O'Meara, John, 1898-1991, Jesuit priest

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O'Meara, John, 1898-1991, Jesuit priest

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  • Jack O'Meara
  • 馬 良神父

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23 February 1898-14 November 1991

History

Born: 23 February 1898, Mallow, County Cork
Entered: 31 August 1915, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 24 August 1930, Leuven, Belgium
Professed: 08 December 1976
Died: 14 November 1991, St Joseph’s Home, Kowloon, Hong Kong

Part of the Wah Yan College, Kowloon, Hong Kong community at the time of death.

Eldest brother of Michael - RIP 1998; Tommy - RIP 1993

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

Transcribed HIB to HK: 03 December 1966

by 1928 at Leuven, Belgium (BELG) studying
by 1932 at St Beuno’s, Wales (ANG) making Tertianship
by 1934 at Catholic Mission, Ngau-Pei-Lan, Shiuhing (Zhaoqing), Guandong, China (LUS) - language
by 1935 at Aberdeen, Hong Kong - working
by 1943 at Campion Hall, Oxford, England (ANG) studying

◆ Hong Kong Catholic Archives :
Father John O’Meara S.J.
R.I.P.

Father John O’Meara SJ, Hong Kong’s oldest priest, who did missionary work in Hong Kong and southern China for almost 60 years, died on 14 November 1991 after a brief illness.

Father O'Meara was born in Mallow, Ireland, on 23 February 1898, into a large family. He was educated by the Irish Christian Brothers and later by the Jesuits.

He join the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1915 and followed the usual course of studies of the time, which, in his case, included an honours degree in history at the National University of Ireland.

He did his philosophical studies in Dublin and went to Louvain in Belgium for theology. He was ordained priest in 1930.

Father O’Meara arrived in Hong Kong for the first time in September 1933 with four companions. Within three days of landing here he was told to proceed to Zhaoqing (Shiu Hing), the Portuguese Jesuit mission on the West River, to study Chinese.

In the following year he moved to the river island mission station of Tianshuisha (Tin Shui Sha), where he gained an intimate knowledge of working in a rural mission.

Later in 1934 he was recalled to Hong Kong and began an important period of his life at the then South China Regional Seminary in Aberdeen. He was first named Vice-Rector, a post he held until 1937 when he was appointed Rector.

In 1935 the seminarians from Fujian Province left Aberdeen when a new regional seminary was opened by the bishops of that region. Their loss was more than compensated for by a large influx of students from Guangdong and Guangxi, as the minor seminaries of those two provinces began to show the results of 10 years patient labour.

With the Japanese invasion of South China, travel to and from Hong Kong became difficult and from 1940 no new students came to Aberdeen.

With the Japanese attack on Hong Kong in December 1941, a very difficult period began for the seminary and for its Rector, Father O’Meara.

The building was shelled and bombed for three days during the siege of Hong Kong and so severe was the firing that the students and some refugees who had gathered there for shelter were forced to leave on Christmas morning. (Hong Kong surrendered on Christmas day).

During the succeeding three and a half years the seminary teaching staff, under Father O’Meara’s leadership, continued to train priests in spite of persistent visits from suspicious gendarmes.

The feeding of such a large community was a problem solved only by repeated interventions of Divine Providence.

For months there was no wheeled traffic other than military on the only road leading to the city. Food supplies had to be brought by hand, on battered bicycles.

In May 1945, Father O’Meara decided that the seminarians who had not finished their studies should go with their professors to neighbouring Macau, which, being Portuguese, was considered neutral.

The main reason was that it had become impossible to find food. Father O’Meara himself remained with an ex-seminarian and a servant to guard the seminary building from looters.

The war came to an end on 15 August 1945, and in November of that year Father O’Meara welcomed the first new students to arrive since 1940 and those in Macau were recalled.

In October 1947, Father O’Meara was relieved of the heavy burden he had carried for 12 years. He was sent to the newly-founded Jesuit mission in Guangzhou (Canton). There he taught at the Sacred Heart School and did missionary work in Dongshan (Tung Shan) as well as being director of the Legion of Mary in the diocese.

In 1953, four years after the establishment of the People’s Republic, he and the other Jesuits were forced to leave the country.

Back in Hong Kong, he taught at Wah Yan College, Kowloon, for five years until his appointment as Master of Novices in 1958 at the newly opened Jesuit novitiate at Xavier House in Cheung Chau.

He was extremely pleased to have been given such a responsible post in forming new Jesuits at the age of 60. He held the position for 10 years when, in 1968, he began a period of parish ministry.

He was first assigned to the Holy Rosary Parish in Kennedy Town and, four years later, transferred to Christ the Worker parish in Ngautaukok.

He was still vigorous in his 80s when he became chaplain to the St. Joseph’s Home for the Aged in Ngauchiwan. In the final years of his life, when he could no longer continue this ministry, he became himself one of the old folk in the home.

Father O’Meara had one final ambition, which he did not get to see - to live until the year 2000 and say he had touched three centuries.

The funeral Mass, presided over by Cardinal John Baptist Wu, Bishop of Hong Kong, and assisted by Archbishop Dominic Tang of Canton (Where Father O’Meara spent some of the happiest years of his life), was held at St. Ignatius Chapel, Kowloon, on 18 November at 11am.
Sunday Examiner Hong Kong - 22 November 1991

◆ 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 Martin Entry
He first arrived as a Scholastic for regency in Hong Kong in 1933. He was accompanied by Frs Jack O’Meara and Thomas Ryan, and by two other Scholastics, John Foley and Dick Kennedy.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 22nd Year No 1 1947

Frs. Bourke and John O'Meara returned from Hong Kong on 25th November for a rest. Fr. Joseph O'Mara, who had returned to the Mission some time ago after a stay in Ireland, was forced by ill-health to come back to the Province. He reached Dublin on 13th January, and is now teaching philosophy at Tullabeg.

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

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O'Meara, John, 1898-1991, 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'Meara, John, 1898-1991, Jesuit priest

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Hong Kong Vice-Province, 1966- (1966-)

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O'Meara, John, 1898-1991, Jesuit priest

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IE IJA J/582

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