Father Liam Egan, SJ

Born: 13 June 1925, Dublin
Entered: 01 February 1942, St Mary’s, Emo, County Laois, Ireland
Ordained: 31 July 1956, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1960, Kingsmead Hall, Singapore
Died: 07 April 1994, Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore

Father Egan came to Hong Kong in 1950 as a scholastic where he studied Cantonese for two years and then did a year of teaching at Wah Yan Kowloon for his regency. He was known there as a popular teacher of English and History.

He then went back to Ireland and Milltown Park for Theology, was ordained there and then made tertianship.

In 1958 he returned to Cheung Chau, and a year later was sent to Singapore, teaching English at the Teachers Training College. He also served on a government committee charged with drawing up an ethics syllabus and courses for schools.

In June 1961, Father Egan became a warden of the Kingsmead Hall hostel, and briefly editor of the then Malayan Catholic News, until replaced in both posts by Father Terence Sheridan, sent from Hong Kong to help. For some months later, he was lecturer in English to the pre-U classes of Nanyang University, but lacking Mandarin found it extremely difficult to communicate adequately with the staff and students, so found it necessary to resign.

He was concurrently Superior of the Jesuit Community at Kingsmead and assisting in the parish work of St. Ignatius Church.

From July 1962, he was chaplain to the Catholic Students’ Society of the University of Singapore (CSSUS) for 15 years, during which he guided and counselled undergraduates.

He wrote in the Jesuit Twin Celebration book in 1990/91: “Dealing mostly with late-teenagers and young adults, I think my main aims have been, and are, to upgrade their understanding of their faith, so as to prepare them for the integration of their religion and their secular life; to emphasise that our religion is not a purely individual affair, but that it means we must become ‘men — and women — for others’ like Christ himself; to counsel them in the personal difficulties they encounter particularly during this transitional period of their lives.

Father Egan also chaplain to the Catholic Teachers Movement and the Catholic Medical Guild. He was well known for taking part in public debates on medical ethics and became a close friend and mentor to many of the doctors with whom he debated. Especially impressive was the lucidity and strength of his arguments. He never came across as polemical and always spoke with respect to his fellow debaters and would present himself as the very epitome of reasonableness. And he clearly listened to what the other side was saying.

In 1978, he was appointed Vice-Provincial of Hong Kong, which included Malaysia and Singapore at that time. He handed over the leadership of the Hong Kong Vice-Province to Father Robert Ng in 1985. He then went back to Singapore aged 60 in 1985.

Then began the final stage of his zealous life: parish work again, which he enjoyed. The first conductor of the church choir, he loved music and he sang well, and would sing the Exultet every Easter and the Good Friday prayers of petition. In the 1986 Christmas musical produced by the parish’s youth, he was one of the Wise Men.

He was superior in Kingsmead Hall once more, and progressively, bursar of the church and Jesuit finances, and also of the more far-reaching and time-consuming post of bursar of the entire Malaysia-Singapore Region of the Society of Jesus. At the archdiocesan level, Father Egan was also active, serving in the senate of priests and on many archdiocesan committees.

He was known as the man with his pipe, puffing as he exuded a sense of calm and relaxation, while at the same time listening and wisely advising. His carefully reasoned arguments and wise decisions on actions were done with his Irish background and a deep respect for local culture and ways.

Father Liam Egan died suddenly on 7 April 1994 in Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore due to a heart attack at the age of 68. He had been feeling unwell for a week or so and was hospitalised for tests and observation, which revealed that, unnoticed by himself, he had suffered a mild heart attack two weeks earlier. He had seemed to be recovering but collapsed at noon on the day of his death, and despite the herculean efforts of doctors and hospital staff he could not be revived.

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

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