- 18 May 1926 (Creation)
Level of description
Extent and medium
Name of creator
Born: 05 February 1874, County Galway
Entered: 07 September 1891, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 10 August 1909, Valkenburg, Netherlands
Final Vows: 02 February 1911, St Francis Xavier, Gardiner Street, Dublin
Died: 25 January 1958, St Ignatius College, Manresa, Norwood, Adelaide, Australia
Transcribed : HIB to ASL 05 April 1931
Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus : 22 February 1922-1931.
John Keane was Vice Provincial for [six] months while Fr Fahy was in Rome from Sep. 1923 – [Feb.] 1924.
Vice Provincial - Australian Vice-Province 05 April 1931
by 1904 at Valkenburg, Netherlands (GER) studying
by 1906 at Leuven, Belgium (BELG) studying
by 1913 at Linz Austria (ASL) making Tertianship
Provincial 25 February 1922
Vice-Provincial Australia 05 April 1931
◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
Note from Thomas Maher Jr Entry
He died at the residence of his sister in Thurles 12 February 1924. During his illness the local clergy were most attentive, visiting him daily as his end drew near. He was also frequently visited by the Provincial John Fahy.
◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280 :
Early education was at Coláiste Iognáid Galway before Entering at S Stanislaus College Tullabeg 1891.
He studied in Ireland, Netherlands and Belgium and was Ordained 1909.
1912-1913 He made Tertianship at Linz Austria
1914-1919 He was at Belvedere College, Dublin as Prefect of Studies [then Rector]
1919-1920 He was appointed Rector of Mungret College Limerick
1922-1931 He was appointed Provincial of the Irish Province
1931-1947 He was appointed first Vice-Provincial of Australia, after which he became Master of Novices and then Tertian Instructor (1941-1947)
1947-1958 He was sent to St Ignatius College Norwood as a curate, and he died there.
He was held in such high esteem that he attended four General Congregations of the Society of Jesus, the last of which was in 1957, and this was a record in the Society.
He was one of the most remarkable men to have worked in Australia. During his Provincialate in the Irish Province he built the Rathfarnham Castle Retreat House and Juniorate, and the Irish Mission to Hong Kong was established. In Australia he built Loyola College Watsonia during the depression years, and later Canisius College Pymble.
He was a typical administrator with strength to complete his vision. He did not find decision making difficult. He was also a shy, reserved man, with whom it could be difficult to make light conversation. Some found him forbidding and lacking personal warmth. But, he was a solidly spiritual man and very understanding of one’s problems once rthe ice was broken. He probably found it hard to simply be an ordinary Jesuit in community once he left high office, but he did try to be genial and affable. It was probab;y also difficult for ordinary Jesuits to relate to him in any other way than that of his being a Superior.
Note from Jeremiah Sullivan Entry
The province liked him more than either his predecessor, William Lockington, or his successor, John Fahy
◆ Biographical Notes of the Jesuits in Hong Kong 1926-2000, by Frederick Hok-ming Cheung PhD, Wonder Press Company 2013 ISBN 978 9881223814 :
Note from John Neary Entry
In 1926 Fr John Fahy appointed him and George Byrne to respond to the request from Bishop Valtora of Hong Kong for Jesuit help.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 7th Year No 2 1932
Fr J. Fahy, late Irish Provincial, and first Provincial of the new Vice-province of Australia, tells us about impressions made on him by the people of his new home
“I have been in this country about a month, and ever since my arrival I have been really amazed at several things. One of them is the amazing progress and power of the Catholic Church in Australia. We had heard in the Old Land, and had frequently read about your doings, about your love for the Faith, your devotion to your pastors,but really the sight of what you are doing far surpasses anything that we read in our newspapers.
Another thing that surprises me is the readiness of many to help the next man, that I am told, is a characteristic of the Australian people.
Not many days ago I was leaving Sydney and I had a letter to post. It was raining fairly heavily, and as I was going to the station by car. I thought I would stop and risk getting wet while rushing into the Post Office. I had just pulled up at the herb when a man rushed out from a near by doorway, and, though he did hot know who I was, and no doubt did not care, said “ Don't come out into the rain, I will post your letter for you.” That, I think, is typical of the prompt readiness with which the average Australian desires to help his fellows.
Irish Province News 20th Year No 2 1945
Fr. John Fahy, Provincial of Ireland 1922-23), was appointed Tertian Instructor of the Vice-Province of Australia, this year, and began work on February 15th. The Long Retreat, made by fourteen Fathers, commenced soon afterwards.
