Frost, Edmund, 1884-1931, Jesuit priest

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Frost, Edmund, 1884-1931, Jesuit priest

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17 July 1884-17 June 1931


Born: 17 July 1884, Newmarket-on-Fergus, County Clare
Entered: 12 November 1901, Tullabeg
Ordained: 31 July 1916, Milltown Park, Dublin
Professed: 02 February 1921
Died: 17 June 1931, St Benedict’s Hospital, Malvern, Melbourne - Australiae Province (ASL)

Part of the Xavier College, Kew, Melbourne, Australia community at the time of death

Transcribed HIB to ASL : 05 April 1931
by 1906 at Stonyhurst England (ANG) studying
◆ Fr Francis Finegan : Admissions 1859-1948 - PBS Cork student

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280 :
He Entered the Society at St Stanislaus College Tullabeg under Michael Browne.

1905-1908 After First Vows and Juniorate at Tullabeg he was sent to Stonyhurst for Philosophy
1908-1913 He was sent to Clongowes for Regency, teaching Latin, Greek and Mathematics.
1913-1917 He was sent to Milltown Park for Theology
1917-1919 He was sent to Tullabeg teaching
1919-1922 He made his Tertianship at Tullabeg, and stayed working there for another two years as Minister.
1922-1931 He was sent to Australia and in 1923 was made Rector of Xavier College Kew, and he died in office in 1931.

When he died, Xavier College received glowing tributes acknowledging his outstanding qualities as priest, scholar and gentleman. That said, when he was appointed some in the community did not appreciate his leadership style. Compared to previous regimes, his discipline appeared somewhat lax, and some thought the College would suffer under his new ideas. But the doubts did not last. A few years later, Jesuits writing to Rome observed that despite the freedom granted to parents and boys, Edmund governed well. They praised the religious spirit among the Jesuits, boys and ex-students alike. Religious vocations increased. He was also praised for his great kindness and holiness, as well as his ability to relate well with all kinds of people.

As a person he appeared to have great personal character and qualities. He won the hearts of all by his natural, simple and unassuming manner. He was eminently approachable, genuinely sincere in his relationship s with all, possessed sound judgement, and instinctively avoided all appearances of haste. He was quite dispassionate in decision making and processed a strong sense of justice. His wisdom was also appreciated. Beyond all these human qualities his deep spirituality was most appreciated.

During his years as Rector he transformed the environment of the school. He was responsible for developing the spiritual life of the College to the extent that it effectively permeated the whole environment. The impersonal context of previous years was changed, he deliberately raised the standard of comfort, reduced student monotony by introducing new activities for boarders, improved the playing fields and in general gave more freedom to approximate College life to Home conditions. He was determined that school ought to be a second home, and hoped Old Boys would have happy memories of their days at Xavier.

As an educator he was conservative but wise, with quiet enthusiasm and genuine interest in every aspect of College life. Each year he indicated his appreciation of the year’s achievements. His comments were always encouraging even when suggesting the need for greater effort. He urged students to continue studies at University, supporting the newly established Newman College. He encouraged the Dramatic Society, The Wireless Club, the St Vincent de Paul Society and all aspects of the College sporting life. No one was more excited when the school won the cricket championship for the first time in 1923 and again in 1924, and the football championship for the second time in 1924.

The spiritualisation of the College was above all reflected in his efforts to build the Chapel, which he believed would help counteract the growing materialism in society, reflected in secular education. He wanted the Chapel to be “A Message of Faith to the people of Melbourne”. And so it was built in the grand style of the day, high on a hill.

He also gave great support to the Old Boys, and each year he commended the Old Xavierian Association to all. He believed its members “breate the atmosphere of loyalty to religion, to Australia and to Xavier College:. He articulated the ideal that ex-students continued the good work done at school, by keeping contact through the Association. The Jesuits desired to continue their priestly ministry to past pupils. He initiated the annual retreat for Old Boys, which attracted about 40 men each year. The Association flourished in these years.

He believed that Xavier was for boys of average ability. He stressed the importance of a general education rather than vocational, and encouraged the study of the classics - in which he held a BA from University College Dublin.

