Type of entity
Authorized form of name
O'Conor, Charles D, 1906-1981, Jesuit priest
Parallel form(s) of name
- The O'Conor Don
Standardized form(s) of name according to other rules
Other form(s) of name
- Charlie O'Conor
Identifiers for corporate bodies
Dates of existence
25 March 1906-02 November 1981
Born: 25 March 1906, Lisnagry, County Limerick
Entered: 01 September 1924, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1939, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1943, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin
Died: 02 November 1981, Hazel Hall Nursing Home, Clane, County Kildare
Part of the Clongowes Wood College, Clane, Co Kildare community at the time of death
Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus: 20 July 1959-1965
Early Education at CUS, Dublin and Clongowes Wood College SJ
by 1938 at Petworth, Surrey (ANG) health
◆ Companions in Mission1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
Note from Arthur J Clarke Entry
Arthur took as his model and ideal his Master of Juniors, Fr Charles O'Conor Don, whose motto, ‘faithful always and everywhere’, Arthur took as his own.
Note from Tommie O’Meara Entry
One summer on villa (summer holidays), the local parish priest was invited to dinner and was being introduced to the scholastics, one of whom was Charles O'Conor-Don (a descendant of the last High King of Ireland). He was introduced as ‘This is the O’Conor-Don’, when Tommie immediately pipes up ‘I'm the O’Meara Tom’.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 18th Year No 2 1943
The O’Conor Don, Owen Phelim O’Conor who died at Glenageary Dublin, on 1st March, was the last lineal descendant, from father to son of Roderick O’Conor, last High King of Ireland, who resigned in the 12th century. He was the second son of the late Right Hon. Charles Owen O'Conor and succeeded to the title on the death of his elder brother, Denis, in 1917. The new holder of the title is our Fr. Charles O’Conor, Minister of Juniors at Rathfarnham, the only son of the late Mr. Charles O’Conor K.M., Lucan House Dublin, and nephew of the late holder. He is the first bearer of an hereditary Irish title to be a priest, and not until his death will the title go to the son or grandson of a cousin of Owen Phelim O’Conor. This gentleman, Mr. Charles William O’Conor was once M.P. for Sligo and now lives in Herefordshire.
Irish Province News 23rd Year No 1 1948
Frs. G. Casey and C. O'Conor represented the Province at the Solem Requiem Mass celebrated at Kikeel Church, Co. Down on 22nd January for the late Fr. John Sloan, S.J., of Patna Mission (Chicago Province) who perished in the Dakota crash outside Karachi on the night of 27th December. Fr. O'Conor was the Celebrant. A brief account of his career appears below.
Irish Province News 34th Year No 4 1959
On 20th July Fr. Charles O'Conor, former Rector of Gonzaga College was appointed Provincial in succession to Fr. Michael A. O’Grady. The best wishes of the Province are with the Provincial in his new office, and to Fr. O'Grady the Province offers its gratitude for his services during his Provincialate. He will be remembered, beyond doubt, above all for his outstanding kindness, under standing and sympathy. His great and quite genuine charm of manner made personal contact between him and his subjects easy. They could always feel that their position was understood even if it could not always be improved. And these qualities extended themselves outside the Society and won for Fr. O’Grady and for the Province the goodwill, esteem and affection of everyone with whom he came into contact.
When he became Provincial in 1953 Fr. O’Grady was faced with a task which demanded gifts of this high order, The period of office of his predecessor, Fr. T, Byrne, had been one of expansion after the war. It was for Fr. O’Grady to consolidate. He found himself with a number of new enterprises-the Catholic Workers' College, the Mission in Rhodesia, Gonzaga College - which he had to see firmly established. This involved, among other things, a heavy building programme. It has been his great achievement that he courageously carried through this programme, though the toll on his health was at times very great. Besides the buildings at Gonzaga and the Workers' College, there were the preparatory school at Belvedere, the Pioneer Hall, the extension to Manresa and the renovation of Loyola, Eglinton Road, which was purchased as a Provincial Residence in his term of office. That, in spite of the expenditure involved, the Province is in a sound financial position is a tribute to Fr. O'Grady's generous use of his great personal gifts and to his inexhaustible patience and zeal.
