Born: 08 May 1920, Dublin
Entered 07 September 1939, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 04 January 1956, Sydney, Australia
Final Vows: 03 December 1977
Died: 08 December 1993, Cherryfield Lodge, Dublin - Australiae Province (ASL)
Part of the St Joseph’s, Hawthorn, Melbourne, Australia community at the time of death.
Transcribed HIB to ASL : 05 April 1951
by 1948 at Australia (ASL) - Regency
◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
Seán Monahan's family attended St Francis Xavier's Church, Gardiner Street, and he received his secondary education at Belvedere College nearby. On 7 September 1939 he entered the Irish noviciate at St Mary's, Portarlington, and then did juniorate studies in arts, studying English, French, Latin and Irish, at the Irish National University, while living at Rathfarnham. He developed tuberculosis during this time and never completed the course. For the next three years he was an invalid, and the decision was made for him to go to Australia.
At the beginning of 1948 Monahan arrived in Australia and began the three year philosophy course at Loyola College, Watsonia. He was a wonderful companion with his sense of humour, his gift for mimicry and his talent for friendship. He enjoyed participating in the scholastic dramatic performances, particularly the Gilbert and Sullivan operas. He produced Iolanthe.
For regency he spent some time at St Louis School, Perth, teaching and working in the boarding house, but he found the heat did not benefit his health, so in 1953 he began theology
studies at Canisius College, Pymble. After ordination in 1956, Monahan became a member of the Australian province. Tertianship followed in 1957 at Sevenhill, SA, under Henry Johnston, his theology rector.
His first priestly appointment was to Corpus Christi College, Werribee, where he was minister, bursar, prefect of liturgy and librarian. In 1958, there were 189 diocesan students; 42 in the first year. Monahan was a good administrator, shrewd, diplomatic, and with a care for detail. His special eye for individuals was much appreciated. He soon became involved in spiritual direction and the students found him a most warm and understanding confessor. He kept contact with many of these men in later years, either as priests or laymen. He was probably one of the best known Jesuits among the Melbourne diocesan priests.
Monahan's special talent for spiritual direction became well known, so he was sent to Loyola College, Watsonia, in 1960, first as socius to the master of novices and later as master of novices. In his first year as master there were 36 novices. Monahan was a most successful and highly acclaimed novice master. Despite his obvious garishness, he understood Australian young people and the contemporary needs of the Church and Society, and initiated many sensible changes into the life of the Jesuit novice. In many ways, he was a significant turning point in the formation of Jesuits in the Australian province, and the last of the Irish novice masters. At the time of his death, 42 of his novices were still members of the Society.
Monahan spent 1971 as spiritual father to Jesuit University scholastics at the Dominican house of studies in Canberra. In 1972 he was recalled to Victoria to become rector of Corpus Christi College, Werribee. It was the last year of the college at that place, the Society handing over its administration to the diocesan clergy.
For the next two years Monahan was spiritual director to the ]suit scholastics at Campion College, and in 1976 he was appointed socius to the provincial and lived at the provincial residence, Hawthorn. Having made his mark as socius, he was given the job, in 1977, of secretary to the South East Asian assistant in Rome, Robert Rush. However, the Roman climate affected his health, and he had difficulty learning Italian, so Paul Gardiner replaced him. He returned to Australia in 1978. At this time the archbishop of Melbourne, Frank Little, asked for him as vicar for religious in the archdiocese.
On his return he took up residence at the provincial house, and was superior from 1979-85, secretary of the province, giving wise advice to the provincial, while continuing his work as spiritual director to many in Melbourne. He was a most hospitable man, and Jesuits enjoyed being invited to Power Street for some Jesuit celebration. During this time his health continued to deteriorate.
In 1993 his health improved a little and Monahan was keen to revisit Ireland. He went and stayed at Cherryfield Lodge, Milltown Park, Dublin, where he received many visitors. He related by mail that he was very happy to be in Dublin. However, his health further declined, his return to Australia was postponed, and he finally died there in December.
Monahan was much loved in the Australian province for his personal humanity and charm, his loving care of others, his encouragement and cheeriness, his sense of fun and wit. He was one of the great storytellers and was a good companion. He loved news, enjoyed being consulted and gave wise advice. Above all he engendered love of, and confidence in, the Society.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 23rd Year No 1 1948
Fr. Peyton left for Australia on the “Mauretania” on 31st October in company with Fr. Conway, a member of the Viceprovince. Fr. Kevin Carroll, also a member of the Viceprovince, left Shannon Airport on 3rd November for New York, bound for San Francisco and Sydney. Mr. Monahan left Southampton on the “Queen Mary” on 20th November for New York; he took boat at San Francisco on 12th December for Sydney which he reached on 4th January. He will be doing his first year's philosophy at Loyola, Watsonia in the coming year.
Irish Province News 48th Year No 1 1973
A recent letter from Fr Seán Monahan, Corpus Christi College, Werribee, conveys the new that the Seminary is being replaced; “After just 50 years in Jesuit hands; the diocesan authorities have to find a buyer for a property a bit like Emo. A new Seminary is a building and though scheduled to be ready for the opening of this year on February 26th it will not in fact be ready in time. We have handed over the administration to the diocese but there will be Jesuits on the staff of the new establishment as academic and spiritual directors. It is in this latter capacity that I go there together with the present spiritual director here, Fr Paul Keenan. Altogether there will be five of us working with the same number of diocesan priests for 161 students following an 8 year course”.
