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Benson, Patrick J, 1923-1970, Jesuit priest and missioner

  • IE IJA J/735
  • Person
  • 19 December 1923-15 May 1970

Born: 19 December 1923, Kilkishen, County Clare
Entered: 07 September 1942, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1956, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final vows: 02 February 1959
Died: 15 May 1970, Fordham University, The Bronx, New York, USA - Zambiae Province (ZAM)

Part of the Canisius College, Chikuni, Zambia community at the time of death

◆ Companions in Mission1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
The suddenness of Fr Paddy's death came as a great shock. He had left Chikuni for a well deserved leave in January 1970 and during the course of that leave went to the USA to do some career guidance. He had been doing this at Canisius Secondary School with great success and went overseas to acquire the latest techniques. He was staying at Fordham University when he died, and an extract from a letter from the Rector there, Fr James Hennessey S. J., gave the details of Fr Paddy's death:

"He had been here a month and we were delighted to have him. Rarely has anyone fitted into the community so well. He was always pleasant and his humour was delightful, he went about his business seriously and impressed all who came into contact with him. He was cheerful to the last; several who were with him at dinner last evening remembered that he had been in fine fettle. He must have retired early. This morning a relative, Br Bernard F.M.S., came to call for him. They had planned to spend the day together. It was about 10 a.m. and when Paddy did not answer, he went to his room and found him dead. It looked to me as if he had tried to get up, then had fallen back and died quickly and peacefully. There was no evidence of struggle or pain. Fr Minister anointed him and our house doctor pronounced him dead of a coronary".

Paddy was born in Co. Clare, Ireland, on 19th December 1923, an only child. He went to St Flannan's College in Co. Clare and after his final year in school, entered the Society on 7 September 1942 much to the regret of the diocesan clergy who would have liked him for the diocese. He went through the usual training in the Society doing his regency at Belvedere and Mungret. While at these places he was known for his selflessness and the memory everyone had of Fr. Paddy was of his willingness to help others in any way he could. He was ordained at Milltown Park on the 31st July 1956, a happy event which was tempered by the fact that neither of his parents lived to see him ordained. After his tertianship he came to Zambia.

After spending some time learning the language, he became Manager of Schools for a year, then did two years at Charles Lwanga Teacher Training College and finally came to Canisius in 1962, as Senior Prefect, a position he held until 1969 when he was acting principal for almost a year.

If one were to pick out two virtues in Fr Paddy, all would agree that his ever-cheerfulness and readiness to help others are the two outstanding ones. He was a man who rarely thought of himself or his own comfort and this combined with a simplicity of soul, endeared him to all who had dealings with him. In all the houses in which he had been, he left his mark, for he was gifted with his hands and electricity had always been his chief hobby. In Milltown Park, Dublin he did the wiring for the telephone system while he was studying there. In many houses in Zambia, both in the Society and elsewhere, there are "many things electrical" which are working due to Fr Paddy's dexterity.

He was never too busy to help others and was ready to drop everything in order to be of assistance to the many who called on him to do "little jobs", to fill in for a supply if someone was sick or unavailable, or just to be cheerful in conversation. This willingness to help others and his fondness for the steering wheel, gave him a certain mobility and it was not uncommon to see him disappearing in clouds of dust down the avenue.

He led a tiring life but even so, at the end of a hard week put in at the school work, he would go off on Mass supply to preach and baptise or help in the parish at Chikuni. To one who lived and worked with Fr Paddy for many years, the oft quoted Latin tag "consummatus in brevi, expleveit tempora multa" (he accomplished much in a short time) takes on a new meaning.

Though he died in New York his body was returned to Ireland to be buried at Mungret where he had taught and which was not too far from his old home.
Many letters of sympathy came to Fr O’Riordan, Education Secretary General, not least from the Minister of Education and his Permanent Secretary. Here are some extracts: "Fr Benson will always be remembered for his warm humanity, keen sense of humour and willingness to assist others." (Minister of Education); "Fr Benson's calm and reasoned approach to education problems, his sense of humour and the cooperative and helpful spirit with which he went about his affairs, remain in the memory." (Permanent Secretary, Min. Ed.).

