Father Kevin O’Dwyer, SJ

Born: 27 August 1912, Dublin
Entered: 03 September 1930, St Mary’s, Emo, County Laois, Ireland
Ordained: 06 January 1945, Sydney, Australia
Final Vows: 15 August 1948, Holy Spirit Seminary, Aberdeen, Hong Kong
Died: 23 January 1987, Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore

Father O’Dwyer came to Hong Kong as a scholastic in 1938, studied theology in Australia 1941-1944 and was ordained priest there. After further studies in North America on social work, he returned to Hong Kong where he worked chiefly in organising cooperative marketing.

Father O’Dwyer first came to Singapore in the mid-1950s for only six months. During his stay, he set up Kingsmead Hall as a hostel for trainee teachers and was its first occupant in 1954. He returned to Hong Kong in 1955 to be port chaplain.

In 1959 he came back to Singapore to relieve Father Kearney as editor of The Malayan Catholic News, a job which he held for six months. He was then clerk of works overseeing the building of St Ignatius Church from the choice of site and blueprint stages to its completion and opening in 1961.

Father O’Dwyer was the first parish priest from 1961 to 1974. He was a strict parish priest who guided the parish through the changes after Vatican II. His health was failing in his later years, but he worked to the very end.

For almost two years before his death in 1987, Father O’Dwyer was receiving blood transfusions to make up for the haemoglobin deficiency in his system. Despite this marrow failure, he remained vivacious to the end. At first, the transfusions lasted several months, but later had to be repeated at shorter intervals until finally his energy dissipated after a few weeks. When his illness progressed, appeals were made for blood donations during Mass and the response was overwhelming.

On 21 January 1987 at 3 am, suffering from high fever and body pains, he phoned the doctor and ambulance, and was taken to the intensive care unit of Mount Alvernia Hospital, in the care of the FMDM Sisters. Only Father Tom O’Neill was disturbed by the commotion and finding a taxi cruising at that unearthly hour followed the ambulance to discover what was amiss. Father O’Dwyer died on 23 January 1987 in the hospital.

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

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