Item 13 - Part of a letter from Fr Patrick O'Kelly SJ, St Ignatius College, Galway

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Part of a letter from Fr Patrick O'Kelly SJ, St Ignatius College, Galway


  • 25 August 1954 (Creation)

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(18 March 1896-22 July 1968)

Biographical history

Born: 18 March 1896, Baltinglass, County Wicklow
Entered: 13 August 1913, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1927, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1930, Chiesa del Gesù, Rome Italy
Died: 22 July 1968, Coláiste Iognáid, Sea Road, Galway

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

Studied for BSc at UCD

by 1929 at St Beuno’s Wales (ANG) making Tertianship
by 1930 at Rome Italy (ROM) studying

◆ Jesuits in Ireland :

JESUITICA: The flies of Ireland
Only one Irish Provincial has had a genus of flies called after him. In 1937 Fr Larry Kieran welcomed Fr Hermann Schmitz, a German Jesuit, to Ireland, and he stayed here for about four years, teaching in Tullabeg and doing prodigious research on Irish Phoridae, or flies. He increased the known list of Irish Phoridae by more than 100 species, and immortalised Fr Larry by calling a genus after him: Kierania grata. Frs Leo Morahan and Paddy O’Kelly were similarly honoured, Leo with a genus: Morahanian pellinta, and Paddy with a species, Okellyi. Hermann served Irish entomologists by scientifically rearranging and updating the specimens of Phoridae in our National Museum. He died in Germany exactly fifty years ago.

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 43rd Year No 4 1968

St. Ignatius College, Galway
Our Community has seen sad days since the last issue of “Province News”. Fathers O'Connor, Hutchinson and Brennan had severe heart attacks which necessitated for each a long stay in hospital. Father Andrews, on his return from Spain, was very ill and went into hospital. And Father Butler is in hospital after an appendix operation.
The saddest news of all, however, was the death of two members of our community, Father P. O'Kelly and Brother Foley. Father Kelly's death was sudden and unexpected. On Monday, 22nd July, when he did not turn up for the 6.50 a.m. Mass, Brother Bonfield went to his room and found him dead in his chair. A note in the “History of the House”, in his own hand, dated the 22nd July, leads to the conclusion that he died in the early hours of that morning. On Sunday 21st he seemed to be in the best of form, had his usual swim (or swims), his usual trips on the bike, and in the evening took the Bona Mors Devotions. Little knowing that the prayers were for himself he said the usual three Hail Marys for the person in the congregation who was next to die. His death has left an unfillable gap in the Community. “We shall not see his like again”. But it was surely the death Father Paddy would have chosen for himself - a labourer in the Lord's vineyard, working on and on, right up to the eleventh hour. Messages of sympathy poured in from all sides, among them, one from His Lordship the Bishop, and one from the County Council. All day long, for two days, the doorbell kept ringing as Mass Cards were handed in and the pile grew steadily.
When Brother Foley's death came so soon after Father O'Kelly's funeral and the church bell tolled again, people showed deep sympathy for the community. Mass cards piled up again, a sign that, in spite of his enforced retirement, over the years, his old friends had not forgotten him.
Both funerals were large and impressive. The town's people were there in great numbers to pay their last tribute, and Fathers and Brothers from all over the Province came to be present at the last sad rites. Many of Father O'Kelly's and Brother Foley's relatives were at the Mass and at the graveside. Fr. G. Perrott (Rector at the time) came all the way from Achill to say the Requiem
Mass for Father O'Kelly and was present at both funerals. Fr. V. McLaughlin was Celebrant at the Mass for Brother Foley. Reciting the last prayers at the burial of Father O'Kelly was Rev. Father Provincial, Father Barry and at Brother Foley's burial the prayers were said by Father C. McGarry, Father Barry's successor as Provincial. Ar laimh dheis De go raibh a n-anama.

