Born: 06 August 1869, Camberwell, Melbourne, Australia
Entered: 24 March 1889, Xavier College, Kew Melbourne, Australia
Final vows: 15 August 1905
Died: 10 June 1918, Mater Misericordiae Hospital, Sydney Australia
Part of the St Aloysius College, Milson’s Point, Sydney, Australia community at the time of death
2nd year Novitate at Loyola Greenwich, Australia
by 1899 at St Aloysius, Jersey Channel Islands (FRA) studying
by 1902 at St Mary’s Canterbury, England (LUGD) studying
by 1904 at St David’s, Mold, Wales (FRA) making Tertianship
by 1910 in Australia
◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
Australian born, James joined the Irish Mission in South Australia.
After his Noviceship he was sent to Riverview and Kew for Regency, and then to Philosophy at Jersey. he then travelled to Ireland for Theology at Milltown, and did his Tertianship at Mold, Wales (a FRA Tertianship)
When he returned to Australia he taught at Sydney for a while and was also an Operarius at Brisbane in 1917.
◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
James Hassett was educated at Xavier College, Kew, and considered a bright, cheerful and thoughtful young man who was a good athlete. He entered the Society at Xavier College, 24 March 1889. After juniorate studies, he taught at Riverview, 1892-95, and at Xavier College, 1895-98, before studying philosophy in Jersey It was here that he contracted a throat and lung condition that never left him. He worked among the poorer English speaking people while studying there. Theology studies followed at Milltown and Canterbury, Lyons province, 1900-03, and tertianship was in Mold, the following year.
He returned to St Ignatius' College, Riverview, 1904-16, teaching and being prefect of studies, 1905-08. He spent a few years in the parish of Toowong, Brisbane, 1916-17, and then moved to St Aloysius' College in ill health from consumption.
His students at Riverview admired and loved him, his teaching being clear and interesting. They gathered around him for conversation as he cultivated the garden in the quadrangle. Out of class he was particularly helpful to underachievers.
As prefect, he trusted the boys, and they respected him even more for that. His innate tenderness and consideration for every boy never waned. Sometimes he would have charge of the study hall and occasionally he would have to send a boy for punishment for some infringement of the rules. However, he usually relented, and sent another boy to bring back the delinquent before his punishment began.
He was forever recruiting boys for the Sodality of Our Lady, and encouraged any boy who might show signs of a vocation to the priesthood. His community considered him a most selfless person, always interested in other people and their lives and always willing to serve.
◆ The Xaverian, Xavier College, Melbourne, Australia, 1918
Father James Hassett SJ
If the Judgment turn upon kindness to others - and we have the word of Christ Himself that it does - then the judgment passed on Father James Hassett must, indeed, have been an enviable one.
Born at Camberwell on August 6th, 1869, he came to Xavier at the age of fourteen. Then, as ever afterwards, he was of a bright, cheery nature, ever ready to do a good turn for another fellow - one of those that you come to without fear of repulse for “help with an ekker”,' since Jim had a good storehouse of knowledge, and he always left the door wide open. In athletics, where he could have shone conspicuously especially on the track - his forgetfulness of himself - was the same. One example of this dwells still in the minds of Old Boys who were at Xavier with him. Interest in the annual Sports had been raised to a high pitch by the institution of a combined (St Patrick's and Xavier) sports meeting in the year 1886 - a fact due, not only to the keen competition between the two Schools, but mainly to the great struggle in that year between Lou Nolan and Pat Conley. After a grand race, the honour went to St Patrick's, Nolan winning on the tape. Xavier went home to train, and next year Jim Hassett was her hope. The sports were held on the East Melbourne Ground, Jim was helping some fellow to find a pair of lost shoes, and so missed the train he ought to have caught. Undişmayed, he caught the next, talking all the way, and that at the rate of a mile a minute about the hard luck behind them and the good ahead. It was agreed to wait. Jim ran from Prince's Bridge, cooled the heated committees with sorrow that rang with sincerity, togged, and won the maiden. . Then he sat down and talked and talked till the championship event. It was a great race, but there was no denying Jim. His natural, easy stride quickened like lightning at the finish, and, amid the cheers of both Schools, he bore the laurels “home to Xavier”. Had he wished to take up training seriously, he could have been a champion on the track, but here, as all through his life, he was singularly devoid of personal ambition. He had won for the School, and that was enough for Jim Hassett.
