Obituary: The Rev David Hoy

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The Independent Online
For British Jesuits and for the wide circle of his friends, young and old, David Hoy was respected and beloved. To those outside the somewhat arcane systems of the Society of Jesus the list of his appointments could seem impressive but to Hoy they were simply successive calls in the name of God to the service of others. That is how he spent his life.

Born in London, in Bayswater, on St David's Day, 1913, David Hoy was educated first at the Cardinal Vaughan School and then at Mount St Mary's College, Derbyshire. From there he joined the Society of Jesus in 1931. The long course of Jesuit studies was interrupted for him by a year's teaching in Malta in 1939 and then by four more years at Wimbledon College. He was ordained priest by Cardinal Griffin at Farm Street in 1946 and subsequently returned to Wimbledon, where he was a very successful English master. In 1952 he had a year's treatment for tuberculosis, but was then able to return to his teaching with scarcely diminished vigour.

In 1959 he was appointed Rector of Heythrop College, the Jesuit faculties of theology and philosophy which were then in Oxfordshire. This was a major undertaking for a man who was not himself from the academic world. Heythrop at that time was thought by some to be the most numerous religious community in the country and it was beginning to evolve into academic ways which would be more easily recognisable to the rest of the world.

It was also the time of the Second Vatican Council, heady days which were as exhilarating to some as they proved unsettling to others. Hoy had much to cope with, but he had about him a prayerful and purposeful calm and a wisdom shot through with a wonderfully reassuring humour. All of that was centred on his dedication as a priest and that priesthood was a bridge for which large numbers of people have good reason to be grateful - schoolboys and their parents, villagers, Old Boys and their families, the sick and the handicapped and his fellow religious.

Hoy became Rector of Stonyhurst, the Jesuit boarding school in Lancashire, in 1964 and at once his gentle understanding was invaluable when Beaumont College was closed and many of its boys were moved north. As Rector he fully understood the foresight of the Headmaster, Fr George Earle. Hoy became Chairman of Governors and was from the start a trustee of the charitable fund which has been such an asset to the school from that day to this. He gave support, time and advice to the boys' work for the disabled and for charity which was being given new direction at that time. Hoy was a leader whose sense of duty was exemplary but whose modesty always made room for others.

After Stonyhurst came a return to London, where in 1972 he became Superior of the community at Farm Street. When, a little later, the treasurer of the British Jesuit Province became ill, Hoy was asked to help him with his work, and eventually took over from him early in 1975. (Three years later he stood aside for a successor but once again assisted in the area known since the 18th century simply as "Office".)

In 1980 he was again appointed Rector of Stonyhurst (only the eighth man to have served twice in that capacity in the four centuries of the school's existence). Again he proved himself the wise counsellor, the prudent administrator, the good friend.

Through all his occupations David Hoy was first and foremost the priest and the Jesuit. He preached with style and sincerity, he was a charming and thoughtful host, he was a good listener and told his successor that one of his principal functions was to be a wailing wall for anyone in trouble. He was a well-read and cultured man, an ideal companion at table, a wittily incisive commentator on events around him. At Stonyhurst he had particularly relished the guardianship of the various collections which was part of the Rector's lot.

Only behind the wheel of a car did a different David Hoy emerge. It was not that he was a dangerous or careless driver, but that he would castigate in the most robust and caustic terms the performance of others on the road.

In 1984 Hoy received his last appointment. He became Superior of the Jesuit community at St John's, Beaumont, the preparatory school at Old Windsor. If he was by then the elder statesman he proved it by a keen, uninterfering interest in the daily life of the school. For eight years he was able to do some teaching and tutoring and at all times he was the available friend and guide to teachers and taught alike.

In spite of failing eyesight, he managed to write a little book about the patron saint of the school, conducting research for it in Belgium. His sight became worse and worse, but he accepted that with the courage and the refusal to be fussed which were characteristic of him. To go shopping with him in Englefield Green was a great experience. On the one hand there was the rumbustious determination not to be treated as an invalid and on the other the inherent gentleness that brought out the best in others too. He was taken to hospital in Chertsey after a seizure on 15 March and died there peacefully next day.

Michael O'Halloran SJ

Augustine David Joseph Hoy, priest: born London 1 March 1913; ordained priest 1946; Rector of St Robert Bellarmine, Heythrop 1959-64; Rector of Stonyhurst College 1964-71, 1980-84; Superior of Farm Street Church 1972-75; Superior, St John's, Beaumont 1984-97; died Chertsey, Surrey 16 March 1997.