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 45th Year No 3 1970

Obituary :

Fr Patrick Benson SJ (1923-1970)

The news of Fr. Benson's death in New York on May 15th had a stunning effect on those, and they were many, who but a short time previously had welcomed him back for the holiday break from Zambia; he had spent some intervals in his native Clare and had visited a number of friends in the various houses and professed himself sufficiently fit to do an educational course at Fordham before returning to the missions proper.
After the first announcement of his death Fr. James Hennessy, Rector of Fordham, set himself immediately to give a more detailed account : “Several of those who were at dinner with him last evening remarked that he had been in fine fettle. He must have retired early. This morning a relative, Br. Bernard, F.H.S., came to call for him. They had planned a day together. It was about 10 am, and when Paddy did not answer Br. Bernard went to his room and found him dead. It looked to me as if he had tried to get up, then had fallen back and died quickly and peacefully. There was no evidence of struggle or pain. Fr. Minister anointed him and our house doctor pronounced him dead of a coronary”.
Fr. Provincial here was contacted and it was decided to have the burial at Mungret sixteen miles from Fr. Paddy's native place Kilkishen, across the Shannon.
In Fordham the obsequies were not neglected; over twenty Jesuits were present at the exequial Mass on May 18th; the lessons were read by Frs. Joseph Kelly, Brian Grogan and Hugh Duffy. Fr. Paddy Heelan gave an appreciation of his contemporary and friend at an evening Mass previously and Fr. George Driscoll, Superior of the Gonzaga Retreat House for boys, with whom Fr. Benson had already formed a firm friendship, gave the homily or funeral oration. The suffrages on Fr. Benson's behalf from the Fordham community amount to 150 Masses.
Fr. Paddy was a student at St. Flannan's College, Ennis, and had come to our novitiate in 1942 in company with his fellow collegian Michael O'Kelly whose lamentable early death occurred when later they were theologians together in Milltown. Paddy followed the conventional courses - juniorate and degrees from UCD at Rathfarnham; colleges at Belvedere and Mungret, and theology at Milltown, priesthood 1946.
He went to Zambia (North Rhodesia then) in 1948. An energetic teacher and missionary with considerable versatility and skill in practical matters - his flair with electric fittings saved the mission considerable incidental expenses, obliging and resultantly much in demand. He possessed a pleasant sober manner, not dominating but willing to take his share quietly in the conversation, a sense of humour and a droll remark where apposite. About five years since he was home for the normal break and on this present occasion no one from his appearance would have surmised that the end was approaching; since his death we have been informed that in Africa, he had recently experienced a bout of languor which made it advisable that he take a change which he did in Southern Rhodesia and he appeared to have been re-established on his return to Ireland; the sad and unexpected event of May 15th proved other wise. May he rest in peace.

Fr. C. O'Riordan has forwarded the following letters of sympathy from the Minister of Education and the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Education in Lusaka :

Dear Fr. O'Riordan,
I have learned, with a deep sense of shock, of the untimely death of Fr. Benson whilst in New York. To those of us who were privileged to have known and worked with Fr, Benson, this comes with a heartfelt sense of regret.
Fr. Benson, apart from his long and dedicated service both at Charles Lwanga Training College and Canisius Secondary School at which, towards the end of last year, he acted as principal, will always be remembered for his warm humanity, keen sense of humour and willingness to assist others.
I am writing to you because of Fr. Benson's involvement in education, but would be most grateful if you could convey my sincere condolences, coupled with those of the Minister of State, to Fr. Counihan and to His Lordship, Bishop Corboy, to each of whom Fr. Benson's death must be a grievous loss.
Yours sincerely,
W. P NYIRENDA (Minister of Education).

Dear Fr. O'Riordan,
I was deeply shocked to hear, from our telephone conversation this morning, of Fr. Benson's death.
One is conscious of the significant contribution he made, both at Canisius Secondary School and Charles Lwanga during the years he served in Zambia. His calm and reasoned approach to education problems, his sense of humour and the co-operative and helpful spirit with which he went about his affairs, remain in the memory.
Please accept not only my own heartfelt condolences, but those on behalf of all my officers within the Ministry, who I know will feel Fr. Benson's death keenly.
Yours sincerely,
D. BOWA (Permanent Secretary).

Gleeson, William, 1862-1951, Jesuit priest

  • IE IJA J/166
  • Person
  • 11 March 1862-30 March 1951

Born: 11 March 1862, Nenagh, County Tipperary
Entered: 04 November 1880, Milltown Park, Dublin
Ordained: 31 July 1896, St Francis Xavier's, Gardiner Street, Dublin
Final vows: 15 August 1908
Died: 30 March 1951, St Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin

by 1897 at Drongen Belgium (BELG) making Tertianship

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 26th Year No 3 1951

Obituary :

