Born: 30 April 1894, Stourport, Worcestershire, England
Entered: 07 September 1910, Roehampton, London - Angliae Province (ANG)
Ordained: 31 July 1926, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1930
Died: 27 July 1968, St Joseph’s, Robinson Road, Hong Kong - Angliae Province (ANG)
by 1926 came to Milltown (HIB) studying
by 1940 came to Hong Kong (HIB) working 1940-1967
◆ Hong Kong Catholic Archives :
Father McCARTHY Jeremias
At noon every Saturday for the past eleven years the Editor of this paper lifted the phone and spoke for a few minutes to a voice coming from a flat in Robinson Road. On the following Monday morning with unfailing regularity a typewritten page was delivered to the Sunday Examiner office; the weekly editorial had arrived.
To the deep regret of the staff of the Sunday Examiner and of its readers this time-honoured procedure will never be repeated: for Father Jeremiah McCarthy, S.J. our editorial writer died at 2:45pm last Saturday afternoon at the age of seventy-four.
Father McCarthy was a man of many talents; a distinguished theologian, he began his missionary work in Hong Kong twenty-nine years ago as Professor of Dogmatic Theology in the Regional Seminary for South China at Aberdeen; he held a Master’s Degree in Chemistry from Oxford University and as a war-time refugee in Macao he turned his knowledge to good use by devising substitute fuels to keep the local power supply in operation.
When the war was over Father McCarthy returned to his post at the Seminary and began his connection with the Agricultural and Fisheries Department with whom he developed a method of drying and preserving fish and experimented in the increased use of natural and artificial fertilisers.
After some years in Cheung Chau Island as Superior of the Jesuit Language School he returned to Hong Kong, joined the staff of the China News Analysis and began the long association with the editorial page of this paper which despite declining health continued up to the week of his death.
Father McCarthy wrote over five hundred editorials for this paper; and as we look through the files at the variety of subjects covered we can only marvel at the range of intelligent interest of which this one man’s mind was capable. Moral, liturgical, social, political, international and local problems were subjected in turn to his keen analysis and the conclusions recorded in the elegant, economical prose of which he was a master. Freshness of approach, clarity of though and expression, and a deeply-felt sympathy for the poor, the suffering and the oppressed - these are the marks of the writer, as well as of the man and the priest, whose comments on the passing scene stamped this page with a character of its own.
The staff of the Sunday Examiner, and of the Kung Kao Po where Father McCarthy’s editorials appeared in translation, has lost a most valued and faithful collaborator and friend.
May God reward his earthly labours with the blessing of eternal refreshment, light and peace.
Sunday Examiner Hong Kong - 2 August 1968
◆ Biographical Notes of the Jesuits in Hong Kong 1926-2000, by Frederick Hok-ming Cheung PhD, Wonder Press Company 2013 ISBN 978 9881223814 :
He arrived in Hong Kong from the English Province in 1939 and went to teach Dogmatic Theology at the Regional Seminary in Aberdeen.
During WWII, as a refugee in Macau, his Masters Degree in Chemistry enabled him to devise substitute fuels to maintain the local power and water supplies going.
After the War he returned to Aberdeen and began an association with the Agriculture and Fisheries Department, developing methods of drying and preserving fish.
Later he joined “China News Analysis”, enhancing its reputation. During these years he also wrote weekly editorials for the “Sunday Examiner”, over 500 of them, on a wide range of topics. His comments on local affairs especially were often quoted at length in the Hong Kong daily press.
◆ Jesuits in Ireland
Irish Province News 22nd Year No 1 1947
Departures for Mission Fields in 1946 :
4th January : Frs. P. J. O'Brien and Walsh, to North Rhodesia
25th January: Frs. C. Egan, Foley, Garland, Howatson, Morahan, Sheridan, Turner, to Hong Kong
25th July: Fr. Dermot Donnelly, to Calcutta Mission
5th August: Frs, J. Collins, T. FitzGerald, Gallagher, D. Lawler, Moran, J. O'Mara, Pelly, Toner, to Hong Kong Mid-August (from Cairo, where he was demobilised from the Army): Fr. Cronin, to Hong Kong
6th November: Frs. Harris, Jer. McCarthy, H. O'Brien, to Hong Kong
◆ Irish Province News 23rd Year No 4 1948
Fr. Jeremiah McCarthy of the Hong Kong Mission writes from the U.S.A, where he is examining possibilities of setting up an Institute of Industrial Chemistry in Hong Kong :
New York, 23rd September :
“I have spent some time at Buffalo and Boston and at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Professors there were most kind, and I learnt a good deal. I expect to be here for a month or six weeks, visiting factories and Colleges in New York. I met Fr. Ingram at Boston. He was doing some work at Harvard. I have heard from several sources that he had a great reputation at Johns Hopkins. I went yesterday to the Reception for Mr. Costello at Fordham and the conferring of an Honorary Degree. Cardinal Spellman was there. In his speech Mr. Costello avoided politics, except to say that the Government would stop emigration altogether, save that they would still send priests and nuns wherever they might be required. Most of the speech was taken up with a very graceful tribute to the Society and its work. He referred to the debt of Ireland to the Society in times of persecution, and again in modern times, and hoped to see an extension of our work in schools and Colleges in Ireland. The address was broadcast”.
