File 23 - 'Letter to the Editor of the Irish Times, Re: Spain' by Fr Patrick Gannon SJ

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'Letter to the Editor of the Irish Times, Re: Spain' by Fr Patrick Gannon SJ


  • 3 March 1938 (Creation)

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(07 January 1879-12 December 1953)

Biographical history

Born: 07 January 1879, Cavan Town, County Cavan
Entered: 20 May 1897, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 27 July 1913, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1916, St Mary’s, Ore Place, Hastings, Sussex, England
Died: 12 December 1953, Milltown Park, Dublin

Early education at Clongowes Wood College SJ

by 1904 at Valkenburg, Netherlands (GER) studying
by 1916 at Hastings, Sussex, England (LUGD) studying

◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 24th Year No 2 1949

The Fire at Milltown Park :
Early in the morning of Friday, February 11th, fire broke out in the tailor's shop over the Refectory. The alarm was given and the Fire Brigade summoned. At first the progress of the fire was slow, but after a short time it became terribly rapid, and some of the Community were rescued barely in time. Fr. Johnston, Fourth Year Theologian, lost his life. He had remained to dress himself completely, as he was due to say Mass at the Sisters of Charity, Mount St. Anne's, and was asphyxiated by the fumes before he could escape - one may say, a martyr of Duty. Fr. Gannon got severely burned, and Mr. Reidy suffered injury to his spine as the result of a fall ; both are doing well and will, it is hoped, be none the worse in the end. The Fire Brigade was able to prevent the fire from spreading beyond the building where it had broken out.

Milltown Park, Dublin :
The morning of Friday, February 11th was a tragic morning here in Milltown Park. The two top stories of the Theologians House (built in 1908 by Fr. Finlay) were burnt out. Fr. James Johnston, a 4th Year Theologian lost his life, Fr. Gannon was severely burnt on his hands and face, and Mr. Reidy dislocated some of the vertebrae of his spine, jumping from a ledge underneath his window.
At 5.30 Br. Kavanagh discovered a fire in the Tailor's Room. He summoned Fr. Smyth, acting Minister, who telephoned for a fire brigade, while a few scholastics endeavoured, unsuccessfully, to extinguish the fire with Minimaxes and water. Br. Kavanagh carried. Fr. W. Gwynn (aged 84) to safety, and Fr. Smyth warned the occupants. of the Theologians House to make for the fire escape.
By this time the stairs end of the Theologians' House was burning fiercely; the fumes and heat in the corridors were unbearable, and it is due to the Mercy of God that so many were able to get to the fire escape before they were overcome with suffocation. In the meantime, the first of the fire brigades had arrived and Frs. Power, Hannigan, Gannon and a couple of scholastics were rescued. The firemen then concentrated on saving the New House which was by this time filling with smoke.
A roll-call shortly after 6 o'clock confirmed that Fr. Johnston was missing, but by this time the whole of the doomed wing was ablaze. Coincidentally with the celebration of the Community Mass at 7.15 the six fire brigades got the conflagration under control.
Offers of assistance and accommodation began to pour in from all sides and within a couple of days ran into thousands.
The Scholastics were transferred to the Retreat House, Rathfarnham, where they stayed for four days. They will always remember the kindness and hospitality shown by the Rector, the Community and the Retreat House staff of Rathfarnham.
On Tuesday 15th the Scholastics returned to Milltown, where a field kitchen, presented by the Army, had been installed. They occupied the Retreat House and many of the rooms had to accommodate two occupants, as the Minister's House also had to be vacated owing to damage and water.
On Friday 18th, the ‘octave' of the fire’, lectures were resumed, and routine was gradually established.
Fr. Gannon recovered rapidly and hopes to be back in Milltown soon. Mr. Reidy is also on his feet again, and he too hopes to be out of hospital in the near future, though he will be partially encased in plaster of paris for a considerable time.
The majority of the occupants of the Theologians' House lost all their personal effects, notes, etc. Fr. Gannon, however, being at the end of the corridor, and having his door closed, will salvage all his books and notes.

Irish Province News 29th Year No 2 1954

Obituary :

