File 503 - Br Patrick Guidera SJ

Identity area

Reference code

IE IJA J/503


Br Patrick Guidera SJ


  • 30 April 1933 - 26 December 1992 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

50 items

Context area

Name of creator

(06 June 1900-26 December 1992)

Biographical history

Born: 06 June 1900, Mountrath, County Laois
Entered: 28 November 1933, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Final Vows: 02 February 1946, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Died: 26 December 1992, Our Lady’s Hospice, Dublin

Part of the Cherryfield Lodge, Dublin community at the time of death

◆ Fr Francis Finegan : Admissions 1859-1948 - Painter before Entry

◆ Interfuse
Interfuse No 75 : Christmas 1993 & Interfuse No 82 : September 1995

Br Patrick Guidera (1900-1992)

6th June 1900: Born, Mountrath, Laois
Worked as painter/decorator for 20 years in the family business
28th Nov. 1933: Entered the Society at Emo
1935 - 1941: Belvedere - Painter
1941 - 1942: Crescent College - Maintenance
1942 - 1948: Emo - Plant Maintenance
1948 - 1990: Tullabeg - Plant and Church maintenance/Fundraiser
1990 - 1992: Cherryfield Lodge
26th Dec. 1992: Died at Cherryfield Lodge

Pat Guidera was a few days short of his thirty-third year, when in the belief that God was calling him to the religious life, he arrived at the door of the Jesuit Novitiate, St Mary's, Emo Park. It was the evening of May 28th, 1933. The decision which brought him that evening from his home in Mountrath to the steps of St Mary's was not an easy one for a man of his age and experience.

Pat was the eldest son in a large family; he was a skilled painter and decorator whose work was widely appreciated. His father and younger brothers had come to rely on his skills and on his ability in dealing with the business side of his and their work. He was, too, a devout Catholic, a popular neighbour, a mature man with, as he tells us himself, serious plans to marry and father a family of his own.

Such in a nutshell was his position when the call to the religious life, of which he had been vaguely conscious, became more insistent. The Hound of Heaven was not to be denied! It was on the occasion of the Eucharistic Congress in 1932 that Patrick made his first outward response. Through the Brigidine Sisters at their convent in Mountrath, he made contact, with his first Jesuit, the late Fr James Whitaker who was conducting the Sisters' annual Retreat. Under this priest's kindly and understanding direction, Pat finally made up his mind to apply for admission as a religious Brother in the Irish Province of the Company of Jesus.

Thus it was that Pat Guidera, after much soul-searching and prayer, came to leave all' to follow the Christ who went down to Nazareth and lived a life of dependence on his parents to whom He was subject. The surrender of his independence as a mature man was, perhaps, at the core of his sacrifice. Indeed, few, if any, of his fellow novices, had anything like the sacrifices to make as those required of him on answering that same call. Surely that tells us something of the mutual love between God and himself as he knocked at St Mary's door. Even then he was a man after St Ignatius' own heart - a man of generous spirit and desiring to be detached from “all that the world loves and embraces”.

After his first chat with the master of novices, Pat realized that Canon Law required him to wait six months in residence at St Mary's before admission to the Noviceship. This proved a wise provision in his case as it gave him time and space to reconsider in a prayerful atmosphere his decision to leave a comfortable home, to forego the happiness of married life and to bind himself to a life of obedience and dependence. It was during these first months he came to appreciate the wise and firm direction of the late Fr John Coyne of whom Pat was untiring in his praise all his long life. He began his two-year noviceship on Nov 22nd 1933, and immediately entered on the Thirty Day Retreat; after this experience, he never “looked back”.

Now in later years Brother Pat would say that he found his noviceship years a real trial. It is to his credit and to the continuing power of the grace of vocation that he persevered and happily made his first Vows as a Brother in the Society of Jesus.

During the next eleven years, 1935-46, he had ample opportunity to exercise his talent as a painter and decorator, first at St Mary's Emo, then at Belvedere and for a short period at Rathfamham. And as was the common practice at the time for every member of the Province, he was expected to be ready and able to help out in spheres of activity for which he had no special training or aptitude. Brother Pat, no doubt, found the words, Ad dom! after his name in the annual Catalogus. In practice it direct ed him to be at the service of all whenever he might be needed. In this, too, he was like his Master who was 'among us as one who serves'. So, as the years went by Brother Pat could be found at work as a carpenter, or electrician, a motor mechanic and chauffeur, a builder in stone, a plasterer, a glazier and general handy-man. This was the patter of his daily work from February 2nd, 1946, when he made his final vows in the Company of Jesus, up to a few years before his death on December 26th 1992.

