated the myth that Hackett was deeply involved with the Republican faction in Ireland that led to the civil war in 1922. He was a friend of Erskine Childers who was later executed, and Michael Collins who was later murdered. Irish Jesuits claimed he would have been imprisoned for activities that included being a courier for an illegal news sheet edited by the rebels, as well as hearing confessions of “irregulars”. It was said that these were some reasons for his move to Australia. All through his life he kept correspondence with former Irish colleagues, usually writing in Gaelic. It was these activities in Ireland that drew him towards the archbishop of Melbourne, who also kept a close watch on political activities in Ireland.
A close personal friendship wide Dr Mannix developed, with Hackett becoming his companion every Monday evening at Rahel, the archbishop's residence, during which he reported to the Archbishop any news, local or from Ireland, from the previous week. Hackett's companionship at Raheen with the archbishop became particularly important when Mannix entertained some important dignitary. Mannix did not like to be alone with such people, and relied upon Hackett’s charm and wit to help entertain his guest. This companionship also extended to accompanying the Archbishop during his four week annual summer vacation at Portsea that in later years stretched to seven weeks, a task that did not bring cheer to Hackett. Brenda Niall in her biography wrote of Hackett that he “was the diplomat, mediator, envoy, entertainer and candid friend to the archbishop”, as “an essential link between Mannix and a new generation of intellectuals” that met at the Central Catholic Library This resulted in Hackett becoming the principal adviser to Frank Maher in founding the Campion Society the real beginning of lay Catholic Action in Australia.
Hackett was delighted when appointed rector of Xavier College, but others were not so pleased either at the beginning or at the end of the appointment. He was assigned probably because of his high degree of personal charisma and apostolic zeal.
During the course of his five years as rector, Hackett presided over the the disenchantment of teachers, parents and Old Boys, as well as the entrenchment of the school in the position of financial insolvency which he had inherited in the wake of the Great Depression. In fact, the school probably needed a man of less vision: a man focused on problem solving. His vision for Xavier was the personal formation of a Catholic intelligentsia for the purpose of rescuing the nation from the encroaching forces of evil, of which he was acutely conscious. He wanted the boys to assimilate Catholic social principles.
The intellectual and physical formation of his Volunteer Cadet Corps formed the essence of his initiative as rector of Xavier College. He was disappointed that Xavier College was not
producing more political and cultural leaders. He was aware that most Xavier boys preferred a career in medicine. law or business. Xavier's ends, Hackett insisted, were not his own but those of society in general, and the Church in particular. He singled out the Old Xaverian Association for criticism, suggesting that they should involve themselves in Catholic Action, and not just in sport and social activities.
His general lack of reverence for the traditions they valued manifested itself in particular actions such as his interference with the membership qualifications of their sporting teams, and his uncritical application of a directive of Mannix banning the serving of liquor at Catholic social functions. This last action was instrumental in dividing the organisation, rendering it virtually inoperative for several.
Hackett had a vision of intellectual Christianity for the school, and his spirituality demanded strength not of performance, but of mind. He established the Bellarmine Society, a junior Campion Society in which the students were given an intellectual introduction to modern sociological trends and to Catholic culture. The subordination of free logical thought to ideology or rules was unacceptable to him He scorned unthinking observance of positive laws, and did his best to ensure that responsibility was the keynote when it came to the observance of rules and regulations at Xavier. He even allowed senior boys to smoke on certain occasions.
His interest in debating was strong, and he introduced the Oxford Union or Parliamentary form. His primary concern was in fostering the art of public speaking rather than the
dialectic itself.
Preferring a spirit of truth to a spirit of competition, Hackett ridiculed emphasis on competitive sport and disputed the identification of good education with good examination results. He believed education had little to do with passing exams, and occurred, more often than not, outside the classroom. It was a luxury that involved financial cost and sacrifice, and was available only to the privileged, even if it was intended to benefit the whole of society. He frequently annoyed prefects of studies when he displayed a lack of deference for formal studies. He thought little of abandoning his own classes or taking students out of other classes, for purposes which he - but clearly not many of his colleagues - thought were more important.
His emphasis on responsibility was a manifestation of Hackett's adventurous bent of character, an attribute that did not lend itself to skill in administration. He had an enquiring mind, exotic taste, and often curious judgment. He managed to endear himself to many people in the school, even some of those with whom he clashed. And he was also a favorite of the
other heads of the Public Schools, who could appreciate his personal qualities, including his sense of humour and breadth of interest, without having to work under his less than efficient administration.
His adventures with his senior boys were not exclusively intellectual. Fond of bushwalking himself, he would take them on expeditions into the country, and occasionally camping, on the South Coast of New South Wales. He enjoyed the company of the boys, and they appreciated his humour, his lively mind, and unexpected comments. They respected him, but did not hold him in awe. He sent boys to Somers Camp to know those from other schools and to learn from different walks of life.
His financial administration was not successful and it was apparent that by the end of his term as rector he was out of place at Xavier College. He was certainly visionary, hut this was not needed at the time.
As a man and priest, he was always most courteous and showed genuine charity to all people. He was a man of deep and wide learning, but also had intelligence and sensibility, an artist as well as a scholar. He was a man of action. Besides founding the Catholic Library, he established in connection with it the “Catholic Evidence Lectures”, which later grew into the radio “Catholic Hour”. He also helped with the National Catholic Girls' Movement. With all these activities, he was most unassuming and kind, and he was noted for his exemplary example of personal poverty. He was certainly one of the more influential Jesuits who worked in Australia.

