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Born: 12 March 1875, Cork City
Entered: 07 September 1892, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 26 July 1908, Milltown Park, Dublin
Professed: 02 February 1911
Died: 02 January 1961, St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin
Part of the St Ignatius, Leeson St, Dublin community at the time of death
Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ
by 1900 at Leuven Belgium (BELG) studying
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 7th Year No 3 1932
Milltown Park :
Father Devitt celebrated his 60 years in the Society, I2th May. The day before, Mr. Sologran, class beadle, read an address in Latin, offering him the congratulations of his class. The theologians gave him a spiritual bouquet of Masses, Communions, prayers. Forty-five visitors came to dinner, Archbishop Goodier SJ, Father Provincial, and Fathers from all the houses were there. Father Rector spoke first, recalling Father Devitt's long connection with Milltown, and his life's greatest work, the teaching of moral to almost all the priests of our province, and to many others. Father Provincial read a letter from Father General, who sent his congratulations, and applied 60 Masses “ut Deus uberrime benedicat eum”. He spoke of Father Devitt's gifts of head and heart, and of the debt of gratitude owed him by many within and without the Society for help and guidance. In a charming speech Father Michael Egan told of his early meetings with Father Devitt as Rector Clongowes, how his genial kindness won the love and respect of all. In the Society he found him beloved by his Community. As a theologian in Father Devitt's class he still remembers what Father Rector referred to as “the Saturday morning trepidation,” and still remembers the unfailing politeness which
somehow failed (and fails) to calm it. Mr, Bustos, senior of the moral class, read a Latin poem in honour of the Jubilarian.
Father Devitt replied in a strong clear voice. He thanked those present and those who had written assuring him of their prayers and congratulations. It was hard not to feel deeply moved by the kindness shown him, “to resist sombre reflections as I gaze round and see the snow-flakes of time settling on the now venerable brows of those I taught.” He wished everyone the long life and happiness which he himself enjoyed and still enjoys, in the Society”.
Irish Province News 11th Year No 2 1936
Leeson St :
In January last Father Michael Egan was appointed by the Senate of the National University to succeed his lifelong friend and colleague, Professor H. C. McWeeney, as Professor of Mathematics in University College, Dublin. Father Egan's work as a lecturer on Mathematics in the College goes back to the days of the old College in Stephen's Green, where he was one of the two Fellows in Mathematics on the ordinary staff of the College. He inherits from his late colleague a school of Mathematics that has established its reputation as the leading school of that subject. In Ireland , and Father Egan has himself had no small share in building up this sound tradition.
Irish Province News 36th Year No 3 1961
Fr Michael Egan (1875-1961)
The death of Fr. Michael Egan in his eighty-sixth year breaks a link with the community that lived formerly in 86 St. Stephen's Green, and recalls many memories of those far-off days. To the younger generation in the present University College he was in the last years almost unknown; but the kind words that were spoken by so many on the occasion of his death revealed something of the many lasting friendships which Fr. Egan had formed in an unusually long academic career.
Michael Egan was born in Cork city in March 1875, and was one of a large and well-known family. His father, Barry Michael Egan, was head of a business firm in Patrick Street and his elder brother, Barry, was Lord Mayor of Cork at a time when the city was passing through a period of crisis and real danger. His sister still directs the family business in Cork, Michael went first to Christian Brothers' North Monastery, Cork, where he made his mark as a student of exceptional promise, both in Mathematics and in Classics. To the end of his days Fr. Egan was fond of re calling memories of his old school and never failed to express his gratitude to the Brothers for the high quality of their teaching. He went to Clongowes at the age of fifteen and had the distinction of being placed first in all Ireland in the old Middle Grade whilst still with the Brothers at Cork, and again in the Senior Grade in his last year at Clongowes. He was just seventeen years old when he entered the noviceship at Tullabeg in September 1892. Fr. Sutton was his Master of Novices.
As soon as his noviceship was finished, he began his career as a student in the former Royal University, where he was encouraged to specialise in pure Mathematics, for which study he had from the first exceptional gifts. He took his B.A. in 1897 and his M.A. in 1899. The Juniors were still at Milltown Park for the year 1894-5, but Michael Egan appears as a solitary Junior at Milltown Park in the following year; he was moved to Belvedere for the final year before his B.A. The next year was spent as a teaching scholastic at Clongowes; but he was back at Belvedere for the final year before his M.A. These various experiences of life as a scholastic in the nineteenth century left some happy and sometimes odd memories with which he used to surprise the Fathers in Leeson Street forty or fifty years after the event.
