Thurles, Ireland, 31 March 1817.
Took the habit in Penzance, 24 December 1845.
Oblation in N.-D. de l’Osier, 26 December 1846 (No. 170).
Priestly ordination in Marseilles, 8 August 1847.
Died in Inchicore, 17 November 1874.
Patrick Hickey was born in Thurles, Ireland, in the diocese of Cashel, on 31 March 1817. His family had a fine catholic tradition. He was related to the Bishop of Limerick and had an uncle a priest in the diocese of Cashel. His earliest studies were under a private tutor. He went to college in Thurles from 1837 to 1840. While there he distinguished himself by composing and delivering, at the request of the president of the college, a brilliant address of welcome to Daniel O’Connell. He went on to study in Maynooth from 1840 to 1845 with a view to being ordained for the diocese of Cashel. When he fell ill in 1845 he had to interrupt his theology studies and went on a trip to Harrogate. On the way he met Father William Daly who invited him to become an Oblate. Impulsively he went immediately to visit the Oblates in Penzance – then the only Oblate house in England.
He began his novitiate on 24 December 1845 in Penzance and continued it in the Marseilles major seminary and then in Notre-Dame de l’Osier where he made his oblation on 26 December 1846. The General Council had admitted him to profession on the preceding 3 December: In the minutes of that meeting the General Secretary wrote: “In the various places he spent his time of testing he has constantly given full satisfaction by his regularity, piety and good dispositions. By temperament he is docile and quite content though cold in appearance, his talents are above the average […] but he is extremely short-sighted which gives him the appearance of being always embarrassed, and lastly his health is not strong…not suitable for certain climates.”
He continued his theology studies in the Marseilles major seminary from January to July 1847 and was ordained priest by Bishop de Mazenod on 8 August 1847. He was sent immediately to Penzance. In 1852 Father Charles Bellon, Oblate superior at that time in England, named him superior in Liverpool. In that same year we find him preaching in Scotland. He was in Liverpool only a short time before asking permission to go and stay with his family, which apparently required his presence in Ireland. On 4 March 1853 Bishop de Mazenod wrote to Father Bellon: “Don’t lose sight of Father Hickey who has left us. I have just come across an old letter of his. I was enchanted with the feelings he revealed to me. Do everything you can to bring him back. I believe he has lost one of the persons who had required his temporary exit… Tell me something about him.”
Father Hickey soon returned to England and was put in charge of the Sicklinghall parish where the novitiate was situated. There are many mentions of him in the Sicklinghall Codex between 1854 and 1858. He was a frequent and admired preacher. In July 1856 he was chosen to represent the community at the provincial chapter. Following the 1856 General Chapter, Father Robert Cooke was renamed provincial and received as councillors Fathers Joseph Arnoux and Hickey. On 1 August 1857 Fr. Hickey was one of a party that met the Founder at Wetherby station to conduct him to Lys Marie for his visit.
In 1857 Father Boisramé, who had been named master of novices, begged the Founder to move Father Hickey. On 30 July 1858 Bishop de Mazenod wrote to Father Cooke: “Sicklinghall has a real problem, as Father Master must have told you, the presence of Father of Hickey. The inconvenience is too serious not to require prompt action. This Father is without doubt not bad but he is out of place in a novitiate. His health, he says, does not permit him to attend a single exercise of the community, apart from the evening prayer. That is already bad enough and would justify withdrawing him from the sight of the novices. But that is not all; he is always with the novices, which is quite contrary to our practice. If this were at least in order to edify them, but no; nothing edifying ever comes from his lips, rather he often talks politics and indulges in fooleries enough to make them roar with laughter. He even tells stories sometimes which are not in the least edifying. This is prodigiously harmful to the novices who are showing recalcitrance towards the rules and measures taken by Father Master, and are being supported in this by Father Hickey who does not scruple to blame the novice master and say they are right. This state of affairs has lasted too long.”
Of course, too much stress should not be laid on this episode. Father Hickey went on to work in Leith (1862 Personnel), Inchicore (1867 Personnel), Liverpool (1871), Glencree (1873 Personnel) and Inchicore and took an active part in the giving of parish missions. Father Kirby, in his obituary notice, writes: “To an inimitable eloquence truly inspired by a priestly heart, Father joined a quite irresistible suavity of manner and gentleness of character…Those who knew him best can bear witness that the chief impulse of his life and actions was charity, a charity that sometimes exceeded all limits, but always charity. Considering this virtue as the special virtue of our beloved Founder and of our family, he esteemed it to the point that no one went further in its expression, or more willingly extended abroad its benefit. Never was he heard to utter a discourteous word to anyone at all, and no provocation however excessive could draw from him, whether in word or gesture, a response calculated to inflict hurt…”
Despite poor health he preached until the end of his life. He contracted typhoid fever and died in Inchicore on 17 November 1874. He is buried in Inchicore.
Sources and Bibliography
oblation formulas, dated 26 December. (On the Register of Taking the Habit, a
later entry reads: oblation, 25 December).
Codex historicus Lys Marie, Sicklinghall 1852-1864
Letter Mazenod to Cooke, Oblate Writings I, Vol. 3, no., p. 145-146.
Kirby, Patrick, o.m.i., “Le père Patrick Hickey”, Circulaire No. 81 of Father Fabre, Paris, 11 October 1876, in Notices nécrologiques OMI, Vol. 3, Paris, 1879, pp.271-276.
Missions OMI, 1865 p. 609 and 612 for his part in some missions.
Missionary Record, 18 (1917), p. 167.