Note from John Phillips Entry
In 1954 Phillips was asked to take over the Catholic Central Library after the death of William Hackett.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 2nd Year No 4 1927

Australia :
The Central Catholic Library, started by Fr. Hackett, is going strong. The new catalogue shows that it already contains 5,000 volumes with a yearly circulation of about 10,000. The Third series of lectures “The Renaissance” organised in connection with the Library, are proving a great success. Count O'Loghlen gave Fr. Hackett more than £500 for the Library. Both Count and Father are connected with Kilkenny.

Irish Province News 6th Year No 2 1931

Australia :

The following is an extract from a letter from the brother of the Australian Attorney-General, the Hon, Frank Brenman M. P. The writer is a leading solicitor in Melbourne :
“As I have just returned from a visit to Fr. Hackett at St. Evin's hospital I may say something about his recovery which will rank with anything you may have heard or seen at Lourdes.
Fr. Hackett had been consuming for several weeks certain tablets prescribed for rheumatism, when suddenly he broke down.These tablets were meant to be taken only for a time and then discontinued. It was now discovered that the tablets had been absorbed into his system, and were actually destroying the organs, especially the liver. Towards the end of August, I think it was, he was hovering at death's door, and the doctors pronounced the case to be absoluted beyond hope. On the last Friday of the month, at Benediction, Fr. Boylan S. J., who was taking Fr. Hackett's place, turned round and asked us to offer prayers for Fr. Hackett, as word had just come from the hospital that he was sinking rapidly and could not live through the night.
Next morning, Fr. Hackett, who was to have died during the night, called for that days' newspapers, presumably to read his own obituary notice. What had happened?
During the previous week Heaven's Gates had been stormed, and Prayers were offered up in every Church and in every convent for Fr, Hackett’a recovery. For that intention the Fathers of the Blessed Sacrament offered up a special novena, and on the last day their church was packed to the doors. Their founder is on the way to canonization, and the Fathers were anxious to have as many genuine miracles as possible. They took up a relic to the hospital, started their novena, and from the first were full of confidence. This confidence was not shared by everyone. A very shrewd, level headed Jesuit put his view of the matter in this form : “Miracle or no miracle Fr. Hackett cannot live.” 1 the other hand, it was said that a certain nun received sufficient assurance to declare that he would live. During it all (as Fr. Boylan put. it) in Fr Hackett preserved an even keel. He desired neither to live nor to die, but to accept with resignation whatever was his lot,
For a week he continued to make excellent progress, but then one night the said to his medical attendant : “Doctor when this thing was attacking every organ did it attack my throat at all?” The doctor said “no, but why do you ask the question?” “Because I have a nasty feeling in my throat” was the answer. The doctor examined and drew back in horror. The throat
was gangrenous, highly infectious, and must have a fatal result.
Hopes were dashed, a miracle was denied them, and the faith of the people was to be tried more than ever.
The nun-sister in charge was told that the end was in sight, that death would now come quickly and naturally. She listened and at once made up her mind to take a course not usual in hospitals. She took a small paper medal of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, dissolved it in a glass of water and gave it to the patient to drink. Next morning all signs of infection had disappeared, nor have they been felt or heard of since”
Shortly afterwards Fr. Hackett took a trip to Queensland to give the liver which, it was said, had been dissolved out of the system, a chance to grow again.

