Fr Jim Moran SJ died peacefully in Cherryfield Lodge Nursing Home on Friday 18 November. His family, friends, and fellow Jesuits bade him a final farewell at his funeral Mass in Milltown Chapel on Monday 21 November.
Jim had a wide circle of friends associated with the various ventures he undertook as a Jesuit. They were active on Facebook when news of his death broke. Despite some bad health and a twice broken leg, Jim was quite an athlete. He had a passion for rugby, which he taught with gusto to many students down the years in various Jesuit schools. Ivan Morris, one of his former pupils, posted a photo of the rugby team Jim coached, a long time ago. He wrote: “55 years ago these old geezers were quite a decent rugby team! Sadly, our trainer Fr. Jim Moran passed away yesterday. We all owe him a lot. He instilled in us the ability to focus on our goals, gave us just about the right amount of confidence and enough back bone to last a lifetime.”
Similar sentiments have been echoed by many since his death. Preaching at his funeral Mass, his life-long friend Fr John Looby SJ recalled two stories that summed up Jim’s determination and desire to win, even though he would have roundly protested that ‘it wasn’t about the winning’. One concerned the handball games they used to play as novices. John said that although he himself was the better handball player, Jim worked out a strategy and a war of attrition that always resulted in Jim being the victor.
He recalled another occasion when Jim went off to Chicago to study and offered his rugby training services to a Jesuit school there, telling them of his winning accomplishments back in Ireland. His offer however was politely declined and he was told the school was already proficient at winning rugby games. So Jim took himself off to a neighbouring Jewish school where the same offer was gratefully accepted. Some time later his rugby team took on the Jesuit school that had spurned him and won.
Jim had a number of careers in his lifetime – teacher, coach, psychologist, family therapist, and finally lecturer in Trinity College Dublin. Wherever he went he made friends. “He never forgot his friends and I was to learn that his friends never forgot him,” said John, noting that this was especially true of his Jesuit brothers. John learnt in later years that Jim’s father had died before Jim was born, and his stepfather was instrumental in cultivating the talent he had for making lasting friendships. “Providentially his stepfather was a strong influence, setting an example that Jim copied for the remainder of his life. He was given great freedom and he confidently went out to meet new people and allow them into his life.”
The Gospel read at the Mass was that of the Good Samaritan, a fitting one for Jim who was, according to John and indeed all those who knew him well, “a man for others”. He was always quick to offer any help he could to those who crossed his path. Be it the mother in difficulty with her teenage son or the former student who needed some good advice. The music at the funeral was the work of the well known composer and musician Willie Hughes who played and sang in gratitude for the influence Jim had been on his life.
When he returned to Dublin from America in the ’90s, Jim was part of the Leeson St community. They had a large garden at the back-end of the large Georgian house, and Jim spent years lovingly and patiently transforming it. He planted trees and stunning rose bushes, and made arbours and boundaries out of bushes and flowers. It was a labour of love that to this day gives endless pleasure to those who visit the community house in the centre of Dublin.
John concluded by noting that Jim was a person who never saw events in life as mere chance but rather as due to “the providence of a loving God whom he loved and trusted in all his life”.
He served Him well. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.