Colleagues, Jesuits and members of the Curia staff gathered on Thursday 5 January to say a fond farewell to Tom Layden, Irish Jesuit Provincial, 2010-2016. They celebrated his time as leader of the Irish Province with good food and some well-chosen words of thanks from Bill Toner SJ, Province bursar.
Alluding to the many years Tom had spent working in cross-community ecumenical projects in the North, Bill spoke of the ecumenical spirit that characterised Tom’s years as Provincial. He noted too that Tom, as suggested by Ignatius in the introduction to his Spiritual Exercises, always sought to put the best interpretation on any matter that came to his attention, and his response was always a generous one.
Pat Coyle of Irish Jesuit Communications spoke on behalf of Jesuit staff and colleagues. She said that as a journalist by profession she had contacted many ‘sources’ (i.e many of those present and more) before compiling her words of appreciation. All of them spoke of Tom with warmth and affection, unanimously agreeing that he was a ‘true gentleman’ and it had been a blessing to have him as Provincial. He was always a kind and effective leader, a man of faith and prayer.
She drew a smile from the former Provincial when she told the story of how she was tempted to list his attributes as like the King-becoming graces that Malcom speaks of in Shakespeare’s Macbeth. She was discussing this with her colleague Dermot Roantree who quipped back by quoting Edgar speaking of another Shakespearean King- Lear -lying dead on the heath, exhausted by trauma and grief. “ The wonder is he hath endured so long”!
On behalf of the staff she presented Tom with a gift and a bound book of selected photos from various events during his time of office. In response Tom thanked all present for their support, encouragement and kindness during his time as Provincial. He said that he had also been greatly supported by the man who formally appointed him to office, former Fr General Adolfo Nicolás. He had met him at various meetings over the six years and towards the end of his time Adolfo had given him two good pieces of advice which he took on board. One was to work as Provincial in mind and body right up to the last day of his tenure. The second was to get out of the way and get a break as soon as his time was up. “I’m doing both” he said.
Tom’s last day as Irish Jesuit Provincial was the feast of the Epiphany, Friday 6 January. He had a celebration that night with the Jesuits of the Province whom he served for the last six years. Now his successor, Leonard Moloney SJ, former headmaster of Belevedere and Clongowes Wood College, has taken up the post and all wish him the very best for the years ahead.