O'Dwyer, Kevin, 1912-1987, Jesuit priest

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O'Dwyer, Kevin, 1912-1987, Jesuit priest

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  • 胡鐸偉神父

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27 August 1912-23 January 1987

History

Born: 27 August 1912, Dublin
Entered: 03 September 1930, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 06 January 1945, Sydney, Australia
Final Vows: 15 August 1948, Holy Spirit Seminary, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Died: 23 January 1987, Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore - Macau-Hong Kong Province (MAC-HK)

Part of the Kingsmead Hall, Singapore community at the time of death

Transcribed : HIB to HK 03/12/1966

Early education at O’Connell’s School, Dublin

by 1939 at Loyola Hong Kong - studying

◆ Hong Kong Catholic Archives :
Father Kevin O’Dwyer
R.I.P.

Father Kevin O’Dwyer, SJ., formerly of Hong Kong, died in Singapore on Friday, 23 January 1987, aged 74.
Father O’Dwyer was born in Ireland in 1912 and joined the Jesuits in 1930. He came to Hong Kong as a scholastic in 1938, studied theology in Australia 1941-1944 and was ordained priest there. After further studies in North America on social work, he returned to Hong Kong where he worked chiefly in organising cooperative marketing. In 1959 he went to Singapore where he served in St. Ignatius Church till his death. His health was failing in his later years, but he worked to the very end.
Sunday Examiner Hong Kong - 6 February 1987

◆ 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 Tommy Byrne Entry
During his term as Provincial (1947-1963) he sent many Jesuits to Hong Kong, and then in 1951 he started the Irish Jesuit Mission to Northern Rhodesia (Zambia). He also saw the needs in Singapore and Malaysia and sent Jesuits to work there - like Kevin O’Dwyer, who built St Ignatius Church in Singapore; Patrick McGovern who built St Francis Xavier Church in Petaling Jaya, and also Liam Egan, Gerard (Geoffrey?) Murphy and Tom Fitzgerald.

Note from Thomas Ryan Entry
He sent young Jesuits to work on social activities there - Patrick McGovern and Kevin O’Dwyer

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 21st Year No 1 1946

Frs. John Carroll, Kevin O'Dwyer and Cyril Peyton, of the Hong Kong Mission, who completed their theology at Pymble recently, left, Sydney on December 9th on the Aquitania for England via the Cape. They hope to be home by the end of January. They are accompanied by Fr.. Vincent Conway, an old Mungret boy, member of the Vice Province. All four will make their tertianship in Rathfarnham next autumn.

Irish Province News 23rd Year No 3 1948
Frs. Casey G., Grogan and Sullivan leave England for Hong Kong on 2nd July on the ‘Canton’. On the following day Fr. Kevin O'Dwyer hopes to sail with Fr. Albert Cooney from San Francisco on the ‘General Gordon’ for the same destination.
The following will be going to Hong Kong in August : Frs. Joseph Mallin and Merritt, Messrs. James Kelly, McGaley, Michael McLoughlin and Geoffrey Murphy.

Irish Province News 62nd Year No 2 1987

Obituary

Fr Kevin O’Dwyer (1912-1930-1987) (Macau-Hong Kong)

