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Ffrench, Gregory, 1903-1985, Jesuit priest
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Dates of existence
22 December 1903-02 October 1985
Born: 22 December 1903, Kirkcaldy, Fifeshire, Scotland
Entered: 31 August 1921, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1934
Final vows: 02 February 1940
Died: 02 October 1985, St John’s Hospital, Limerick
Part of St Stanislaus College community, Tullabeg, County Offaly at the time of his death.
Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ
by 1924 at Lyon, France (LUGD) studying
by 1927 in Australia - Regency
by 1937 at St Beuno’s Wales (ANG) making Tertianship
◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
Gregory Ffrench entered the Society in 1921, and after novitiate in Tullabeg did juniorate at Fourvière where his health failed in the over-strict regime, and he returned to Rathfarnharn Caste, 1924-25. Now seriously affected by consumption he was sent to Australia where he worked at Burke Hall, 1925-26, and then moved to Riverview until 1928, where he was third division prefect. At Riverview Ffrench made a complete recovery and he returned to Ireland. His Irish colleagues described him as a quiet person, easy to talk to, a man of wide interests with a gentle sense of humor. He was a storehouse of knowledge, extremely well read, and had a very penetrating and accurate mind'. He was a tireless worker.
Amongst Ffrench's claim to fame in Australia was that he severely strapped a young boarder from the country who had been in Riverview only a couple of hours for walking on the front lawns of the College. Despite this, the young student, Charles Fraser, later joined the Society and gave most of his life to teaching at Riverview.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 60th Year No 4 1985
Fr Gregory Ffrench (1903-1921-1985)
Born on 22nd December 1903. 31st August 1921: entered SJ. 1921-23 Tullabeg, noviciate. 1923-24 Lyon-Fourvière, juniorate. 1924-25 Rathfarnham, juniorate. 1925-28 Australia, regency: 1925-26 Melbourne, Burke Hall; 1926-28 Sydney, Riverview. 1928-31 Ireland, philosophy: 1928-30 Milltown; 1930-31 Tullabeg. 1931-35 Milltown, theology. 1935-36 St Beuno's, tertianship.
1936-38 Emo, socius for scholastic novices to novicemaster, 1938-39 Belvedere, editorial assistant, Irish Monthly and Messenger. 1939-42 Mungret, spiritual father of students; teaching. 1942-50 Clongowes, spiritual father of the boys; teaching, 1950-51 Crescent, teaching. 1951-62 Emo, retreats. 1962-85 Tullabeg, Eucharistic Crusade: assistant; 1970, regional director; 1973 director; also retreat work. 1985 Crescent. Died in St John's hospital, Limerick, on 2nd October 1985.
Entering the noviciate from Clongowes, Gregory Ffrench looked younger than his seventeen or so years, but his boyish appearance was deceptive. He was a mature young man with firmly held views which he was well able to defend. He was a quiet person - one never heard him raise his voice - but he could be quite decisive in his replies.
After his noviciate he was sent for a year's juniorate to Fourvière, Lyon, France. The over-strict regime there told on his delicate health, and after a year in Rathfarnham, seriously affected by tuberculosis, he was packed off to Australia. There he made a wonderful recovery, so that he was able to return to Ireland to complete his studies.
A quiet person, I said, easy to talk to, with a gentle sense of humour. Hence he made a very pleasant companion and a good “community man”, His spiritual life was in no way ostentatious, but it went very deep, and on occasion would flash forth in a phrase or a comment.
The last sentence of St John's Gospel is: “There were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written”. In the same way I wonder how many books would have to be written to describe all the works that Fr Gregory Ffrench did in his day. It would be no exaggeration to say that from the day he entered the Society of Jesus, the amount of time he spent not thinking of things of God would hardly add up to one whole hour. As far as I could estimate, his mind was always set upon the work of spreading the Kingdom of God and the salvation of souls. For many years in all parts of the country I travelled and worked with him, setting up ‘pockets' of prayer at Crusader centres, giving retreats and missions, and organising various days: days of renewal, of Crusader work, of recollection, Never once in all that time did I find the slightest reason for saying that anything he did or proposed was unsatisfactory. To work with him was a great privilege, and a source of valuable experience. He was the easiest man in the world to get on with. His deep humility, I would say, was the foundation and source of all his wonderful qualities.
I don't think anyone could mention any virtue which Gregory did not possess. I imagine I could run through all the virtues like generosity, patience, tolerance, cheerfulness, prayerfulness, self-giving, and the rest, and find examples of these virtues manifested in his Christ-like living. I am inclined to think that he could also have been exercising virtues that neither I nor anyone else noticed. He was not in any way a show-off. For me he was the perfect example of what Christ asks of us when He says “Unless you become as little children you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Fr Ffrench was a storehouse of knowledge concerning almost everything that had to do with the spreading of the Word of God. He was extremely well-read, and his knowledge embraced every subject. He had a very penetrating accurate mind, and the conclusions he drew from his observations were nearly always correct. In his room, or on the road, or in school class-rooms, he was indefatigable in his work and in his service of those he judged would need his help.
He had wonderful sympathy for the hardships of the poor, and his practical way of helping them was remarkable - even to the extent of supplying them with foodstuffs from the manufacturers. The amount of help, both spiritual and material, which he gave to the people around Tullabeg is inestimable. In spite of being probably the busiest man in the Province, he could always find time to help people out of difficulties, even to the extent of taking out his car and driving them long distances, or otherwise arranging the solutions to their problems, even financial.
When at home he was constantly writing: typing guidelines for the Crusaders, articles for provincial newspapers, letters to persons in authority urging some reforms or calling attention to abuses. He had all the interests of the Irish province at heart.The story will never be told of all he did to keep Tullabeg going as a powerhouse of spirituality and as a viable retreat house. There are many who are now priests, or preparing for the priesthood, who owe their vocations to the interest Fr Ffrench took in them and the valuable help he gave them. In one family near Tullabeg, thanks entirely to his help, two boys are preparing for the priesthood.
He never seemed to tire or become in any way discouraged. The state of things never got him down': everything seemed to be simply a challenge to the work of saving souls, and he enjoyed the challenge. I never heard him complaining, but I frequently heard him rejoicing and praising God because of the work others were doing for Him.
For myself, when Fr Ffrench died, I felt that something which could never be replaced had gone out of my life that the whole world had lost something incredibly valuable. I asked myself: Who could take his place? ... and I have not yet found the answer.
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Ffrench, Gregory, 1903-1985, Jesuit priest
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- County Limerick » Limerick City
- France » Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes » Lyon
- Wales » St Asaph » Tremeirchion » St Beuno's
- County Offaly (King's) » Ballycowan (Bar.) » Tullabeg » St Stanislaus College
- France » Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes » Lyon » Fourvière
- Australia » Victoria » Melbourne » Kew (Melbourne) » Burke Hall
- Australia » New South Wales » Sydney » Riverview » St Ignatius College (Riverview)
- County Limerick » Limerick City » New Road » St John's Square » St John's Hospital
- Scotland » Kirkcaldy
- County Kildare » Clane » Clongowes Wood College SJ
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Rathfarnham » Rathfarnham Castle
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Sandford Road » Milltown Park
- County Laois (Queen's) » Emo » St Mary's (Emo)
- County Dublin » Dublin City » Great Denmark Street » Belvedere College SJ
- County Limerick » Mungret » Mungret College SJ, 1882-1974
- County Limerick » Limerick City » The Crescent » Sacred Heart College SJ, 1859-1974
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