The environment of the school often reflects the quality of the education. At the Jesuit boarding schools, the religious spirit was always in tension with the Pubic School Spirit. In 1928 he told his audience that Xavierians were already filling leading positions in the Church, the professional, commercial and industrial life of Australia, he said he also considered it important that Xavier was a member of the Public Schools of Victoria.

Over the years Xavier had commanded respect in sport, but Edmund was not satisfied until Xavier was one of the front rank of the Pubic Schools in every aspect of school life, until the pre-eminence of the school was habitual and not exceptional. To achieve this he improved the sporting facilities and initiated promotion for more students. He raised the College fees to be equivalent to other Public Schools but also offered four full time scholarships each year.

Archbishop Mannix praised th work of the Jesuits, claiming that Xavier College could be well called the right arm of the Catholic Church in Melbourne and in Victoria. He also hoped that ex-students would be good Catholic leaders in the community. He valued the College so highly that at Edmund’s funeral he stated that the Rector of Xavier was “one of the most important positions, if not the most important that any priest in Melbourne could occupy”. That said, the Edmund and the Archbishop did not always agree on every matter. In 1927, the Archbishop was concerned at the non appearance of the College at the St Patrick’s Day celebrations. Edmund replied explaining that “not a few of the parents of the boys would strongly object to their children being forced to march”. The Archbishop did not pursue the question. The school cadets were the second matter on which they disagreed. Edmund had opposed all forms of military training for boys at school, because he disliked the idea of educating boys to destroy a fellow man. When they left school they could choose voluntary military training. The Archbishop was not sure that these pacific ideas were realistic.

How successful was the education that Jesuits were offering at Xavier? In 1925 Edmund emphasised the “deeper things in school life” such as the “spirit of piety and docility, of hard work, charity and self respect”. Further important signs of the success of Xavier were the success of the Old Boys either when they attended Newman College, or when they returned to school to renew contacts with former masters. Yet he reflected that even if they didn’t return, the work of the College would continue. This was one of the few expressions of great faith in the work of education made by Jesuits. Edmund indicated the Jesuit hope that their system would produce solid Catholic citizens, and provided some achieved this aim, then they were satisfied.

The wider community of Melbourne mourned Edmund’s early death. The Catholic people lost a spiritual leader of great wisdom, while many non-Catholics mourned the loss of a friendly and approachable colleague. he had been a quietly influential member of the Schools Board, the Council of Public Education ad the Headmasters’ Association. Colleges in these Associations respected him for his clear-headed thinking and the zeal with which he fostered the spirit of Public School Sport.

He was no innovator, nor did he give great educational leadership among the Public Schools of Victoria, but within Xavier College he built a new atmosphere, a strongly religious tone totally in keeping with Ignatian spirituality and Jesuit education. More than most Jesuit rectors, he was truly Catholic and thoroughly Ignatian in theory and practice. His greatness was his ability to communicate his spirit to others in an acceptable manner. The style of Xavier College during his time was a model for Jesuit schools of the time.

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 6th Year No 4 1931
Obituary :
Fr Edmund Frost

Fr. Frost died at St. Benedict's private hospital, Malvern, (Melbourne) 17 June 1931. He had been ill for little more than a month. At first his disease was diagnosed as sarcoma, but later developments showed it to be Hodgkinson's disease a kind of infection of the blood.