Sometime in 1948, he was asked to leave St Mary's Emo and go to Tullabeg on loan for the purpose of painting and decorating the People's Church there. However, he remained in Tullabeg for the next forty-two years, 1948-1990. During the years up to 1962, Brother Pat's life was hidden from most of us, even from some of his fellow Brothers! Being a jack-of-all-trades and master of most, he was difficult to find in the labyrinth that was old Tullabeg House and farm out-offices. Moreover, he rose earlier than most and was always a step ahead in his morning prayers. He often breakfasted on the foot and after a long day's toil was the last to retire. In part, this was the kind of life he chose to live. If one permitted a mild criticism, it would be that perhaps our brother was too wedded to his work. But he'd surely have a reply to that.

It would be true to say of him that he was a worrier, a man not easily satisfied with himself or his work, whatever it might be. And if his efforts did not always please others, they did not always please himself. His standards as a religious were high, and high, too, were the standards of work he set for himself. Often finding himself pulled from “Billy to Jack”, often expected to make “a silk purse out of a sow's ear”, our Brother occasionally found his fellow Jesuits disapproving either of his way of acting or of his actual work. He would listen in silence, make little or no defence, offer no excuse, but with head bowed and with a characteristic back ward shovelling of his feet, he would depart with his new instructions, which he feared would not remedy the situation. In such situations, the example of Jesus, the Son of the Carpenter of Nazareth, was a source of strength to him. His way of silence in the face of criticism, of obedience to lawful authority, of charity to all was the way Brother Pat continued to strive to follow Him who is the way for every religious. Like many of his contemporaries Pat lived his life in the Second Degree of Humility with many an excursion into the Third. And in his last years, he came to be like his Master in others ways, too, not least in his love of prayer, in his love of the Mass and in his devotion to the Mother of Jesus. In 1991 he visited our Lady's Shrine at Medjugorje and in 1992 he visited Knock with a group from Rahan and Tullamore.

In 1990, the Lord asked one more sacrifice from his faithful friend - to leave Tullabeg and retire to Cherryfield Lodge. In time he came to accept that too. In the story of his life as told to, and beautifully edited by Fr Eddie O'Donnell, SJ, there is much to admire, much to smile at, and not a little to make one wonder at the loving providence of God.

Edmond Kent SJ

◆ The Belvederian, Dublin, 1995

The above is Fr Kent's account of Br Pat's life, but Pat, in the months before he died wrote his own autobiography, “The Story of my Life”. What follows are his own words on his years in Belvedere (1935- 41):

I spent most of my life as a Jesuit Brother at Rahan, near Tullamore, County Offaly. I was stationed there for over forty years, from 1948 to 1990. Since that period deserves a chapter all to itself, what I'm going to do here is bring you from the year I took my First Vows (1935) up to 1948. Okay?

Immediately after taking my vows in Emo, I was transferred to Belvedere College, the Jesuit day school in Dublin. My first job there was to repair the roof of the community building with the help of a couple of handymen. I bought lead sheeting from Lenehan's shop in Capel Street - which is still going strong - and had the work finished in no time.

Then I was asked to paint all the windows on the front of the house. This entailed the erection of a scaffolding, which was quite an awkward operation on account of the “area” beneath the building. We managed it all right. At that time there was a lot more painting to be done on the windows than there would be today. The windows were “Georgian”, with a lot of small panes like those in the houses nearby. In later years, these were replaced by single-pane, plate-glass windows, a mortal sin from the architectural point-of-view.

At that time in Belvedere, there was a fountain in the middle of the school yard. It had a pond or basin around it. I was asked to clear it away altogether. I started this work with the help of a few construction workers but a twenty-six week builders' strike had just started and these lads were told not to work with me. A group of workmen came into the yard and kicked up a shindy, so I was left on my own. One of the priests in the community - Fr Charlie Scantlebury SJ, who was editor of “The Sacred Heart Messenger” for many years - came out to give me a hand.

The militant workmen returned and tried to beat him up! Punches were exchanged and I had to go to his rescue. We waited for the strike to finish before completing that job, although I did a lot of work on it early each morning myself.

Another task I was given was to install electric chandeliers in the Front Parlour. I knew nothing about electricity but decided to have a go all the same. When I was nearly finished, I remember standing up on a ladder to cut off some loose ends with a sharp knife. Suddenly, there was a sheet of flame, a flash like lightning, that knocked me off the ladder. I will never forget that narrow escape.

