Taylor, Donal, 1923-2006, Jesuit priest

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Taylor, Donal, 1923-2006, Jesuit priest

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  • 達樂義神父
  • Taylor, Donald

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06 November 1923-10 October 2006


Born: 06 November 1923, Portumna, County Galway
Entered: 06 September 1941, Emo
Ordained: 28 July 1955, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 09 January 1982
Died: 10 October 2006, Wahroonga, NSW, Australia - Sinensis Province (CHN)

Part of the Canisius College, Pymble, Sydney Australia community at the time of death.

Transcribed HIB to HK : 03 December 1966; HK to CHN : 1992

by 1950 at Hong Kong - Regency

◆ Biographical Notes of the Jesuits in Hong Kong 1926-2000, by Frederick Hok-ming Cheung PhD, Wonder Press Company 2013 ISBN 978 9881223814 :
He was a Jesuit for 65 years, joining the Society in Ireland and coming first to Hong Kong in 1957.

His life in Hong Kong was divided into two phases, firstly working at the retreat House in Cheung Chau for seven years, and then as an English teacher for 25 years at Wah Yan College Kowloon. he published many textbooks on English teaching, composition, writing and colloquial English. He showed great interest in drama and stage production for stage plays, and he was very influential in the Hong Kong Speech Festivals. During his teaching years at Wah Yan College Kowloon, he was active every Sunday in parishes as well as leading Catholic students at Wah Yan to develop in Catholic leadership.

He decided to work in Australia as a pastoral priest when he left Wah Yan Kowloon in 1983 as he reached the retiring age of 60. he continued his missionary work in Australia, being actively involved in the parish at Lavender Bay in Sydney and also at Neutral Bay. he also had outreach work with prostitutes' and drug addicts.

His personal life was simple and ordinary. It was said with a smile, that he was very Irish (with a Galway accent), loyal to his country and its customs, always asserting that he was “not British”! He admired the balance and beauty of Chinese culture and its skills in resolving conflicts, and he made every effort to adapt to Chinese ways.

He wrote a Sonnet about himself :
When I am dead think only this of me,
He was a man, take him for all in all,
Awkward and shy, timid in company
Who never thought of himself as ten feet tall.
Dry wit and puckish slant on life he saved
For those foibles lingered o’er his trail
Oft saw the funny side of fold and misbehaved
In what he said, sometimes beyond the pale.
Of years a scorned and chalk-facing in Hong Kong
The classroom’s daily grind long his chore.
Retired in Austral shores, time seemed for long,
had no regrets, his home for evermore.
At the end of the day let this be said
Tough his sins were as scarlet, what he wrote was red.

