Father John Russell retires

Father Russell with the diocesan curia at his farewell party.
Father Russell with the diocesan curia at his farewell party.

HONG KONG (SE): The diocesan curia held a farewell party on June 16 for Jesuit Father John Russell, who is retiring. The 94-year-old has served the diocese in different positions for 60 years and still works at the marriage tribunal. Father Russell said he would retire after finishing the tribunal’s ongoing cases.

Father Russell, who hails from Dublin, Ireland, first came to Hong Kong in 1951, but returned to Ireland to complete his studies. Coming back to Hong Kong in 1968, he served the Jesuit Mission and the Diocese of Hong Kong in various capacities. 

He  taught in the Regional Seminary for South China—later called the Holy Spirit Seminary—and was also one of the pioneers of pre-Cana marriage formation programme in Hong Kong. 

Father Russell told the Kung Kao Po that there he had handled many unforgettable marriage cases. 

“Every marriage has its own story. While trying to understand the cases, I hope that I could give some pastoral care for the people involved,” he remarked.

Father Russell thanked the staff of the diocese for their company and giving him happy moments here. Expressed his deep gratitude, John Cardinal Tong Hon assured Father Russell of continued prayers from the diocesan staff.

In 2012, he retired from his position as the judicial vicar as well as the rector of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel (Catholic Centre), but continued handling cases of the diocesan tribunal. 

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In an interview given to Irish Jesuit Missions, the then 85-year-old Father Russell, narrated a humorous story explaining why the cardinal insisted that priests must retire by 85. 

According to him, the “decision had come about as the result of an incident involving an elderly parish priest who almost reversed his car into a man. The pedestrian reacted angrily and the priest in a fury jumped out and struck him. The cardinal came to the conclusion that by 85, a priest could be irascible!”

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