Born: 22 April 1881, Rathbrist, County Louth
Entered: 07 September 1898, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 26 July 1914, Milltown Park, Dublin
Professed: 02 February 1917
Died: 18 January 1945, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin
Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ
by 1903 at Kasteel Gemert, Netherlands (TOLO) studying
Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus, 2 March 1931-7 September 1941.
◆ Jesuits in Ireland :
JESUITICA: The flies of Ireland
Only one Irish Provincial has had a genus of flies called after him. In 1937 Fr Larry Kieran welcomed Fr Hermann Schmitz, a German Jesuit, to Ireland, and he stayed here for about four years, teaching in Tullabeg and doing prodigious research on Irish Phoridae, or flies. He increased the known list of Irish Phoridae by more than 100 species, and immortalised Fr Larry by calling a genus after him: Kierania grata. Frs Leo Morahan and Paddy O’Kelly were similarly honoured, Leo with a genus: Morahanian pellinta, and Paddy with a species, Okellyi. Hermann served Irish entomologists by scientifically rearranging and updating the specimens of Phoridae in our National Museum. He died in Germany exactly fifty years ago.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 9th Year No 3 1934
On 14th May the following notice was sent by Father Socius to all the Houses of the Irish Province. : “Rev. Father Provincial (Kieran) has been ordered a period of rest by his doctor, and in the meantime, with Father General's approval, Father Cyril Power has been appointed to act as Vice-Provincial.”
Irish Province News 16th Year No 4 1941
Fr. John R. MacMahon, Rector of Milltown Park since August. 1938. was appointed Provincial by Very Rev. Fr. General on 8th September. The best wishes and fervent prayers of the Province are tebdered to him on his elevation to his new post of responsibility.
The best thanks of the Province follow the outgoing Provincial Fr Kieran, whose fidelity to duty, understanding ways and kindly charity during the many wears in which he guided the destinies of our Province will long be remembered with gratitude and appreciation. A special feature of his humanity was the quite remarkable devotion and charity which he ever showed to our sick.
We wish him many years of fruitful work for God’s glory and much happiness in his new post as Director of the Retreat, House Rathfarnham Castle.
Fr. Patrick Joy was appointed Vice-Superior of the Hong Kong Mission on 29th July.
Irish Province News 20th Year No 2 1945
Fr. Laurence J. Kieran (1881-1898-1945)
Fr. Kieran, Instructor of Tertians and a former Provincial of our Irish Province, died in Dublin very suddenly on 18th January, 1945. Travelling in the forenoon of that day (which was the Tertians' villa day) in a Bus on the Stillorgan Road, he had a heart seizure and died almost immediately. A Franciscan, who providentially happened to be a fellow-passenger, gave him the final absolution, and shortly after wards he was anointed by the chaplain of St. John of God's, Stillorgan. He was dead on admission to St. Michael's Hospital, Dunleary.
Born at Rathbrist, Co. Louth, on 22nd April, 1881, he was educated at Clongowes Wood College and entered the Society at Tullabeg on 7th September, 1898. Having completed his novitiate and two years of rhetoric there, he made his philosophical studies at Gemert in Holland from 1902 to 1905, and then began his career as master and prefect in his alma mater, Clongowes. He studied theology at Milltown Park, where he was ordained priest on 26th July, 1914, by the Most Rev. Dr. Brownie, Bishop of Cloyne. On the completion of his tertianship, under Fr. Ignatius Garlan as Instructor, at Tullabeg, he succeeded the late Fr. James Daly as Prefect of Studies at Clongowes, a post he held till 1925. After spending a year at Rathfarnham Castle as Minister and Procurator, he was transferred to Mungret College where he was appointed Rector on 31st July, 1927. He was made Provincial in March, 1931, and governed the Province for over ten years. When Fr. Henry Keane returned to his Province to take up the post of Rector of Heythrop College, Fr. Kieran succeeded him as Instructor of Tertians at Rathfarnham Castle in the autumn of 1942; he had been Director of the Retreat House, Rathfarnham, after relinquishing the post of Provincial.
Fr. Kieran's unexpected death caused great grief throughout the Province of which he was such an exemplary, efficient, loyal and kindly member. The principal note of his spiritual life was his unfailing meticulous fidelity to his spiritual exercises from the days of the noviceship to the sudden close of his life.