Obituary :

Fr Patrick H O’Kelly SJ (1896-1968)

Fr. Patrick O'Kelly was born in 1896 at Baltinglass. He was the son of Mr. E. P. O'Kelly, M.P. for Wicklow, and was one of a family of nine, of whom four, himself and three sisters, entered religion.
He went from the local National School to Clongowes in 1908 and spent five years there. Though he did not achieve any very notable distinction, he was above average in all departments of school life. He was awarded a book prize in the mathematical group in all the grades of the Intermediate examinations, Junior, Middle and Senior. He was useful at all games, but the only athletic achievement of his which is on record is second place in the Lower Line walking race at the Easter sports of 1911. Strange to say, this minor event is engraved on the memory of the writer after all these years. The race took place most unsuitably immediately after a “full feed”, and Paddy's superhuman efforts had catastrophic after-effects. Paddy entered the novitiate at Tullabeg in 1913, took his vows in 1915 and spent four years in the juniorate at Rathfarnham. His mental powers developed greatly at this period and, with that remarkable power of application and exactness of mind which characterised him in after life, he had no difficulty in getting his Honours B.Sc. in mathematics and mathematical physics. Whilst in Rathfarnham, he had a very severe attack of rheumatic fever, as a result of which the doctors declared that he would never be able to play any game again, and that it would be dangerous for him even to walk upstairs quickly. Never was medical prophesy so completely off the mark.
At Milltown Park in 1919-21, he showed a decided aptitude for philosophy, clearness and exactness being his characteristics. A minor memory recalls the troubled times in which we then lived. In one of the Christmas plays, Fr. Paddy took the part of a sergeant of the R.I.C., complete with dark green uniform and bristling moustache. Just before the curtain went up, he remembered that he had left some essential property in his room, and dashed up the stairs to get it. On the way he encountered the late Father Patrick Gannon, who nearly had a heart attack at meeting what he took to be a Black and Tan engaged on a raid.
Then followed three years at Belvedere, where, in spite of the doctors' forebodings, he took an active part in organising the games, theology at Milltown, with ordination in 1927, tertianship at St. Beuno's, and a biennium in philosophy in Rome, 1929-31, his last vows being pronounced in the Church of the Gesù.
In 1931 he was appointed professor of Ontology at Tullabeg, which post he filled until 1937, being also Minister from 1932 to 1935. As a professor, if not very inspiring, he was most painstaking and thorough. He was a devoted, one might say almost fanatical follower of the doctrines of Suarez, and found himself ploughing a lone furrow, as his brilliant colleagues, Fathers Joseph Canavan, Arthur Little and Edward Coyne, were equally ardent Thomists and had secured the intellectual allegiance of the majority of the philosophers.
A curious incident must have seemed to Father Paddy to be almost a heaven-sent approval of his loyalty to Suarez. Browsing one day in a Dublin secondhand bookshop, he found an ancient copy of one of Suarez' works. Examining the fly-leaf, he found it inscribed to a certain person “from his friend Francisco Suarez”. The price of the volume was only a few shillings, but Father Paddy found that he had not even this amount in his pocket. He hurried to the nearest Jesuit house, borrowed the money and secured his prize. Experts afterwards confirmed that the signature was really that of the great theologian whose theories Father Paddy had so stubbornly defended.
During his years in Tullabeg, Fr. Paddy had ample opportunity for the pursuit of botany and entomology, subjects which, ever since the juniorate, had occupied his spare moments. Though he never had any formal training in either, he pursued them not as a mere hobby, but in the thorough way in which he did everything, and his knowledge was wide and exact.
In 1937, Fr. O'Kelly was transferred to St. Ignatius', Galway, and here began the most active and successful period of his life, which was to last for thirty-one years. He was at the height of his powers, and well equipped for all the varied tasks he found at his disposal, Of no man could it be more truly said that he was paratus ad omnia. He was a full-time teacher, mostly of mathematics, also of French, English and Religious Knowledge. But at the same time he was a full-time operarius in the church, and also exercised a most devoted ministry to the sick and suffering.
His energy soon became legendary. His bicycle stood at the door, always ready for action, and he thought nothing of starting off immediately after a full day's class to ride twenty or thirty miles to visit some invalid. When he went to give retreats during the summer, he usually performed the whole, or at least a large part of the journey by bicycle. His spare time was occupied by other activities, gardening, botanising, and painting, for the last of which he had a considerable, though untrained talent. Even his recreations were of a strenuous kind. When he played a round of golf, he was as much interested in the speed with which he completed it as in his score, and he was one of those hardy wights, the all-the-year round swimmers.
His best friends would not deny that there was a certain degree of exaggeration in this boundless activity, and that his zeal some times led to friction when he crossed the path of others, but none could but admire his utter devotion to his priestly duties, and his readiness to take on the most difficult tasks. He soon won the admiration and affection of the people of Galway, and there must have been countless souls who were enabled by his ministrations to face sickness and death with courage and hope, and not a few whom he helped to return to the fold from which they had strayed, Through the years his energy seemed undiminished. In the last year of his life, he again took on full teaching, which for a short time he had curtailed, and he was, just before his death, actually preparing to assume a new task, the teaching of biology through Irish, and was making, with his usual thoroughness, a study of the required vocabulary of technical terms. It had often been feared that his relentless activity must be putting a strain on his constitution, but there was no outward sign of this, and on the Sunday before his death, he had carried out all his usual work in the church. As he would have wished, he died in harness. He always went to bed at a late hour so as to be ready to answer a sick call. Death came while he was thus on duty. He was found on the morning of Monday, 22nd July, seated at his table, with the decrees of the Vatican Council, which he had evidently been studying, open before him.
Every section of the population of Galway, clerical and lay, was represented in the immense congregation which thronged the church for his funeral. Many tributes were paid to him in the local press and in letters of condolence sent to the community. Perhaps more eloquent than any of these was a remark made shortly before his death by a poor man. “Sure, he'd jump into the canal to save a soul”.