Other activities recently undertaken which received his wholehearted en couragement were the Missions to Britain and to the Irish workers in Britain, the work of teaching Christian Doctrine in the Technical Schools, and the Child Educational Centre, which was started in his Provincialate and was finally established in its new premises in Northumberland Road last year.
He visited both China and Northern Rhodesia, and it was largely through his tireless negotiation that a satisfactory status for the Rhodesian Mission was worked out and the Mission of Chikuni created. He also saw the expansion of the Mission to the Chinese in Malaya. In both Missions he supported extensive building schemes of which the most ambitious were the new Wah Yan College, Queen's Road, Hong Kong and the Teacher Training College, Chikuni. And for all this the Province is grateful to Fr. O’Grady.
Irish Province News 57th Year No 1 1982
The Clongowes Community and boys suffered a grievous loss by the death of Fr Charles O'Conor. (See obituary notices, pp. 152 ff.] No one who reads this brief account of the man will wonder why we, his community, feel his passing so keenly, and share with all the people in the immediate and remoter vicinity a profound sense of loss.
Charles excelled in love of his neighbour. He could not offend in word or deed; he could not say or think present and a Jesuit Roman Catholic anything uncharitable; he was always priest was very well received. The Rector already to oblige; he was a humble man and Headmaster attended the annual who never gave the faintest impression of dinner of the Munster Branch of the being superior in any sense. He was Clongowes Union (28th November). always a pleasant companion and Like all other post-primary schools, gravitated towards the less popular, less Clongowes opened late (14th/15th attractive of his fellows. He was deeply September) on ministerial instructions. respected and beloved by all his fellow scholastics.
One could write of his tireless activity his great patience with himself, especially during the last few years when his memory was failing very and was causing him humiliating trouble in conversation, and that same patience with the poor arriving at our door, many of whom were humbugs with made-up hard-luck stories that went on With all inside and outside he showed the same restraint and respect: he himself all unawares won the greatest reverence from all the people around. Even the boys, thoughtless though they seem, regarded him with great affection and respect; and boys are seldom deceived in their judgments of their masters or superiors.
Fr Charles O’Conor (1906-1924-1981)
The present writer first met Fr Charlie in Tullabeg noviciate on 1st September 1924, in the days when an entry-list of 26 first-year novices was looked upon as quite normal. He and his family had made a great sacrifice by his following a religious vocation, as he was the last direct descendant of the third-last High King of Ireland. Turlough O’Conor. For the tiine, however, he was just one of us novices and went through all the noviceship experiments like the rest of us. Tall and ascetic-looking, but of rather frail physique, he took little part in team games, but was exceptionally good at tennis and very popular with everyone.
After the noviceship he went with the rest of his year to Rathfarnham and attended University College, Dublin, gaining there a BA degree with honours. for the next two years (1929-'31), still in Rathfarnham, he went on to gain an HDE and (something quite exceptional in those days) an MA in History. His dissertation was on Charles O’Conor of Belanagare, a distinguished ancestor of his who lived in Penal times. As a result of the two extra years in Rathfarnham, when his contemporaries had moved on to philosophy, Charlie was out of step with them for the rest of his scholastic career. After philosophical studies in Tullabeg, instead of teaching prefecting in the colleges, he returned to Rathfarnham and spent two more years there, assisting the Minister of Juniors and doing some teaching in the juniorate.