In 1899, having won his M.A. with great distinction, Fr. Egan went to Louvain where he spent two happy years in a house which had then an unusually large Irish community. He had particularly vivid memories of a dream which came to him after a long-table dinner, during which he was able for the first time to grasp in its fullness the real distinction between Essence and Existence; but, whenever be recalled this favourite memory he had to admit that the understanding faded with the dream next morning. From Louvain he came back for another two years to Clongowes, where he taught Mathematics in the higher classes. Finally, in the autumn of 1903 he was elected to a fellowship in the Royal University and joined the community at what is now Newman House as the sole scholastic in an elderly and very formidable community. From the memories which he was fond of recalling in later years it does not seem that the youngest member of the community had much difficulty in holding his own in these new surroundings. The climax came during the Royal Visit of 1904, when he stood on the steps of the old College and called the attention of the Fathers to the gracious manner in which Queen Alexandra had acknowledged their salutes. “Did you hear what she said?” he asked his Rector, who was no less a person than Fr. William Delany. “No”, said the Rector in his great innocence. She said: “Look, that is Egan the mathematician”. The story ends at that point.
Having spent two years as a very junior fellow of the Royal University, the future Fr, Egan went to Milltown for the four years of his theology, but retained his fellowship and the privilege of examining candidates for B.A. and M.A, in mathematics. He was ordained in 1907 and in later life there was sometimes a wistful glance backwards to the years in which he had hopes of spending his days as a professor of Dogma at Milltown Park. But the call of Mathematics was too strong and Fr. Egan came back to the College in 1908, just one year before the change from the old Royal University to the new University College of the National University of Ireland. The former fellowships ceased to exist and Fr. Egan found himself a Lecturer in Mathematics, with his lifelong friend and colleague, Henry McWeeney, as his Professor and with Arthur Conway as Professor of Mathematical Physics. It was a brilliant combination, and in his first years as Lecturer Fr. Egan published several mathematical papers which were notable for their elegant form and also for the fact that, almost without exception, they were written in French and printed in French mathematical journals.
From 1909 to 1938 Fr. Egan held his post as Lecturer beside Professor McWeeney and from 1938 to 1947 he held the Chair of Mathematics in succession to his old friend. In 1943 he was awarded the degree of D.Sc. honoris causa by the National University. As the years went by, it became more and more plain that Fr. Egan's former zeal for mathematical problems was fading before a new and ever-increasing interest in his life. From his first years as a priest Fr. Egan was a zealous giver of retreats to communities of Irish nuns, and it soon became plain that he had exceptional gifts as a director of souls. He had a fund of human wisdom, combined with great patience, a very genuine sympathy for those who were in trouble, and an ever-present and most helpful sense of humour. Some of the lighter verses with which he sought (usually with great success) to soothe the spiritual doubts and scruples of his clients were printed in the form of a booklet some years before his death; but the best of them, which he could always recite with unfailing memory, had to be omitted for one reason or another. In his last years, when the labour of giving a full retreat was too much for his failing strength, he continued his apostolate by constant visits to the sick and by personal visits to those whom he knew best in the convents of Dublin and one or two favoured sites outside of Dublin.
Two small volumes of domestic exhortations, which the Fathers in Leeson Street were privileged to hear in their small Domestic Chapel, were published in book form: We would see Jesus (1940) and the House of Peace (1942). They have much of the quality of quiet confidence and spiritual peace which was a marked characteristic of Fr. Michael Egan in his last years. He had, and it is a rare gift, the ability to grow old easily and peacefully. His place in the community was the place of an older Father whom all in the house loved and respected. In his last illness he moved from Leeson Street to St. Vincent's Hospital; but he was in fact moving to a house which had been almost his second home. Not only had he constantly visited the sick, but - quietly and without ostentation - he had heard the Confessions of the nurses in the hospital for many long years and had given them the full benefit of his wise and kindly direction. The end came peacefully as might have been expected; and those who had good reason to be grateful to him were eager to speak of his kindness and to recall this or that memory which had meant so much to them in the past.
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father Michael Egan SJ 1857-1961
Fr Michael Egan was born in Cork city in March 1875 of a well known Cork family. He received his early education at North Monastery and Clongowes, becoming a Jesuit in 1892.
From his schooldays he showed remarkable intellectual ability, especially in mathematics and classics. In 1903 he was elected to a Fellowship in the Royal University. After his ordination in 1907 he became lecturer in Mathematics and University College Dublin, succeeding to the Professorship in 1938, a chair which he filled till his retirement in 1947.
From his early years as a priest he was a zealous giver of retreats, and all his life displayed and used to the full exceptional gifts as a director of souls, especially in the regions of higher prayer. A man endowed with a whimsical sense of humour, he was also gifted in the poetical line, and he published a volume of light humorous poetry some years before his death. He also published two volumes of his lectures on spiritual topics : “We would see Jesus” and “The House of Quiet”. His talents were not confined to the academic sphere or intellectual life. He was for many years Superior of the Residence at Leeson Street and acted also as Vice-Provincial.
His last days were spent in almost unbelievable calm and tranquility, in full command of his faculties, in St Vincent’s Nursing Home, where he died in the same fashion, as it were imperceptibly shuffling off this mortal coil, o January 2nd 1961. He was well beloved and appreciated by his brethren in religion, missed by the poor and mourned in many a convent throughout the land.
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‘Ode To Rev. H.V. Gill, at a celebration in his honour’ by ‘M.F.E. (Michael F. Egan SJ) beg. ‘O Father Gill, We all admire your Intellect, your Memory, your Will.’
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