He entered the Noviceship of the Society of Jesus in 1890, in his twentieth year. There he spent two years, which were followed by some years teaching in Sydney. At the conclusion of these, he returned, as a Master to Xavier in 1895. During his four years stay at the School, he taught and prefected. As a Master in class he was clear and always interesting, and out of class he was the help and hope of the dullards. Patiently, day by day, would he work with them (crede experto), until he had at last got something through their thick heads. Even where that was impossible, still would he work on to attain the higher goal he always aimed at, and never failed to reach - their hearts. As a prefect, he was ever and always what the boys call “a decent man”. He loved boys and trusted them, and if perhaps some occasionally abused the trust, it was followed by a genuine sorrow that righted things some how. The “Hassett trust” has, we feel certain, paid a big dividend even now, and will pay a bigger one hereafter. For many an Old Boy of Xavier, Father Jim Hassett, “though dead, still liveth”, and many a sincere prayer will be said for him by men whom he trusted as boys. Mr. Hassett left Xavier to continue his studies for the priesthood in 1898, and the “Chronicle” of that year, speaking of his leaving, says - “His departure for the old world caused quite a furore in our quiet community, where he had won the affection and respect of all he came in contact with”. No wonder, being the man he was.
His philosophical studies were made at Jersey, where he had but indifferent health, contracting throat and lung trouble that never quite left him. Not withstanding this, he did good work on the island, looking after the poorer English-speaking people, and when the time came for him to remove to Ireland, the gratitude of the poor followed him . From Jersey he passed to Dublin to do his theological course. However, his stay there was not to be for long. The French Jesuits, expelled from their own country, came to reside at Canterbury, in England, and, in their language difficulties, they asked for an English speaking student to help them. The appeal found a quick response in the unselfish heart of him who had “learned the luxury of doing good’. Straightway, Father Hassett offered himself. The offer was accepted, and the labour of love was carried on cheerfully and well till the time of his ordination. Ordained, he returned to Australia in 1904, and, with the exception of a few months spent in the Hawthorn parish, the remainder of his life was passed at Riverview College, Sydney. Here, like the Master whom he loved and served, he went about doing good to all, not in a solemn way, but as one who believed that the healthiest thing for Heaven, as well as for earth, was lots of sunshine. In his letters, in his retreats, in his dealings with the boys, in his meetings with the Old Boys who came to visit him (and they were legion), he was ever the same constant, unselfish and day-in-day-out heroic friend. So he worked on for the Master and His cause “all the day long, till the shadows lengthened and the evening came, and the busy world was hushed and the fever of life was over and his work was done. Then, in His mercy, may that loving Master give him safe lodging and a holy rest and peace at the last”. He has gone to his reward, and may it be - as we feel certain it is exceeding great.
◆ Our Alma Mater, St Ignatius Riverview, Sydney, Australia, 1918
Father James Hassett
After a long drawn out illness, during which he suffered much, Father Hassett went to receive the reward of his labours and sufferings. He passed away on Monday evening, May 27th, at the Mater Misericordiae Hospital, North Sydney: He looked death fully in the face, and went to meet it full of hope.
The following account of Father Hassett is taken from "The Catholic Press" of May 30th:
“He was some ten months in the hospital, and received devoted attention from the good Sisters of Mercy and their nursing staff. He was born in Camberwell, Victoria, on August 6, 1869, and was thus in his 49th year when taken from his work. With his brothers, who direct Hassett's business college in the southern state, he was educated at Xavier College, and in his 20th year James Hassett entered the Society of Jesus. He was one of the first novices with whom the late Father Sturzo opened Loyola House, Greenwich, in 1890.
After the usual years of study preparatory to teaching, Father Hassett, then Mr. Hassett, taught at Riverview and Xavier Colleges for some years, and went to Europe in 1898. He studied for the priesthood in houses of the French Fathers of the Order in Jersey (one of the Channel islands), Canterbury (England), and after ordination was with then again in Mold, Wales. From his long years among them he acquired a fluency and skill in French that enabled him to teach it later with success. He was ordained at Dublin in 1903, and returned to Australia in 1904.
