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Living the Jesuit vision: Phil Fogarty RIP

The funeral Mass of Philip Fogarty SJ took place in  Sewickley, Pittsburgh on Tuesday 3 December 2019. The celebrant was Michael Shiel SJ who had flown over with fellow Jesuit and socius Declan Murray SJ. Cathal Doherty SJ flew from San Francisco to join all those who had gathered to give thanks for Philip’s life of service.

Because he suffered from severe heart trouble over the past 20 years Philip spent a good bit of time in the United States but he continued to work both in Ireland and the states, “a testament to his courage” as one Jesuit colleague put it. He was well known as a retreat giver and writer and for the past 10 years in Sewickley, near Pittsburgh in the USA. He spent the latter part of his life engaged in the spirituality apostolate, both at home and with the CSJ Sisters in the USA.

Philip had lived a full life in the Irish Province. Much of the early part of his ministry was in education, he taught in Coláiste Iognáid and spent 11 years as headmaster of Clongowes Wood College. Writing in the Clongownian (1987) about his time there the late Michael O’Dowd (former deputy headmaster) said Philip ‘eventually built Clongowes in his own image and likeness’.

On hearing of his death, the current deputy headmaster of Clongowes, Martin Wallace, penned a moving tribute for the school’s website, echoing Michael O’Dowd’s sentiments.  “As Headmaster, Philip was the leader of a remarkable triumvirate that included Michael O’Dowd as Deputy Headmaster and Fr. Michael Sheil SJ as higher line prefect. Soft-spoken and pipe smoking, Philip ran the school with kindness and compassion, relying on the goodwill of all, but backed up by his two enforcers, to ensure that a culture of mutual respect reigned in every domain of the college. Fairness, consistency and respect for all were the pillars of his authority and it would be no exaggeration to say that he transformed the culture of Clongowes through his vision of what a Jesuit school should be, his communication of that vision at every opportunity, and through the way he lived that vision in his interactions with every person in the community.”

Philip frequently wrote for The Sacred Heart Messenger and published with Columba Press and Messenger Publications. For the last twenty years, his health was increasingly compromised. But as his friend and current editor of the Messenger, Donal Neary, notes, “He had a wonderful approach to his ailments and he tried to live as positively and as fully as he could, enjoying the fact that he was constantly defying all the medical prognoses.”

His most recent visit home was in April 2019, where he enjoyed a great visit with his sisters, family and the community at Leeson St. Over the past two weeks, he had been detained in the ICU of the UPMC hospital with significant medical issues, but was released home from there only last Saturday. He wrote saying he was very happy to be at home and expected to recover. However, he died peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of Tuesday morning, November 26th in the care of the CSJ Sisters at Sewickley, and he will be buried with them there in their community plot. He was 81 years old.

“We are grateful for his life” says Donal, adding “and his fellow Jesuits and family give thanks for having known him and his friendship. May he rest in peace.”