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
Donal Taylor, one of five children, desired to become a priest from an early age, and after an earlier education at the Cistercian College, Roscrea, he entered the Society of Jesus at Emo Park, Ireland, 6 September 1941. He graduated in 1946 with a BA from University College, Dublin. Three years of philosophy studies followed at St Stanislaus' College, Tullabeg. He was assigned to the Hong Kong Mission for regency, 1949-52, during which he learned Chinese for two years and taught in Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, for a year. In 1950 the communists detained him and two other Jesuit scholastics for two weeks after they accidentally entered Chinese territory from Macau, and were suspected of being spies as they had a camera. He returned to Ireland for theology 1952-56, and tertianship at Rathfarnham before returning to Hong Kong.
He started his teaching career at Wah Yan College, Hong Kong, 1957-58, but believing that he needed to improve his Chinese he went back to Xavier House, Cheung Chou, where he not only studied Chinese, but was also given charge of the Retreat House as director and minister. During this time he established a successful parish network of retreat promoters.
Taylor's next assignment for nearly twenty years was teaching in Wah Yan College, Kowloon, from 1963, where he was also spiritual father to the junior boys. During this time he had two short breaks, 1967-68, studying “Teaching of English as a Second Language”, and, 1980-81, studying pastoral ministry.
He was a good teacher, serious in class, demanding attention and a high commitment from himself and his students. This often led to frustration and impatience. As spiritual father he
arranged an exhibition on Jesuits and their vocation for the Diocesan Vocation Exhibition organised by the Serra Club. He obtained material from all over the world, with the result that the Jesuit exhibition was the largest and most attractive.
Taylor loved teaching and his students won prizes each year for recitation, poetry reading and drama in the Hong Kong Schools Speech Festival. He produced “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, and directed “Pygmalion”, which was well acclaimed. To help his students he produced a series of books called “Living English” for the middle school years. He read widely, loved music and was an interesting companion in conversation. He was good at the Chinese language that made him welcome in Chinese company and especially with past students whom he had taught.
He suffered one setback in 1978 when he found it difficult to keep his balance when walking. He underwent an operation in America for inner ear balance malfunction, but afterward had to learn to walk again. As a result of this, and because he had grown tried of teaching, his heart not being in it, he thought it best to change his career, and went to England for a course in pastoral ministry before applying to the Australian province to work in a parish. He was aged 60. During his time in Hong Kong he was experienced as a faithful and committed Jesuit who served others with great generosity and responsibility.
He arrived in Australia and the Lavender Bay parish in November 1983, and found the contrast with his former life startling. No bells or order of time, his time was largely his own. He soon found that he received better feedback in the parish than in the school, and he enjoyed celebrating the sacraments other than the Mass. He had only celebrated two weddings during his time in Hong Kong, and now he had many more, learning that instruction of adults was different from children. People enjoyed his liturgies, and he prepared his Sunday homily with great care believing that it insulted people to preach without preparation. He tried to make his Mass as devotional and sacred as possible. He drew inner strength and fulfilment from his engagement with the people he met, admiring their faith, unselfishness, holiness and forbearance. A special ministry he undertook was to write to priests in prison convicted of sexual abuse. He believed that they needed to be befriended.
Taylor moved to the parish of St Canice's, Elizabeth Bay, 1990-96, as superior, and then St Joseph's, Neutral Bay, 1997-2001, and finally St Mary's, North Sydney, 2002-06.

◆ Interfuse

Interfuse No 133 : Special Issue September 2007


Fr Donal Taylor (1923-2006) : China Province

26th November 1923: Born at Portumna, Co. Galway.
6th September 1941: Entered the Society at Emo Park.
8th September 1943: First Vows at Emo
1943 - 1946: Rathfarnham - Studies Arts at UCD.
1946 - 1949: Tullabeg - studied philosophy.
1949 - 1951: Chinese Language Studies in Hong Kong.
1951 - 1952: Regency, teaching in Wah Yan, Hong Kong.
1952 - 1956: Milltown Park – studied theology
28th July, 1955: Ordained at Milltown Park
1956 - 1957: Tertianship at Rathfarnham
1957 - 1958: Wah Yan College, Hong Kong - teaching.
1958 - 1962: Cheung Chau, H.K., Language Studies, Retreats.
1962 - 1978: Wah Yan College, Hong Kong - teaching
1979 - 1980: Teaching at Wah Yan College, Kowloon.
1980 - 1981: Studies in London, England
1981 - 1983: Teaching in Wah Yan College, Kowloon
1984 - 2006: Australia - Parish ministry
1984 - 1989: St. Francis Xavier's, Lavender Bay, Sydney.
1990 - 1996: St. Canice's, Elizabeth Bay, Sydney.
1997 - 2001: St. Joseph's Neutral Bay, Sydney
2002 - 2006: St. Mary's, North Sydney
September 2006: Canisius College, Pymble, Sydney
October 10th, 2006: Died at Wahroonga, New South Wales

Homily preached October 16", 2006 by Richard Leonard, S.J. at Requiem Mass, St Mary's Church, North Sydney.

For those of us who knew and loved Fr Donal Taylor, it comes as no surprise to discover that he planned his funeral. Donal liked good order, especially good liturgical order, and he was very clear about what he DIDN'T want.

Donal always thought the post-mortem double-guessing about readings, hymns and ministers was to be avoided. Preparing this liturgy was one of the ways he wrestled with his own mortality, and one of the ways he wanted to care for us. Some months ago he asked me to preach. My riding instructions were clear: “Eulogize me, don't canonize me”.