My next assignment was to paint the school hall, or the “Gymnasium” as it was called. It's where the boys did their drill as part of the curriculum. It's also where the school operas were staged and where the Old Boys held their annual dinners. Everyone was very pleased with the work I did there, especially with the college crest and its motto, “Per Vias Rectas”, painted on the centre of the side wall. Fr Charlie Byrne SJ, was particularly delighted. He was in charge of putting on the operas - usually Gilbert & Sullivan - and he realised he had found someone who could do a proper job on the scenery in future.

When the Second World War broke out in 1939, there were a lot of shortages in Dublin. Coal boats couldn't cross over from England so we had to make do with turf. During the winter of 1939 itself, we still had a fair bit of coal left but Fr Rupert Coyle, SJ, in an effort to spare the fuel, told me to leave off the boiler in the Senior School during the Christmas holidays. There was a bad frost, unfortunately, and the pipes burst, flooding the whole building from top to bottom. There was an awful lot of damage done. I can leave you to guess whose job it was to clean up the mess.....

In 1940 the Rector of Belvedere, Fr John Mary O'Connor, SJ (affectionately known as “Bloody Bill”) received a letter from his opposite number in Rathfarnham Castle, Fr P G Kennedy SJ (the famous ornithologist) asking if he could send me over to paint the chapel. Like Emo and Belvedere, Rathfarnham Castle had ornate Georgian ceilings. The ceiling in the chapel took me over a month to paint. Like Michelangelo in Rome, I had to lie on my back on top of a scaffolding for days on end painting the intricate ornamentation.

When the ceiling was finished I did the walls and the sanctuary and then painted the front and sides of the altar. To restore the altar to its original glory, I had to purchase special gold-leaf paint which was manufactured in Dublin by a firm called Phillips (it can only be obtained from a firm in England nowadays). The Rector and his second-in-command, Fr “Dolly” Byrne SJ, were both very satisfied with what I did.

Then it was back to Belvedere, where the Minister, Fr Leo Donnelly SJ, had a major enterprise awaiting me. Away back in 1881 the Jesuits had bought a house on Temple street (opposite the Childrens' Hospital) and for two years it had been run as a third-level college called after St Ignatius. During the Second World War, this building was being used to house the domestic staff of Belvedere, but it was very dilapidated. I was asked to construct a bridge from the back of Belvedere College, across Temple Lane, into the back yard of “Temple Chambers” as the place was known then. This took quite a while, On account of the shortage of building materials during the war.

Anyhow, we got the bridge built and had to cover it in because it was the object of numerous missile attacks by kids from ... (nearby).

Then I had to renovate Temple Chambers. Another Brother and myself used to sleep there at night, Our rooms were right at the top, with the domestic staff occupying the lower storeys, now nicely re-papered: My room must have been at the front, because I remember being kept awake at night by the crying babies in the hospital across the street. Early in 1941, one of these babies was suffering from a rare-insect bite and screamed all night for weeks on end. He grew up to become Fr Eddie O'Donnell, SJ!

Later in 1941, the Rector of Milltown Park (Fr John McMahon SJ) who had admired my work in Rathfarnham, asked if I could come over and paint the domestic chapel at Milltown. This was a fairly straightforward job in comparison with the one at Rathfarnham. It took me less than a month to repaint the entire chapel.

When I returned to Belvedere during the summer of that year, most of the community were away on holidays. The Bursar, Fr John Calter SJ, was in charge and he asked me to paper and paint the room of Fr Frank O'Riordan. This was a tall order because Fr O'Riordan used to practise playing golf in his room! He'd hang a blanket, so I had to spend ages repairing the plug marks in the walls before the re-papering could start. All went well, however, and Fr Calter was delighted with the finished product, so delighted, indeed, that he decided to move into that room himself! When Fr O'Riordan returned, there was an awful rumpus. But I wasn't there to hear it because I had been transferred to Clongowes Wood.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

File relating to the admission of Patrick Guidera to the the Society and his Jesuit life in particular his work at the Jesuit house at Tullabeg. Includes copy of his ‘The Story of My Life’ (199, Cherryfield Press, 80pp) with illustrations from the Fr Frank Browne Collection.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related units of description

Related descriptions

Notes area

Alternative identifier(s)

Access points

Description control area

Description identifier

Institution identifier

Rules and/or conventions used


Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion





Accession area