Bonfield, Francis, 1911-1988, Jesuit brother

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Bonfield, Francis, 1911-1988, Jesuit brother

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  • Frank Bonfield
  • Bonnie

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Dates of existence

08 April 1911-22 July 1988

History

Born: 08 April 1911, Nenagh, County Tipperary
Entered: 20 April 1935, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Final vows: 15 August 1945
Died: 22 July 1988, Inverin, County Galway

Part of the Coláiste Iognáid, Galway community at the time of death.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 63rd Year No 4 1988 (Final Edition)
Obituary
Br Francis Bonfield (1911-1935-1988)
Br Francis Bonfield was born in Nenagh on 8th November 1911. He entered the noviceship at Emo on 20th April 1935. After his vows in 1938 he went to Manresa House, Roehampton, London, to train as an infirmarian. He returned to Milltown Park in the summer of 1939 to look after the refectory. The next year he was sent to Tullabeg as infirmarian and in charge of staff. He stayed there until summer 1952, when he was transferred to Galway, Sacristan (to the church and community chapel) and infirmarian were his principal occupations, For the first few years he also had charge of staff. So at his death “Bonnie”, as he was affectionately known by us all, was thirty-six years in Galway. He was also the last member of a large family to die: his sister preceded him before Christmas 1987.
In Tullabeg he was very popular, especially with the philosophers, as he looked after their health. He also got to know the local people over the years there. He continued to maintain an interest in them and their families, even during his time in Galway.
These were pre-Vatican II days when he came to Galway. As church sacristan, he had to be up every morning to ring the angelus at 6 am, and to have the church open and ready for the 6.50 am Mass. usually said by Fr Paddy O'Kelly († 1968). In summertime, the holiday season, you could have any number of Masses being said by visiting priests at the various altars in the church and community residence. Most of these priests would be seculars from all over Ireland. Then there were a lot of devotions: so his life was a busy one.
In those days also Fr Kieran Ward was in charge of the St John Berchmans Altar-Servers Society. The servers then continued to serve Mass up to and even during their Leaving-certificate years. Here Bonnie's charisma for making lasting friendships displayed itself. He made friends with many of those Mass-servers, and the friendships lasted right up to his death. Some would call and bring him out for a meal: others would bring him for a weekend holiday, or invite him to their weddings. He also had numerous friends amongst the people who came to the church: he was concerned about them and their families.
As sacristan, he was witness to and involved in all the changes that took place in the church and its liturgy after Vatican II.
Up to 1977 Bonnie was very active: but on 22nd April 1977 he was affected by a severe stroke. He was suffering from high blood-pressure, and did not seem to know it. He went into Merlin Park hospital, and was there for months. When he came out, after the best of medical attention, his right side was somewhat paralysed, and he had not the use of his right hand. It was noticed also that there was an impediment in his speech. With the great help of Fr Richard Butler, Bonnie made valiant efforts to deal with this handicap. Gradually, over a space of time, his speech came back to normal.
Over the years since, Bonnie has been a living example to us of how sickness can be no less a gift than health. He edified us and many others by how patiently, nay, how cheerfully he accepted this cross in his life. It meant now, for example, that such things as dressing oneself were difficult and time-consuming. He had to make a complete adjustment to his way of life. His handicapped physical condition confined him more or less to the house and church and their environs. He could not go up town or to Salthill on his own, as he was unable to travel on buses. However, he never complained.
At Christmas-time, Bonnie was faced with a problem. What would he do about sending greetings to his relatives and friends? With his usual tenacity he came on a solution to his problem. He ordered his Christmas cards like all the rest of the community. He enlisted help to draw up a list of those to whom he was accustomed to send cards, bought the required number of stamps, and so with help he continued to greet those whom he loved.
Members of the community and province had sympathy for him and helped him when possible. Bonnie often expressed his gratitude for this at community meetings. He loved a Sunday-afternoon excursion in a house-car. Part of the ritual when he went out in the car was the reminder to purchase some ice-cream. He got extra enjoyment out of it when he knew he had persuaded the driver to pay for it. He was able to get to Lourdes. He even went to at least one all-Ireland hurling final with the help of an tAthair Connla O Dúláine. Then the Brothers of the Province rallied round and took him with them on their holidays, be it to Cork, Wexford, or Donegal. Actually he died at the end of a holiday that Fr Frank Sammon had arranged for him.
One of the main characteristics of Bonnie's life was his love for people. This showed itself in the enjoyment he got out of attending parish socials, senior citizens' Christmas parties, and other functions. Another was his love for his own community. His contribution to the Galway community is enormous. Apart from his example in adversity he was always amiable, affable, and cheerful; was interested in everything, loved theological discussions, which he some times initiated, and wore his heart upon his sleeve about some things such as hurling, his native county of Tipperary, and his political affiliations. These fatter were the cause of much merriment and debate, especially as Galway are so prominent in hurling at present.
He once expressed a wish to a lay friend of his that he would like to have the Coolin played at his funeral Mass. In the circumstances of his death, and at such short notice, it was not possible to have this done. However, at his month's mind Mass, concelebrated in the church by the Rector, Fr Murt Curry, with other members of the community, there was a beautiful rendering of the Coolin on a violin.
Bonnie has died: but the love he had for the Society, and the way he lived up to the Jesuit ideal, especially with his infirmity, will remain as an example and inspiration to us all.

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830-

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Bonfield, Francis, 1911-1988, Jesuit brother

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IE IJA J/494

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IE IJA

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