◆ The Belvederian, Dublin, 1969


Father Patrick H O’Kelly SJ

Fr O'Kelly who was found dead seated at his table in St Ignatius College, Galway on July 22nd, 1968, was a priest who never spared himself in the service of others. Very gifted intellectually, he was a superb field. worker in all branches of the natural sciences From 1921 to 1924 he taught Honours Mathematics at the top of the school in Belvedere winning from his admiring pupils “mantissa” as a nickname. He never lost his interest in things Belvederian.

◆ The Clongownian, 1969


Father Patrick H O’Kelly SJ

Patrick O'Kelly was born in 1896 at Baltinglass. He was the son of Mr E P O'Kelly, MP for West Wicklow and younger brother of the late Professor W D O'Kelly who has also passed away. Paddy came to Clongowes in 1908 and spent five years here. Even though he did not achieve any notable distinction, he was above average in all departments of school life. He shone at mathematics and won a book prize in this group in all the grades of the intermediate examinations, Junior, Middle and Senior. He was useful at games, especially at athletics and in the Clongownian of 1913 there is a photo of Paddy winning the Higher Line 440 yards race in the Easter Sports. Upon leaving Clongowes in 1913, Paddy entered the Jesuit novitiate at Tullabeg, took his vows in 1915 and spent four years at University studies in Rathfarnham Castle. It was here that he showed his real mental calibre as well as that remarkable power of application and exactness of mind which ever characterised him in after life. He had no difficulty in getting his Honours BSc in mathematics and mathematical phycics.

In Milltown Park during the years 1919-21 he showed a decided aptitude for Philosophy as he was endowed with a high degree of clearness and exactness. Paddy spent three years teaching in Belvedere College before going for his theological studies to Milltown Park. He was ordained in 1927. He completed his formation as a Jesuit with a spiritual year (Tertianship) at St Beuno's College, Wales, and was then sent to the Gregorian University, Rome for special studies in Philosophy.

On his return to Ireland in 1931 he was appointed Professor of Philosophy and filled this post until 1937. He was then transferred to St Ignatius College, Galway, where he once again taught his favourite subject mathematics, but he was also a very competent teacher of French and English. It was here. in Galway that his energy became legendary, and his charity all-embracing. After a full day's class he thought nothing of cycling twenty miles to visit some poor invalid.

He won the admiration and affection of the people of Galway by his utter devotion to his priestly duties and there must have been countless souls who were enabled by his ministrations to face sickness and death with courage and hope.

Fr Paddy's death was the one he would have wished for, death whilst on duty. He was found on the morning of Monday, July 22, seated at his desk with the degrees of the Vatican Council open before him. He had evidently been studying them when God called him to his reward. To all Fr, Paddy's relatives and friends we offer our sincere sympathy.

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Part of a letter from Fr Patrick O'Kelly SJ, St Ignatius College, Galway regarding the acquisition for the library in Tullamore, an old parchment bound folio volume entitled ‘Defensio Fidei Catholicae a Francesco Suario Soc. Iesu Coimbra 1613’.

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