Killian Kehoe, class '25
1907 - 1999
A few days before he died – as he floated in and out of consciousness – Fr Killian was asked if there was anything he would like to do. “To teach “ came the reply. The phrase encapsulated much of Fr Killian’s experience of life. He was born into a world of teachers, for both his parents were teachers. Two of his sisters were lecturers in Carysfort College. Another sister, Sr Gonzaga, a Loreto nun (who died tragically in a fire in her Community house on St Stephen’s Green) was also a teacher. Fr Killian himself, after gaining his degree in Irish (of which he had a great love) and English at University College, Dublin, was ordained in 1933, and then appointed to teach in Castleknock, where he worked for 15 years. Then in 1948 he was appointed Superior and Principal of the Teacher Training College, Drumcondra. In 1957, he would resume teaching for almost 20 years – this time in St. Paul’s. The numerous notebooks found in his room into which he had painstakingly and in a very neat hand copied the finer points of Irish and French grammar, testify to his conscientious dedication to his vocation of teaching during his long tenure of years here in St. Paul’s. For a decade after his retirement from teaching he would devote many hours of his day to securing covenants from boys’ parents and past students to facilitate the financing of St Paul’s College. In July 1997 we had a double celebration in our community for Fr Killian: his 90th birthday and his 40th year of presence in St. Paul’s.
His presence in community was a delightful one. It is a happy detail of English usage that we speak of ‘growing old.’ If the whole of life is a becoming, and if we do not cease to grow as persons even when our powers are declining – Killian exemplified that truth gracefully and graciously. In community he unselfconsciously disclosed to us the gifts reserved for age, To set a crown upon your lifetime’s effort. Indeed he was one of those people who seemed to grow old without his being aware of it. So when he had a fall during the summer of 1996 that necessitated his going to Rickard House, he did not seem to see his accident as a possible consequence of hardening arteries, but rather in the nature of a passing injury – somewhat like one he might sustain on the rugby field eight decades earlier. (He was, I understand, a skillful out-half player and when studying at UCD was chosen for its rugby team.)
During the three years that he spent in Rickard House, I cannot recall his complaining about his increasing number of physical diminishments. He did repeatedly and earnestly question me – and others – on what was the cause of his tendency to fall, and when on one occasion I accompanied him to the surgeon who had removed a cataract from one of his eyes, he expressed surprise to her that, successful as was the operation, he still could not read what he called ‘the small print’… Driving in the car with him, on the way to or from Rickard House he would invariably ask – usually near the toll bridge – “Now, do you know what is to be my future? Am I to remain in Rickard House for good ?” “Well, I think, Fr Killian, that that is the Provincial’s idea… He wants you to remain there, while also being a member of the St Paul’s community with the opportunity of coming over to us every two or three weeks for some hours and on other special community occasions.” “I see,” he would say. Then after a pause: “Of course, Rickard House is a great place. Sister Carmel and the nurses are wonderful”, and with even deeper conviction he would add “You know, it is a great house of prayer.”
A man and a priest of prayer he undoubtedly was. A life’s habits made him gravitate very easily and frequently to the oratory in Rickard House. An Eucharistic man in the fullest sense of that word – he expressed gratitude for the least of kind gestures offered to him. On his visits here to St Paul’s he would – having read the papers after lunch – be found in the oratory, rosary beads in hand, patiently awaiting his driver to bring him back to Rickard House to celebrate the five o clock Mass for the Sisters. He incarnated in a special way that virtue to which St Vincent gives the primacy among those which he wished would distinguish the members of his Congregation – evangelical simplicity. For he was a man who invariably gave
a straightforward opinion about things in the way we honestly see them, without needless reservations… remembering that God likes to deal with the simple, and that he conceals the secrets of heaven from the wise and prudent of this world and reveals them to little ones. – R.C. 2:4.
It was with such simplicity and humour that Killian liked to recall how as the youngest in his family his mother would pray in the evening time, often with him alone, the final rosary (she prayed several) of her day. Often at the third or fourth decade the young Killian would nod off to sleep. Roused and startled by his mother he would immediately resume saying “Holy Mary, Mother of God…” On one occasion his mother during the night had to go down to the sitting room. Unable to find the matches to light the oil lamp, she went upstairs to Killian now in bed and deeply asleep. “Killian, Killian, where did you leave the matches?” The only response from the pillow to the repeated questioning and shaking of his mother was “Holy Mary, Mother of God…”
Killian is now, I am sure, in a home of which the Lamb is the light and where there is no need of matches, and from which he is gently inviting us to Look for me in the nurseries of heaven.
Richard McCullen CM
KILLIAN KEHOE, CM
Bom: 8 July, 1907 in Dublin.
Entered the Congregation: 4 October, 1928 in St. Joseph’s, Blackrock.
Final Vows: 7 October, 1930
Ordained: 10 June, 1933 in St. Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin by Bishop Wall, Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin.
1933-’48: St. Vincent’s, Castleknock
1948-’57: St. Patrick’s, Drumcondra
1957-’99: St. Paul’s, Raheny
Died: 25 August 1999 in Rickard House, Blackrock
Buried: St. Vincent’s, Castleknock