Fr. William Gleeson died on March 30th, 1951, at St. Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner St., Dublin, in his ninetieth year, having been the oldest member of the Irish Province since the death of Fr. P. McWilliams in July, 1950.
He was born at Nenagh on March 11th, 1862, and was the son of John Gleeson, Clerk of the Nenagh Town Commissioners. He was educated at the Christian Brothers School, Nenagh, at Blackrock College, Dublin, and at the Diocesan Seminary, Ennis. He entered the Society on November 4th, 1880, at Milltown Park, where after his noviciate he completed his philosophical studies. Having taught for seven years at Clongowes he returned to Milltown Park for theology. He was ordained in 1896 in St. Francis Xavier's Church, Gardiner St.
Having done his tertianship at Tronchiennes Fr. Gleeson returned to Clongowes for a further period as master and prefect. In 1900 he began his life-work as a missioner and retreat giver. During twenty-six years he made a distinguished name for himself in this field throughout Ireland. He was a vigorous and eloquent preacher and an indefatigable worker in hearing confessions, in visiting the sick and in rounding up the the straying sheep of the flock. He came to Gardiner Street in 1926 and remained there until his death. He will perhaps be best remembered for his work from 1927 to 1943 as organiser and director of the Sodality for the Dublin members of the Garda Siochana. In this capacity he displayed great zeal and untiring energy. The Gardai showed many times how much they appreciated his generous labours on their behalf and as a final tribute to his memory they claimed for themselves the privilege of bearing his remains, after the Office and Requiem Mass, from St. Francis Xavier's Church to the hearse, while a selection of their officers and men marched behind.
As will be evident from this brief record of his long life, Fr. Gleeson was always a strenuous worker, and he worked to the end. He wanted, as he often said, “to earn his daily bread and to die in harness”. In both respects his wishes were fulfilled. He concluded his annual retreat on March 12th. He had been up and about and said Mass as usual the day before he died. In a very true sense he fell asleep in the Lord.
When he was discovered, he was lying on his side, his head cupped in his hand, seemingly sleeping the sleep of the just. As his body was still warm, he was anointed by Fr. Superior. On the previous day he had said apropos of nothing “The Gleesons all die without much warning”.
When in 1930 Fr. Gleeson celebrated his Golden Jubilee in the Society at Gardiner Street, Fr. Macardle, who was then Superior, having paid a fitting tribute to the Jubilarian's versatility and success in the vineyard of the Lord, mentioned that in his earlier years he was an outstanding athlete and skilful in all games. As a scholastic in Clongowes he frequently proved himself a capable cricketer in out matches, while in one historic match against the military from the Curragh Camp, he turned what seemed a certain defeat into a glorious victory by scoring 120 runs, not out. Even at the age of fifty, when he was a seasoned missioner, those who lived with him at the Crescent relate that, when at home between missions, he would walk out to Mungret, play a soccer match with the College boys, walk back to Limerick, play a hockey match with the Crescent team and after it all would appear that evening at recreation as the most sprightly of the. community! Whatever his hand found to do, he did it manfully. He now rests from his labours, for his works have followed him.

Murray, Seán, 1922-2008, Jesuit priest

  • IE IJA J/783
  • Person
  • 02 May 1922-21 July 2008

Born: 02 May 1922, Carrigaholt, County Clare
Entered: 07 September 1940, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 29 July 1954, Milltown Park, Dublin
Professed: 02 February 1978
Died 21 July 2008, Cherryfield Lodge, Dublin

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

◆ Companions in Mission 1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
Fr Seán was 49 years of age when he first came to Zambia in 1971. It was for him a new country, a new people and a new language. In the normal course of events, he would have come to Zambia thirty years earlier during regency time. As a scholastic, he spent his three years regency teaching, one year at the Crescent College in Limerick and two years at Clongowes Wood College.

He was born in Kilkee, Co Clare, a seaside resort, in 1922. His schooling was at the Christian Brothers in Limerick, at The Crescent College in Limerick and also at St Flannan's College in Ennis.

At the age of 18 he joined the Jesuit novitiate at Emo Park in 1940. After his first vows, he followed the normal course of studies: humanities, philosophy, regency and theology, being ordained at Milltown Park in 1954. Tertianship came at the end of his formation in 1956. He spent a short time in Emo as bursar, then for twelve years he was back in Limerick at the Sacred Heart Church as minister of the house and prefect of the church.

Fr Seán brought to his work as a priest a spirit of prayer, a warm personality, a spirit of hard work, a friendliness which people found easy to approach, a concern for people and a good sense of humour.

In 1971 there came a great change of life and of lifestyle for Fr Seán. He came out to Zambia. His first assignment was as secretary to the Bishop of the Diocese for six months. Then he went to Malawi to the Language Centre at Lilongwe to learn this new language called ciNyanja, followed by a few months in a parish in the Chipata diocese to practice what he had learned.

Returning to Zambia, he was posted to Nakambala to the Sugar Estate in Mazabuka where he spent the rest of his time in Zambia doing parochial work among the people on the Estate. These were workers who came from various parts of Zambia with their different languages. For this, the ciNyanja Fr Seán had learned, was ideal as it is a sort of lingua franca in Zambia, though its main location is the Eastern Province and Malawi.