Interfuse No 77 : Summer 1994 & Interfuse No 82 : September 1995
John (Seán) Monahan (1920-1993)
During the six decades of my life, an unbelievable number of people have crossed my path, some friends, others mere acquaintances.
Out of this vast galaxy of people, some have shone like stars to light my way, a select few have been guiding lights that have helped me to believe in myself and to keep on course when I was in danger of losing my way or of being overwhelmed by what confronted me. These latter luminaries have exerted a colossal impact on my life, and I am ever conscious of my debt to them.
On this occasion I want to talk about one that I treasure very specially, one who died on the 8th of December last year after a life of extraordinary dedication to God and to people who needed him. He was John (Seán) Monahan, and I met him first in my last year in the seminary 1958. He had been born in Dublin, Ireland, on 8th May 1920, and had entered the Society of Jesus just prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, on 7th September 1939.
Interestingly enough, he had been ordained a priest only two years before our own group, on 6th January 1956. Because of health reasons he was sent to work in Australia where he spent over thirty years; ironically enough, for the latter part of this period he was contending quietly and courageously with a debilitating illness.
I was thinking back, as I was putting these thoughts together, about how we first met, and I can't quite recollect exactly how that meeting took place. What I do recall, however, is the fact that during the space of a few short months we established a bond that was to link us in friendship every since that time.
As I indicated earlier, I saw him as one of those luminaries who exerted a colossal impact on my life. Whether our contacts were frequent or separated by long intervals, those points at which our lives touched each other, either by letter or in person, exerted a considerable influence on me, both as a man and as a priest. All this was so profound and leaves me so indebted to him that I would like to tell you about at least a few of the riches that I derived from my friendship with Father John Monahan.
My first comment might well sound extraordinary, but I believe it to be the truth; in John Monahan I met Jesus. He was a person in whom I perceived, particularly at a time I needed it, that he really cared about me. He was unhurried as he walked with me on my journey.
There was an extraordinary warmth in him. He had a graciousness, a charm that was not artificial but from the heart. It wasn't a performance designed to impress, it was a natural outflow from his personality. Quite obviously, I wasn't the only one to have experienced this Monahan touch. From the testimonies of others ! know that he endeared himself to an incredible number of people, who were, like myself, influenced and enriched by his part in their life.
As I said, he really embodied Jesus for me, and I mean that if I were to meet Jesus, he would act towards me as John did. Related to this Christlikeness, he breathed an extraordinary inner peace. Any contact that transpired between us was characterised by this quality. There was this relaxing, disarming approach that he adopted, and it said to you in unmistakable terms, “Just be at home while you're with me”.
Had I been aware that he was going home to Ireland for a final farewell to his relatives, friends and fellow religious, I would have grasped the opportunity of saying my own good byes. Therefore, regret that I failed to say goodbye to him and to thank him for everything.
In a way, this tribute to him is a public goodbye and thanks to John for all he was for me and did to me. That is not to suggest that I have finished what I want to say about him, because there is one other comment that completes the picture, and it is this.
The most indelible and most lasting impression that I will always carry with me is that he was a great affirmer. How often, when important events occurred in my life and I let him know about them, and sometimes when I omitted to do so, through the mail would come, written in his neat and thorough way, a letter that complimented me on what I had achieved, or encouraged and supported me in what I was about to undertake.
So often in regard to this very programme he was a source of endorsement and positive comment which encouraged me to give of my best. He wouldn't hesitate to provide a suggestion, too, of how this or that might be improved, but there was always a sensi tivity and enthusiasm that urged me on.
His was a caring ministry and I know from comments of other priests and people how widespread and powerful was the influence for good in their lives. Which means that the greatest kindness would be for us to emulate him and his Christlike behaviour in our daily lives. That is no easy prospect, to absorb all these great qualities of a genuine loving priest, but it would be worth the effort.
I already miss John very much; I was always aware that he was there, selflessly supporting me in the background through his suf fering and by his prayer.
I thank our heavenly Father that in his providence our lives did touch each other and that I am so much the richer for that as I share these thoughts with you now.
So, to fittingly conclude these thoughts about the man who was for me my Christlike Character for 1993, I share with you a text of Scripture that John referred to often and which presumably affected his personal and priestly ministry and sustained it.
It was found highlighted in his Bible, following his death. It comes from Paul's Letter to the Colossians, chapter one, verses twenty-six to twenty-nine. As I read it, I can perceive John really reaching into the very depths of his being, and opening himself to the power of the Spirit, seeking to be a true priest - a bridge between us and the Father, in and with our Brother, Jesus.
These are the words that animated and challenged John Monahan, Priest and Member of the Society of Jesus, to be Christlike in character:
“...the mystery is Christ among you, your hope of glory. This is the Christ we proclaim, this is the wisdom in which we thoroughly train everyone and instruct everyone to make them all perfect in Christ. It is for this I struggle wearily on, helped only by his power driving me irresistibly”.
Christopher Gleeson, Riverview Australia