Irish Province News 21st Year No 4 1946
GENERAL CONGREGATION :
Fr. John Fahy, to Fr. Vice-Provincial, 10-9-46 :
“Your three Electors are flourishing, notwithstanding a fierce sirocco which has been burning the Romans ever since our arrival. All the Electors have now arrived, with the exception of four : Lithuania, Romania, Croatia and one German. To-morrow we begin our quattriduum, all - I think - feeling confident of Divine Help and Guidance. Rome is filled with men and women, all come for General Chapters, so we live in an election atmosphere”.
Province News 33rd Year No 2 1958
Fr John Fahy (1874-1958)
Fr. Fahy was born and brought up in Galway. He got his early education at St. Ignatius' College and entered the Society in, 1891.
In 1893 he went to the Juniorate at Milltown Park. In the following year, when I went there, I began to appreciate more and more his unselfish kindness and readiness to help, and his clearness and accuracy of mind. In some ways he was exceedingly simple. For instance, in the autumn of 1895, Fr. Sutton, who had just taken over the command of Milltown Park, summoned a meeting of Theologians and Juniors, proclaimed a severe code of laws, and invited questions. The theologians proceeded to ask a number of very ingenious questions, each tending to confuse the issues more and more, and to make our obligations less and less clear. The one person (apart from Fr. Sutton) to whom it would not appear that this result was intentional was John Fahy. He stood up and said : “Father, in order to be perfectly clear, is it this, or this, or that?” And, of course, it was that; all the clouds were swept away, and John was quite unconscious of the furious glances directed at him!
Towards the end of 1895, the Juniors were transferred to Tullabeg, and Mr. Fahy went with them to teach Mathematics and Physics. He remained with them until 1898, when he was sent to teach the same subjects at Clongowes. In 1901 he returned to Tullabeg as “Min. Schol. Jun”, and Prefect of Studies of the Juniorate.
In 1903 he went to Valkenburg in Holland, then the house of Philosophy of the German Province; Bismarck's ban on the Society was still in force in Germany. In 1905 he went to Louvain for Theology, was ordained in 1908, finished his course the following year, and went to Linz for his Tertianship in 1909-10. He left everywhere a high reputation both for character and scholarship. On his return to Ireland in 1910, the Provincial, Fr. William Delany, wanted to make him Master of Novices. This caused him much alarm, and he persuaded Fr. Delany to look elsewhere. He was sent to Belvedere, first as Prefect of Studies, then as Minister and in 1913 as Rector. His time in Belvedere, ending in 1919, was a period of steady advance in the fortunes of the College.
One day during the rising in Easter week, 1916, some of the front windows of Belvedere were shattered by a volley from a company of soldiers in Great George's Street. Fortunately the community were at lunch, and the refectory was at the back of the house. Fr. Fahy opened the hall door, walked down to the soldiers and explained to them the mistake they were making. He also pointed out some other houses, such as the Loreto Convent, from which they need not fear any sniping. He also, during those days, drove a number of food vans, whose ordinary drivers shrank from coming into the zone of fire.
In 1919 he was appointed Moderator of the Mungret Apostolic School, and in the following year he became Rector of the College. In 1922 Fr. General appointed Visitors to all the Provinces of the Society, and Fr. W. Power, Visitor to Ireland, appointed Fr. Fahy Provincial.
His Provincialate (1922-31) was a period of considerable advance for the Province and of much promise for the future, a promise which, God be thanked, is being realised. In the early days of his generation, foreign missions were for us little more than a fairy tale, true, no doubt, but remote from experience. Fr. Fahy, when the prospect of the Hong Kong mission appeared, succeeded in conveying his own enthusiasm to the Province. In choosing a Superior he looked for and found a man of courage and enterprise who was ready to go ahead and take risks. A few years later the question of taking on a district in China itself arose at a Provincial Congregation. China was being overrun by the Japanese at the time, and there was much confusion. of opinion. When everyone else had spoken, Fr Fahy stood up in his turn. He made no attempt to press his point, but very simply stated the case as he saw it. He got a practically unanimous vote. The same thing happened when the question arose of making the Australian mission independent of the Irish Province. Nobody, Australian or Irish, seemed to know what to think. Once more when, Fr. Fahy had spoken the vote was unanimous. I think it was on that occasion that Fr. Thomas Finlay remarked : “That's the greatest Provincial I have known”.
