File 365 - Fr William R Prendergast SJ

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IE IJA J/365


Fr William R Prendergast SJ


  • 1916-1971 (Creation)

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27 items

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(29 April 1906-04 January 1971)

Biographical history

Born: 29 April 1906, Bray, County Wicklow
Entered: 31 August 1922, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1935, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1938, Mungret College SJ, Limerick
Died: 04 January 1971, Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin

by 1937 at St Beuno’s Wales (ANG) making Tertianship

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 46th Year No 2 1971

Obituary :

Fr William R Prendergast SJ

Fr Prendergast died on January 4th this year. His death ended a long period of chronic if sometimes mysterious ill-health, under which he never gave up but continued to the last the sort of exacting work which had occupied so much of his life, facing gallantly never-ceasing demands on his failing energy.
His loss, when he might in happier circumstances have expected a continuing or perhaps growing capacity for good was a loss to the Society, the Church and even to the country.
One of three very able brothers he did not come under Jesuit influence until he joined the Order and was fortunate in finding in Fr Frank Ryan and still more in Fr J Canavan, men who appreciated and helped him, and won his undying gratitude. A practical rather than an academic-minded man he did not have much early opportunity to reveal his special quality. This, and perhaps his early training at home, made his deep humility something of a handicap. He was more than different. He had an obvious inferiority complex, thinking so little of his own powers that he needed the stimulus of praises, and this quite mistakenly gave the impression that he was vain. There was nothing remarkable about his formative student years, if one excepts the fact that he was sent, as might have been expected, to be First Prefect in Mungret immediately on its completion. The school was then smaller in numbers and had only recently begun to compete in rugby, a game which he had never played. Yet during his five years he saw his teams bringing home on more than one occasion the Munster Rugby cups which larger and longer-established schools sought for eagerly.
In 1943 he was appointed to the small mission staff and there, for more than twenty years, he found full scope for his gifts. A tireless worker he was also a natural orator of unusual quality with a fine presence and a good voice --- almost too powerful a voice. But that was only a foundation for a style which was dramatic and picturesque, if perhaps old-fashioned, but which was to the end most effective. He had also a remarkable power of illustrating and an excellent, though controlled sense of humour and a talent for exposition of even complicated thought. There was an other and perhaps equally important quality which made itself felt. Travelling one day in a town when Fr Prendergast had just given a big Mission, the present writer heard of the impression made during this mission from an enthusiastic taxi-driver. “You know, Father”, he said, after his account of the Mission, “every man and woman in the town knew that he really wanted to help them”. His busy mission periods were interspersed with continuous retreats to priests that were equally fruitful. Of one of them (to the clergy of a Northern diocese) a parish priest wrote in a letter to me: “He paid us the compliment of being very carefully prepared; he was refreshingly rude and his doctrine and advice were a grand blend of the practical and the ideal”.
It is not, one hopes, beside the point to record his personal influence. More than once miracles were attributed to him, a notion that he found ridiculous and suspect. But to see him in a crowd of gay children after an instruction, to hear the invariable tributes to his self-sacrificing efforts to help, both temporally and spiritually, was to understand the largeness of his heart. He was a delightful companion, the most tolerant and kind of friends, quick to share the joys and sorrows of his beloved priests and people. In the end ill-health forced him off the hard road of the Missions. But, both in our church in Galway and in the Rathfarnham retreat house where he was working until just before his death, he had devoted clients. Unmethodical and terribly busy as he was, he might at times seem to neglect even close friends. But he never forgot them. Though they might have grudged him to others for the most part, they knew him, and in their hearts relied on him if need arose, and they can now surely rely on his assistance from heaven. To his brothers and nephews we offer our sincere sympathy.

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A file relating to Fr William R Prendergast SJ, including application to join the Society, correspondence with Irish Fr Provincials, catalogue entries, memorial card and an album of black and white photographs (Jesuit life, villa, school and family photographs (1916-1950).

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