27th August 1912: born in Dublin. Schooled at Dominican Convent, Eccles Street; Holy Faith Convent, Glasnevin; O'Connell (CB) Schools, North Richmond Street.
3rd September 1930: entered SJ. 1930-32 Emo, noviciate. 1932-35 Rathfarnham, juniorate. BSc in mathematics and mathematical physics. 1935-38 Tullabeg, philosophy.
1938-41 Hong Kong: 1938-40 Taai Lam Chung language school, learning Cantonese; 1940-41 Wah Yan HK (2 Robinson road), form-master of 2B, and teaching mathematics to matriculation class.
1941-5 Australia: '41 (for four months, while awaiting the start of the Australian academic year) Xavier College Kew, Melbourne, teaching; 42-5 (four years) Pymble, Sydney, theology. 6th January 1945: ordained a priest.
1946-47 Ireland: 1946 (January-June) Mungret, teaching; 1946-47 Rathfarnham, tertianship.
1947-48 Tour of inspection of co-operative organisations, in order to learn their method and success: in Ireland, Britain, Scandinavia, Low Countries, France; Antigonish (Nova Scotia), where he spent two months as guest of SFX university extension department; then to about twenty cities, four in Canada and the rest in USA.
1948-54 (Feb.), 1955-'9 Hong Kong: 1948-49 Regional seminary, Aberdeen (HK), improving his Cantonese and writing a report on co-operatives; 1949-52 (Feb.) Ricci Hall, minister. While there he acted as organising adviser in the setting-up of the rural service division of the HK government's vegetable marketing organisation. This was the foundation for the co-operative development in Hong Kong (his own words). In November 1949 he went on a lecture-tour of the Philippines, representing Mons. L. G. Ligutti, Vatican observer to the United Nations agency.
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), He spent three weeks visiting most of the main centres of the islands and lecturing on the advantages of co operative organisation, 'the presence of a priest being considered essential for the proper selling of the idea to the people'. 1952 (Feb.)-54 (Feb.) Faber House (of writers), Braga Circuit, Kowloon, minister. During this period he became a member of the vegetable marketing advisory board, chaplain to the HK defence force and committee member of the HK housing society. (1954 (Feb.)-55 Singapore. 1955 (for a short time) Ricci Hall, then, 1955-59, Wah Yan HK, port chaplain (Apostleship of the Sea), bursar, 1954 (Feb.)-55, 1959 (Nov.)-1987 Singapore: 1954 (Feb.)-55, helping Fr Paddy Joy to equip the newly-built hostel for student teachers (Kingsmead Hall). Bursar (of the house (1960-87), of the parish (1961-87), and of the new “Dependent Region' of Malaysia-Singapore” (1985-87). “Builder” of the church of St Ignatius, its first administrator (1961-66) and its first parish priest (1966-74). Minister (1960-63, 1978-87). Warden of Kingsmead Hall (1967-72), then Warden's assistant (1972-86). 23rd January 1987: died.

The Australian province's Fortnightly report (15th April) quotes a letter from a Sr Elizabeth Curran: "I was in Singapore (a stop-over on my return trip to Adelaide) and I saw the beauty of death on the face of Fr Kevin O'Dwyer, SJ, I was with the FMM Community to sing Vespers near Fr Kevin. The Asians made carpets of flowers round the coffin for their beloved parish priest. Resurrection ‘was in the atmosphere’ ... there was deep peace everywhere ... By request of Fr Kevin, the Chinese New Year decorations and banners were still in the church: it was a triumphant celebration”.

Irish Province News 62nd Year No 3 1987

Obituary

Fr Kevin O’Dwyer (1912-1930-1987) (Macau-Hong Kong)

Memories of earlier days
Kevin entered the novitiate one year after me and I was, in fact, his angelus. Nevertheless, even though he was with me in Rathfarnham and later in Tul labeg, Hong Kong and the Australian theologate at Pymble, it is not easy to recall, after all these years, any particular incident, whether humorous or exciting in which he might have been involved, except very pleasant memories of a good Jesuit and an entertaining companion with a ready laugh and a fine sense of humour.
In Tullabeg, he was a keen tennis player and reached the high level of skill which earned him a place in Arthur Little's exclusive tennis team, a great honour not easily achieved.
Kevin was also very keen on music, so much so that when Hilary Lawton formed the Tullabeg orchestra, Kevin painstakingly taught himself the violin so that he would at least be able to make some small contribution to the second or third strings.
He arrived in Hong Kong in 1938 and was subsequently among the second group of Hong Kong scholastics to go to Canisius College in Sydney for theology.
During his period in the theologate, he found an outlet for his love of music. He organised an orchestra (no easy feat in wartime) with literally no instruments to begin with except a piano, an old trombone and a couple of violins. This did not daunt him, however. Somehow or other, he managed, with the help of an army chaplain, to obtain a contract to make (or rather assemble) sets of plastic rosaries which were sold, mostly, to the army.
With the small income from this and probably some other donations he gradually acquired two drums, a clarinet, a flute, a cello (which someone had learnt to play), more violins, one viola and probably some instruments I can now no longer remember. Soon there was an orchestra of about eight or more players and the community was successfully entertained to pieces like Tancredi, Hebrides March, Rosamund Ballet and the Second Movement of Haydn's Surprise Symphony.
On his return to Hong Kong as a priest in 1947, Kevin was able to make a lasting contribution to the life of the farmers in the New Territories, Tommy Ryan, then Mission Superior, sent him to the Cody Institute attached to St Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, where he made a close study of co-operative societies.
On his return to Hong Kong, he was instrumental, together with Mr (now Sir) Jack Cater, in forming the first vegetable co-operatives to be established in Hong Kong. These co-operatives and the vegetable co-operative markets have been operating successfully in Hong Kong for more than 30 years and have saved many a farmer from the greed of the middle-man.
Some people gave Kevin the nickname 'Barbdwyer.' This could give a wrong impression to those who did not know him. Kevin loved the cut and thrust of good repartee. It did not matter what the subject was, he watched with glee to see how his opponent would extricate himself, or, with a chortle, concede defeat.
John Collins