Irish Province News 29th Year No 4 1954

Obituary :

The news of the tragic death of Fr. Hackett, as a result of injuries suffered in a car accident in Kew, Melbourne, on the First Friday of July, caused a profound shock to his many friends in both the Irish and the Australian Provinces.
Fr. Hackett was a native of Kilkenny, where he was born in 1878, son of the late Mr. John Byrne Hackett, M.D. Educated at Clongowes Wood College, he entered the Society of Jesus at St. Stanislaus' College, Tullamore, in 1895. He went to Vals, France, for his philosophical studies and was a master in Clongowes from 1902 to 1909. He studied his theology at Milltown Park, Dublin, where he was ordained in 1912.
Fr. Hackett completed his religious training at St. Stanislaus' College in 1914, and was then appointed to the Sacred Heart College, Limerick, until 1922, when he went to Melbourne. He was master first at Xavier College, then Assistant Superior of the Richmond Parish of St. Ignatius. He was appointed Rector of Xavier College in 1934, a post he held till 1940. It was during that period that he founded the college preparatory school at Brighton in 1937. He founded and directed for many years the Central Catholic Library, which was modelled on the Dublin library of the same name. Fr. Hackett was a brother of Mr. Francis Hackett, author and historian, and of Miss Florence Hackett, playwright; he was also an intimate friend of the Archbishop of Melbourne, Most Rev. Dr. Mannix, and usually spent holidays with him at Queenscliff.
From the above brief record of the life and work of Fr. Hackett it is difficult, after the lapse of more than thirty years since he left his native land never to return, to give an adequate account of the great work he accomplished for God, the Society and Ireland during the early active years of his apostolate at home.
But we, his near contemporaries, have no difficulty in giving at least an estimate of his personality as it stands out in all its freshness in our minds today after the lapse of a generation. To us he was the living embodiment of the young man in the Gospel as he asked Christ : “What is yet wanting to me? What else shall I do?” The dominant note in his character was an unceasing, an almost restless desire and striving to do “something extra” for God, to be engaged in some work of super-erogation, especially if it was a matter of “overtime charity” for one of his own community. If there was a sick member of the community who needed special attention, it was invariably Fr. Hackett who supplied the need. If there was an extra class to be taken at a moment's notice, it was always Fr. Hackett who filled the gap.
With externs also it was the same story : if there was an accident down the street in Limerick, the odds were that the priest rendering first aid was Father Hackett. If an unruly group of schoolboys were threatening to disturb the peace of Clongowes, you could take it for granted that order would be restored as soon as Fr. Hackett appeared on the scene.
His room (like that of other restless workers for God) was more like a general stores than a human habitation : lantern-slides, photo plates, weather-charts, directories and catalogues, &c., &c., but always near the door the prie-dieu “cleared for action”, proclaimed a man who, in spite of all his activities, lived a deep interior life, hidden with Christ in God.
In 1922, Father Hackett was sent to Australia. It was the transition period in Ireland, the epoch that followed the “Four Glorious Years” and culminated in the establishment of the “Free State”. Son of a Parnellite father, Fr. Hackett, like his great friend Archbishop Mannix, was a patriot in the best sense of the word. To leave his native land forever entailed for him a pang, the keenness of which was known only to his most intimate friends; yet at the command of Obedience he was as ready to go to Alaska or the Fiji Islands, had he been ordered to do so, as he was to go to Australia.
His career in the land of his adoption, of which we have given a brief summary above, followed the same pattern as in Ireland. Always with him it was a case of : “What else is wanting to me ? What more shall I do?” In addition to his already well-filled round of duties, his laborious days and often laborious nights as well in the work of the Ministry and the schoolroom, he undertook further tasks in the form of super-erogation. We have only space to enumerate the principal ones among them :
Thirty years ago, a few years after his arrival in Australia, he founded the Central Catholic Library in Collins St. It now contains 81,000 books, a notable monument to the untiring zeal of its zealous founder. His intellectual interests covered an even wider field and in 1942 he was made trustee of the Public Library and National Gallery.
Fr. Hackett spent about twelve years as Spiritual Director of Catholic Action in Australia. For the past few years he taught Social Science at Belloc House, Sackville St., Kew. His diamond jubilee in the Society was due to take place next year. We can well imagine how he would have replied to any eulogies pronounced on him : “Si adhuc sum pecessarius, non recusabo laborem”.
Perhaps we cannot conclude this brief obituary notice of Fr. Hackett more suitably than by citing a few of the tributes that have been paid to him and that have reached us from Australia since his recent lamented death :
Miss C. Misell, head librarian of the Central Catholic Library, said : “I worked with Father Hackett for twelve years. He was a wonderful man with a great sense of humour. He was a real mine of information on literature”.
Mr. C. A. McCallum, Chief Librarian, said: “We shall miss his charming personality, his great friendliness and his delightful. puckish sense of humour. He was an authority on the most famous of the Irish manuscripts, the Book of Kells, dating back to the year 800”.
Father J. R. Boylen, Rector of Xavier College, Kew, said : “Father Hackett had a great variety of friends, both rich and poor. He was beloved by students at Xavier and the University and helped many in their careers. His death is a very great loss. He stimulated many Catholic activities with his infectious zeal”.
Father Austin Kelly, Provincial of Australia, said: “We shall miss Father Hackett in a hundred ways; he was as full of life and fun and zest as ever. We buried him yesterday (12 July) with great ceremony, two Archbishops and two Bishops being present at the Requiem, and a very large and representative concourse of people. Archbishop Mannix preached a beautiful panegyric over his dearest friend”.
An extract from the panegyric will show how highly the Archbishop estimated his friend :
“But the greatest achievement of Father Hackett - and his achievements were many - was, in my opinion, that he laid the foundations of the Lay Apostolate of Catholic Action in Australia. That may seem a startling statement, but it is well founded. A quarter of a century ago, Father Hackett, with wisdom and foresight, establisbed the Central Catholic Library, and the young people who availed themselves of that Library were those who made it possible to start the Lay Apostolate in Melbourne and afterwards throughout the whole of Australia. That Library, I hope, will remain as a monument to Father Hackett. At the moment, the Central Catholic Library is, I think, without an equal of its kind in Australia or probably elsewhere. It was Father Hackett's foresight and his courage that established the Library and kept it going. He was always in debt, but he never faltered and the Library now has probably 40,000 or 50,000 volumes that stand to the credit of Father Hackett.
With all his work he was before all things a man of God, a man of deep faith and deep spirituality, who attracted many to seek his advice and direction. They were never disappointed. In spite of all his achievements, Father Hackett was the humblest man that I have known. I can speak from knowledge, because I knew him well. He was so humble that he never seemed to realise his own power or his achievements. He had a most attractive side of his character wish we all had it - he was able to laugh at himself. That is a great thing for any man to be able to do. He was probably too honest to be always supremely tactful, but his humour and his humility covered over any lapses from convention that he may have had. Father Hackett has gone. His place will be supplied, but I doubt if it can be filled. He was a man of God, truly unselfish, all things to all men. We shall miss him sorely, but he has gone to his Master with a splendid record of work in Ireland and in Australia. He traded with the ten talents that his Master gave him, and I am confident that he has entered into his rest. In the name of this great congregation and of all those who grieve with us for Father Hackett, I bid a fond and sad but proud farewell to this great Irish Jesuit priest”.
Ar dheis Dé, i measg fíor-laoch na h-Éireann, go raibh a anam, agus go dtugaidh Dia suaimhneas agus síothcháin do ar feadh na síorruidheachta.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father William Hackett 1878-1954
When people enquire after you twenty years after you have left a place, that’s a sure sign of a remarkable personality. So it was with Fr William Hackett. Many, many years after he left Limerick, people used still ask for him.