His theological studies in Milltown Park (1936-41) were interrupted by ill- health. At the end of his first year it was discovered that he had contracted tuberculosis, so he was sent to Petworth, where the English Province maintained a sanatorium. Here within twelve months he made what seemed to be a satisfactory recovery. However, when he resumed theology in Ireland, doubt arose over the permanence of this recovery, so by special dispensation he was ordained a priest at the end of his second year. After theology he went to Rathfarnham (his third time there) as a tertian, and on his appointment as Minister of Juniors stayed on (1942-50). During this period also he was “Province Prefect of Studies” (inspector of colleges).
Since about 1945 Fr Charlie was “vice postulator” of the cause of Fr John Sullivan's beatification. He played a great part in drawing up the necessary documents for the Judicial Informative Process held in Dublin and in Kildare and Leighlin. The cause entailed an enormous amount of correspondence not only with Rome but also with a very large number of clients both at home and abroad, some seeking relics and others informing him of favours received through Fr Sullivan’s intercession.
[The next nine years of Fr Charles’s life - his Gonzaga period, 1950-59 - are dealt with separately, below. His Provincialate (1959-'65) presently lacks a chronicler! Fr Brendan Barry was his Socius and successor as Provincial: had he survived, we might have had a first hand account).
When Fr Charlie ceased to be Provincial in 1965, he came to Clongowes, where he spent the reinaining sixteen years of his life. He was made pastor of the people's church and was given charge of the garden and the pleasure grounds. For many years also he taught religion to one of the junior classes, to whom he became guide, philosopher and friend. He interviewed the boys regularly in his room, and in later life many of them returned to thank him for the help he gave them when they had succumbed to depression.
Besides his voluminous correspondence connected with Fr John Sullivan, he was also indefatigable in writing to Ours, especially to those working on the missions in Hong Kong, Zambia and Australia. Many an exile was completely dependent on him for news of what was happening here at home. As guestmaster he always gave them a hearty céad mile failte on their return from foreign parts.
Fr Charlie occupied one of the rooms near the hall door and so was in constant demand as confessor at unusual hours, He heard confessions also for long hours every week-end, on the eves of First Fridays and all the Church holydays. However, probably the greatest demand made on his time and patience was in listening to all sorts of down-and-outs who came regularly to him seeking help both spiritual and temporal. Frequently they arrived at mealtimes, but never did he show any resentment at the inconvenience they caused him. He took very literally the words of the Gospel: “As often as you did it to the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me”. He was often asked also to bless invalids either in their own homes or in hospitals in Naas or Dublin or sometimes farther afield.
In the school itself he was in daily demand to superintend the swimming pool and showers. On half-days, especially when there were visiting teams Charlie was taken and put under to be catered for, this was a long and sedation. very wearisome chore in the steaming atmosphere of the baths, to the accompaniment of a constant din of high-pitched youthful screaming and shouting to their hearts' content. At the end of the exercise, he always insisted on doing the mopping-up personally, even though many volunteered to help.
A few years ago, his tuberculosis showed signs of returning, so he had to go to hospital in Dublin. Afterwards he spent some time recuperating in his home atmosphere at Clonalis, Co Roscommon. He began to suffer from two great disabilities: deafness and loss of memory. Though he was supplied with a hearing aid, it never worked very successfully. He was not mechanically-minded, and so found it difficult to adjust: for all practical purposes he discarded it completely.
With his loss of memory, another man might have retired completely into his shell, but not Fr Charlie. At times admittedly when talking to him, it could be embarrassing to have to hear and answer the same question two or three times in the course of a short conversation. As a result of these disabilities, he had to give up offering Mass and hearing confessions in the People's church, but these were the only concessions he did make. He managed to keep up all his other activities right up to the end.
On Sunday, 25th October 1981, at breakfast (7.30 am) he looked pale and sickly, and admitted to feeling unwell. He took merely a cup of tea and was led back to his room. The doctor was sent for and diagnosed a heart attack, but not one requiring immediate intensive care hospital. He saw Fr O’Conor's immediate need as rest, preparatory to transfer to hospital, and himself suggested the nearby nursing home, Hazel Hall in Clane. The consultant assented to this course, so there Fr Charlie was taken and put under sedation.