Vivacious to the end
My earliest recollections of Kevin go back to noviceship days in Emo. He was delivering one of those short practice sermons on the theme of the Epiphany. Being mere schoolboys, the theological significance of the feast was somewhat beyond us, and in those days our familiarity with Scripture was that of the aver age Catholic closer to Vatican I than Vatican II. What impressed Kevin about the Magi was that at the end of a long, tiresome journey, they were still on talk ing terms with each other!
In this reflection on the Wise Men, Kevin was being quite realistic. He was a great talker and, at the end of a long trek in Tullabeg days while still smartly stepping out a military pace with three other stalwarts, he would keep the conversation moving until they reached home.
For almost two years before his death, Kevin was receiving blood transfusions to make up for the haemoglobin deficiency in his system. Despite this marrow failure, he remained vivacious to the end. At first, the transfusions fasted several months but later had to be repeated at shorter intervals until finally his energy dissipated after a few weeks.
Though with his community he spoke in a light-hearted manner about his illness, he did recommend in glowing terms the article in the December 1986 issue of The Furrow by Fr Peter Lemass, 'The call to live.'
Like Fr Lemass, Kevin had many people supporting and encouraging him in his struggle to survive. When an appeal for blood donations was made from the pulpit over a year ago the response was overwhelming. On that occasion no blood type was indicated. Last December, when another appeal was made this time for “B” type blood, several parishioners apologised for being unable to donate according to the specific type. It turned out that type “B” is quite rare in Singapore. One of the last to donate blood was a girl Legionary from the University of Singapore. Kevin was spiritual director to one of the six praesidia on the campus.
Despite the rare type of blood he needed, Kevin was never denied blood when it was required. About a week before his death, he was given a transfu sion of six pints and when they did not raise his haemoglobin count sufficiently, he was given two more pints before being allowed home.
On Wednesday, January 21, at 3 am, suffering from high fever and body pains, he phoned doctor and ambulance and was taken to the intensive care unit of Mount Alvernia Hospital, in the care of the FMDM Sisters. Only Tom O'Neill was disturbed by the commotion and finding a taxi cruising at that unearthly hour followed the ambulance to discover what was amiss. What had been feared from the beginning of the illness had happened. He was stricken with a virus infection and was unable to combat it. I had the privilege of anointing him and giving him Communion that afternoon. On Friday, about 11.30 am, his brea- thing became difficult and he died with out further suffering.
Despite my recommendation that all watching and praying close down at 11.00 pm, while Kevin's body was lying in the parish hall, his friends would have none of it. For three nights, they organised relays of watchers, while some remained through the night. There were several phone calls from people who said he had officiated at their marriage twenty or so years previously and had baptised their children.
John Wood