Irish Province News 24th Year No 1 1949
Fr. Jeremiah McCarthy arrived at Cobh from New York on 7th December and is spending some time in the Province, before resuming in England, his study of technological institutes, prior to his return to Hong Kong.
Irish Province News 43rd Year No 4 1968
Fr Jeremias McCarthy SJ (1893-1968)
Fr. Jeremias McCarthy, a member of the English Province who to the joy and lasting advantage of all Jesuits working in Hong Kong was ascribed to the Irish Province in 1939 for work in Hong Kong, died in Hong Kong on 27th July, aged 74.
He was born on 3rd April 1893 at Stourford, Worcestershire, where his father, a civil servant, was then stationed. Some of his early years were spent in Co. Cork, Ireland, but he returned to England and was educated at St. Francis Xavier College, Liverpool. He entered the English Province noviciate in 1910. (Two of sisters later became Columban Sisters.) After philosophy in Stonyhurst, he taught for four fondly remembered years in Beaumont. He also spent three years at Oxford, taking an M.A. degree in Chemistry and thus equipping himself for unforeseeable work, valuable but bizarre. After two years of theology in St. Bueno's, he transferred to Milltown Park, Dublin, where he was ordained on 31st July 1926. After his tertianship he taught in various schools in the English Province for eleven years and was solemnly professed in 1930. In 1939 he applied to the General for work in a mission country and Fr. Ledochowski ascribed him to the still small Hong Kong mission in April of that year. He was warmly welcomed in Hong Kong, where several of the little band of Jesuits had known him in his scholasticate days. His unmistakable intellectual distinction and originality made him a very valuable addition to the mission; but he looked so frail that many must have wondered how long he could stand up to the strain imposed by the Hong Kong summers. He was thin, looked older than his years and was bent forward by a spinal affliction. Time was to show that this apparent physical frailty was largely an illusion. He may have suffered but he made no show of it. For almost three decades he was to labour at an astonishing variety of tasks, defying not only the Hong Kong summer, but the hardships of the Japanese capture and occupation of the colony and, in his last years, a complication of organic ills. Three days before his death he was still vigorously doing work that would have appalled many a younger man. For his first three years in Hong Kong he taught dogmatic theology in the Regional Seminary for South China. In 1942 he went to Macao, where the Hong Kong Jesuits were opening a school for Portuguese boys whose families had fled from occupied Hong Kong. This school won a special place in Fr. McCarthy's affection : the boys were, and have always remained, grateful for the help given them in a time of great hardship. The school did not occupy all his energies. Macao, cut off from the rest of the world, was short of nearly everything, so Fr. McCarthy, the best qualified and most ingenious chemist in the territory, quickly set about providing ersatz substitutes for the ungettable imports - everything from petrol to cosmetics. As a mark of appreciation, the Governor of Macao decreed that vehicles using the evil-smelling McCarthy substitute for petrol should not pass within nose-shot of the Jesuit school. In later years new arrivals in Hong Kong would be shown a lump of the McCarthy soap substitute, hard and gritty but beyond price in days when no other soap was to be had. Morale had to be kept up in Macao, so Fr. McCarthy and the other Jesuits joined the more vigorous citizens in organising debates and lectures and helping to provide through the local press a substitute for the intellectual sustenance normally fetched from abroad. Macao in those years of isolation was a little world on its own where every local crisis and dispute was avidly discussed by the whole population. In post-war years Fr. McCarthy had an inexhaustible fund of stories of the strange doings of those days including the great debate on the use of Chinese or Western style in the rebuilding of a church lavatory, and his own five-minute suspension for publishing an article expounding the views on evolution later contained in Humani Generis - as he was leaving the episcopal chamber the bishop said “I lift the suspension”. After the war he returned for a year to his work in the seminary, after which he went to Europe for a much needed rest. He was next asked to explore the possibility of setting up an institute of industrial chemistry in Hong Kong. This scheme proved abortive, but his next venture was fruitful. At the request of the government of Hong Kong he toured Europe and America investigating methods for making compost from what is politely described as night soil. It is scarcely necessary to say that the more ribald Jesuits of the many countries he visited were less mealy-mouthed in describing this novel form of apostolate. Fr. McCarthy's rather donnish appearance and fastidious diction added to the joke.
