It is easy to articulate the physical facts or the C.V. of Charlie, but the man was greater than the sum of the parts, the intangible was so much more than the tangible. Perhaps two sentences in the Superior General’s homily at Charlie’s funeral Mass epitomise the person, the character of the man: ‘Charlie was a special person. We were very blessed to have him in our Society’.
The biographical facts seem ordinary enough. Charlie was born on the 13th of October, 1909 at Maullymagavin, Co. Cavan. He had his primary education locally and his secondary in St. Patrick’s College, Cavan from 1922 to 1927, the year he entered Maynooth. He was ordained for the Diocese of Kilmore in 1934. Deep in his thoughts was the idea of going on the missions, but the then Bishop was not amenable to the suggestion and instead, Charlie was sent on loan to Brentwood Diocese in England. When he was recalled in 1938, there was a new bishop in Kilmore who acceded to his request to go on the missions and Charlie went to Ogoja in October, 1938. Ill-health however, in the form of persistent malaria, forced him to return early in 1939 to Kiltegan.
What was Ogoja’s loss was certainly the Society’s gain as Charlie went on to become “synonymous with Kiltegan”. There were so many facets to his contribution to the Society. History records that Charlie received permission from his bishop in Kilmore to join the Society on the 16th of August, 1942. He took the temporary oath of membership on the 24th of September, 1946. That might be called the formalities disposed of but Charlie had already begun making his great impact on our Society. He had taken in hand the Society’s promotion office, something he continued to do until 1973.
At different times, he was Spiritual Director to the students, he had the responsibility for the promotion and distribution of Africa. In this aspect of his apostolate, an interesting statistic was that circulation increased from 10,000 copies in 1940 to approximately 200,000 in the late 1960’s. On the administration side, Charlie was Bursar General from 1944 to 1950 and Vicar General from 1950 until 1972. During the 1970’s also, he was National Director of the Propagation of the Faith in Ireland.
This catalogue of Charlie’s responsibilities in the Society is testament to his versatility, but it is the tangible aspect only. The intangible can be summed up in a quotation from the Superior General’s funeral homily; ‘Charlie will always be a reminder to us of our call to mission, to tell the story of God’s love to all peoples. He reminds us of the need to give Christ the central place in our lives. He reminds us too that Christian charity, kindness, courtesy are great virtues and make the world a better place for us all. Charlie died on the 4th of November, 1999. He was the first member to reach 90 years of age.
Place of Rest: Kiltegan