Eulogy for Fr. Alfred Deignan

Between the years 1965 and 1971 I went to a secondary school in Hong Kong called Wah Yan College. A secondary school under the British colonial system back then covered the equivalent grades of 7th to 13th. I left after the 11th grade because my exam scores weren’t good enough to be admitted to the 12th. My heart however, never left that campus. I made some life-time friends
there in classmates and teachers alike. For part of my time at that beloved school, the principal’s name was Fr. Alfred Deignan. I can’t say Fr. Freddy would recognize this average kid in the schoolyard. He might “know” me by sight and give me one of his trade-marked and pleasant smiles if I had my school uniform on. Despite our lack of direct contacts, he was my number
one most respected teacher because of the way he treated and cared for everybody around him, within the school and without.

Fr. Freddy was a Jesuit priest from Ireland. As a young man in his 20s, he came to Wah Yan as a missionary in residence. He rotated between positions of teacher and administrator. Except for a few short absences, he never left Hong Kong. He never left Wah Yan. He died a few days ago in a local hospital, surrounded by friends and physicians, many of whom were his former students. Fr. Freddy was 91 years old. Directly and indirectly he had looked after our school, my school, and probably as many as 20,000 young men for over 60 years.

Here are a few words from a very mediocre student to a textbook model of a teacher:

Fare Thee Well, Fr. Freddy

More than a school principal and teacher
To the thousands of clueless kids
You were their staff of spiritual life
Barometer of morals and ethics
You never preached much
You didn’t have to
Your kindness, your dedication
They said it all, stone and spalls

If I had to name a saint
Fr. Freddy would be it
But you would never make it
Your humility would never let you accept it

More than a school principal and teacher
To the thousands of clueless kids
You were the lodestar for the lost
Confidant of the confused
You never preached much
You didn’t have to
Your deportment, your aura
They said it all, large and small

In hoc signo vinces
Wah Yan’s school motto
Walking in your footsteps
Your kids, your friends
They’re all winners, standing proud, all convinced
Trust in God, human decency, doing the right thing, all conquered
Mission accomplished, well done
My personal saint, my very dear Reverend
Fare thee well, Fr. Alfred Deignan!

Good-bye, Fr. Freddy
Go in peace and go pleased
The Father in Heaven is ready
Ready for you with open arms
Welcome home, Alfred, says He

*** The End ***

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