On the eve of the Feast of the Sacred Heart they told him he was beyond human aid. and he heard the news with that calmness and serenity so characteristic no him. On the Feast itself he received the Last Sacraments. During the following days his strength failed rapidly, and on 17 June he died a wonderfully holy and happy death.
The very striking and unusual tribute paid to his memory on the day of the funeral shows in what high esteem he was held by all classes and creeds in Melbourne. The newspapers agree in saying that the crowd gathered round the catafalque was the largest seen in Melbourne on a like occasion, since 1917. when the obsequies of Dr Carr, the last Archbishop, were Celebrated. More than 4.000 people crowded into St. Patrick's Cathedral. At least 150 priests occupied the Sanctuary. It is scarcely necessary to say that our sterling friend Archbishop Mannix, presided. He was assisted by Dr McCarthy, Bishop of Sandhurst.
Still more striking was the large number of leading non-Catholics who came to pay their respects to the dead Jesuit. All the great Protestant Public Schools were represented. The Head Masters of Scotch College, Wesley College, Geelon Grammar school, were present. Melbourne Grammar School, Geelong College and others sent groups of masters and head boys to the obsequies. Fr Frost had been the Catholic representative on the Council of Education. and on the School Registration Board. The heads of both had their place in the Cathedral.
Of course, Xaverians. past and present, held the place of honours. The old Xaverians had, in relays, spent the previous night in prayer in the College Chapel before the remains were removed to the Cathedral. The senior prefects were the pall-bearers The entire school formed a guard of honour at the cemetery. They were joined by 170 boy s from St. Kevin's College, and 80 from bi. Patrick’s. St Vincent de Paul's Society, that Fr. Frost had made a great reality at the College, assisted in large numbers.
During the obsequies His Grace spoke in very touching terms of his dead friend. He said that Father Frost was in almost irreparable loss to the diocese. Not only was his death a loss to the Catholic body, but it was felt also by all with whom he had come in contact. He was every inch a man and a priest of God, true to his friends, with a wonderful gift of understanding. He was not merely a great Head Master and a great citizen, but he was a really spiritual man. The memorial chapel at Xavier had not yet been finished, but it would ever stand as a monument to the zeal, taste. and courage of Fr. Frost. He has left, continued His Grace, at monument in the hearts of all the boys with whom he came in contact. The old Xaverians will remember a brother. The clergy have lost an ornament, and I a dear and valued friend.
Dr. Littlejohn, the Presbyterian Head-Master of Scotch College, paid his tribute to Fr. Frost. The picture he draws of the man is so true that we shall give it in its entirety :
“The late Fr. Frost was above all a religious man. His religion meant more than anything else in the world. it was real to him.
But he was tolerant too. My last message from him - expressing regret that he could not see me, as he was unable to receive visitors, ended with a request for my prayers.
I considered him a great and a dear friend. In disposition he was a quiet kindly, genial gentleman. His cast of mind was serious, though there were gleams, too, of Irish wit. He would laugh heartily at my newest story from Aberdeen.
At meetings of the headmasters of the School Board, and the Council of Public Education, where we were colleagues. Fr, Frost made a place for himself as a sane, clear-headed thinker.
His inclination was slightly towards conservation “Hold fast to that which is good rather than some novel experiment”, seemed his maxim, Innovation for the sake of innovation without sound principle behind, he would leave well alone.
He did not speak much at our meetings, but what he did say was the outcome of sober thought, well considered, far seeing, and it was received with respect.
Fr. Frost fostered the spirit of school sport at its finest. He shared with his boys their enthusiasm for games. and he constantly impressed on them these two ideas : Not to be cast down in defeat; not to be overweening proud in success.
He never failed to acknowledge a message of congratulation on Xavier success in sport - nor to send one. His letters, worded with a kindly, old world courtesy, made one almost ashamed for winning. Glad you won, and glad it was you that beat us , was the note that ran through them.
l have been over the Xavier Memorial Chapel with Fr. Frost twice during its construction. The building of it was a matter very near to his heart. He contemplated with the greatest happiness the completion of this magnificent structure, now to be a memorial not only to the Fallen, but to himself”.
Mr Adamson, headmaster of Wesley College, said : I deeply regret the loss of so able a man. Associated with him for many years at meetings of headmasters, my first impression, which lasted when a friendship had sprung up between us. was of the entire reasonableness of the man. He was a splendid man to work with.
Mr Hansen, Director of Education, declared that a front rank educationist had been lost to Victoria.
An old Xaverian writes : Among the many notable men who had charge of Xavier College Fr. Frost was as regarded as the school's foremost headmaster. During his term the school made its greatest strides in studies, sport and in the number of scholars. This success is attributed to his qualities of leadership, which were shown in his dealings with both past and present scholars. He set himself out to keep in touch with boys after they left school, and continually sought to arrange gatherings of them at the school. The May vacation retreat, which large numbers of old boys now attend, was started by Fr. Frost. Another indication of his interest in old scholars was the number of marriages of old boys which he celebrated in the school chapel.
Another Old Xaverian : A great man has passed to his new and, a cultured Irish gentleman, a friend to all, a faithful priest of God. In all my long connection with Xavier there has been no one for whom 1 had a greater respect and affection than for Fr. Frost. He was a wise counselor and a faithful friend. He brought Xavier to the forefront of public schools, consolidated the old boys into a united body, fostered the public school spirit to the highest degree. His death is a national calamity.
Such was the estimate of Fr Frost formed by externs . What manner of ma was he in the community over which he presided? Possibly the first thing that strikes one is this - if ever there lived a man who was the very antithesis of “side”, of artificial and ill-fitting dignity, that man was Fr Frost. He was kindliness and simplicity itself.
One of those who lived under him was asked to give an appreciation of his Rector, and he answered “I consent gladly and at the same time sorrowfully. Gladly, because it is an opportunity to testify in public to the worth of one who was my Superior at Xavier’s, where I learned to know and love him. Sorrowfully, because the memory of him brings tears, and the reading of the testimonies to his life and character remind me of my loss. As a rector he ever dealt with me in the most kind manner possible. To see Christ in him was easy, because he lived Christ. Having said this there is nothing higher to say of him.
Nevertheless, lest my judgment be blinded by affection, it will be useful to hear what others who came in contact with him thought. The writer gives a number of the extracts already quoted in this notice, and continues Above all things he ever sought to see both sides of any question that was brought before him. In consequence his administration of justice was
evenhanded. The boys knew this well, and loved him for it. I hear there is great Justice for the boy at. Xavier’s, remarked a protestant lady. And she was right.
In conclusion I can but say with Melbournes great Archbishop : I too have lost a dear and valued friend.

