File 382 - Material relating to Fr Joseph Howatson SJ

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Material relating to Fr Joseph Howatson SJ


  • 15 September 1926 - 26 August 1972 (Creation)

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18 items

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(18 March 1910-23 August 1972)

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Born: 18 March 1910, Waterville, County Kerry
Entered: 17 September 1927, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1941, Milltown Park
Professed: 02 February 1944
Died: 23 August 1972, Ricci Hall, Hong Kong - Hong Kong Vice Province (HK)

Transcribed HIB to HK : 03 December 1966

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

by 1936 at Aberdeen, Hong Kong - Regency

WWII Chaplain

◆ Hong Kong Catholic Archives :
Death of Father Patrick Joseph Howatson, S.J.

Father Patrick Joseph Howatson, SJ, chairman of the Hong Kong boys and Girls Clubs Association, died at Grantham Hospital on 23 August 1972, aged 62.

He was born at Waterville, Co. Kerry, Ireland, in 1910, educated at Clongowes Wood College, Ireland, and joined the Jesuit Order in 1927. Before long he had proved himself the most effective and clear-sighted organizer among the Irish Jesuits of his generation.

He spent the years 1935-38 in Hong Kong, teaching in the Regional Seminary, Aberdeen, and in Wah Yan College.

He was ordained priest in Ireland in 1941. His main work until his return to Hong Kong in 1946 was the preaching of popular missions - courses of very direct and forceful sermons - but he gave all the time he could spare to the Bevedere Newsboys Club, working for it with an enthusiasm that was to bear fruit here.

On his return to Hong Kong in 1946 he became a teacher at Wah Yan College and procurator for the Hong Kong Jesuits. He was horrified by the sight of post-war destitution. The shoeshine boys in particular captured his attention. Many of them were homeless orphans; none of them had much to look forward to when their day’s work was done. For them he founded his first club, at Wah Yan College, then on Robinson Road.

This club, with its carefully considered mixture of education and recreation, flourished under Father Howatson’s combination of firm discipline with unforced and understanding affection. It soon served as a model for some of the many boys clubs that were springing up to meet a need that was especially urgent in the early post-war years. When the Boys and Girls Clubs (BGCA) was reorganized to cope with this growth, Father Howatson was elected chairman, Bishop Hall being President.

Father Howatson gave up teaching and devoted his abundant energy to his new task, He took a deep interest in all the clubs in the association. His personal preference would have been to work directly for the boys, but as chairman he regarded it as his first duty to train club leaders and to advise and encourage them once they had taken up work. He also devoted endless care to the planning, building and use of the Holiday Home at Silvermine Bay.

In 1959, the BGCA moved to its own headquarters in Lockhart Road. At the opening, Sir Robert Black, then Governor of Hong Kong, paid the following tribute:

Any collective effort requires a high degree of planning and organization; a good committee needs a first-class chairman; the Boys and Girls Clubs Association are most fortunate in their chairman, Father Howatson.

This building stands above us today completed because of his drive and his resource, because of the sheer hard work which he has put into it all behind the scenes, and, of course, anyone who is a potential benefactor must be keenly aware of Father Howatson's notable work.

In addition to his work for the BGCA Father Howatson took an active part in the work of the Hong Kong Council of Social Service. As chairman of the Standing Committee of Youth Organizations he led an important East Asian Seminar on Social Group Work among youth. It would be difficult to think of any form of social work in which he did not take a vigorous part - playgrounds, housing, personal problems, crisis relief and so on.

Towards the end of this period he was reaching out to the development of clubs for young men and women. Unhappily, the failure of his health prevented him from carrying out this plan - a notable loss to the community.

Father Howatson was the first chairman of the Hong Kong Catholic Social Welfare Conference, and was closely associated with Mgr. C.H. Vath in the earlier stages of the development of Caritas Hong Kong. He agreed to take over the direction of the proposed Caritas Social Centre in Kennedy Town. In consequence, he resigned the chairmanship of the BGCA.

When he was still supervising the building of the new Centre, he suffered a moderately severe stroke. Though paralysed on one side, he recovered sufficiently to continue work, though at a slower pace, and was able to open the Kennedy Town Caritas Social Centre and to direct its operation for over a year.

