Joseph Michael Lowe, class '84
Joseph Michael Lowe (Malvern, died 19 Apr 1947, aged 85) was born 29 Sep 1861 in Albany, New York, but the family returned to Leixlip in Ireland and Joseph was educated at Castleknock. He joined the community in 1884.
After ordination in 1888, he was appointed to Bathurst, " The Castleknock of the Southern Cross". as the first Vincentian staff of the College alongside Fathers Byrne, Dowling and Slattery. There he held every post of responsibility culminating in his appointment as President from 1915 through to 1921. He was then Superior of St. Joseph's, Malvern, Victoria and afterwards was attached to the missionary staffs of other Vincentian houses in Sydney and Melbourne. In later years he had retired from active work as his health was not good.
He was genial and lively in disposition, and while here in the College, took a prominent part in the sports, and afterwards was prominent as a hard working student of theology.
1947 Echoes of St. Stanislaus
FATHER JOSEPH LOWE. CM
On Saturday, April 19, Father Lowe passed away at Sale, Victoria, and his death brought deep sorrow to St. Stanislaus' where he spent 25 years labouring at the arduous work of Catholic education. Father Lowe was born in the United States of America in 1861 and as a boy was brought to Ireland. In 1884 he entered St. Joseph's Novitiate at Blackrock, Dublin, as a seminarist of the Vincentian Congregation. After his course of studies wall concluded, he was ordained to the priesthood. He was a member of the first Vincentian Community which officially took over the management of St. Stanislaus' on January 1, 1889, and he is the last of that gallant band to go to his eternal reward. His first position at the College was a full time one, for he was the first Dean. At various periods he was Bursar and in 1915 he was appointed President. During his term as President an annual procession of the Blessed Sacrament was inaugurated. Also whilst he was President an electricity plant was installed in the College, the cost of which had been borne by the past men and many friends of Stanislaus'. To Father Lowe is due the triennial reunions of Old Boys and he saw to it that the reunion was a time of religious fervour and social enjoyment.
At Sale on Wednesday, April 16, his Lordship the Bishop of Bathurst paid a visit to Father Lowe, who was in bright and happy spirits. On the following morning Dr. Norton celebrated Holy Mass in Father Lowe's room and gave him Holy Communion. It was fitting that the last Mass at which Father Lowe assisted should have been celebrated by the Bishop of Bathurst where he laboured for so many years.
Solemn Requiem Mass for the repose of Father Lowe's soul was celebrated at St. Joseph's, Malvern, Victoria, his Lordship the Bishop of Sale, Most Rev. Dr. Ryan, CM being celebrant, His Grace the Archbishop of Melbourne. presiding. Also present was Most Rev. Dr. Simonds. Coadjutor Archbishop of Melbourne. A choir of 50 priests rendered the music of the Mass and the panegyric was preached by the Very Rev. Father J. C. Thompson, CM. At St. Michael and John's Cathedral, Bathurst, Solemn Requiem Mass for the repose of his soul was celebrated on Monday May 12. The President of the College, Very Rev. Father M. L. Howard. CM, was celebrant. He was assisted by the Rev. M.J. Dunne, Adm. of the Cathedral, as Deacon. and Father R. McDonald, CM, as sub-deacon Father J. O'Neill, CM, acted' as Master of Ceremonies. The priests present sang the music of the Mass, at which Monsignor E. Flanagan of Mudgee presided.
Interment took place at St. Kilda Cemetery. the last prayers being read by the Very Rev. Father A. Bridgewater, CM, of Malvern.
FATHER JOSEPH LOWE, CM, AN APPRECIATION.
No one who came to know Father Lowe ever forgot him. In appearance he was a big man, with broad shoulders, tall and erect, conveying the impression rather of strength than of weight. His finely defined features and somewhat dark complexion were set off by keen. kind eyes and a flowing black beard.
He was a priest of singular charm. He came to Australia from Ireland in 1888 and for five years was a member of the college staff at Stanislaus', Bathurst. Then for a few years he was in Ashfield. These were the years that followed the financial depression of the early nineties when so many of the people were in distress because of unemployment. At that time 50 families were in receipt of relief from the Ashfield Conference of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul.
