Figures in a landscape

September 1, 2008 in General, News

Looking over river during Emo jubileeHow many readers will recognise these three distinguished figures and the landscape behind them? On 7th August five Irish Jesuits (Paul Andrews, Paddy Heelan, John Moore, Jimmy Hurley and Hugh O’Neill) celebrated together the golden jubilee of their ordination. Here are three of them, Hugh, John and Paddy, in the Grapery at Emo, looking at the weedy stream that feeds the sadly overgrown lake. Hugh has long been the Province’s liturgical mentor. John, emeritus professor of Botany in UCD, is teaching New Testament in Harare to young Zimbabwean Jesuits.

As for Paddy Heelan, mine eyes dazzle. He has done post-graduate work in mathematics, maths-physics, geophysics, high-energy physics, and philosophy of science. He links us with legendary names in science. Schrodinger taught him in Dublin. In Princeton he studied under Nobel Laureate Eugene Wigener, who occupied Einstein’s old office. His doctoral dissertation drew a letter of congratulations from Heisenberg, founder of Quantum Theory. One of Paddy’s two hundred scholarly publications, a study of Quantum Theory and objectivity, featured in Oxford University’s history of science curriculum. His present focus is on hermeneutic phenomenology, of which you can gain a taste in a memoir of Paddy published in the series: Lives of the Georgetown Jesuits.

Georgetown is the latest university, after UCD, St Louis, Princeton, Fordham, Leuven and the State University of New York at Stony Brook, to claim a share of Paddy’s gifts. He and John Moore inherit a passion for the natural sciences like those remarkable Jesuit scientists Matteo Ricci and Ferdinand Verbiest, whose memory is venerated in Beijing, and who are currently featured in an exhibition at Oxford University entitled: Heaven on Earth (see the Tablet for 23 August, page 18).