Death of former Jesuit provincial - Fr Jock Earle SJ

The Requiem Mass for Fr Jock Earle SJ will take place at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, on Tuesday, 21 October 2003 (subject to post mortem results). Father Earle, a former Provincial of the British Jesuits, died unexpectedly on 10 October, at West Middlesex Hospital, London, following an operation on his knee. The present Provincial, Fr David Smolira SJ, will be returning from a visitation to Jesuits of the Province in Guyana, South America, to concelebrate the Mass with fellow members of the Society of Jesus. George Hughes Earle always known as Jock was born into an Anglican family on 20 September 1925, and was baptised into the Catholic Church at the age of 19 in India. On his return from military service, he read history at Balliol College, Oxford, and entered the Society of Jesus in 1950. He was ordained priest in 1960, and after completing his studies in philosophy and theology, became a teacher at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire, where he served as Head Master from 1963 to 1972. Jock was a strong advocate for both Jesuit education and Jesuit spirituality, and wrote several important articles on these topics during the 1970s. On his 56th birthday (20/9/81), he was installed as the Provincial of what was then the English Province of the Jesuits (soon renamed the British Province), and set in motion the process of evaluating the British Jesuits' resources and commitments in the latter part of the 20th century. It was during Jock's term of office in the 1980s that the order in Britain began a serious review of where its ministries in the service of the Church should be centred a process that continues today. He was a powerful influence in the Conference of Major Religious Superiors (CMRS now the Conference of Religious), and strongly encouraged collaboration between the Jesuits and members of other religious orders. On completion of his term as Provincial, Jock was assigned to South Africa where he was a regular and enthusiastic retreat-giver for lay people, priests and religious. In addition to promoting the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius, he was also closely involved in priestly formation, and was Executive Secretary of the South African Catholic Bishops' Conference Seminary Committee. Jock returned to the UK in 1999, as soon as child abuse allegations dating back to his time at Stonyhurst College were made against him and several other former members of staff. However, when the case against him eventually came to trial, the court ruled that it could not be pursued and all charges against him were stayed. In August 2000, Jock embarked upon an area of ministry with which he had already had close connections during his time in South Africa. He moved to Osterley in Middlesex to work with the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), assisting asylum seekers and campaigning for the rights of detainees, as well as leading retreats at the Osterley Retreat Centre a ministry that continued until his death. "Jock was a lively and energetic character," says Fr Dermot Preston SJ, assistant to the Jesuit Provincial. "He was passionate about Ignatian Spirituality and giving retreats, and his death leaves a big gap for those people who have benefited from his individually guided retreats at Osterley. He also cared deeply about education both at secondary level and beyond. And he carried this compassion into the JRS, working tirelessly on behalf of asylum seekers and detainees." Fr Jock (George) Earle SJ, 20/9/25 10/10/03 R.I.P.

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