Biographies

Father Thomas A. O'Melia, MM

Born: February 15, 1898
Ordained: June 17, 1923
Died: July 25, 1973

Thomas A. O’Melia was born on February 15, 1898 in Bradford, Yorkshire, England. The family migrated to the United States in 1903 settling immediately in Philadelphia. Fr. O’Melia became a U. S. citizen in 1912.

Entering Maryknoll in 1914, he studied at the Venard, Maryknoll and the Catholic University. He was ordained in June 17, 1923 and assigned to Kongmoon. From 1934 he directed the language school in Hong Kong but returned to Kongmoon in 1942. In 1945 he went to Shanghai to work with UNRRA; in 1947 to Washington as Maryknoll’s representative; in 1950 to teach at Lakewood; in 1954 to Maryknoll Publications Department; in 1956 as chaplain at Georgian Court College; in 1957 to work with CRS in Saigon, in 1958 to Glen Ellyn and from 1959 to 1967 again in Hong Kong. In 1968 he served with the Chinese Mission in Chicago. He took up residence at St. Teresa’s in 1969.

From his earliest days in the Society, Father O’Melia was a prolific correspondent with Bishop James A. Walsh and other superiors. In a 1919 letter he attributed his vocation to conversations with Fr. John Dever, a Philadelphia priest who “spoke of the sublimity and merit of a foreign mission vocation.” An accomplished linguist, Father O’Melia published studies on China, on First Year Cantonese and Teaching Chinese Script to Foreigners, among other works.

Together with five other classmates he had a happy celebration of the Golden Jubilee of ordination in June of 1973. Father will be remembered for his love of mission work, his personal material detachment and his great loyalty to the high ideals for which Maryknoll stands. In recent months he had expressed hopes of being able to return to Hong Kong.

Father O’Melia died in a Philadelphia hospital on July 25, 1973. A concelebrated Mass took place on Saturday with Fr. Joseph Connors as principal celebrant, Fr. Francis Winslow as Homilist and two other classmates, Frs. Considine and Fletcher, among the many concelebrants. Burial followed in the Maryknoll Cemetery.