Poor health took him back to Ireland for a long break but he returned to continue his work at Nakambala until 1986 when he had to return to Ireland for good. When he had recovered after a few years in Ireland he had hoped to come back again to Nakambala, as he wrote clearly to his Provincial, ‘I am keen to return to Nakambala’. But unfortunately, his health took a turn for the worse and he could not return.

For the next sixteen years until his death, Fr Seán soldiered on, working in the church, often in pain but he was always most welcoming to all who sought his services. The qualities – shall I call them virtues – which Fr Seán brought to his priestly life in the Crescent in Limerick, he brought also to Nakambala in Zambia and he also brought them back with him to Gardiner Street in Dublin. He died in Cherryfield Lodge infirmary in Dublin on 21st July 2008 at the ripe old age of eighty six years.

My fond memory of Fr Seán (known to his near contemporaries as Fr Max) is a Sunday evening in Mazabuka with two of his fellow Jesuits from other communities, meeting for a chat, a cuppa, a bar of chocolate, one of them lighting his pipe, and a game of canasta. May he rest in peace.

O'Kelly, Michael, 1923-1955, Jesuit scholastic

  • IE IJA J/336
  • Person
  • 06 October 1923-07 September 1955

Born: 06 October 1923, Knocknakilla, Cree, County Clare
Entered 15 September 1942, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Died: 07 September 1955, St Vincent’s Hospital, Dublin

Part of the Milltown Park, Dublin community at the time of death

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 31st Year No 1 1956
Obituary :

Mr Michael O’Kelly
Michael O'Kelly was born at Knocknahyla, Mullagh, Co. Clare, in 1924, and educated at St. Flannan's College, Ennis. At school he showed all round ability; among his academic distinctions, he took 1st place in Irish in the Leaving Certificate, and as a Junior footballer represented his county.
He entered the Society in 1942, did his Juniorate in Rathfarnham and his Philosophy in Tullabeg. There is not much to record of these years. He always kept his deepest thoughts very much to himself. He was an excellent companion; cheerful, amusing, at times facetious with a kind of facetiousness that delights rather than bores. He was fond of banter; and was almost continually at it, yet never gave offence. He was argumentative in a way that did not irritate; it was merely a sign that “O'Kell” was in good humour; a sign, too, of the strength of character that under lay his lightheartedness. Like all strong characters, he was impatient of inefficiency; meticulous in all he set his mind to, he expected to find others the same; but if at times he gave way to exasperation, it was always good humoured. He was full of common sense and moderation. The Irish language movement has lost a desirable apostle in Michael O'Kelly.
In 1950 he went to Galway as teacher and assistant games-master. From the beginning, among the Community and with the boys in the classroom and on the football field he endeared himself to all. In spite of a fine physique he had been constantly ill; he suffered particularly from a leg ailment, the result of an injury at football. In his second year in Galway his knee began to trouble him again. The doctors diagnosed cancer and his leg had to be amputated. After a winter in hospital he returned to Galway in the late spring. Though now on crutches, he went back to work as if nothing had happened and took his full part in Community and school life. In class he used his crutch to point to the blackboard ; from the sideline he refereed matches. His influence over the boys was great; they crowded about him when he appeared and he was often seen playing games with them or taking photographs, balancing himself on his crutches.
He came to Milltown in 1953. Already there were signs that secondary cancer had set in, but he attended all his lectures which meant climbing two flights of stairs. He insisted on doing as much as possible for himself. In May, 1954, he had a set-back. He was taken to St. Vincent's Hospital, from which he was never to return. It was clear from the first that there was little hope for him. He underwent an operation which was successful to the extent of making his last days easier. He made a surprising recovery. Contrary to all expectations he lived on" for a year and a half after the operation, his physique and determination keeping him alive. He had many relapses, though each recovery was less complete than the previous. Nothing would induce him to give up hope. A few weeks before his death he was taken into the hospital grounds and spoke more confidently than ever of leaving hospital. If he did not always believe what he said, he kept his misgivings to himself. În September he felt his mental powers weakening, he was anointed and on the 5th he became unconscious. He died peacefully on the 7th, exactly thirteen years from the day he entered the Society.
During his illness he showed remarkable courage, even more remarkable cheerfulness. He accepted his infirmity with resignation no one ever heard him complain of it. To the end he kept up his interest in all that happened in Milltown, Galway and throughout the Province. Those who came to visit him - and there was always a great stream of visitors - often found that it was they who went away cheered by their visit. He was thirty-one when he died; had he lived he would have been ordained next Summer. To his sister, brother and aunt we offer our deepest sympathy. May he rest in peace.