Father Thomas (Tom) O’Neill, SJ

Born: 30 January 1924, Dungarvan, County Waterford
Entered: 06 September 1941, St Mary’s, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 28 July 1955, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1958, Loyola, Tai Lam Chung, Hong Kong
Died: 30 July 2009, Kingsmead Hall, Singapore

Father Tom O’Neill was missioned to Hong Kong in 1950 as a regent, taught in one of the Wah Yan Colleges and later served in Cheung Chau as Minister. He spent half his life in Hong Kong, that is, until 1968. He taught liturgy in the East Asian Pastoral Institute (EAPI), Manila from 1968 to 1980.

He was missioned to Singapore in 1981 to serve in the parish of St. Ignatius, Singapore until his death. He was the last of the Irish missioners to be missioned to the Malaysia-Singapore Region.

He was a fine musician, and had specialised in matters liturgical, both in editing and teaching (at the Pastoral Institute, Manila), and then in the pastoral work of the Jesuit parish in Singapore.

Father O’Neill began teaching liturgy in the newly-opened St Francis Xavier Major Seminary in 1983. He also taught at the Singapore Pastoral Institute and served on the Archdiocesan Liturgy Committee.

Over the years in the parish of St Ignatius, Father O’Neill, being a gifted organist, shaped the liturgical life of the parish. He celebrated the liturgies with much joy and holiness. He was a deeply spiritual man. When he presided at liturgies and Masses, he would be fully immersed in the mystery of the celebration. He also loved to share in his homilies the colourful and animated stories of the life of Jesus as described by Maria Valtorta in The Poem of the Man-God.

In the parish, he also handled many activities linked to the catechetical ministries. He led the RCIA programme from 1985 for 16 years. He was also in charge of the catechism classes on weekdays for students mostly from international schools, having inherited the responsibility from Father Reid. He was the Spiritual Director of the Society of St Vincent de Paul.

He was the librarian of the Jesuit community for years. He kept the community updated with good books and journals.

He was an ascetic man with little needs, a peacable person, well liked by those who warmed up to him. In many ways, his holiness shined through in what he did and to whom he came into contact with. He never wanted to trouble anyone, and he always took a bus to the hospital on his own whether for hospital visits or even for his own treatment. He would just inform the superior that he was going to the hospital for a few days and would quietly take the bus to the hospital to admit himself.

Father O’Neill suffered a heart attack in 1999 and went for an angioplasty. He had to visit the dermatologist frequently for his skin cancer. He had a bout of prostate cancer before. Father.O’Neill was a stoic man and suffered in silence. His heart attack in 1999 went unnoticed until he developed swelling on one of his legs, and he had problems walking up the flight of concrete steps leading from the back of the church to Kingsmead Hall. After the angioplasty, he recovered quickly and was his busy self riding his bicycle. He stopped riding the bicycle after a while.

Father O’Neill served the parish of St. Ignatius and the community right up to his last moment at the age of 85 years. He died in his sleep at the Kingsmead Jesuit residence on 30 July 2009.

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

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