A Man of Courage and Honour

Tributes paid to Fr Joseph Mallin SJ at his memorial mass in Dublin by his family, friends and Jesuit companions.

A memorial mass was held in Dublin for Irish Jesuit missionary Fr Joseph Mallin SJ on Saturday, 21st April, a week after his funeral in Hong Kong, where he had lived and worked for the last 70 years.

The service was a celebration of his remarkable life, which had both historical and spiritual significance and offered his family, friends and fellow Jesuits the opportunity to mark his passing in his home town.

The congregation in St Francis Xavier Church also included the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Mícheál Mac Donncha, the Taoiseach’s aide-de-camp Commandant Caroline Burke, Councillor Cormac Devlin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD and Senator Mark Daly, who were in attendance due to Fr Mallin’s stature as the last surviving child of an executed 1916 leader and as a Freeman of Dublin.

A book of condolence was signed by mourners as they entered the church. The book sat on a table against a backdrop of photographs of Fr Joseph’s parents. The portrait of his father Michael Mallin, in which he looks strikingly handsome, sits beside a photo of his mother Agnes who is captured sitting with her five small children Séamas, Seosamh, Séan, Maura, and Úna at Maura’s baptism in 1916 – the year her husband was executed.

Fr Joseph’s cousin, Fr Ray Warren OMI was the main celebrant at the mass and delivered a heartfelt homily in which he said that his cousin was a man who was ‘blessed indeed with understanding, wisdom, and knowledge’ and praised his ‘encyclopaedic memory’. The mass was celebrated with several other Society of Jesus members, among them Fr Fergus O’Keefe, Fr Ashley Evans and Fr Todd Morrissey.

The mass was a bilingual celebration in honour of Fr Joseph’s lifelong love of the Irish language and of course his heritage. It was also an event in which both his biological and Jesuit family came together. Fr Gerry Clarke SJ, the Gardiner Street parish priest welcomed the congregation and was joined on the altar by many other Jesuits including Ashley Evans SJ, James Hurley SJ and the Provincial, Leonard Moloney SJ. Fr John Guiney SJ, Director of the Irish Jesuit Missions Office accompanied President Michael D. Higgins throughout the ceremony.

Fr Joseph’s niece, Una Ni Challanáin did the first reading and his cousin, Fr Ray Warren OMI who was the main celebrant at the mass read the Gospel, ‘The Beatitudes’. He subsequently gave a heartfelt homily in which he said that his cousin was a man who was ‘blessed indeed with understanding, wisdom, and knowledge’ and praised his ‘encyclopaedic memory’. Other members of the Mallin-Hickey family read prayers of the faithful and sang at the event.

An offertory procession that presented symbols of Fr Joseph’s life were presented at the altar during mass. The items chosen were a flag, a flute, and his rosary beads and also his pen and glasses. Fr Joseph didn’t return home very often from the time his mission in Hong Kong began but he was a prolific letter-writer and corresponded with many people in Ireland and around the world. A letter to his nephew arrived in Ireland five days after his death and added a poignant touch to the collection.

Seán Tapley is a nephew of Fr Mallin’s who corresponded with him right up until his death and worked closely with him on the document that revealed new evidence about his father Michael Mallin’s court martial and execution. He gave a moving eulogy which tribute to Fr Mallin’s legacy of education and pastoral work in Hong Kong, and his love of his adopted home. He also noted that despite the many letters that Fr Mallin wrote, he was essentially ‘a thoughtful man with a droll sense of humour’ who was economical with words.

The Jesuit tribute to the deceased missionary was delivered by Fr Leonard Moloney SJ, the current Provincial of the Society of Jesus. In it he emphasised Fr Mallin’s dedication to his mission in Hong Kong, and his reputation for never speaking ill of anybody over his long life.

After the ceremony, the congregation stayed for refreshments and conversation in Gardiner Street Jesuit community, to celebrate the life and achievements of this remarkable man.