With the exception of a few months towards the end of his life spent in Hawthorn parish, Melbourne, and in St. Aloysius' College, Milson's Point, Father Hassett was at Riverview College. Every old boy visiting the College knew Father Haşsett, and he knew then and all about them, and such was the good priest's charm of manner and conversation that everyone he met felt he was a very special friend of his. This gave Father Hassett an influence for good over young fellows especially, which has borne fruit in many lives.
The well-kept gardens and lawns of Riverview, that are the wonder of visitors, owe most of their beauty to Father Hassett's unwearying attention. He had charge of the gardens, and with his own hands he dug trenches for tender plants or rooted out the weeds and pruned the roses. He was never so happy as when he met a floral enthusiast. In his priestly ministrations he was tremendously zealous. Indeed, he undermined his constitution through zeal for souls. He never knew when to say “no” to requests for sermons or retreats, for which he was in much demand. Even in latter years he has crowded three retreats into three weeks of vacation, and has come back tired but happy to continue the hard work of teaching. He was spiritual father to the boys, and director of sodalities, and he was a live director-directing in season and out of season; but he had a special gift for the work. Right to the end he was an ardent St. Vincent de Paul worker, He made a point of never mişsing a quarterly meeting, if he could get to the meeting centre at all.
Few could win boys' confidence and retain it like Father Hassett. To the many old Riverviewers at the front he would drop an occasional line or two to show he did not forget; and to the sorrowing parents, when a boy died on the battlefield, a letter was sure to come from Father Hassett. He was a man of untiring energy and self-sacrifice; an enthusiastic worker in everything he put his hand to, and his warm heart made him hosts of friends, who will sorrow over his early call from his labours. His death leaves a gap not easily filled in the ranks of the Order and in the life of Riverview College.
Father James Hassett SJ
I knew him very well indeed. To live with him even for a few months was to know him as others would be known only after many years. But I lived with him for ten years at least, and hence, as I have said, I knew him very well indeed. This thought makes me realise what I consider to be the wonderful sincerity that shone out from his soul, lighting up for his friends the infinite variety of his ever-active and eager sympathetic thoughts about them and all their interests. Never was there one who had less thought for self, except where duty called him to fit himself in arduous ways for devoted and zealous work.
The next thing, though equal, if possible, to this wonderful sincerity was his zeal for others and desire to help them. In a nature so frank, disinterested and energetic, this good will for all sorts and conditions of me was always forceful and always in evidence, especially of course for the young, to whom most of his life was devoted; it was a most charming and attractive feature in a charming and attractive personality..
Among his French friends in the great Jesuit Theological Colleges of Jersey and Canterbury, he was known as “le bon père Hassett”, and this was praise indeed, for you cannot find in all the world better judges with a keener appreciation of goodness of heart.
But I know I need not go so far afield to find witnesses and admirers of this “bon père”, so good to others, without stint or any thought of sparing self, or any sign of personal whim or partiality.
Of his many gifts of mind and character, Fitting him to be a master of any class, from the highest to the lowest, in our Colleges and he loved to have the smallest boys about him as much as the biggest, Elementarians as much as Matriculation Seniors - I need hardly speak in these lines intended for your readers. Many of them have heard his praises from at least half-a-dozen generations of Riverview old boys, and many have no need to learn from others of the pains he took with all alike to prepare them for examinations, in which his teaching was so singularly successful. They will, perchance, forget many incidents of school life, but never, I think, his zeal for their good, both in the hours of school and in the hours of play; and especially, perhaps, how in the midst of his work, in what I might call the hibiscus quadrangle, he would be surrounded by boys listening to the flow of wise banter and serious gaiety which came from that tall stooping figure, working away with his spade as furiously as Adam himself trying to evoke the beauty of Paradise once more, but from a more stubborn earth. I love to think of him thus, digging, planting, rooting out weeds, checking unruly growths, pruning, training the creepers, watering the fair young grass - all so typical of his work for the boys (for he was their spiritual adviser as well as master in class) - energetic, hopeful, optimistic, enlightened, intelligent, loving, devoted, with never a thought of self, the honest hard-worked gardener, intent only on the right cultivation of the plants entrusted to his care, in order to make sure of that at least, and, like a wise gardener, leaving all the rest to God.
R J LITTLE SJ