The readings he chose revolve around two themes: love and empathy. In the First Letter of John we are reminded that our love of each other is a response to God's initiative in loving us first. The Gospel, like our processional hymn, applies this idea still more clearly. Jesus tells us that the only law worth worrying about is the law of love, from which should flow at home-ness, joy, friendship and a passion for inission - to go out and bear the fruit of what we have been privileged to receive from Christ. And I know that Donal liked the Letter to the Hebrews not just because it focuses on Christ as priest, but because of the nature of the priesthood described therein: empathetic, tested, hospitable and sacrificial. And in the midst of hearing these words, Donal asks us, who grieve his passing, to sing WITH him, “Let us go rejoicing to the house of the Lord”.

Donal's life fell into three uneven chapters, each of them bestowing on him a rich legacy. For most of the first thirty years he was in Ireland. Donal's fierce loyalty for those he loved, his wicked and self-deprecating humour, the tendency to see the world as black or white, his deep love of literature and music, and his culinary palate for meat and potatoes, never left him.

Apart from the gentle lilt of his Galway accent, Donal's Irishness came into its own during the Australian republican debate. He was all for it. When I suggested that he should become an Australian citizen so he could vote in the referendum, he told me that he would first have to swear allegiance to the Queen. By whatever title the House of Windsor went in this country, the monarchy was British, and he was Irish, and that was that until an Australian was elected President.

For over twenty years Donal lived and worked in Hong Kong. It was a demanding mission, and apart from the obvious ways in which he was a foreigner, he never settled as easily nor as well as he had hoped. Still, he loved his students, and appreciated the way some of them stayed in contact with him over the years. He admired the balance and beauty of the best of Chinese culture, and also thought that the saving of face was a generous way to resolve conflict. When I visited him last week in hospital, it was no surprise to see that he been listening to a book in Mandarin.

Then, in 1984, he came to Australia. Moving out of teaching into pastoral ministry, for the next 18 years Donal was on “bay watch”, ministering at Lavender Bay, Elizabeth Bay and Neutral Bay, until coming here to North Sydney in 2002.

I first met Donal when, as a novice, I was sent to Lavender Bay. He seemed crotchety to me, and I was far too confident. So it was with mutual trepidation that we came together again at the end of 1992 at St Canice's.

I was a lot little less sure of myself at Kings Cross, and I noticed that Donal had changed too. With Elizabeth Clarke as the pastoral associate and in community with Frank Brennan and Peter Hosking for all of his time there, Donal was more vulnerable. He could be a difficult man to get to know, but, boy, was it worth it!

I was the luckiest pastoral assistant in Sydney because Donal never said “No” to any of my ideas. He would simply say, “I'd be slow on that one”. One Friday before Trinity Sunday I told Donal that I was going to preach that while Father, Son and Holy Spirit were privileged names for God, they did not exhaust the possibilities, and that God could helpfully be styled as our mother. Doubling-over in the chair he said, “I'd be slow on that one”.

At the Vigil Mass, Con, the most famous homeless person in Kings Cross, was in the front pew. During my advocacy for the maternity of God, Con jumped up and expressed what was probably a majority position in the church, “God's not our mother, Mary's our mother, God's our father”. Turning to Donal, he said, “Father Donal, this young bloke hasn't got a clue”. And marched out of the church. I looked at Donal, and then the congregation and said, “In the Name of the Father...” and sat down. And as I did Donal turned to his unteachable deacon and laughed, “I told you to be slow on that one”. Later, over dinner, he told me to give the same homily at the other Masses, “Because, while it's not my cup of tea, there are people who need to hear that Father is not the only name for God”. What a pastor! What a friend!

As we come to commend our dear brother into the arms of God, we will miss so many things: the limericks and the prose that marked our special days. He thus introduced the last verse he wrote:

“An attempt at a sonnet about myself that ends on a wobbly note”

When I am dead, think only this of me,
He was a man, take him for all in all,
Awkward and shy, timid in company,
Who never thought of self as ten feet tall.
Dry wit and puckish slant on life he saved
For those whose foibles lingered o'er his trail.
Oft saw the funny side of folk and misbehaved
In what he said, sometimes beyond the pale.
Of years a score and more chalk-facing in Hong Kong,
The classroom's daily grind for long his chore.
Retired to Austral shores, time seemed not long,
Had no regrets, his home for evermore.
At the end of the day let this be said
Though his sins were as scarlet, what he wrote was read.

