File 23 - Biographical information on Fr Joseph Flinn SJ

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IE IJA CHP/1/23

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Biographical information on Fr Joseph Flinn SJ

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  • 1943 (Creation)

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2 items

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(11 January 1877-24 May 1943)

Biographical history

Born: 11 January 1877, Arklow, County Wicklow
Entered: 01 February 1894, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 01 August 1909
Final Vows: 02 February 1911
Died: 24 May 1943, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin

Part of the St Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin community at the time of death

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

First World War chaplain

by 1898 at St Aloysius, Jersey, Channel Islands (FRA) studying
by 1910 at Drongen, Belgium (BELG) making Tertianship
by 1918 Military Chaplain: VI Corps Rest Station North, BEF France
by 1919 Military Chaplain: 88th Brigade, BEF France

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 18th Year No 3 1943

Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart :

Father Flinn’s Death :
“So the grand old man has gone to his reward may he rest in peace. He surely did a man’s work in the great cause”. “I never had the pleasure of meeting Fr. Flinn, but from the many letters he wrote me I have a very vivid picture of his great sincerity and unselfish zeal in the noble cause for which he gave his life”. “What a worker, and what a record to leave behind him”. These are but three of the very many tributes paid to Fr. Flinn, by Bishops, priests, religious and laymen from every part of Ireland. Few of Ours can have been as well known, few so much respected as Fr. Flinn. His work of organising and running the Pioneer Association made for him contacts, many personal, others by letter only, but in them all his wholehearted love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was the inspiration of his Pioneer work, was manifest and recognised. He was a truly holy man, in whom the love of Our Lord was a very real and very personal thing. It was thus a personal matter for him that sin should be prevented, and when committed that it should be atoned for. In the curse of intemperance he saw what he believed to be the greatest source of sin in Ireland. and hence he set himself to work. heart and soul to fight intemperance, which so greatly injured the cause of Christ whom he loved. That was his Pioneer creed. That made for him the Pioneer cause a sacred one, for he believed it was the cause of the Most Sacred Heart, and in that belief he was so sincere that his sincerity impressed even those who criticised his methods. It was this sincerity and the zeal which sprung from it, allied with the courage which is
born of true humility, that won for him a deep respect, and often an enthusiastic admiration from all those who came in contact with him.
In 1922 when Fr. Flinn became Central Director, there was a membership of about 250,000 in 410 Centres. At his death the membership had grown to 350,000 and there were more than 950 centres. This great expansion did not bring with it any slackening in the very strict rules of Fr. Cullen. At the Annual Meeting last November, Fr. Flinn could boast that in his 21 years as Director there had been no change in the rules in spite of very great pressure being brought on him to make changes. That is a very remarkable thing, for in the growth
and expansion of an organisation there is almost always modification and adaptation. Not so the Pioneer Association under Fr. Flinn. It grew to be a movement of national importance, but Fr. Cullen's dying wish that there should be no change of rule was for Fr. Flinn a duty. The Pioneer Association today is the Pioneer Association that was founded by Fr. Cullen, with rules no less strict, observance no less rigidly enforced. Here again it was not just sentiment nor a mere hero worship of Fr. Cullen that made Fr. Flinn adopt so uncompromising an attitude. The Pioneer Association was the fruit of fifty years of tremendous experience in temperance work on the part of Fr. Cullen. Movement after movement to fight against intemperance had been started only to fail. The Pioneer Association with its very strict and very rigid rule was begun and was successful where the other movements failed. This success both Fr. Cullen and Fr. Flinn attributed to the strict rules and the strict way in which these rules were enforced. Hence Fr. Flinn was not prepared to depart in any way from a method which was proved by experience and by its results to attain the end for which it had been started. Rule after rule was planned to check what experience had shown to be causes of lapses in the past, and to bar excuses which made pledge-breaking easy. Fr. Cullen was fifty years at the work. His experience was tremendous. “I shall be a long time
in charge before I dare to set my judgment against his." Thus spoke Fr. Flinn at the Annual Meeting last year, and there is little doubt that it was this great loyalty to Fr. Cullen and to the spirit of the Association as founded by Fr. Cullen which made Fr. Flinn's long period as Central Director so successful a one for the Association and so fruitful of great work to the glory of God.

Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin (Juniorate, Tertianship. and Retreat House) :

General :
Fr. Joseph Flinn, who had been resting at Rathfarnham, died on Monday morning, 24th May, deeply regretted by all. He had daily edified the Community by his cheerfulness and courage liable as he was at any moment to serious heart attacks. We offer his Community at Gardiner Street our sincere sympathy on their great loss. R.I.P.

