Fr John Blowick, Missionary (1888 - 1972)

John Blowick was born at Ballyfarna, Belcarra on 26th October 1888, the eldest child of John Blowick and Norah Madden. From July 1894 he attended Belcarra National School and continued there up to fourth grade. He then went to the C.B.S. in Westport and in 1908 went on to St. Jarlath’s College in Tuam. Afterwards he went on to study for the priesthood in Maynooth as a student for the Tuam Archdiocese. He was an excellent student and surpassed his classmates in all subjects.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1913 he went on to do post-graduate studies in Dunboyne House, Maynooth. A year later he was appointed Professor of Theology.

In 1911 prior to his summer vacation a lecture by a visiting priest Fr. Frazier who had worked for 9 years in China as a missionary was to leave an indelible impression on the young student.

Early in 1916 he confided to a friend that he hoped to go to China as a missionary. He was encouraged to meet Fr. Edward Galvin a returned Chinese missionary in Monkstown in Dublin who had earlier worked with Fr. Frazier in China. From this meeting sprung the idea of establishing a Missionary Society from Maynooth to China.

A week later Fr. Blowick informed Fr. Galvin of his intention to request permission from his Archbishop to resign from Maynooth and begin the Missionary Society. He requested consent from Archbishop Healy and this was given on condition he waited at home to lead the society.

At a meeting of the Irish bishops a few days later addressed by Fr. Galvin the proposals looked unlikely to get approval but the intervention of Bishops Colohan, O'Donnell and Harty resulted in Fr. Blowick being allowed to address the gathering.

He requested three things: the general approval of the hierarchy for the movement, permission to launch a nation-wide appeal and permission to launch a seminary somewhere in Ireland for the fledgling movement. All three requests were granted.

Fr. Blowick then started a parish to parish appeal throughout Ireland. Later that same year he and Fr. Galvin set out for Rome to seek papal approval for the society. On 29th January 1918 Dalgan House, Shrule was opened as a seminary.

In June 1919 The Society of St. Columba, otherwise known as 'the Maynooth Mission to China', was officially formed with Fr. Blowick as it’s Superior General. On March 19th 1920 he set out for China with sixteen newly ordained priests but he himself had to return to Ireland to take responsibility for the development of the society and the training of priests.

During the next few years four new missionary societies were to be formed. These included St. Patrick’s Missionary Society to Africa, The Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary and The Medical Missionaries of Mary.

In 1922 Fr. Blowick together with the help of Lady Maloney founded the Columban Missionary Sisters. By coincidence the idea of forming a women’s missionary was first put to Fr. Blowick by Lady Maloney and Marcella Fitzgerald Kenny of Clogher House, a few miles from Belcarra.

In 1924 Fr. Blowick resigned as Superior General and from then until 1952 he held various posts within the society including Professor and Vicar-General but mainly as Spiritual Director to generations of clerical students. His theological writings showed him to be a man of terrific wisdom and theological insight.

At the age of 74 he made his last tour of the missions. By this time the missionaries had been expelled from China but had spread throughout the Far East. At the time of his death in 1972 the society had grown to nearly a thousand members. He died on 19th June 1972 at the age of 84 and was buried at the mother house of the society at Dalgan Park, Navan.

Fr. Blowick had two other brothers ordained to the priesthood; Fr. Stephen was Parish Priest in Islandeady and Fr. Peter was Rector at St. Columbans in Navan. Another brother Mr. Joe Blowick was a founder member of the political party Clann na Talmhan and was elected to Dail Eireann on several occasions becoming a cabinet minister in two Irish governments.

By Brian Hoban