Burke Savage, Roland, 1912-1998, Jesuit priest and editor

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Burke Savage, Roland, 1912-1998, Jesuit priest and editor

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  • Burke Savage, Ronnie

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Dates of existence

11 August 1912-15 September 1998

History

Born: 11 August 1912, Dublin
Entered: 07 September 1931, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1944, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1949, St Ignatius Leeson Street, Dublin
Died: 15 September 1998, Cherryfield Lodge, Dublin

Part of the Clongowes Wood College SJ, County Kildare community at the time of death.

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

by 1946 at St Beuno’s, St Asaph, Wales (ANG) making Tertianship

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Savage, Roland (‘Ronnie’) Marcus Anthony Burke-
by David Murphy

Savage, Roland (‘Ronnie’) Marcus Anthony Burke- (1912–98), Jesuit priest and editor, was born in north Dublin on 11 August 1912, son of Matthew Burke-Savage, medical doctor, and his wife Alice (née O'Connor). Educated at Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare, he entered the Society of Jesus at Emo Court, Co. Laois, on 7 September 1931. He lived with the Jesuit community in Rathfarnham, Co. Dublin, while he studied arts at UCD (1933–6), where he was Hutchinson Stewart scholar in English literature (1934) and graduated BA (1936) and MA (1941) with first-class honours.

Professed of his first vows in March 1934, he moved to Milltown Park in Dublin, where he studied theology (1941–5). Ordained on 31 July 1944, he spent his tertianship at Milltown, before moving to the Leeson St. community in 1946 as a writer and assistant editor of Studies. He published his biography of Catherine McAuley (qv) in 1946 (reprinted, 2nd ed., 1955), a work of which he was justifiably proud. In 1947 he took over the editorship of the Irish Monthly (1947–50), while still continuing to work on Studies, of which he became editor in 1950. During his tenure as editor of Studies he reorganized the journal's administration and encouraged a new generation of contributors, including Garret FitzGerald. Towards the end of his term as editor it was thought by some that Studies had become less critical of the catholic hierarchy than it had been previously. In 1968 he handed over the editorship.

Having served as superior of the Leeson St. community (1951–9), he was appointed in the latter year director of the Central Catholic Library from which he resigned in 1968. Moving to Clongowes, he worked as house historian, writer, and editor of the Clongownian. He served later as college archivist and curator of the college museum. In failing health he moved to the Jesuit nursing home at Cherryfield Lodge, Sandford Rd, Dublin, in 1997 and underwent an operation. He never really recovered and died there 15 September 1998. He was buried in the Jesuit plot in Glasnevin cemetery. Throughout his life, Ronnie Burke-Savage suffered from depression and found life more difficult as he grew older. His affliction often manifested itself in reclusiveness and difficult relations with his colleagues.

ITWW; Louis McRedmond, To the greater glory (1991); Ir. Times, 16 Sept. 1998; Studies, lxxxvii, no. 348 (1998); Interfuse (Jesuit in-house publication), no. 101 (1999); information from Fr Fergus O 'Donoghue SJ and Dr Thomas Morrissey SJ

◆ Interfuse No 101 : Special Edition 1999 & ◆ The Clongownian, 1999

Obituary

Fr Roland (Ronnie) Burke-Savage (1912-1988)

11th Aug. 1912: Born in Dublin
Early Education at Clongowes
7th Sept. 1931: Entered the Society at Emo.
13th Mar. 1934: First Vows at Emo.
1933 - 1936: Rathfarnham - Arts at UCD, MA
1941 - 1945: Milltown Park - Theology
31st July 1944: Ordained at Milltown Park.
1945 - 1946: Tertianship
1946 - 1968; Leeson Street
1947 - 1950: Assist Editor Studies; Editor Irish Monthly, Writer.
1950 - 1951: Minister, Editor Studies.
1951 - 1959: Superior; Editor Studies.
1959 - 1968: Director Central Catholic Library,
1968 - 1997: Clongowes - Editor Clongownian; Writer; House Historian.
1973 - 1976: Writer; Curator College Museum.
1976 -1997: Writer; College Archivist; Curator College Museum.
1997: Cherryfield Lodge - Prays for the Church and the Society

Father Burke-Savage had been in Cherryfield Lodge for the last year. He underwent a serious operation last May and never fully recovered. Although in good form he deteriorated over the week-end and died peacefully in Cherryfield Lodge at 6.10 a.m., Tuesday, 15 September 1998.