He was an indefatigable WORKER, with a tremendous sense of duty; and it was the happy combination of these two characteristics which rendered him so efficient. No pains were too great when there was question of duty, whether that city was study, teaching or administration. Though not gifted with outstanding philosophical ability, he studied so methodically and consistently that he occupied a very high. place in a very good class in the French Philosophate at Gemert and was more than once chosen to defend theses or make objections in the usual public disputations, acquitting himself well. Studying in the same manner at Militown Park, he completed a very good course of Theology. Though not much of a reader, he would study and read with meticulous care all that his work demanded. And this was true of him as a teacher, as prefect of studies, as Provincial and as Instructor of Tertians. He was always perfectly prepared for any tasks assigned him by Superiors.
His LOYALTY to the Society and to his own Province in particular was admirable. In Gemert, in the olden days, he was always instilling into the minds of his companions of the Irish Province the need of giving a perfect example of observance and hard work to the members of other Provinces. He scouted the idea of any Irish scholastic asking for any dispensation from common life. He led the way by his own example, and his inspiration had not only a striking effect on his Irish companions but established also a tradition, which continued when he left.
Fr. Kieran was a very LOVABLE companion, whether as an ordinary member of a community, or as a Superior. He was unusually homely and natural and sincere, and these qualities shone with special lustre in him when in office and made it particularly easy for all his subjects to approach him without embarrassinent. He was full of common sense and understanding. He loved to laugh and to see others laugh, told a story excellently, and, in his younger days showed a great gift of acting.
As a SCHOLASTIC at Clongowes from 1905 till 1911, Mr. Kieran (as he then was) had charge of College theatricals in addition to strenuous work in Line or Class-room. Past students will still retain vivid recollections of the success he achieved as producer of plays like ‘Guy Mannering,’ The Ticket of Leave Man,' operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan To this sphere of 'side-shows,' as he used later call them, he devoted the same meticulous care in preparation and rehearsal which he brought to the more serious duties of his calling.
Returning to CLONGOWES as a young priest, he served a short apprenticeship under Fr. James Daly, the famous Prefect of studies, before he inherited his mantle, and with it that singleness of purpose and deyotion to duty which continued to be rewarded with great suc cesses in the public examinations. As confessor, too, of the boys he exerted the widest influence for good, and won that affectionate trist which prompted so many of them to turn to him for help and guidance in the trials and perplexities of life.
Fr. Kieran's transfer from Clongowes in 1925 came as a surprise to many, including himself. Providerice, however, through his Superiors was preparing him for the heavier responsibilities which lay ahead. At Rathfarnham and Mungret he was to acquire an experience in the details of administration and in the handling of new and delicate problems which was to be so useful to him some years later when called upon to govern the Province As RECTOR OF MUNGRET College Fr. Kieran took his responsibilities very seriously. While allowing subordinate officials every scope for initiative, he retained a personal and active direction of every department of school life. His talks to the boys at the beginning of the school year and of each new term, setting forth the lofty purpose of life and the opportunities they were being afforded of developing their God-given talents, made a deep and lasting impression on their young minds. He got to know each boy personally and used every occasion for individual guidance. He taught classes himself, especially in religious knowledge and in philosophy, fostered proficiency in Irish with wise solicitude and no mean success, as is attested by the remarkable results Mungret pupils at tained more than once during his term of office at the Thomond Feis in the matter of Irish conversation and dialogue. He never failed to put in an appearance at games on half-days, at concerts and other school entertainnients.
The same kindly interest he extended to the APOSTOLIC SCHOOL, with whose Superior he ever remained in the closest and most cordial touch. He gave monthly talks to the apostolics, which were greatly appreciated, as not a few have testified in later life. He erected a two storey building for them, to serve as study-hall, class-rooms, dormitory, kept in close touch with past alumni, promoted the founding of a magazine to link them more closely with their alma mater. In these and other ways he made apostolic students, past and present, feel that the Society, faithful to the best traditions of Mungret Apostolic School, was promoting its true interests to the utmost. The historic visit to Mungret on 21st July, 1928, of the Cardinal Prefect of Propaganda did but confirm these happy impressions : Cardinal Van Rossum, O.SS.R., was visiting Limerick for the jubilee celebrations of the men's Confraternity in the Redemptorist Church, and came out to Mungret at Fr. Kieran's invitation. Before returning, His Eminence left in writing a gracious message of appreciation of the work of the Apostolic School and his blessing, and consented to be photo graphed. These photos were later sent Very Rev. Fr. General at Frascati, where the Curia were in sun mer residence, and occasioned him the liveliest satisfaction and pleasure.