A more severe stroke in 1965 put an end to his active work. He spent his last years in the Kennedy Town Caritas Social Centre, bedridden but not quite forgotten. Many of those for whom or with whom he had worked retained a warm interest in all that concerned him; nor did those who had seen his work from above forget him. A former Governor, a former Chief Justice and a former Director of Social Welfare were numbered those solaced his inactivity through their sympathy.
Sunday Examiner Hong Kong - 1 September 1972

◆ Biographical Notes of the Jesuits in Hong Kong 1926-2000, by Frederick Hok-ming Cheung PhD, Wonder Press Company 2013 ISBN 978 9881223814 :
His father was a Scottish engineer employed to maintain the trans-Atlantic cable. He converted to Catholicism in order to marry and his son became a strong Catholic and Irishman. He received his early education at Clongowes Wood College before he entered the Society in 1927. He had been known as a very good rugby player who had won an inter-provincial schools cap.

He came to Hong Kong as Regent with Seán Turner who was a different personality and whose whole world was words and ideas. Travelling with them was Fr Cooney who was bringing the Markee telescope and setting it up. he was able to deal with every situation he met in Hong Kong in dealing with schoolboys. He was a Mathematics teacher and Sports Master. From his earliest days in the Society he had positions of responsibility. According to Harry Naylor he was outstanding in practical matters, not least as a carpenter running the Ricci Mission Unit.

He returned to Ireland to study Theology. Once he had finished Tertianship he became an Army Chaplain.
1945 He returned to Hong Kong as Mission Procurator. According to Harry Naylor, Thomas Ryan had great influence over him. His humanity and concern for others was soon channelled into the Shoeshine Boys Club in Wah Yan College Hong Kong, and this became a model for many other boys clubs which sprung up to meet the needs of the day. When the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs Association was set up, Joseph was elected Chairman, with Anglican Bishop Hall the President. He threw himself into youth and social work in Hong Kong and was soon on the Hong Kong Council of Social Service, which Thomas Ryan had set up. He was also on the Government Social Welfare Advisory Committee. He helped many volunteer bodies as well as women’s religious with their balance sheets. When the Diocese set up its Catholic Social Welfare Conference he was made Executive Secretary. This later became “Caritas”. At this time Jesuits in Asia were involved in many social activities. At a Jesuit meeting on Tokyo in 1960 with Frs Hogan, Dijkstra and Ballon, he came up with the SELA acronym (Socio Economic Life in Asia) and it became one of the most successful inter-provincial works in the Society.

Returning from a SELA meeting in Indonesia in 1962 he had his first stroke. He gave up being Procurator in 1964 - Fr J Kelly succeeding him. He then went to live at Caritas Mok Cheung Sui Kun Community Centre, Pokfield Road, Kennedy Town, Hong Kong and was attached to Ricci Hall.

Note from Thomas Ryan Entry
He encouraged the “Shoe Shiners Club”, which later blossomed into the “Boys and Girls Clubs association” under Joseph Howatson.

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 22nd Year No 1 1947

Departures for Mission Fields in 1946 :
4th January : Frs. P. J. O'Brien and Walsh, to North Rhodesia
25th January: Frs. C. Egan, Foley, Garland, Howatson, Morahan, Sheridan, Turner, to Hong Kong
25th July: Fr. Dermot Donnelly, to Calcutta Mission
5th August: Frs, J. Collins, T. FitzGerald, Gallagher, D. Lawler, Moran, J. O'Mara, Pelly, Toner, to Hong Kong Mid-August (from Cairo, where he was demobilised from the Army): Fr. Cronin, to Hong Kong
6th November: Frs. Harris, Jer. McCarthy, H. O'Brien, to Hong Kong

Irish Province News 23rd Year No 4 1948

Fr. Leo Donnelly who has been offered to the Viceprovince of Australia, completed his course at Kurseong recently (he was professor of Church History) and sailed on the SANGOLA for Hong Kong on 10th September. “As it proves impossible”, he writes, “to secure a passage direct to Australia within reasonable time, Fr. Austin Kelly has given me permission to travel via Hong Kong. It was quite easy to book a passage to that port, and Fr. Howatson has booked a berth for me from there to Melbourne. Needless to say, I am delighted at the chance of seeing the Mission, even if I am not to stay there. The ship for Australia will not sail till near the end of October, so that I shall not be at Fr. Kelly's disposal till sometime in November. This, however, is quicker than waiting for a direct passage”.