During his first few days in Hazel Hall he appeared very anaemic and listless; then by degrees he seemed to regain both his colour and his interest in everything: happenings at home, goings and comings. Various members of the community visited him daily, as did his sisters, four of whom survive.
On All Souls' day (2nd November) two of the community visited him and found him ever better than he had been on previous days. Within an hour or so, as afternoon tea was being brought to the rooms, word came back that Fr Charlie had suffered another heart attack, to which he succumbed. Next evening his remains were brought to Clongowes. Dr Patrick Lennon, Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin, received the coffin at the main door of the 1932 building. The senior boys carried it down the corridors, the others lining the way, to the high altar of the Boys' chapel, where his Lordship spoke the final prayers. Among the dignitaries present that evening were Dublin's Lord Mayor, Alexis FitzGerald, who had been one of Fr Charlie's pupils at Gonzaga, and the ex-Taoiseach, Mr Liam Cosgrave. Dr Dominic Conway, Bishop of Elphin (the O’Conor home diocese), presided next morning at the funeral Mass concelebrated by some seventy
priests. The then Taoiseach, Dr Garret FitzGerald, was represented by his aide-de-camp, and the Knights of Malta, attired in their robes, were well represented: Fr Charlie had been their chaplain. The coffin was then carried once more in by the senior boys to the hearse waiting on the main avenue, with the rest of the boys fining the route; then all proceeded to the community cemetery, where the final farewell was spoken by Fr Provincial. Tributes carne from far and near from all classes of people who felt his death as a real personal loss. May he rest in peace!
Fr O'Conor's Gonzaga period
In the spring of 1950 Charlie left Rathfarnham to take up residence in Milltown Park and to set up Gonzaga College in part of the newly-acquired Bewley property. He had been Province
Prefect of Studies for some years, but had never been on the teaching staff of any of our colleges. With the thoroughness and dedication that was characteristic of him, he set about this pioneering task leading to an ever-mysterious future whose outlines he could barely have glimpsed.
Those who were posted to Gonzaga in 1950 received more sympathy than envy from their friends. One of them told the present writer that the postal delivery of 31st July, which brought the unwelcome Status news brought also another letter - a line of welcome from Charlie with a their ten-shilling note enclosed. This kind personal consideration was a marked feature of his life.
The Rector of Milltown, in whose name the Bewley property had been bought, had entrusted the reconstruction of the house - the future school and residence - to a group of tradesmen who undertook to do it after working hours. By the opening date, 8th September, they hadn't finished the job. However, classrooms and toilets were ready. The brethren's rooms had each a bed, a table and a chair: community meals were in Miltown Park, Every night Charlie went down to meet the workmen and enjoy a smoke with them, despite the irritation their broken promises occasioned him.
The Archbishop of Dublin, Dr John Charles McQuaid, had requested a school at the south side of the city. While meeting this request, the Provincial, Fr “Luigi” O'Grady, had decided that the Province should try to offer a preparation for third-level education other than that given by the Leaving Certificate and Matriculation courses of those days. A return to the Ratio
Studiorum was invoked, but it wasn't obvious how this was to be applied to the realities of Irish secondary education in 1950, when parents paid all school fees and university entrance standards had to be met. Charlie had his own ideas of what a school might be, and while not being a theorist, he had his own quiet way of converting his ideas into reality. I think he saw the school as ancillary to the home. Hence parents were invited to all school occasions, even to a cup of coffee after a Confirmation in the opening year, when standing-room scarcely existed for parents and boys. He had a deep personal interest in each of the boys and held private “chats” with them in his office. Many of them have told the present writer that they received help from him that carried them through post-school years.Charlie’s involvement in the school’s life was total. He taught Religion and supervised the lunchroom and the changing-room for games. He was constantly thinking of the immediate and future needs of the school, and planned community each change with great care, relying on listed arguments pro and contra before his decision, then really trusting in the power of prayer for every undertaking. Here his devotion to our Lady and confidence in her intercession was remarkable. When the theologians vacated the second Bewley house, variously known as Sandford Grove, Winkelmann’s and St. Joseph's, Gonzaga fitted it up as a classroom block. Charlie gave great care and attention to every detail of the plans for this, as he did for the building of the hall and library block, and on this latter he was more efficient than any clerk of works could be. Before the building was handed over, the whole community was paration for third-level education other asked to do a tour of inspection to note any omissions or defects; the result was a long list of 113 minor items for the builder's consideration.