On a day in early February, 1931. Fr. Fahy journeyed from Limerick to tell Fr. Kieran that he had been chosen to succeed him as PROVINCIAL. This news was a heavy blow to the Rector who could not contain his tears of emotion and apprehension at the burden to be laid on his shoulders. His only comfort was the assurance Fr. Fahy gave him that he would govern the Province in the same constitutional way in which he had administered Mungret College.
In this new post which he was to hold for ten years (1931-1941), Fr. Kieran's exceptional talents for ADMINISTRATION were given their widest scope. These may be particularised as prudence and practical judgment joined to a lare dexterity and vigour in the conduct of affairs. From his high sense of duty, coupled with his love for the Society, flowed the determination which enabled him to master so completely the details of his exacting and responsible office. Indeed, at the beginning of his Provincialate he tended to overdo his reading of the Institute during free hours, and to neglect his health, which suffered for some years from overstrain. On three occasions (in August, 1931, in the beginning of the following year and in the summer of 1934), a Vice-Provincial had to be appointed in order to allow him a complete rest. Thereafter his health was quite robust and enabled him to put in a further period of over seven years of strenuous activity and achievement.
Many IMPORTANT EVENTS Occurred during his term of office : the separation (prepared by his predecessor) from the Irish Province of Australia which became an independent Vice-Province (5th April, 1931): the world economic depression so severely felt in the first years of his Provincialate during which he implemented Fr. General's recommendations for succouring the distressed poor, the International Eucharistic Congress at Dublin in June, 1932, during which he led the way in extending to many. Prelates and members of Foreign Provinces of the Society that remarkable hospitality which drew from Fr. General a special letter of appreciation the celebrations in connection with the Centenary of St. Francis Xavier's Church and with the Golden Jubilee of Mungret Apostolic School, both of which fell in the summer of 1932. The completion of the new building in Clongowes, the extension of the Theologians wing and erection of a fully-equipped library on the most modern lines at Milltown Park, the opening of the Language School at Loyola, Hongkong (September, 1937), the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese war (1937), the fourth Centenary of the foundation of the Society (1940-41), the outbreaks of the world war the previous year, which necessitated many adjustments, such as the recalling from Houses abroad of our scholastics, the reception into the Province of members of continental Provinces and Missions, the sending of military Chaplains to the Forces, the providing at very short notice of a Tertianship in the Province, (October, 1939), when Fr. Kieran's dynamic energy was never shown to better advantage. He presided at the three Provincial Congregations held in 1933, 1936 and 1938. the last of which was preparatory to the General Congregation held in Rome, at which he assisted.
The outstanding QUALITIES which Fr. Kieran admired so much in the late Fr. Ledóchowski he possessed himself in a marked degree : a supernatural outlook upon all the problems be had to handle, a burning zeal for the interests of the Church and our Society, a definite conviction that our way to God and to success in our apostolic ministry lay in the acquiring of the true spirit of St. Ignatius, in observance of our rules, fidelity to Ignatian asceticism and those spiritual arms God has confided to our Society : the Spiritual Exercises, devotion to the Sacred Heart through the Apostleship of Prayer, devotion to Our Lady through the Sodality, accuracy in sizing up a situation, and remarkable skill and prudence in advising as to the steps to be taken, a deep sympathy and understanding which enabled him to make allowance for human weakness and human shortcomings while at the same time standing firm where questions of principle and observance of the rules were involved, finally, accuracy and expedition in the transaction of business.
He WORKED TIRELESSLY for the promoting of vocations to our novice ship and for the spiritual advancement of our young men with whom he kept in close touch, made wise provision for the training of professors in our scholasticates, and showed ever a great readiness to oblige His Paternity by sending subjects, as occasion demanded, to the Curia or the Gregorian University. The Hong Kong Mission he promoted to the utmost, and was rewarded by repeated commendation, from Fr. General for the quality and number of the missioners he sent out, with no small sacrifice to the Province. Towards the needs of other Provinces he showed a practical sympathy and to their members who came to Ireland an overflowing charity, which called forth letters of appreciation from their Provincials.
Fr. Kieran was a great believer in the utility of CONFERENCES, held in order to discuss the various problems connected with our work and ministry. He presided at the four he convened in Dublin (in the years 1933, 1936, 1937 and 1941) to discuss the work of our missions and retreats, the development of the Sodality and Apostleship of Prayer and Catholic Action.