Having completed his work on nightsoil, he was asked by the government to act as technical adviser on fish-drying part of a large-scale reorganisation of fisheries, which was one of the most valuable works undertaken by the government in its post-war effort to rebuild and enrich the life of the colony. This work brought him into close contact with probably the ablest young government servant in Hong Kong, Mr. Jack Cater, who became one of Fr. McCarthy's closest friends, visited him frequently, sought his advice on such matters as the organisation of co-operatives, and was to rank almost as chief mourner at Fr, McCarthy's funeral.
About this time Fr. McCarthy was appointed rector of the language school. Surprisingly enough this appointment did not prove altogether happy. It was known that he had been an independent minded scholastic and, though in his late fifties (and looking older), he was on terms of unforced equality with most of the younger priests in the mission; yet he found himself unable to make easy contact with those in their twenties. There was relief on both sides when his rectorship was terminated after a couple of years. On their return to Hong Kong after ordination, those who had failed to understand him in their scholastic years came to cherish his rewarding friendship.
From his earliest days in Hong Kong, he had been known as a writer of concise, lucid and pointed English. Bishop Bianchi of Hong Kong was always eager to make use of this gift, frequently asking him to draft pastorals, messages to his diocese and other important documents. The bishop always showed great trust in Fr. McCarthy's judgment knowing that this faithful scribe would nearly always convey his ideas exactly and in a form palatable to and easily assimilated by the recipients. The bishop also had the happy certainty that Fr. McCarthy would not repine if on occasion his drafts were not used.
Another seeker of his pen was Fr. (now Mgr.) C. H. Vath, then editor of the Sunday Examiner, the Hong Kong diocesan weekly. At Fr. Vath's request, Fr. McCarthy wrote a long series of articles on Christian doctrine, which were studied eagerly by teachers of religious knowledge. Fr. Vath also invited Fr. McCarthy to become the regular leader writer for the Sunday Examiner. This task out lasted Fr. Vath's editorship. For over a dozen years-right up to the last week of his life-Fr. McCarthy wrote a weekly editorial, often pungent, always carefully pondered and lucidly expressed. The secular papers frequently reproduced and commented on leaders dealing with economic or sociological topics, and echoes of these leaders could often be discerned in later discussions or in government action. At least one was quoted in the House of Commons, These leaders gave the paper an influence out of all proportion to its circulation. The McCarthy touch will be sadly missed. It will probably be impossible to find anyone able to combine the patience, readiness, skill and erudition that went into his leaders week after week, year after year.
For the last eleven years of his life he was mainly engaged in work for the China News Analysis, (the authoritative and highly expensive) weekly analysis of the Chinese Communist press and radio published by Fr. L. Ladany, a Hungarian member of the Hong Kong Vice-Province. Fr. McCarthy acted as procurator, relieved the editor of the difficulties inseparable from writing in a foreign tongue, and wrote articles based on the editor's research. This was not glamorous work - the days of the nightsoil apostolate were over but it was essential work and was done with unfailing exactness and punctuality.
The large number of religious at his funeral was a tribute to spiritual help given by Fr. McCarthy. In community life he was not ostentatiously pious, but he was exact in religious observance, as in all other things, and he was notably kind. His admirable book Heaven and his domestic exhortations were the most striking manifestations of spirituality that his fundamental reserve allowed him to make. These exhortations were revealing, deeply interesting, full, original without striving for originality and provocative of further thought. He was frequently urged to publish them, a suggestion that he seldom or never accepted. Enthusiasm for one's domestic exhortations is a tribute rarely paid in the Society. It was paid to Fr. McCarthy.
Frail as he looked, he was very seldom ill. Early this year, however, he had to go to hospital and was found to be suffering from grave heart trouble and certain other ills. He resumed work as soon as possible. On Thursday, 25th July, having completed a day's work, he fell and broke a thigh while saying his Rosary in his room, and it was some hours before he was able to call the attention of another member of the small community in which he lived. He was suffering grievously and an immediate operation had to be carried out, despite the precarious state of his heart. He never recovered consciousness and he died on Saturday, 27th July.
The funeral Mass was concelebrated by his Provincial, Fr. F. Cronin, his Superior, Fr. Ladany, and one of his closest friends.