- 30 May 1916 & 9 June 1916 (Creation)
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Born: 17 March 1865, Youghal, County Cork
Entered: 20 October 1883, Milltown Park Dublin; Dromore, County Down
Ordained: 29 July 1900, Milltown Park
Professed: 15 August 1903
Died: 22 October 1950, Milltown Park, Dublin
First World War Chaplain
Older brother of John - RIP 1915
by 1888 at Leuven Belgium (BELG) studying
by 1890 at Exaeten College Limburg, Netherlands (GER) studying
Came to Australia 1902
by 1902 at Linz Austria (ASR) making Tertianship
by 1919 Military Chaplain : 8th Australian Infantry Brigade, AIF France
◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
William Gwynn’s father was a military man and had been transferred to Galway by the time that William and his younger brother John (who also entered the Society) were ready for their schooling. Both boys were educated at St Ignatius' College Galway. Gwynn entered the Society at Milltown Park, 20 October 1883, and studied rhetoric as a junior up to II Arts at the Royal University while living at Milltown Park, 1885-87. Philosophy was at Louvain and Exaeten. 1887-90, and regency at Belvedere Clongowes, and Mungret, 1890-97. Theology followed at Milltown Park. 1897-1901 After tertianship at Linz, Austria, 1901-02 with his brother John, Gwynn, he was sent to Australia where he taught at Riverview, St Aloysius' College and St Patrick's College, 1902-11, before engaging in parish ministry at Sevenhill, 1911-13, and Norwood 1913-17. He taught for a further few years at St Patrick’s College 1917-18, before becoming a military chaplain of the 8th Infantry Brigade AIF, 1918-20, travelling to Egypt, France and Germany. Gwynn returned to Ireland after the war and taught philosophy and mathematics at Mungret. He was later in charge of the People's Church at Clongowes until 1930, and then performed rural missionary work retreats with great vigor and success throughout the country, a ministry he enjoyed while in Australia. In 1930 he was transferred to parish work at Gardiner Street until 1944. In earlier he was in charge of the Night Workers' Sodality. For the last six years of his life he was attached to Milltown Park, living in great cheer and contentment, praying for the Society.
The Irish Province News, January 1951, described Gwynn as an original character. In whatever company he found himself he became the centre of interest by his wit and personality. He was extraordinarily outspoken and frank in his remarks about others and himself. He never made any secret about his own plans and projects. At first sight, he might have been seen as egotistical or cynical or a man who had shed many of the kindly illusions about human nature. But much of that frankness was part of his sense of humor and a pose, it helped to make him interesting and to amuse. He was not a man to give his best in ordinary, every day work. He wanted change and variety. He liked to plough a lonely furrow a man of original mind, who had his very personal way of looking at people and things. He had all the gifts of a preacher - appearance, voice, personality, an original approach to any subject, and a gift for a striking, arresting phrase. His retreats were memorable for their freshness and originality. As a confessor some respected him for being broad, sympathetic and understanding.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 26th Year No 1 1951
Milltown Park :
We regret to record the death, on. Oct. 22nd, of Milltown's Grand Old Man, Father William Gwynn. Only a few days before we had celebrated the Golden Jubilee of his priesthood and heard a message from him, wire-recorded in his sickroom.
Father William Gwynn
Fr. Gwynn, who died after a brief illness at Milltown Park on 22nd October, was born at Youghal, Co. Cork, on the 17th March, 1865. His father was a military man and had been transferred to Galway by the time that William and his younger brother John (who also entered the Society) were ready for their schooling. So, it was at St. Ignatius' College in that city that they both received their education. William entered the noviceship at Milltown Park on 20th October, 1883, and had Fr. William O’Farrell for Master of Novices and also for Superior when the new novitiate at Dromore was opened in May of the following year. He took his Vows at Milltown Park on 1st November, 1885, and studied rhetoric up to II Arts at the Royal University. He went to Louvain and Exaten (in Holland) for his philosophy, 1887-90, and in the latter year began his Colleges. He taught for six years at Belvedere, Clongowes and Mungret, in that order, and then studied theology at Milltown Park, where he was ordained on 29th July by Dr. William Walsh, Archbishop of Dublin. After his fourth year's theology he went, with his brother Fr. John, to Linz in Austria for his tertianship. In the autumn of 1902 Fr, William was sent to Australia, where he taught at Riverview, Sydney, for a year and then at St. Aloysius for six and at St. Patrick's, Melbourne, for two years. He was operarius at Sevenhill 1910-12 and at Norwood Residence for the following four years when he had charge of the men's sodality and the confraternity of “Bona Mors”. When at St. Patrick's, Melbourne, as master and operarius in 1918, he was appointed chaplain to the 8th Australian Infantry Brigade and travelled with his men to Egypt, France and Germany. He was not “demobbed” till 1920, and thereafter remained in the Province. For the next two years Fr. Gwynn was philosophy and mathematics master at Mungret College and then went to Clongowes, where he had charge of the People's Church till 1930. During this period he conducted retreats with great vigour and success up and down the country, a ministry to which he had devoted himself zealously when in Australia.
In 1930 Fr. William was transferred to Gardiner Street and was operarius till 1944. For the first dozen years of this period he was also in charge of the Night Workers' Sodality, in which he took a great interest. For the last six years of his life he was attached to Milltown Park, where he lived in great cheer and contentment, discharging his task of “orans pro Societate” agreeably and, we may well hope, fruitfully. Two days before his death a graceful tribute to him appeared in the papers on the occasion of the golden jubilee of his Ordination to the priesthood.
Fr. Gwynn was emphatically a character, an original. In whatever company he found himself, he became at once the centre of interest by his wit and personality. He was extraordinarily outspoken and frank in his remarks about others and himself. He never made any secret about his own plans and projects, about those little manifestations of self-interest which most people keep discreetly veiled. He was equally frank and outspoken about others. At first sight, one would think him egotistical, or cynical, or a man who had shed many of the kindly illusions about human nature. But much of that frankness was part of his sense of humour and a pose. It helped to make him interesting and to amuse.
He was not a man to give his best in ordinary, hum-drum, every clay work. He wanted change and variety; lie liked to plough a lonely furrow. He was a man of original mind, who had his own very personal way of looking at people and things. He had all the gifts of a preacher, appearance, voice, personality, a very original approach to any subject, and a gift of a striking, arresting phrase. His retreats, too, very memorable for their freshness and originality.
He was the least pharisaical of men. He aimed sedulously at concealing his solid piety and simple lively Faith. His rather disconcerting frankness, his trenchant wit, his talk about himself, were really a pose by which he tried to mask his spiritual inner self. It could not be said that he had a large spiritual following of people who looked to him for help. But what he missed in numbers was made up in quality and variety. It was well known that men of the world who got no help from other priests made Fr. Gwynn their confessor and friend. He was broad, sympathetic and understanding and no one knows the amount of good he did to those who came to depend on him. R.I.P
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Letters from Fr William Gwynn SJ, Manresa, Queen Street, Norwood to Fr John Ryan SJ concerning his decision to stop drinking and to make an effort to drink water only with his meals. Remarks '...my action will have a very salutary effect on the house...' (9 June 1916, 2pp).
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