Fruit of such Meetings were the BOOKLET he issued in 1938 on the method of adapting the Exercises to various categories of exercitants, the Report on Catholic Action in the Province (1936), the printed Instructions he gave from time to time containing detailed recommendations to missioners, sodality directors, promoters of Catholic Action.
The COLLEGES, of whose working and study programmes he had such accurate knowledge, came in for a large share of his solicitude. Arising out of the Commission appointed by his predecessor to examine the status of our Colleges, he issued in December, 1934, an important document, entitled 'A Memorandum on Aims and Methods in the Colleges,' In November of the same year he appointed an Inspector of the Colleges; and, to implement later one of the Decrees of the General Congregation (1938), set up a Concilium Permanens to advise Superiors on the problems connected with programmes and co-ordina tion among our Colleges of studies of the pre-examination classes, supervised the proper training of the scholastics during the years of their magisterium and furthered measures to improve a working know ledge of Irish for masters. In September, 1938, he appointed a Committee to advise on the introduction of scholastic philosophy in our schools. Two Conferences he convened in 1935 and 1937) to discuss school problems, and be prepared the material for that useful booklet issued later. 'Hints on the Colleges' for masters and prefects,
In connection with the carrying out of DECREES OF THE GENERAL CONGREGATION already referred to, Fr. Kieran convened in December, 1938, a Meeting of Rectors, and also appointed & Committee to draw up a draft Ordinatio studiorum inferiorum for the Juniorate studies. He had previously sent to Rome a draft Custom Book of the Province for consideration by Fr. General, as well as one for the Novitiate at St. Mary's.
With his practical and thorough-going knowledge of the details of FINANCE, and his desire for greater uniformity in matters touching temporal administration, Fr. Kieran warmly welcomed Fr. Ledóchowski's Instructio de administratione Temporali, issued in 1935. In forwarding Superiors copies of this document he wrote a very able letter to them, drawing attention to its main provisions. Not content with this, he later made a detailed synopsis of the Instructio, in three parts, for the use of Superiors, Ministers, and Procurators respectively, and issued in 1937 a useful Memorandum on the Duties of Minister and Procurator.
In fine, there was no province of our life and ministry which did not benefit by Fr. Kierani's wise and able administration.
Though Fr. Kieran could, and often did, write a forthright and vigorously worded letter, especially to Superiors, his pen was NEVER HARSH or intemperate. And if his correspondence ever hurt, and it did sometimes, the effect was speedily neutralised and forgotten by a personal approach and interview. Then it was that his affectionate heart and understanding humanity were shown to such advantage. This warnı humanity made many conquests during his life in the Society, among the boys with whom he had to deal at Clongowes and Mungret, so many of whom kept in touch with him in later life, among the staff' or farm hands, in the houses in which he lived (who for him were never 'hands,' servants,' but, very personally, 'Joe,' or 'Bill,' or 'Bridgie'), among the exercitants at Rathfarnham Castle during the all too brief period he was Director of the Retreat-House there, among his own brethren most of all, especially the scholastics and, in the closing years of his life, the Tertian Fathers with whom he lived on such fondly intimate and brotherly relationship, in that simple naturalness and humility which was his special characteristic.
In an early issue of the Clongownian' we are given a glimpse of L. Kieran, the SCHOOL-BOY chosen for a principal part in the 'Mikado'; This is how a visitor to the College on the night of the entertainment wrote of him :
“L. Kieran as Pooh-Bah could scarcely have been surpassed by any amateur. Without much voice, he went through his songs with skill and taste. But it is his acting which will have won for him a bright place in the memory of all who saw him. Simple naturalness, un marred by any excess of stage gestures or declamation, was his char acteristic. There was no straining after effect. He came on and went off, he spoke and was silent, as if he was only moved by his own in dividual will in şuch matters, and had never seen such a thing as a stage edition of the play”.
On the wider stage of life Fr. Kieran played his part with the same simple naturalness, the same self-restraint and self-effacement. And when the curtain fell with such tragic suddeness at the close, he passed away, leaving a host of friends, sorrow-stricken, it is true, but inspired by his example to play their parts, shoulder their responsibilities, as he had done with a like simplicity and naturalness, with the same detachment from self, the same consideration for others and the same heroic devotion to duty.
May he rest in peace.