We will also miss the elegant turn of phrase and sharp wit in the Province's Fortnightly Report; and the unfussy friendship, but constant encouragement and care, he lavished upon us. Like the Lord he so faithfully served, Donal was loving and empathetic.

Last Tuesday, on the vigil of the feast of St Canice, he heard the Lord speak into his ear, “Do not be afraid I am with you. I have called you by your name, you are mine. I have called you by your name. You are mine”. And with that Donal went rejoicing to the house of Lord. “Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace. Amen."

Donal's niece, Mairead, visited him at Easter, 2006. She and her husband, Fintan, came to pay their final respects to him on behalf of his Irish family. Richard extracted a promise from her that she would write something about her uncle. The following, read at the funeral, is taken from her tribute:

Donal was a gentle mannered child and from a young age always wanted to be a priest. well, maybe not always, he thought that he should be a bishop first and was known in the family and by his circle of friends as “the Bishop”, The Taylor's were renowned for the funerals of the family pets, of which there were a number. Donal would not attend these services unless he could be “The Bishop”. These occasions were always a great source of amusement for the neighbours - The Sisters of Mercy! Being a diplomatic individual, Donal would often try to break up a disagreement between his brothers but would invariably come out worse. This was the version that Donal himself would tell but his brother Brendan may tell a different story!! During the month of May Donal would have an altar with candles and it would be his pride and joy, until his older brother John would always blow out the candles and then the prayers were very quickly forgotten,

After 27 years of living and teaching in Hong Kong, Donal decided to retire from teaching and moved to Australia. When asked why he didn't move back to Ireland he simply stated that it was too cold. When his niece was getting married in March of 1996 Donal came home to officiate at the ceremony, but only after he gave his opinion that she should get married in August as it would be warmer!!!

Donal made regular trips to Ireland and England to see his family. He was chief celebrant at his brother John's funeral in 1996 and came home to christen his grandniece Alison in 2001. His most recent trip was in 2005 to celebrate the golden anniversary of his ordination which he celebrated in Milltown with a number of other priests that he had studied with.

Donal was a quiet gentle-spoken man with a good sense of humour and a very loyal friend and relative. He spoke openly about various matters of the church. When he was asked once about the subject of the marital debate for priests his opinion was that it really was not for him as he was very happy to reside at the parochial house but a number of women would not share the same kitchen!!!

Donal was a priest for 51 years, an extremely happy union. He had a very strong faith, which he had grown up with, and, although he never made Bishop, he had a much fulfilled life. He was as happy saying Mass in a crowded church as he was saying it in the dining room of his family home. He was a kind and gentle individual who remembered Birthdays and Christmas and when he came home to Ireland he was great at travelling around and seeing everyone. Donal was a gentle man. It was wonderful to see him at Easter, to see his churches, his home and the chalice that his parents gave him on his ordination. It is truly a beautiful piece with a little bit of Ireland engraved into it. He brought it with him wherever he was based and he told me that it would remain in this church.

He really loved this parish. And let me tell you, why wouldn't he, everyone was so kind to him. But the icing on the cake was that his brother Brendan lived close, although I'm not sure who was looking out for whom. When you remember Donal, remember him with a smile and his gentle voice. For us in Ireland, we will remember him as a brother, brother-in-law, uncle and grand-uncle. Donal is survived by his brother, Brendan, sisters Mary and Eleanor, sister-in-law Eilish, brother-in-law John, niece Mairead, nephew-in law Fintan, grand-niece Alison, and grand-nephews John and Karl.


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

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


Taylor, Donal, 1923-2006, 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


Taylor, Donal, 1923-2006, Jesuit priest

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

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Hong Kong Vice-Province, 1966-


Taylor, Donal, 1923-2006, Jesuit priest

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