Homily at the Funeral Mass of Fr. Burke-Savage
The popular writer, Fr. John O'Donohue has a wonderful image of birth and death.

“Imagine if you could talk to a baby in the womb and explain its unity with the mother. How this cord of belonging gives it life. If you could then tell the baby that this was about to end. It was going to be expelled from the womb, pushed through a very narrow passage finally to be dropped out into vacant, open light. The cord which held it to its mother's womb was going to be cut and then it was going to be on its own for ever more. If the baby could talk back, it would fear that it was going to die. For the baby within the womb being born would seem like death."

Death is a kind of re-birth. We cling to the cord of life but eventually we must let go and then we enter a new world where time and space are utterly different, a world without shadow, darkness, loneliness, isolation or pain. We are at home with the God from whom we came and to whom we go. We are in God's world of goodness, unity, beauty , truth and, above all, absolute love. The Trinity, Absolute Love, Absolute Giving and Receiving, Absolute Intimacy and Creativity is where all the longings of the human heart at last find fulfillment.

It is to that world that Ronnie, as he was affectionately known in the Society, has now gone. Roland Marcus Anthony, to give him his full name, was born in Dublin in 1912. Somehow that name fits for, in many ways, he was a renaissance man. Educated here in Clongowes, he entered the Society of Jesus in 1931. He took a first class honours BA in UCD and later a first class honours MA also in UCD. While in UCD, he was president of the Literary and Historical Society and thought nothing of bringing the likes of the poet T.S. Eliot to speak to the students. In 1946 he became the assistant editor of the Jesuit review “Studies” and at the same time he published a life of Catherine McAuley, the foundress of the Sisters of Mercy, a book of which he was very proud.

In 1950 he became the editor of Studies. During his years as editor he was embroiled in many controversies. At the same time he got to know many of the students in UCD and had a deep and lasting influence on many of them. Some later rose to prominence in Irish public life.

In 1959 he became the Director of the Central Catholic Library and in 1968 he retired to Clongowes where he was the college archivist and curator of the college museum.

All his life, Ronnie suffered from one major cross. He was prone to deep depression but he bore this cross with great constancy and faith. It was his faith that sustained him and gave him the courage and will power to continue.

In many ways his life, particularly in his later years, can be illustrated by two stories. The first is a Taoist tale.
The carpenter said to his apprentice: “Do you know why this tree is so big and so old?” The apprentice said: “No. Why?” Then the carpenter answered: “Because it is useless. If it were useful it would have been cut down, sawn up and used for beds and tables and chairs. But because it is useless, it has been allowed to grow. That is why it is now so great that you can rest in its shadow”.

Ronnie, in his periods of depression, often felt that he was useless. But as he grew to accept himself for what he was - when he ceased to link his own value and worth to past achievements or to work he could or could not do in the present, as so many people tend to do - then, like the tree, he achieved a serene and gentle maturity as, in these latter years especially, he quietly prayed for the Church and his brother Jesuits. Another story sums up his life:

The Master was in an expansive mood so his disciples sought to learn from him the stages he had passed through in his quest for the divine. “God first led me by the hand”, he said, “into the Land of Sorrows; there I lived until my heart was purged of every inordinate attachment. Then I found myself in the Land of Love whose burning flames consumed whatever was left in me of self. This brought me to the Land of Silence where the mysteries of life and death were bared before my wondering eyes”. “Was that the final stage of your quest?” they asked. “No”, the Master said. “One day God said, ‘Today I shall take you to the innermost sanctuary of the temple, to the heart of God himself. And I was led to the Land of Laughter’.”

May Ronnie's joy now be complete, all the longings of his heart fulfilled as he joins the Lord he served for so long in that Land of Laughter.

Philip Fogarty

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

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