Another member of his Community writes : Fr. Frost has left behind him the kindest and most beautiful memories every where... As Fr. Mannix put it so well : Some are gifted for dealing with men, others for dealing with religious Communities of women, others again for dealing with children but Fr. Frost was at home with them all.
His lost to the Community is of course great. He was a kind and holy Rector. and most considerate in every way. He taught me when I was a little boy at Clongowes. I knew him here (Xavier's) as Rector, and all the time I was on the continent (theologian) he sent me letters at regular intervals full of interesting news of Xavier, and almost invariably, a cheque for
Masses at Lisieux or Paray-Le-Monial, The Brothers miss him very much. He took recreation with them every Sunday , and stocked their recreation room with excellent pious books. He called it St. Alplsonsus' library. He joined in all our sports, played cricket during the season and tennis every Saturday. He was with us at our card parties, and ar all the little entertainments we have from time to time. Every morning before meditation he paid his visit to the Blessed Sacrament and then aa short visit to the shrine of our Lady in the hall. After breakfast there was another visit to Our Lady to get her blessing on the day's work. I feel very lonely alter him, but, please God, he is enjoying the reward of his holy and simple life. His funeral was certainly a fitting tribute to a holy an kind hearted man. Every morning at Mass he gave a talk to the boys on the saint of the day. The summary of his life is but too brief. He died in his 46th year. Fr. Frost was horn in Co. Clare (Ireland) 17 July 1884, educated at Presentation Brothers' College, Cork, and began his novitiate at Tullabeg 12 Nov. 1901, Two years rhetoric in the same place was followed by three 3 years philosophy at Stonyhurst, and five years at Clongowes as prefect and master. During philosophy he got his B. A. degree at the Royal University. Two more years teaching, this time at Mungret, brought him to the third year, which he made at Tullabeg. For a year and a half he was Minister at Tullabeg and was then transferred to Clongowes whose Minister had broken down health. In 1922 he set sail for Australia. He spent one year teaching at Xavier, and then became its Rector. His holy death was at Malvern (Melbourne) 17 June 1931. May he rest in peace.


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