The Province of St. Joseph has sustained a severe loss by the death of Father Clement of the Precious Blood. He died on Friday afternoon, July 16th, in St. Joseph’s Home of the Little Sisters of the Poor, Harborne.
For the past two years he had been “de familia” at St. Mary’s Retreat, Harborne, where he received every kindness and attention from Fr. Rector and Community, as far as circumstances permitted. At the General Chapter of the Little Sisters of the Poor, held last year at the Mother House, La Tour, Brittany, permission was granted to each “Good Mother” of the various Homes throughout the world to receive and nurse an invalid priest. Accordingly, the “Good Mother” or Superioress of the Harborne Home, received Fr. Clement on July 1st and from that day until his death on the 16th of the same month, received every help and treatment from the “Good Mother” and her assistant who, incidentally, are fully qualified nurses.
Four years ago, hardening of the arteries, causing complete lack of blood circulation, necessitated the amputation of his left leg. The amputation was performed in the Middlesex Hospital by a surgeon with whom he had served in World War II (1939 – 1945)
During his time at Harborne, although confined to his wheel chair, he had the great consolation of being able to say Holy Mass each morning at a table in the sacristy.
On Tuesday morning, July 20th, Very Rev. Fr. Ambrose, Provincial, sang Solemn Requiem Mass for the deceased, assisted by Fr. Celsus of the Irish Province, and Fr. Sylvester, Harborne, as deacon and sub-deacon respectively. Quite a large number of our brethren from both Provinces were present at the Mass and at the interment in the cemetery adjoining the Church.
Known in the world as Maurice O’Shea, he was born at Aldershot on October 28th 1897, of an Irish Father and an English mother. As a youth his father left his native home in Co. Kerry, and joined the British Army in which he had a distinguished record, serving in the Boer War and later in the First World War, (1914 – 1918). He finished a fine military career as a Lieutenant-Colonel, D.S.O., of the King’s Own Rifles, and died in July 1921.
Two of his sons also served in World War I. Lieutenant Dermot O’Shea, the eldest of the family, was killed in August 1918, crossing the German lines as a Tank Officer, whilst a younger brother, Alec, died in March, 1921, from wounds received in the same campaign. Reference to the services rendered by the O’Shea family in two great wars, forms a background and explains why in 1940, Fr. Clement volunteered as an Army Chaplain at the Military Station where, incidentally, he had been born some forty years before. The Army was in his blood. And his father and two brothers could, each of them, say with Othello: “I have done the State some service”.
The family were parishioners of St. Joseph’s, Highgate, in the year 1913, when he decided to enter the Passionist Congregation. He received his early education from the Brothers of Mercy at St. Aloysius College, Hornsey Lane, and was Captain of the College team which won the North London Schools’ Association Cup in the season of 1912-13. Later he continued his studies at Mount Melleray Seminary, Cappoquin, Co. Waterford, Ireland – a temporary Alumniate for postulants for the Congregation from 1912 to 1914, and finally finished his classical studies at our Alumniate at Sandymount, Co. Dublin, in June 1916.
In July of the same year he received the Passionist habit and a year later was professed, on 29th July, 1917, in the Novitiate of the then Anglo-Hibernian Province at St. Gabriel’s Retreat, the Graan, Enniskillen. Following the completion of his philosophical and theological studies at Mount Argus, Dublin, he was raised to the Sacred Priesthood on December 23rd 1922, by His Grace, the Archbishop of Dublin, Most Rev. Dr. Byrne, in the chapel of Holy Cross College, Clonliffe.
When his class was disbanded in May, 1924, he was appointed “de familia” of St. Paul’s Retreat, Ilkley, Yorkshire, and given charge of the small Catholic body in Oddingham, where he endeared himself to all by his charity, zeal and helpful consideration for the many difficulties which they had to face in those days when a Welfare State was non-existent.
In January, 1926, he was appointed to St. Joseph’s Retreat, Highgate, where for three years he worked indefatigably for souls in one of the hospitals committed to our care. During that period, at intervals, he gave some missions and retreats, both in England and Ireland.
At the Chapter in 1929, he was appointed Vicar of Highgate, under the Rectorship of the late Very Rev. Fr. Edward (Le Maitre), and by their mutual and efficient organisation and administration, St. Joseph’s Church was consecrated on the feast of our Holy Founder, April 28th, 1932.
As already noted, he volunteered as an Army chaplain in May 1940. His courage, endurance and devotion to duty during World War II, are well known and more than appreciated not only by his brethren in the Congregation, but by the numerous troops, both living and dead, to whom he gave every help and consolation, especially before an important engagement.
Following his heroic service on the beaches at Dunkirk, he laboured with true apostolic zeal on the North African and Italian campaigns, and later ministered to sick troops in a Roman hospital.
On his return to England after the cessation of hostilities in May, 1945, he was appointed Superior of St. Mary’s Retreat, Herne Bay, Kent, and during his period of office, manifested that same zeal for souls which was so prominent a feature in his career as an Army Chaplain. The “Lourdes Grotto” which he erected in the garden, stands today as a memorial of his love for and devotion to Our Blessed Lady – a devotion which held a most important place in his spiritual life.
World War II left him an invalid. Owing to continued ill health, arising chiefly from heart trouble, he resigned the Superiorship of St. Mary’s, and then spent six months resting at St. Mary’s Retreat, Harborne. In July 1954 he was appointed “de familia” of St. Joseph’s, Avenue Hoche, Paris, where he won the love and affection of the English-speaking colony by his zeal and devotion, as a confessor and Spiritual guide.
For the writer of this Obituary Notice – a class fellow – Father Clement’s passing is indeed something in the nature of a personal loss. To have known him and enjoyed his friendship as a postulant, novice, student and priest, covering a period of fifty-two years, is something for which to be truly grateful. Ever shall he retain happy memories of his charity, humility, love for and loyalty to the Congregation and for the success and happiness of each member of the Province of St. Joseph.
MAY GOD REST HIS SOUL. PIE JESU DOMINE, DONA EI REQUIEM.