When the Australian mission became first a Vice-Province and then a Province, Fr. Fahy was its first Superior. Under his guidance it made remarkable progress, which it has continued to make under his successors; in fact, in spite of the very satisfactory increase in the numbers of the Province, it is difficult to find men to fill all the openings that present themselves.
He conducted a Visitation of the Philippines which, I have heard, bore excellent fruit.
In recent years he had been acting as a curate, and it is said that the children in the streets used run to greet him; which shows that his generous and kindly heart had succeeded in conquering his reticence. The feeling of his brethren towards him was shown by their electing him, at the age of eighty-three, to represent them at the General Congregation.
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father John Fahy SJ 1874-1958
The name of Fr John Fahy is revered not only in the Irish and Australian Provinces, but throughout the Society in general.This reputation he acquied from his participation in Genereal Congregations. It was remarkable how in any discussion, Fr Fahy would sum up the matter in dispute in a few clipped, concise words, and give a solution, which always won approval and carried the day.
He was born in Galway in 1874, and educated at St Ignatius, entering the Society in 1891. The greater part of his studies were done abroad.
When Fr William Power was made Visitor to the Province in 1922, he appointed Fr Fahy provincial. His term of office lasted until 1931, and during that time great expansion took place. We acquired our foreign Mission in Hong Kong, the retreat House at Rathfarnham was built, Emo Park was bought and a great increase in the number of novices took place. Fr Tom Finlay said of him “that was the greatest Provincial he had ever known”.
When Australia became a Vice-Province in 1931, Fr Fahy went out there as Superior. The rest of his life he devoted to Australia, as Superior, Master of Novices, Master of Tertians.
In 1937 he was appointed Visitor to the Philippines.
At the age of 83, he was chosen by his brethren in Australia to represent them at the General Congregation.
After such a life of outstanding work for God and the Society, he died on January 25th 1928. He was a man of great judgement, of vision, of courage and constancy in carrying out what he had planned.
◆ The Belvederian, Dublin, 1958
Father John Fahy SJ
Fr John Fahy who has died in Australia was successively during the years 1910 to 1919, Prefect of Studies, Minister, and from 1913, Rector of Belvedere, His time here. in these various offices was a period of steady advance in the fortunes of the house.
We are told that one day during the rising in Easter Week, 1916, some of the windows of Belvedere facing George's Street were shattered by a yolley from a company of soldiers. The Community were at lunch in the back of the house and so, fortunately, no one was hurt. Fr Fahy opened the hall door, advanced towards the soldiers and explained to them the mistake they were making. He also pointed out some other houses, such as the Loreto Convent, from which they need not fear Sniping. During those troubled times he frequently drove a number of food vans, whose ordinary drivers shrank from entering the firing zones.
In 1922 he was appointed Provincial of the Irish Province. He held this office until 1931. During those years he made many important decisions, chief among which were the foundation of the Mission in Hong Kong, the decision to make the Australian Mission independent of the Isish Province. In matters such as these he was clear headed and decisive. It was as a result of such an occasion that Fr Tom Finlay declared about Fr. Fahy: “That's the greatest Provincial I have known”.
When the Australian Mission became first a Vice Province and then a Province, Fr. Fahy was its first Superior. Under his guidance it made the remarkable progress, which it has continued to make over the years; in fact, in spite of the satisfactory increase in numbers of the Province, it is difficult to find men to fill all the openings that present themselves.
In recent years he had been acting as a Curate and it is said that the children in the streets used to run out to greet him when he appeared; which goes to show that his kindness of heart had at last conquered his characteristic reticence. At the age of eighty-three the seal was placed on his life of service to the Society of Jesus, when his brethren showed their confidence in him by electing him to represent them at the General Congregation.
Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Content and structure area
Scope and content
Letter from Irish Fr Provincial John Fahy SJ to Fr Aubrey Gwynn SJ concerning the newly founded ‘lectureship in Ancient History in U.C.D.’. ‘I feel that you will be very much disappointed when I ask you… to present yourself as a candidate; for I know that you wish to go to China. Do try to forgive me when I ask you to do something that pleases you less.’
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.
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
Allied materials area
Existence and location of originals
Existence and location of copies
Related units of description
Name access points
- Gwynn, Aubrey, 1892-1983, Jesuit priest and academic (Subject)
- Fahy, John, 1874-1958, Jesuit priest (Subject)
- University College Dublin, 1854- (Subject)
Genre access points
Description control area
Rules and/or conventions used
Level of detail
Dates of creation revision deletion