O'Mara, Patrick, 1875-1969, Jesuit priest, chaplain and missioner

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O'Mara, Patrick, 1875-1969, Jesuit priest, chaplain and missioner

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  • Pom O’Mara
  • POM

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13 March 1875-23 March 1969

History

Born: 13 March 1875, Limerick City, County Limerick
Entered: 14 August 1892, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 26 July 1908, Milltown Park, Dublin
Professed: 02 February 1911
Died: 23 March 1969, Our Lady’s Hospice, Dublin

Part of the St Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin community at the time of death

Cousin of Joey O’Mara - RIP 1977

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

Chaplain in the First World War.

by 1896 at Valkenburg Netherlands (GER) studying
Came to Australia for Regency, 1898
by 1910 at Drongen Belgium (BELG) making Tertianship
by 1918 Military Chaplain : 58th CCS, BEF France
by 1919 Military Chaplain : 33rd CCS, BEF France

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
Patrick O'Mara began his long life in the Society in 1892 at the age of sixteen, entering the novitiate at Tullabeg. At the end of 1898 he arrived at Xavier College to teach mathematics to senior boys and was first division prefect, 1901-02. He wrote a book on arithmetic, but apparently no copies survive.

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 1st Year No 1 1925
Of the various pamphlets issued, half a million copies were distributed during the past twelve months. Devotional booklets are in especial demand, particularly the “Holy Hour” books, by Fr. P. O’Mara, of which 63,ooo copies were sent out during the past year, and an equal number during the preceding year

Irish Province News 2nd Year No 4 1927
Messenger Office :
Of reprinted pamphlets by Ours, 370,000 copies have already been bought up. Fr P O’Mara’s “Holy Hour” book, “An Hour with Jesus” easily holds the record. It is in its 45th edition, and the companion book “Another Hour with Jesus” is in its 21st.

