Historical dictionary  vol.: 2  let.: E

Egan, James

Born in Killarney, Ireland, on December 16, 1792
Ordained priest for diocese of Kerry in September 1816
Took the habit in Grace Dieu on January 24, 1849
Oblation in Maryvale, on January 25, 1850 (No. 273)
Died in Stillorgan, Ireland, on March 26, 1869

Father James Egan was born in Killarney on 16 December 1792. He was ordained priest in September 1816 for the diocese of Kerry, Ireland. He became known as a preacher of temperance, preceding the famous Father Matthew in this ministry in Ireland. He also established a catechetical confraternity.

Around 1825 he volunteered to work in Britain and was accepted by the Vicar Apostolic Mgr. Milner. He worked with Irish labourers in Ashley in Staffordshire and became a great church builder. Especially noteworthy was the church of Holy Trinity built in Newcastle-under-Lyne – the first large church built in England at this time.

He met an Oblate and was attracted by the integration of apostolic activity and contemplation he remarked in the Oblate charism. Thus after more than 30 years in the ministry he entered the novitiate in Grace Dieu on 24 January 1849. During his novitiate year the novitiate moved successively to Market Weighton (Yorkshire) and Maryvale. His novice master was Father Bellon. Thus it was at Maryvale that he made his oblation on 25 January 1850.

As an Oblate he devoted himself to parish missions and was with Father Aubert and Father Noble in the opening mission in Holy Cross, Liverpool, in 1850. He was assigned to Everingham: “I greatly approve calling Fr. Egan to Everingham, wrote the Founder to Fr, Aubert on July 3, 1851, but let Fr. Cooke assure himself he will often put in appearances there.”

He was later assigned to Galashiels, and then to Sicklinghall. In the Lys Marie Codex we find this entry under the date 15 August 1853: “Father Egan arrived in the afternoon with a Scottish Priest from Dundee Mr. Bennett. This last one intends to make a retreat and embrace our association if called. Father Egan has delivered a beautiful sermon in the evening service before Benediction of the Most Holy Eucharist.” Under the date 13 October 1853 we read: “Mr. Middleton gets a suitable room in Spottford for school and lectures there. Father Egan will begin to go there regularly on Sundays night. We entertain a great hope of success in this little town. The opening took place solemnly on Sunday 16th October.” From the 13th to the 15th December 1853 he was one of a group of Oblates attending the Synod of York.

He was next assigned to Liverpool and once again took up his temperance crusade. He was present in 1857 for the great opening of Mount St. Mary’s Leeds. In 1858-1859 he seems to have spent some time in Inchicore. In 1858 the Founder wrote Father Arnoux, superior in Inchicore: “As for the good Fr. Egan, it is all right for him not to preach if they cannot hear him, but not to confess, that is a little too much. This is a ministry that can be exercised at an age much more advanced than his.” In the Inchicore Codex Historicus under the date 20 March 1859 he is appointed chairman of the newly founded temperance society in Inchicore.

When a new foundation in Rock Ferry was being developed from Holy Cross in 1862, Father Egan was assigned to its pastoral care, under the direction of Father Jolivet, the superior of Holy Cross, of which community Father Egan remained a member while being resident in Rock Ferry. He was in Rock Ferry when the Superior General Father Fabre made his visit in 1866. In a provincial report in 1866 we read: “Father Egan, 77 years old, does his share of ministry. He bears himself like a weather-beaten oak, and his gentle mirth warms every heart.”

In or around 1867-1868 he retired to the novitiate house in Stillorgan (Belmont House) where he died on the 25 March 1869. He is buried in Inchicore. In his obituary Father Fabre wrote: “Father Egan’s life during the months he spent in the Stillorgan novitiate, was so edifying that Rev. Father Provincial thanked God for inspiring him with the idea of showing our young novices so touching a model of piety in the person of this holy old man. Prayer, spiritual readings, ure study filled all his time. His love for holy writ, his assiduity in its study throughout his long life, had made of Father Egan an excellent commentator on holy ure, almost all of which he knew by heart…”

Yvon Beaudoin
and Michael Hughes, O.M.I.

Sources and Bibliography

G. A.: oblation formula; three letters to Father Fabre or Father Arnoux.
Codex historicus Lys Marie, Sicklinghall 1852-1864
Codex historicus Inchicore House of Retreat 1856-.
Cooke, Robert, o.m.i., Sketches of the Life of Mgr. De Mazenod, edited by Thomas Dawson, Dublin, 1914, p. 168.
Denny, Vincent, o.m.i., Reaching Out, Dublin 1991, p. 70-71.
Fabre, Joseph, o.m.i., “James Egan”, Circulaire No. 45, Paris, 10 May 1869, in Notices nécrologiques OMI, Vol. II, Paris, 1869-1874, p. 35-44.
Missions OMI, 1863, pp.293 and 640; 1866, pp.640, 652; 1909, p.421.
Dunphy, E., o.m.i., “Rock Ferry: A Centenary” (with a photograph of Father Egan): De Mazenod Record, No. 30, 1962 pp. 20-22.
Beaudoin, Yvon, o.m.i., Casimir Aubert, Oblate Writings II, Vol.5, p.68.


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