James Callan: Victim of Zeal and Heroism

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Born about 1825, son of Thomas (originally from Newry or north Co. Louth area) and Margaret (nee O’Reilly from Knockbride) Callan. He spent some of his youth (apparently with his parents) at the residence of Rev. Peter O’ Reilly, PP Drung, who was his Uncle. He as a younger brother of Rev. John Callan, ordained in Maynooth for Dromore Diocese in June 1838 and spent nearly all his pastoral life in Newark Diocese, New Jersey where he died in June 1879; he was Uncle of Rev. Edward O’Reilly from Corravilla, Knockbride, who died as PP of Upper Drumreilly in 1920; he was also related to Philip Callan MP for Louth in the 1870’s (word of mouth claims them to be brothers) . James callanmatriculated in Maynooth on 26th August 1844 and was ordained there for Kilmore on 25th May 1850. he served as curate possibly in Annagh for some time, definitely from 1851 in Killenagh (Catholic Directory 1852 incorrectly lists him as John). In 1852 – he obtained from Bishop Browne an ‘exeat’ from the Diocese to America. He went to his brother john in Newark and having served in South Amboy to 1854, he was Pastor of St. James, Newark (1854-61), St. John’s Patterson 1863-64). In February 1864 he went to California and began pastoral work in Santa Barbara. He met his death on September 5th 1864.

The steamer on which he was returning to Santa Barbara (from a retreat in san Francisco) caught fire when its boiler exploded. Many were killed outright and many more mortally injured by the scalding steam. Although he was uninjured, Fr. Callan literally ‘walked into the jaws of death’ to administer the sacraments to the dying. “during these ministrations he inhaled the live steam, but despite the agony he endured, he persisted in the work of heroic charity” After all this was over – he succumbed, “a victim of zeal and heroism”.

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