Remembering Father John Russell SJ
Jesuit Brother Father John Russell who spent over 50 years in Hong Kong died peacefully on Friday 22 September at St Paul’s Hospital, Hong Kong. He was 97 years old.
Fr. Russell was born in Dublin, Ireland on 24 August 1926. He entered the Society at Emo, Co. Laois, on 12 November 1943 and was ordained to the priesthood on 31 July. 1957 in Milltown Park, Dublin. He took final vows on 2 February 1961 at the church of the Gesù, Rome. It was there that he also did his doctorate in Canon Law, and lectured for a time at the Jesuit Gregorian University in the capital. He also spent a number of years as assistant procurator for the Jesuit general curia there.
Over half of his long life was spent on mission with the Jesuits in Hong Kong, as Thomas Morrissey SJ points out in his book Jesuits in Hong Kong, South China, and Beyond. He began as a teacher in the seminary there and in 1968 he returned from Rome to Hong Kong as a novice master for a short while. In 1969 he was appointed rector of Wah Yan College, Kowloon. He was only 45 years old when he was appointed Provincial in Hong Kong, on 15 February 1972, the Chinese New Year.
A fond companion: Go well, Fr Russell SJ
(From Irish Jesuits International)
In an interview with us back in 2017, Fr Russell spoke fondly of another appointment in Hong Kong, this time managing the Catholic Centre in a commercial building in the city. It had a few floors dedicated to the Centre that included a chapel. He met all kinds of people there—some wanting comfort and consolation and some just wanting a comfortable place to sit and reflect.
As well as being a friend and companion to those who needed it, a lively highlight to John’s life was working as Warden to 120 students at Ricci Hall. It is a hostel for students attending Hong Kong University. Fr Russell enjoyed ministering to the noisy, lively young students – for 12 years they kept him young and vital: he often turned a blind eye to their antics!
Before retirement, Fr Russell worked with the Curia in Hong Kong in the marriage annulment section but remained a constant companion and a listening ear to those who needed it.
John’s only surviving family member in Ireland (Dublin) is his brother Matthew with whom both the Hong Kong Jesuits and our own John K Guiney (IJI) have been in contact in recent weeks. All priests of the Chinese Province will celebrate Mass for the intention of Fr. Russell’s eternal rest.
Go well, Father John. Rest in Peace.