As a superior, he was a man of his time. He expected co-operation with his ideas, though he listened to ours. It was possible to disagree with him without having a row about the matter. He was thoughtful and considerate for each individual. His expectations of others were high, but he never asked anyone to do what he himself was not willing to attempt
He had a real interest in people, indeed in all people, from the poor man begging for a shilling to those friends of his own family who were in a very different social class. He had a real love for the poor, evidenced by the fact that on one Sunday afternoon no less then 37 came to Gonzaga begging for a little help'. He didn't readily speak about himself, but one day he did tell us of his delight at receiving a letter from a woman in England, asking for his mother's name. She wished her child to take that name in Confirmation, because Mrs O'Conor had given this woman's mother a weekly gift of tea and sugar and the only new clothes she had ever worn,
In the community Charlie was very friendly, even though his shyness tended to make him seem aloof at times. His life with God may have affected his easy approach to people. It was certainly the hub of his life, about which all else revolved. The sincerity of his faith was an inspiration. He won the respect and affection of a large proportion of the boys and their parents, and the years have not blunted their perception of his simplicity, sincerity and saintliness.
A former pupil's appreciation
Mr Charles Edward Lysaght, born in 1942, was educated at Gonzaga and is a barrister and writer. He is the author of Brendan Bracken (1979) and of the following tribute, which appeared in The Irish Times and is reprinted here with a few excisions.]
Fr Charles O’Conor, O’Conor Don, was in every sense a prince among men. As the descendant of the O’Conor High Kings, he was heir to an aristocratic tradition which far antedated the Protestant ascendancy and stretched back beyond the Norman invasion. His forebears in the Penal days had paid a heavy price in worldly terms to hold on to their Faith. It was wholly in character that Fr Charles, the only son among ten children, should not have counted the cost of devoting his life to the priestly vocation in the Society of Jesus.
As a Jesuit he has a fruitful life. Before his ordination he read History at University College, Dublin, and did important historical research for his Master's degree on the history of his family in the Penal days. In 1950 he founded Gonzaga College and quickly established it in a position of eminence in Dublin life ... He was a man of vision and he realised the importance of establishing in Dublin a first-class Catholic day-school.
Of course he had his foibles. His picturesque turn of phrase and well-bred mannerisms evoked occasional mirth among the boys. He could be rigid in some ways and may have lacked an understanding of human frailty in dealing with the wayward. He was very much the child of the old preconciliar Church, where the maintenance of standards was considered as important as the apparent dictates of human compassion.
It was a recognition of Fr O’Conor’s achievement as first rector of Gonzaga that he was appointed in 1959 to be Provincial of the Irish Province of the Jesuits. ... When his term as Provincial ended in 1965, he returned to Clongowes and sought to promote for canonisation the cause of Fr John Sullivan, the convert son of an Irish Lord Chancellor, who had taught him as a boy at the school. He also acted as chaplain to the Irish Association of the Order of Malta, which his father, Mr Charles O’Conor of Lucan House, had helped to found..