He came originally from Kilkenny, being born there in 1878, of a family distinguished in letters. His brother, Francis Hackett, was an author and historian, and his sister Florence a playwright.

In 1922 Fr Hackett was sent to Australia. It was a bitter wrench for him because he loved Ireland and everything Irish with an intensity, only excelled by his love of God and the Catholic faith. However he took the land of his adoption to his heart.

He was six years Rector of Xavier College during which time he founded the preparatory school at Brighton in 1937. He founded the Central Catholic Library in Melbourne, and also laid the foundation of the Lay Apostolate of Catholic Action in Australia. No mean achievements, and yet the give quite an inadequate view of the man.

He was a human dynamo of spiritual energy, ever on the go working for God and souls. Perhaps the greatest tribute to his character is the fact that he was the long and intimate friend of one of the greatest men of his time in Australia, Archbishop Mannix of Melbourne.

He died as a result of an accident on July 5th 1954.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Letter from Fr William Hackett SJ, Xavier College, Kew, Victoria to Irish Provincial Fr John R. MacMahon SJ thanking him for his telegram on the occasion of his jubilee. Refers to his work as assistant to Catholic Action.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

The Irish Jesuit Archives are open only to bona fide researchers. Access by advance appointment. Further details: [email protected]

Conditions governing reproduction

No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the Archivist. Copyright restrictions apply. Photocopying is not available. Digital photography is at the discretion of the Archivist.

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Subject access points

Place access points

Genre access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion





Accession area