Irish Province News 44th Year No 3 1969
Obituary :
Fr Patrick O’Mara SJ (1875-1969)
Father Patrick O'Mara was, by a large margin, the senior member of the Irish Province. Though six months younger than Father Eddie Dillon (still happily with us). he entered almost five years earlier. He had completed the long span of 77 years in the Society and was in full activity up to within a year of his death.
He was born in Limerick on March 18th, 1875. His father, Stephen O'Mara, M.P., was the founder of the well-known family business and was several times Mayor of Limerick and later a member of Seanad Eireann. Patrick was the eldest of a family of nine. One of his brothers, Stephen, was, like his father, several times Mayor of Limerick. Another, James, played a prominent part in the national movement, which has been chronicled in his biography by his daughter, Mrs. Lavelle. The third brother, Fonsie, was prominent in business life in Limerick and Dublin. He too played an active part in the national movement and in 1918 was elected as the first Sinn Fein mayor of Limerick, The distinguished singer, Joseph O'Mara, director of the O'Mara Opera Company and father of Father Joseph O'Mara, was an uncle of Fr. Patrick's, being the youngest brother of Stephen O'Mara, M.P.
Patrick O'Mara was educated for four years at the Christian Brothers College. Limerick, and for another four at Clongowes. He entered the noviceship at Tullabeg in 1892. Amongst his fellow-novices we find some names once familiar in the Province, Patrick O'Brien, Esmond White, Michael Egan and Thomas O'Dwyer. After a year's juniorate at Milltown Park, he went to Valkenburg for philosophy, and at the end of his three years course was appointed to Xavier College, Melbourne, in what was then the Australian mission.
He spent seven years at Xavier. from 1898 to 1905, both prefecting and teaching. Father O'Mara so long outlived his contemporaries that no detailed information is available about these early years. He was, however, evidently a keen and able teacher of mathematics, and published in 1903 a textbook entitled Reasoned Methods in Arithmetic and Algebra for Matriculation Candidates, which went into at least four editions.
In 1905 he returned to Ireland for theology at Milltown Park, and was ordained on 26th July 1908. After tertianship at Tronchiennes, he taught mathematics and physics at Mungret for three years, and was then appointed to the mission staff. Rathfarnham Castle had just been opened as a Juniorate (1913). and he was a member of the founding community, together with three fellow-missioners, Fathers William Doyle, Joseph Flinn and William Gleeson. The catalogues assign him to Tullabeg from 1914 to 1916, but those who were at Rathfarnham during those years think that he remained there during all his time as a missioner, This was the period of the First World War, and in 1917 Father O'Mara was appointed a military chaplain (there were twenty two Irish Jesuit chaplains that year) and saw service at the 58th and 33rd casualty clearing stations in France. He rendered particular service to Portuguese troops and was awarded a decoration, : Officer of the Military Order of Christ, by the Portuguese Government.
In 1919 Father O'Mara returned to Rathfarnham and there followed a long period of work as a missioner. Here again we are faced by the difficulty that he so long outlived his contemporaries that information about this period of his life is scanty. It is certain, however, that he was a most devoted and successful Missioner. He was an orator of the old style, somewhat theatrical in his delivery, but most appealing to the congregations of those days. He took immense pains in preparing his sermons, and it is recalled that on his first appointment to the mission band, he went to England for a course in voice production. He was indefatigable in the laborious work of visitation and hearing confessions, and he was blessed with a strong constitution which made him a most reliable confrère, always ready for the most difficult assignment.
When Father O'Mara returned from the war to Rathfarnham, Father John Sullivan had just been appointed Rector. Father O'Mara contributed to the biography of Father Sullivan an incident which occurred in the November of that year. On his way back from a mission, Father O'Mara's bag was stolen from the platform of the tram on which he was travelling. The loss was a grievous one, as the bag contained the manuscripts of his mission sermons and retreat notes. On arrival at Rathfarnham, he confided his trouble to Father Sullivan, who assured him that he would immediately go to the chapel and pray for the restoration of the notes. Father O'Mara, though it was late at night, started jotting down all that he could remember of his notes, which were the result of years of work. At 11.30 p.m. Father Sullivan came to his room to tell him that a telephone message had been received from the Augustinian Church in Thomas St. to say that the bag, unopened, had been left at the door of the monastery. Father O'Mara's account concluded : “I was convinced at the time that it was a direct answer to Father Sullivan's prayers. I have not changed this opinion”.
In 1928 Father O'Mara was appointed to the staff of Gardiner Street, and entered on the activity which is most closely associated with his name, being appointed Director of the Sodality of the Sacred Heart, which involved the giving of the Holy Hour. This activity was interrupted in 1931, when he was appointed Rector of the Crescent College, Limerick. Here he undertook several extensions and improvements in the church, and was responsible for the installing of a new organ. On his return to Gardiner Street in 1934, he was at first assistant director of the Pioneer Association, but in 1937 reassumed the directorship of the Sacred Heart Sodality and the Apostleship of Prayer, which he retained for the next thirty years, as well as that of the Ladies' Sodality of the Blessed Virgin. During all this time his most notable activity was the giving of the Holy Hour, which became almost legendary in Dublin and its outskirts. He took the utmost pains in its preparation, and carefully wrote out fresh matter for each occasion. Many of the prayers and devotions which he used were embodied in four booklets entitled Hours With Jesus, the first of which had a circulation of over a million copies, whilst the others ran into the hundred thousands. His style of preaching was inighly dramatic, perhaps excessively so for some tastes, but it certainly appealed to his crowded congregations. It was remarkable that even in quite recent times, when preaching has to some extent lost its former attraction, "Father O'Mara's Holy Hour" was always certain to fill the church to overflowing.
If the old age of everyone were like that of Father O'Mara, the science of geriatrics would be superfluous. Until he was into his nineties, his appearance never changed. His abundant black hair was only slightly touched with grey, and he could have been taken for a well-preserved man in the late sixties. He continued in active work almost to the end of his life, hearing confessions, directing his two sodalities at Gardiner Street. He also directed the past pupils' sodality attached to the Dominican convent, Sion Hill, Blackrock from 1938 to 1966, when his health forced him to relinquish it. This sodality is one of the oldest in Ireland having been founded in 1852.
When one attempts to give some idea of what kind of man Father O'Mara was, two characteristics stand out. Firstly, he was utterly devoted to his priestly work. His sermons and his famous Holy Hour were prepared with laborious care. He was a devoted and sympathetic confessor He was always ready to share in work which lay outside his own particular sphere. Thus, he took a keen interest in the annual Foreign Mission week in Gardiner Street, to which the members of his Ladies' Sodality gave valuable assistance. Secondly, he was deeply devoted to the Society and the Province. He took the keenest interest in all that was going on, and was generous in his encouragement of others, especially of younger men. Those who were asked to help him were the recipients of praise so lavish that it might have seemed mere flattery but that his genuine gratitude and goodwill were so apparent. He employed on some occasions an amusing little technique, praising some work done for him, a sermon or talk, but adding : “Still, I think it was only your second best”. This was not meant to discourage, but rather to emphasise the fact that his praise was not undiscriminating.
It was only in the last year of his life that his health began to fail, and only in his last months that increasing weakness made it necessary for him to leave Gardiner Street for Our Lady's Hospice, Harold's Cross. He retained to the last the whimsical good humour that had characterised him all his life. Very shortly before his death, his confessor mentioned that a taxi was provided for him to visit Father O'Mara each week, and protested that he could very well come by bus. “But”, said Father O'Mara, “think of the prestige I get among the other patients by the fact that my confessor comes in a taxi”. His death occurred on March 23rd, and, as was to be expected, immense crowds gathered in Gardiner Street to express the reverence and gratitude they felt towards one who, for so many years, had spoken to them so movingly of the love of the Sacred Heart of their divine Lord. Requiescat in pace.

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See: Burke, Damien (ed.). 'Irish Jesuit Chaplains in the First World War'. Dublin: Messenger Publications, 2014.

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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-

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O'Mara, Patrick, 1875-1969, Jesuit priest, chaplain and missioner

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Entered Province.

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Irish Jesuit Mission to Australia, 1865-1931 (1865-1931)

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IE IJA MSSN/AUST

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Irish Jesuit Mission to Australia, 1865-1931

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O'Mara, Patrick, 1875-1969, Jesuit priest, chaplain and missioner

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IE IJA J/552

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