The memory which abides is of the man himself, a gaunt delicate figure, shy, reticent, earnest and somewhat tense, who walked very much alone in God’s path through life’s journey. There was about him a graciousness and elegance, epitomised by his handwriting and use of language, which adorned all he touched. It went to the very core of his being and was combined with a deep spirituality and true humility. In his last years he accepted with true Christian resignation his declining mental powers and the great cross of not being able to say Mass. To have been taught by him and to have known him was an inspiration in life, for through that experience one could not help but feel closer to one’s God.
◆ The Clongownian, 1982
Father Charles O’Conor SJ
The Clongowes Community and boys suffered a grievous loss by the death of Fr Charles O'Conor on the 2nd November in Hazel Hall Nursing Home in Clane - just two miles from the College. He had suffered a heart attack on the Sunday morning eight days earlier which the doctor at first did not think was very serious. Indeed within a day or two Charles began to get his colour back and seemed definitely to be on the mend. However on Monday, 2nd November at 3.30 pm the nurse brought him a cup of tea, returned in ten minutes and found him dead. So his passing was swift and probably painless. Many of the younger generation may know little about Fr Charles or his career. So a brief outline of his life in the Society is called for.
Fr Charles O'Conor entered the novitiate at Tullabeg on the 1st September 1924 accompanied to that grim building by a bevy of young ladies, who, we learned afterwards, were some of his nine sisters - Charlie being the only son and heir to the title of the “O'Conor Don”. Having completed his two years noviceship he passed on to Rathfarnham, to the University, and there he spent four years and secured an MA in History. Then he returned to Tullabeg for his three years of Philosophy and he later spent the time of regency as assistant to the Master of Juniors.
In 1936 he began his theology in Milltown, but the following year he had to retire to the Jesuit sanatorium at Petworth in Sussex after a serious attack of TB. After a year in Petworth he returned to Milltown with his health improved; there he finished his theology, having been ordained after only two years of theology by special privilege. He finally completed his Tertianship and training in Rathfarnham Castle, and here he was to remain as master of Juniors, for eight years until 1950 when he was given the difficult and extremely demanding task of founding our now so successful Gonzaga College. Charles spent three more than busy years on this task and the next six years as Rector of the College.
In 1959 he was appointed Provincial of the Irish Province and at the end of this task, and at his own request, he came to Clongowes to take charge of the Peoples Church. Added to his other duties was that of vice-postulator for the cause of Fr John Sullivan. This well-loved task involved him in a very tiring, heavy and constant correspondence.
This, in brief, is the factual account of Charles's life, the part of it that all could see. But “qualis erat” really? Again we must be brief.
The Lord said that the love of God and the love of our neighbour is the summary of Christianity, nor can the two commandments be separated. He who has the one must have the other. We, humans, can in any case see, or at least be certain of the one ie, love of the neighbour. Charles had this virtue in excelsis. He could not offend in word or deed; he could not say or, I believe, think an uncharitable word; he was always ready to oblige; he was a humble man who never gave the faintest impression of being superior in any sense. He was always a pleasant companion and gravitated towards the less popular, less attractive of his fellows. He was deeply respected and beloved, I dare say, by all his fellow scholastics, and saying that I have said enough,
G O'B SJ
Functions, occupations and activities
Mandates/sources of authority
Identifier of related entity
Category of relationship
Type of relationship
O'Conor, Charles D, 1906-1981, Jesuit priest
Dates of relationship
Description of relationship
Access points area
Subject access points
Place access points
- County Limerick » Lisnagry
- County Kildare » Clane » Clongowes Wood College SJ
- England » Sussex » Petworth
- County Offaly (King's) » Ballycowan (Bar.) » Tullabeg » St Stanislaus College
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Lower Leeson Street » Catholic University School
- County Kildare » Clane » Hoganswood East » Prosperous Road » Hazel Hall Nursing Home
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Rathfarnham » Rathfarnham Castle
- County Dublin » Dublin City » St Stephen's Green (Dublin) » University College, Dublin
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Ranelagh » Gonzaga College SJ
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Sandford Road » Milltown Park
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