Irish Province News 47th Year No 4 1972

Obituary :

Fr Joseph Howatson SJ (1910-1972)

Fr Howatson died in hospital in Hong Kong on August 23rd after practically ten years of increasing incapacitation as a result of a series of paralytic strokes. He succumbed after a short period in hospital, finally. He was buried in the Catholic Cemetery, Happy Valley after Requiem Mass at St Margaret's Church on August 25th; the obsequies were attended by a large gathering of priests, religious and laity.
Fr Joe was born at Waterville, Co. Kerry on 18th March 1910, son of a Scottish engineer, one of a group employed to maintain the transatlantic cable stations at Waterville and Valentia. He, Mr Howatson senior, married a local girl as did some of his fellow engineers, thereby occasioning their adoption into the Church; a daughter became a Loreto nun and Joe entered the Society after schooling in Clongowes in September 1927.
As a schoolboy Joe was a stalwart member of the Clongowes Rugby team and through life his fine physique and energetic character led to his being habitually committed to work requiring a fund of practical efficiency, together with his fulfilling the more hum-drum yet demanding work of Mission Procurator - which fell to him in Hong Kong when he returned to the Mission after ordination. He maintained he had no aptitude for learning, a modest avowal which bore no confirmation in his record of studies in that he satisfied without embarrassment the exacting demands of Genicot and Dogma in the Milltown of the '30s. Again his versatility and resource as a stage carpenter at Tullabeg, as a philosopher in Milltown and later on the Mission, in continued partnership with Fr Terry Sheridan, as stage manager and producer, could hardly result from mere series of happy coincidences,
After his noviceship Joe followed the normal routine of Rathfarnham and a degree, Tullabeg for philosophy and 1935 Hong Kong to which previously he had eagerly aspired and showing his bent in the effective manner with which he engaged in the work of the Ricci Mission Unit.
Largely through his labour a large telescope - purchased from the Markree Observatory and presented as a gift to the Mission - was dismantled before his departure from Ireland to be reinstalled in collaboration with Fr T Cooney at Aberdeen Seminary on his arrival at Hong Kong.
Back to Milltown 1938, ordination 1941, tertianship 1942-'43. Because of war time difficulties in travel he was unable to return to Hong Kong immediately and was assigned to the Mission staff where again he proved his capacity as an effective preacher,
Finally the chance of a passage on a military plane enabled him to attain his heart's desire; almost directly he was appointed to the work of Procurator already alluded to and he retained that exact ing chore until his capacity to write was impaired by his illness.
This was merely a part-occupation for him; in harness with Fr Tom Ryan who was throughout his prompter and confidant, he established a Shoeshine Boys' Club in which education was discreetly mingled with recreation and this was later the model upon which many other clubs catering for girls as well as for boys were organised,
Ultimately when a liaison was established coordinating these various associations Fr Joe was chosen chairman whose duties approximated rather to those of an administrator; in this capacity his work was recognised and paid tribute to by the Colony authorities; we lend only to the rich - his activities still fanned out; he became a member of a government-appointed body, the Welfare Advisory Committee and continued so for years with the task of offering advice on social needs and schemes to the Governor and of dealing with subventions for various voluntary bodies. Fr Joe's practical experience resulted in his becoming an accountant in effect to charitable works run by religious communities on the island; indeed in the course of the 'fifties he was recognised as one of the most conversant with social work with a meticulous sense of the value of an accurate balance sheet of the work engaged in. In the Hong Kong diocese he was the first secretary of the body which later formed the nucleus of Caritas H.K. and within the Society he contributed actively to the formation of SELA, the Committee for “Socio-Economic Life in Asia”.
It is pathetic, in retrospect, to see that all this activity was abruptly intruded upon by the first stroke in September 1962. Though not altogether incapacitated and only perforce making concessions under increasing debility the latter years required a fortitude in a situation to which the “rude” health he habitually previously enjoyed hardly adapted him. He continued to work in the John XXIII Centre in Kennedy Town but gradually he be came more immobilised; he was not much given to reading which might have been a diversion and a defective speech which developed deprived him of the distraction of conversation except with a small number of intimates who regularly visited him; may he not have been subjected to affliction, emulous to some degree of St Peter Claver in his concluding years? All was heroically borne. His second sister, Mrs Clarke of Tralee, who attended the month's mind Mass for his repose in late September at Gardiner St confessed that the news of his demise though sad in the thought of his parting was yet to her a comfort in that God who thus sealed him had taken him to Himself. May he rest in peace.

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A file relating to Fr Joseph Howatson SJ, his entry into the Society of Jesus and his death.

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