Father Desmond Reid, SJ

Born: 14 May 1921, Dublin
Entered: 07 December 1940, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly, Ireland
Ordained: 31 July 1953, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 22 April 1977, Kingsmead Hall, Singapore
Died: 20 February 2007, Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore

Father Reid came to Singapore from Ireland in 1969. Before he left Ireland, he was a lecturer in the College of Industrial Relations, Dublin, and edited a major Jesuit publication.

His interest in publication never waned even when he was in Singapore. Since 1975, he patiently and painstakingly produced the much-loved parish publication of St. Ignatius – “Sharing”. Up to the time of his death, the upcoming issue after Easter was being planned. As a prolific writer and avid reader, he began the very first parish bookstore-cum-religious stall.

Father Reid was, at various times, the Parish Priest of the Church of St Ignatius, Assistant Jesuit Novice Master, and Spiritual Director of various Legion of Mary Praesidia. He was instrumental in starting catechism classes for expatriate children, the only one in the archdiocese then.

A remarkably humble person, Father Reid had a deep compassion and love for people. He always had time for others, even when he was clearly unwell. He had a dry sense of humour which was always disarming and which delighted those who knew him.

His homilies had been labelled as allocutions. Coming from a Jesuit, they were unfanciful, down to earth, factual, and yet powerful in content and had lasting impact. He spoke barely above a whisper, but always simply and in a measured tone.

Up to almost the day he died, in his own inimitable way, Father Reid was still “active” in the parish of St Ignatius. He wasn’t “active” in the ordinary sense of the word; rather he was very much aware of happenings in the parish and Jesuit community, and maintained an interest in parishioners young and old.

Father Reid was the Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) Singapore’s first coordinator when it was founded in the early 1980s. He is best remembered for his untiring efforts as coordinator for the Jesuit Refugee Services at the height of the exodus of the boat people from Vietnam after the war. Father Reid would not only appeal for material donations for the refugees in the Hawkins Road Camp, he would personally go down to mingle with them, teaching them English.

Father Reid had his favourite tree just outside Kingsmead Hall which is a huge rainforest tree. He would spend his mornings sitting outside praying and looking at this tree.

He was always afraid of the cold, which explained why he chose to remain in Singapore instead of going back to Ireland. He always avoided air-conditioned rooms but wore a sweater when he had to enter one. He did not like the cold weather in Ireland. A parishioner recalled, “He came for his first meeting with us on his scooter — thin, wiry and white-haired. He told us he had a few health problems. Foremost of which, at that time, was the tendency to get a clot in a leg artery which caused the leg to swell like Popeye’s. This was accompanied by fever and a lot of pain. They told him in Ireland that the heat in a tropical climate would do him good. This was one reason why he was sent here.”

Father Reid was in poor health for many years. Plagued by a bad back and a pair of equally disagreeable legs, he never complained or let them get in the way of what he was doing. His condition deteriorated rapidly during his last couple of months. He succumbed to lung failure and died at Mount Alvernia Hospital in 2007.

Book: 50 years of the parish of the Church of St Ignatius, 2012

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