Obituary :

Father Joseph Flinn SJ (1877-1943)

Fr. Flinn died in the early hours of Monday, 24th May, at Rathfarnham Castle, where he had been convalescing after a serious heart attack.
Born at Arklow on 11th January, 1877, he was at school in Liverpool and at Mungret before going to Clongowes in 1891, where he remained until December, 1893. During his stay at Clongowes he seems to have been very popular with the other boys, had a place on the school teams, both rugby a»nd cricket, and during the last term held the position of Vice-Captain of the House. On the day before he left, the boys showed their appreciation of his robust character by according him a wonderful ovation in the refectory.
He entered the novitiate at Tullabeg on 1st February, 1894, and after taking his Vows studied rhetoric for two years. He did his philosophy at Jersey from 1898 to 1901, and in the latter year became Prefect at Clongowes, first of the Gallery (1901-2), then Third Line (1902-3), Lower Line (1903-4), Higher Line (1904-5). He spent 3 years at Mungret before beginning his theology at Milltown, where he was ordained, priest in 1909.
On his return from Tronchiennes where he made his third year's probation in 1910, he started his successful career as missionarius excurrens, being attached first to St. Ignatius, Galway (1911-13) then to Rathfarnharn Castle (1913-17, and 1919-22). While at Galway he had charge of the local Pioneer centre, thus gaining experience of temperance work, towards which he was to make such a vital contribution in later years. In 1917 came the call to act as military chaplain in France during the great war. In spite of the marked distaste he had for the work it was all along more an agony than a service for him - he set about his new duties with characteristic conscientiousness. When hostilities ceased he resumed his work as missioner at Rathfarnham. till his transfer to Gardiner Street Church in 1922, when he was appointed to succeed Fr.James Cullen as Central Director of the Pioneer Total
Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart.
Fr. Flinn was thoroughly equipped for the great task which now confronted him. As a Missioner he had won renown both here and in England by reason of his tireless zeal, and his exceptional talents as an organiser and trenchant speaker. These talents were now pressed into the service of the Pioneer movement, which for the next twenty years and more, under his fostering care, gradually attained that commanding position which it holds to-day. Details of the remarkable growth of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association under Fr. Flinn's able administration are given on another page. Suffice it here to say that his name. which had become a household word in the land, will be ever inseparably linked with those of Fr. Matthew and Fr. Cullen in the history of Temperance. His talents as an organiser probably outdistanced those of Fr. Cullen himself. He was a great stickler for tradition, and much of the success he achieved was doubtless due to his allowing the faultless machinery created by the founder of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association to function undisturbed. Still the fresh impetus given the movement since 1922 must be attributed in large part to Fr, Flinn's strong personality, his gifts as a forceful speaker, the meticulous care with which he organised the annual rallies and most of all to the supernatural outlook which characterised his work.
Fr. Flinn was also a member of the Fr. Matthew Union and of the Committee of the Catholic Social Service Conference.
Just and conscientious to a fault, strong and purposeful by disposition, Fr. Flinn possessed a character of sterling quality. Completely devoted to the cause of God, hard and austere towards himself, unworldly, he showed himself kind and sympathetic towards others with a soft spot in his heart for the poor, the underdog. To an infinite capacity for taking pains he joined an ardour and enthusiasm for work which was infectious. Though for the ten years preceding his death he laboured under a physical disability of a very distressing kind, chronic heart trouble, which more than once brought him to death’s door, he continued his labours undismayed, and retained his courage and serenity to the very end. His devotion to the memory of Fr James Cullen was touching in its humility and self-effacement - when Fr. Cullen’s mantle fell upon his shoulders, he inherited as well that great man's spirit of his selfless devotion to a great cause. R.I.P.

Irish Province News 21st Year No 3 1946

FROM OTHER PROVINCES :

England :
Fr. Quigley, who is Senior Chaplain to the British Forces in Egypt, finds the names of other Jesuit chaplains in the Register at Alexandria, and among them Fr. David Gallery (1901), Fr. V. Lentaigne (1904-5) and Fr. Joseph Flynn (1907-14).

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father Joseph Flinn SJ 1877-1943
The name of Fr Joseph Flinn will always be linked with those of Fr Matthew and Fr Cullen in the Ministry of the Temperance Movement.

Born in Arklow on January 11th 1877, he was educated at Mungret and Clongowes. After his ordination as a Jesuit, he was atached to the Mission Staff. He then served as a Chaplain in the First World War, and on his return was assigned to Fr Cullen as his assistant. He succeeded Fr Cullen in 1922 and for twenty years and more guided the Pioneer Association on its ever-expanding path. With his great organising ability and meticulous adherence to the Founder’s ideas, he gave the Movement an impetus which has spread its branches beyond the shores of Ireland.

Completely devoted to God and His Glory, austere towards himself, unworldly, he showed himself kind to others, especially the poor and the underdog. For the last ten years of his life, though afflicted with a heart complaint, he worked as hard and as cheerfully for the Cross as ever.

Fr Joe was possessed of a vigour and drive that was truly phenomenal. This was evident iin all his activities, as Prefect, as Missioner, as Pioneer leader, and was conveyed succinctly by his well known nick-name “The Pusher”.

He had tremendous fire. On the platform he would remind one of the Prophets of the Old Testament, breathing indignation, with fire flashing from hius eyes and his hand uplifted calling on the people of Ireland to follow him to the Holy Land of Temperance and sobriety.

He died at Rathfarnham Castle on May 24th 1943.

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Memorial card and obituary for Fr Joseph Flinn SJ.

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1998; 2020

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