Hoey, Father George

1947, September 23

Date of Birth: 1880, February 20

January 14, 1948

Fathers and Dear Confreres:

At the beginning of the present school year our American province was stricken by a sorrow all but impossible to be ready for: the unexpected death of Father George Hoey.

George William Patrick Hoey was born in San Francisco on February 20, 1880. His very religious family was to give several of its members to the Church and to God. One of his sisters, Sister Mary Teresa, of the Congregation of the Nuns of Notre Dame de Namur, belonged to the community of San José, California.

After his early studies in his parish school in San Francisco, our future confrere entered St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park while it was still only a minor seminary. Archbishop Riordan of San Francisco had founded it in the hope, since magnificently realized, that a major seminary would one day be its twin. The Archbishop confided his seminary to the Society of St. Sulpice. Father Hoey was one of our first students on the Pacific coast. He did honor to his teachers by his work and by his mind’s growth as a result of their lessons. Their example, and the virtue which underlay that example, impressed George Hoey. He wanted to join the Sulpicians, who had come from France to give priests to the Church in far-off California. His desire was to join them in order one day to share their ministry. He let the Superior know his desire. The Superior passed the young man’s desire on to the Archbishop. Archbishop Riordan had a soul too loyal and a heart too good to stand in the way of a Sulpician vocation, perhaps the first from San Francisco, since he wished to see them increase for the good of his own area. Therefore, he allowed George Hoey to get ready to enter the Society of St. Sulpice.

Our confreres, with the consent of the Archbishop, decided to send George Hoey to France and to entrust his training to the Seminary of St. Sulpice in Paris.

Father Hoey left for France and entered the Issy seminary. There he made his Philosophy. From that time on this young American from the Far West of the United States made himself wonderfully at home with the French language and with French customs. He had a fine character. His disposition was a happy one. He spoke little but to the point. Sometimes his fellow-seminarians, who liked him, teased him about his knowing look and his mysterious smile. Then he became even more reserved. With only a few words pronounced calmly, slowly, he then retreated into a smiling silence. So he was at Issy, so he was at Paris. Everywhere his company was sought after, he was well liked. We may be sure that his confreres of the time have not forgotten the young Californian whose air of mystery intrigued them and whose pleasantness attracted them.

George Hoey was ordained priest on June 27, 1907, in the Church of St. Sulpice in Paris. The following October he entered the Solitude at Issy and put himself under the direction of Fathers Mauviel and Alibert. That year there were in the Solitude eight who were experiencing the joy of preparing themselves in peace for the beautiful ministry of clergy-formation; three of them have already been called by God.

With Solitude over, and accepted as a member of the Society, Father Hoey returned to the United States. There he was appointed to various posts both on the Pacific coast and the Atlantic coast. Thirteen years at St. Patrick’s Seminary in Menlo Park, four years at St. Joseph’s College in Mountain View. From there he went to St. Charles College in Catonsville and to the American Solitude where he was Socius to Father Viéban.

Meanwhile he completed his higher studies at the Catholic University in Washington and became a Master of the Arts and a Doctor of Philosophy.

In 1932, Father Hoey was named to Seattle in view of the development which for two years had been taking place at the new Sulpician seminary, St. Edward’s, intended to train the clergy of the American Northwest. He was Vice-Superior there from 1932 to 1943, while at the same time he was teaching there Latin and Greek. These last years he had cut down his activity to these two classes and to his ministry of direction. In all the assignments confided to him, Father George Hoey was highly prized. Everywhere he seemed to be, and was, simple, humble, detached, unselfish, zealous in work, brave in the face of difficulties, good, and liked by all. In short, he was a true Sulpician whom but to see was to esteem and love. In fact, beloved was this always smiling priest, excellent teacher, cherished director; a confrere open, forthcoming, and always ready – while sometimes hiding his virtue under the veil of a pleasant word – to help anyone who came to him asking succor, comforting, or assistance. He was one of the oldest teachers at St. Edward’s, and seemed to identify himself with the house.

All of a sudden, he had to leave it. On Sunday morning, September 21st, on awakening, he felt sick to his stomach. He was to sing the High Mass. Prudently, he arranged for a replacement, said a low Mass, and spent the rest of the day in his room. The next day, Monday, a little after half past five in the morning, he phoned one of his confreres, Father Brennan, and told him that during the night he had had pains in the chest and arms, and that he was going to stay in bed. Informed of the situation, the Superior, Father McCormick, came after breakfast to visit the sick man. He was breathing hard, his face was flushed and his lips were puffy. Father Hoey was suffering an angina attack.

The Superior of St. Edward’s immediately phoned Columbus Hospital, run by the Mother Cabrini nuns, and arranged for the patient to be admitted. Father Hoey was gotten ready for the trip. He felt strong enough to go there by automobile, but refused other help. During the ride, in spite of insistent suggestion that he remain quiet, he indulged in some nervous conversation. For a minute or two he would ramble, then regain possession of himself.

When the patient reached the hospital, he was put in bed. To help him breathe, a tank of oxygen cooled by ice was set up for him. Joking, the sick man compared himself to Admiral Byrd at the South Pole. His conversation went on in a happy and brotherly way. Toward noon, Father McCormick left the patient to go into the city. Father Hoey seemed better. Those with him did not believe that this episode would have serious consequences.

About half past three in the afternoon, St. Edward’s Superior came back. The patient was rambling a little. At first he did not recognize his visitor. During Father McCormick’s absence, the doctors found out that the patient was a diabetic. To treat him, a specialist was called in, but the hoped-for improvement did not take place. Seeing that, the Superior telephoned the seminary, alerted the confreres to Father Hoey’s condition and asked that the community offer prayers. Two confreres, one of them Father Hoey’s confessor, came to the hospital. Extreme Unction was immediately given to the patient and those present left the room so that he could be alone with Father Dougherty, his confessor.

The next morning at eight o’clock, Father McCormick came back to the hospital. Father Dougherty told him that according to the nurses, Father Hoey had no more than an hour to live. Both Father Dougherty and Father McCormick, with the nuns, recited the Prayers for the Dying. A little after nine o’clock, Father Hoey gave his soul to God.

Two days later, on Thursday, September 25th, at eight o’clock in the evening, the Office of the Dead was chanted in the seminary chapel for the repose of the soul of the deceased.

The funeral (properly so called) was held at the Seattle Cathedral on Friday, September 26th, at ten o’clock. Bishop Shaughnessy of Seattle presided at the throne. The Mass was sung by Father McCormick, Superior of St. Edward’s, with Father Rock, Superior of St. Joseph’s College in Mountain View as deacon, and a seminarian, Reverend Mr. Harris, as subdeacon. The eulogy was preached by Father Mulligan, Superior of the major seminary of St. Patrick’s in Menlo Park. The absolution was given by His Excellency, the Bishop of Seattle. Eighty diocesan priests came to take part in the bereavement of our confreres and to attend the funeral services.

When the ceremonies at the Cathedral were over, Father Hoey’s body was taken to St. Edward’s Seminary in Kenmore, near Seattle. It was there, in the little cemetery set aside for Sulpicians, that he was buried in the presence of the whole seminary and of about twenty priests who had stayed to conduct the departed to his last resting place. His body was put next to that of Father Le Blanc, one of our confreres accidently dead some years before. Father LeBlanc had been a penitent of Father Hoey’s. It is to that spot that our happy memories and our customary prayers will go to keep him company.

Please accept, Fathers and dear confreres, the expression of my fraternal affection in Our Lord.

P. Boisard

Superior General of the Society of St. Sulpice