Respect, yes - but affection?
To those who knew Kevin O'Dwyer only as an efficient Minister, a meticulous Econome, a competent teacher and, at times, a quite sharp-tongued critic, the depth of mourning displayed at his passing would have come as a surprise.
He died rather suddenly at the end, just before noon on Friday, 23 January, The body was embalmed and brought that same evening to the Parish Hall. At 9.00 pm there was a concelebrated Mass in the Hall at which about three hundred people were present. How the word had got around so fast is still a mystery.
Over the weekend the parishioners took it in turns to watch by the body, day and night. Each evening at 9.00 Mass was said. On Monday morning Archbishop Gregory Yong concelebrated the funeral Mass together with over 70 priests before a full congregation. Although it was an ordinary working day, three busloads of parishioners, as well as several private cars, went to the cemetery.
All this was a tribute to a man who many would have thought incapable of inspiring such affection. Respect, yes - but affection? The answer seems to be that Kevin did not wear his heart on his sleeve, but, over the years, a great number of people came to realise that, while he might sometimes seem severe on the outside, he was, on the inside, not only a big-hearted man but a tender hearted one.
To say that Kevin O'Dwyer could not accept fools gladly would be misleading: it depended on the sort of fools. With those who were simply impractical or woolly-headed, he could be quite gentle. His sharp tongue was reserved for those who engaged in bombast, boasting or loud-mouthed proclamations of their opinions. Towards these he could be scathing.
But with the poor, even the 'under serving poor', Kevin was not only sympathetic but helpful in a practical way.
Twenty-five years ago, as soon as the Church of St Ignatius was built, he started the St Vincent de Paul Society and remained their Spiritual Director until his death.
Towards the sick his devotion knew no bounds. For years he brought Holy Communion to the sick in their homes every week and even when he himself was ailing, he continued to visit sick parishioners in various hospitals until the doctor insisted that he must confine himself to one hospital each day.
For almost two years Kevin was living on borrowed blood and therefore as he well knew, on borrowed time. Yet, although he could speak fluently on many subjects, he rarely spoke of this, He just went on working, in a restricted fashion as he grew weaker, until the end. Three days before he died, he was still busy at the accounts.
On one occasion he had confided that he did not want to end up a burden to the community. He didn't. He died quickly and quietly, without a fuss. Kevin always disliked making a fuss.
Liam Egan

Where only the best was good enough
I used to think that procurators generally were mean with money. Living with Kevin cured me of that. I do not consider myself stingy but he was far ahead of me in generosity.
Many a time I asked him for alms for a deserving case. “How much?” he would say and then suggest an amount far more than I had in mind. The same was true on occasions when, as a community, we discussed making a donation to some current charity or other. There was no single time when Kevin's proposed figure was not far above my own.
But a “bum” (a specifically “Kevinensian” term) got short shrift. For the uninitiated, a “bum” was/is someone “on the make”, a fraud, a faker of hard-luck tales, a taker who never gives. The direct opposite, in other words, of Kevin's own blunt honesty and self-giving. On one famous occasion, the (locally-born) priest secretary of one of our inter-parish meetings faithfully recorded the term in his minutes but confessed he had to consult a dictionary as he had thought the word had only one meaning,
Two things were always calculated to rile Kevin: if you asked a silly question, you got more, far more, than a silly answer! And if you happened to turn up even a little late for a public Mass or stupidly forgot some parish matter you were supposed to attend to, it was best to keep out of his path for a while until he had simmered down a bit.
The parishioners deserved only our best and always. They knew that, too. His service of them was complete dedication. That was why they loved him; and unceasingly asked for and after him during his illness; and why they poured in to pay their respects and shed their tears when the news spread, like a prairie fire, that God had taken him home.
A parishioner whose opinion I greatly value asked if we priests could do more to influence the parishioners. “Let them see the priests praying”, she said, “We know you pray but let them see you at it”. It so happened that only Kevin and I were in residence at the time and I saw at once that this was a gentle admonition to myself.
My preparation for Mass and thanksgiving were done in private, in my room or the sacristy, but Kevin was long on his knees daily in church before and after his Mass. He was a prayerful priest. Go to his room any day about 5 pm and you would find him saying his rosary.
In the final months, when his activities were necessarily curbed, he spent long periods, not with his beloved music or engaged in reading, but in the domestic chapel, next to my room. I saw him there, to quote a Milltown professor, whom my contemporaries will instantly identity, with my own two eyes'. For that example, as for so much else, I am
very grateful.
Des Reid

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830-

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O'Dwyer, Kevin, 1912-1987, Jesuit priest

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Irish Jesuit Mission to Hong Kong, 1926-1966 (3 December 1926-3 December 1966)

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Irish Jesuit Mission to Hong Kong, 1926-1966

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O'Dwyer, Kevin, 1912-1987, Jesuit priest

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