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Old Paradian Father O’Hara dies

Father Thomas O’Hara SJ, the Dux of Parade College in his final year of 1949, has died at St Peter’s Green in Lane Cove North just one month short of his 84th birthday.

Fr O’Hara died on Saturday (November 12). News of his passing was conveyed by Old Paradians’ Association Hall of Fame inductee Capt. Prof. Kevin Rickard AM, who remembered Fr O’Hara from as far back as the Old Bluestone Pile.

“Tom was a lovely man and I knew him quite well,” Kevin said. “He was ahead of me at Parade, and matriculated with seven first class honors. In the year after being awarded Dux he joined the Jesuits.”

Born in Dalby in the Darling Downs region of Queensland on December 17, 1932, Fr O’Hara was educated at St Colman’s and (later) CBC East Melbourne.
Five years ago, in an interview for the Australian Jesuits newsletter Province Express, Fr O’Hara recounted stories of his time at St Colman’s and later Parade.

“In 1945, I was twelve and in the scholarship year at St Colman’s, North Fitzroy, under the care of the Christian Brothers,” Fr O’Hara said.

“A feature of that year was a first experience of retreat. Our mentor, Brother ‘Percy’ Bowler, revealed to us that most people thought us too young to make a silent, week-end retreat, but he emphatically did not. So we went on retreat to Loyola, Watsonia.

“When the scholarship year was successfully negotiated, we had a home visit from Fr. Anthony Cleary, a distinguished and gentlemanly Irish curate in South Melbourne. Only the 80-year-old matriarch of our household and the 12-year-old Tommy were at home to greet him. Addressing my great aunt, Fr Cleary said, ‘Well Mrs Harford, Tom has just won his Government scholarship. You should send him to Xavier or St Patrick’s. The Jesuits will give him a wonderful education.’

“As soon as Fr Cleary left, the old lady said to me, ‘You heard what Fr Cleary said, you’re to go to the Jesuits next year.’ To which I replied, ‘I’m not going to any Jesuits. I’m going to Parade.’ And that was that.”

In that final year at Parade in 1949, Fr O’Hara earned first placing in Latin, and together with the likes of Noel Purcell and Laurie Hudson was a prefect of the Sodality of Our Lady.

Fr O’Hara Joined the Novitiate at Loyola College in 1950 and from 1953-’55 studied philosophy. On leaving Watsonia, Fr O’Hara studied philosophy.
The following timeline, as provided by Jesuit Communications, records the landmark moments in Fr O’Hara’s academic and religious life.

1956-’58 Regency I at St Aloysius’ College, Milsons Point, NSW: teacher
1959-’61 Campion College, Vic.: Tertiary Studies at The University of Melbourne
1962-’63 Regency II at St Ignatius’ College, Riverview, NSW: teacher (RE, Latin, Sciences)
1964-’67 Theology at Canisius College, Pymble, NSW (ordained 13/12/1966)
1968 St Ignatius’ College, Riverview, NSW: teacher (Latin, Maths), prefect of discipline
1968-’69 Tertianship at St Beuno’s College, Wales (Tert Instr Fr Paul Kennedy SJ)
1969-’71 General Curia, Rome: Regional Secretary for East Asia
1972-’75 Bellarmino, Rome: courses in Spiritual Theology/Scripture at Gregorian University
1976-’86 Canisius College, Pymble, NSW: assistant director of Centre of Ignatian Spirituality
1987-’89 Canisius community: spiritual renewal in Parramatta Diocese
1990-’96 Canisius College, Pymble, NSW: director of Ignatian Centre of Spirituality
1997-’98 North Sydney: retreat director, doctoral studies at Gregorian University (1998)
1999-2007 Canisius College, Pymble, NSW: director of Ignatian Centre of Spirituality, retreat director, writer
2008-’13 North Sydney: assistant priest, retreat director, spiritual father
2014-16 Arrupe House, Pymble, NSW: writer, spiritual director, Mass supplies. (Moved to St Peter’s Green, Lane Cove North, NSW on October 26).

Kevin remembered Fr O’Hara as “a very quiet man, very taciturn, very religious and extremely intelligent”.

He recalled that Fr O’Hara’s sister the anaesthesiologist Dr Patricia O’Hara married the former Chief Justice of Australia Sir Gerard Brennan, while his nephew Fr Frank Brennan AO is an Australian Jesuit priest, human rights lawyer and academic.

“Tom and I were good friends and he actually said mass for Elaine and I at our 40th wedding anniversary,” Kevin said.

“He was a warm, holy, beautiful man and a legendary Old Paradian.”

A Vigil Mass for Fr Thomas O’Hara is to be held at 7.30pm, Wednesday, 16 November 2016 at Canisius Chapel, Pymble.

Fr O’Hara’s Funeral Mass takes place at 10.30am, Thursday, 17 November 2016 at St Mary’s Church, North Sydney, with Fr Brennan presiding.


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