Father Ian Howells, was, in some ways, the embodiment of the academic Jesuit. Coming from a highly academic family and entering the Society with a doctorate from one of the most prestigious universities in the world, he wore his learning lightly. There is an anecdote from the beginning of his juniorate which typifies this. It is said that he demurely presented, with the other newly-vowed, before the young teacher who was to instruct the juniors in the rudiments of mathematics. When he asked who had any post-school mathematics, Ian’s hand was the only one raised. When asked to what level, he diffidently replied, “A Ph.D at Cambridge”.
While highly knowledgeable, Ian was modest in the extreme and, by nature, shy. A very spiritual and introverted person, he would, however, be always welcoming. Sadly, his absent-mindedness progressed to dementia in the last years of his life. During this time, however, he was well supported by Sr Kath Muirhead RSCJ, rector of Duchesne College (the female counterpart of St Leo’s) who, until his death, visited him regularly and assisted with the administration of his affairs.
Fr Howells devoted the whole of his priestly life to the tertiary apostolate, lecturing and researching in Mathematics at the Universities of Melbourne, Adelaide and Queensland. He was Catholic chaplain at the last two, where he was very much at home working as part of an ecumenical chaplaincy team, especially in Brisbane). He resided in three Jesuit University Colleges (Newman, Aquinas and St Leo’s) and was Rector at Aquinas in Adelaide. Most of the last 39 years of his life were spent in Brisbane, where he was a much revered member of a remarkable group of senior Jesuits, all of whom he outlived. His combination of intellectual brilliance and strong faith was salutary for his academic colleagues, while his holiness and humility were unmistakable.
Worthy of note is the comprehensive study of belief and unbelief in Australia that Ian undertook with Fathers John Begley SJ and Adrian Lyons SJ at the behest of the Provincial, Fr Peter Steele SJ. The results were published in October 1990 under the title Faith in Australia: a study of belief in God, and unbelief. This was a two-volume workbook for community, personal and pastoral use by Australian Jesuits and their co-workers.
Requiem Mass and Funeral
11:30 am, Thursday 5th May 2022
St Ignatius’ Church, Toowong, Queensland.
Burial afterwards at Nudgee Cemetery & Crematorium
493 St Vincents Rd, Nudgee QLD 4014
View Fr Ian Howell’s CV.