Father Lowe was a strong man. He knew no fear. He was forthright and impulsive, a very manly man, yet with the age, the infirm and with children he was gentle and kindly. He was a wise counsellor where others were concerned; in his own regard he was considered reckless. In the country high-spirited horses attracted him; he knew no fear of doing a job on the topmost roof of a tower; to secure the safety of others, he once burst through with his shoulder the locked door of a room ablaze with fire. and fell through the gutted floor on to the hot ashes below.
At their first meeting with him. people were inclined to stand back somewhat. They had a certain awe of his presence. But once they came to know him they warmed towards him quickly and completely His gentle, somewhat husky voice had a tone in it of genuineness and solitude.
In the days of depression in Ashfield he had compassion on the people in their distress. In his big body he had a big warm heart full of sympathy. He visited the people in their homes, consoling, encouraging, helping. He gave himself completely to them. He was a tireless worker with never a thought of himself. He served and loved God in the sweat of his brow. His coming to a home of depression was like a beam of sunshine in a dreary place; for he had great capacity for fun - even boisterous fun. For those who knew him it was a familiar sight even to the end when his hair had whitened and furrows had crossed his face, to sec tears of glee trickling from his eyes.
Father Lowe returned to St. Stanislaus' College after a few years of pastoral work in Melbourne. It was at the College that he did his most enduring work. As Dean, Bursar and later on as President. he gave all he could give of his talents and continuous labour for the school he had come to love so well. Troubles came his way as they come the way of all who hold responsibility; but in dull as in bright days Father Lowe was always brave.
Some students of the College could sometimes be permitted to slay up late at night for extra study when all others had gone to bed and all was quiet about the building. Not infrequently a boy stealing near midnight into the darkness of the College chapel to say his night prayers would receive a fright. As his eyes became accustomed to the dimness of the chapel, where only the sanctuary lamp was burning, a dark shape would loom up before him; there would be a shuffle of slippered feet, and perhaps the rustle of beads. and a fantastic shadow would move along the chapel wall. It was Father Lowe, when his long day's work was done, making the Stations of the Cross. This was his dear devotion to which he was ever faithful all through his life. Few men had such deep humility as Father Lowe had. It was perhaps the quality of that virtue in him that made people like him so much, and that made generations of his former .pupils, in after life, always inquire for him with such affection.
The friendships he made were steadfast. His friends were friends forever. He had the gift of understanding and it made him tolerant of others frailties; and he had the grace of being considerate for others. He met many kinds of people. Gladly he could suffer fools even hilariously but no man could puncture pomposity with more effect. Chiefly his friends were poor people or just ordinary people; but there was never any alloy in the links that bound them to him.
It was during his years of Presidency at the College that the cruel affliction of asthma bit more deeply into him. For a few weeks after leaving Bathurst, Father Lowe was engaged in parish work in Melbourne, but at length he was compelled by ill health to relinquish all active work. Though quick of temper and impulsive by nature, he bore the affliction for the many remaining years of his life without complaint and with heroic fortitude. In his long illness he was attended with splendid devotion by a nurse whose constancy and care won her patient's complete gratitude.
His consolation was in his daily Mass. which he said as long as he was physically able, in his oft-repeated Rosaries and in the Stations of the Cross. Through sleepless nights and often in acute distress he would spend the time in study, foreign languages and physics. He could not remain idle. Sitting in his arm chair he spent his days making rosary beads and knitting woollen garments for the little boys at a Melbourne orphanage. His corn. passion for orphan children was intense. In spite of physical weakness he never lost his great good humour nor his unyielding will to fight back the suffocation that afflicted him. His letters to his old friends were regular, written with clearness and perfect penmanship and always whimsical. in his last years Father Lowe was aided greatly by the kindness of his Lordship the Bishop of Sale, and when the end drew near it was the Bishop of Sale, Dr. Ryan, who administered the last sacraments.
In a letter received from Freemantle from the Bishop of Bathurst, Dr. Norton, who was on his way to Ireland his Lordship wrote:
"The confrères at Malvern were kindness itself and they arranged for me, whilst my ship was in port there, to get to Sale to see poor old Father Lowe. This visit gave him great pleasure and, I hope, repaid a little of what Bathurst owes to him."
Many are the friends who will ever cherish the memory of this lovable character and for whose great soul they will implore the mercy of Almighty God.
May he rest in peace.