Father Patrick Gannon

Father Patrick Gannon was called to his reward very suddenly at Milltown Park during the night of the 11th-12th December. He was in his 75th year, having been born in Cavan on the 7th January, 1879. He was the eldest son of Mr. John Gannon, who was for many years Chairman of Cavan Town Commissioners and, in that capacity, was responsible for many beneficial improvements in the town. A brother of Father Gannon's, the late Mr. T. A. Gannon, was widely known in the United States as a worker for charitable and Church organisations. Before going to America, he was one of the founders of the Young Ireland Branch of the United Irish League, along with T. M. Kettle, Judge Eugene Sheehy and others.
Father Gannon was educated first at St. Patrick's College, Cavan, in the Intermediate Examinations, and then at Clongowes where he won several prizes and exhibitions. After leaving Clongowes he entered the Novitiate at Tullabeg on May 20, 1897. After his noviceship, he continued his studies there and distinguished himself in the examinations (it was an examining body only) of the old Royal University, winning a 1st Class Scholarship, leading the Classical Group in Arts and B.A., and securing 1st Place in both Latin and Greek in all three examinations. He went to Valkenberg for his philosophy. On returning to Ireland he taught classics and English, first for a year or two at Mungret and then from 1907 to 1910 at Clongowes, completing eight years as a Master before going to Theology.
He began his theology at Milltown Park in 1910 and was in due course ordained there in 1913. After his tertianship in Tullabeg he was sent to Ore Place Hastings to do a biennium in theology, after which he returned in 1918 to Milltown Park where the rest of his life was to be spent. During his first year there he was on the mission staff but in the Catalogue of 1919 his status is given as Lect. theol. dogm. vesp. and so it remained for a number of years. Later he taught the Short Course and later still Fundamental Theology. In the last year of his life he was lecturing on Oriental Church questions.
Father Gannon was a ready and eloquent preacher and was frequently called upon to preach on important occasions. He also delivered lectures in Dublin and other places in Ireland. He preached several series of Lenten Lectures at Gardiner St. Some of these series were published in book form as Holy Matrimony and The Old Law and the New Morality. He wrote the following pamphlets : Prayer (1923); The Queen of May (1928); St. Patrick and the Irish Church (1932); A Happy Warrior, Fr. M. Bergin, S.J. (1934); Under which Flag (1938); Fr. James Cullen, S.J. (1940); Art, Morality and Censorship (1943); The Church Supreme and Independent (1945).
He also wrote many articles in reviews both in Ireland and in the United States. He always kept up great interest in current affairs both in Ireland and in the world at large. He had a considerable grasp of these matters and held strong opinions. Occasionally he took part in current controversies by means of letters to the Press. Besides these he had many minor interests and occupations for his leisure hours and his vacations.
In the fire which destroyed a considerable part of Milltown Park in 1949, Fr, Gannon was trapped in his room and suffered severe injuries to his face and hands before being rescued by the Dublin Fire Brigade. From this be seems not to have ever fully recovered but up to about five months before his death he did not seem to be failing much. But then the doctor warned him that his heart was not in good condition and, among other things, that it would be dangerous to ride the bicycle. He said Mass as usual on the eve of his death and later visited some friends. The following morning he was found dead in his room.

Fr. P. Gannon was a professor of theology at Milltown Park for thirty-five years, a longer period than that of any other professor except Fr. Peter Finlay. It is a measure of the esteem which his superiors had for his talents that he held such an important position in the province for so long. It was said that at the retirement of Fr. Finlay from the position of professor of Theology in the National University Fr. Gannon was very nearly appointed to succeed him. It was a position for which his special gifts fitted him in a high degree, and which he would have occupied with distinction.
Perhaps he had too many interests to be a first-class theologian. He was many things besides a professor; he was distinguished as a preacher, a lecturer, a writer, as a publicist. He had quite remarkable natural gifts as a speaker, an unfailing fluency, a good command of language, imagination and a large stock of examples and illustrations, which he had amassed in his wide reading. His style of speaking was vivid, coloured, rhetorical. It was in the traditional of classical eloquence and was often florid. He gave the Lenten lectures at Gardiner St. five or six times, and always drew large congregations. Two of his sets of lectures were published as books, which had a considerable sale, Holy Matrimony and The Old Law and the New Morality. He was in constant demand as a preacher especially for solemn and distinguished occasions. His ease in speaking, his flow of thought, his rhetorical bent, made this kind of work a pleasure to him. These sermons cost him very little trouble but in his later years his confidence in himself became a disability, as he thought it absolved him from any immediate preparation.
He was also a fairly copious writer and contributed frequently to Studies, The Irish Ecclesiastical Record, The Irish Monthly and to other Catholic magazines in America. He was quick also to join in public discussions and controversies on religious questions. An article he wrote for Studies on hunger striking was probably the first defence by a professional theologian of that weapon newly introduced into political warfare; and it was said the moralists at Rome, who had been considering the question, read, marked and inwardly digested his article.
He had a keen interest in social questions and in international politics; he followed intelligently the great politico-social movements of his time. The rise and growth of Communism and Nazism interested him and disturbed him; he saw clearly the dangers to Faith, to the Church and to Society which they involved and he pointed them out on every possible occasion, opportune importune. Communism in particular in his later years became a kind of obsession and every subject led on to it. His convictions even in matters of scholarship were very strongly held and dominated him to such an extent that he could not see any aspect but his own. He was perhaps at his best as a lecturer, where his talents had their fullest scope, and he was constantly asked to speak on Catholic platforms. As a retreat-giver he was also well known; he must have given priests' retreats in nearly every diocese of Ireland. R.I.P.

◆ The Clongownian, 1954


Father Patrick Gannon SJ

Father Patrick Gannon died suddenly at Milltown Park during the night of the 11th-12th December. He was born in Cavan on January 7th, 1879. Before coming to Clongowes, the future Jesuit had spent some years at St Patrick's College, Cavan. During his secondary school course, he won several prizes and exhibitions. He entered the Society in 1897 at Tullabeg and studied for his degree in Ancient Classics in the old Royal University. As in his school days, so now and henceforth in his studies as a Jesuit, he showed himself a man of brilliant gifts. He was sent to Valkenburg, Holland, for his philosophical studies and on the completion of these returned to Ireland to take up for some years the work of teaching in the schools of the Society. After some years teaching at Mungret, he came to Clongowes in 1907 and taught here for the next three years. He left Clongowes in 1910 for Milltown Park and was ordained priest in 1913, After his tertianship, he was sent for advanced studies in Theology to Hastings where the Jesuits of the Paris province of the Society then in exile had their principal house of studies. On the completion of his post-graduate studies in Theology, Father Gannon was appointed to a professorship in Milltown Park, where he remained until his death. Throughout his life, Father Gannon had many interests besides that of his professorship. He was one of Ireland's best known preachers, a lecturer and writer, a much sought-after spiritual director. He was in constant demand as a preacher especially for solemn and distinguished occasions. He proved a brilliant lecturer in the pulpit of St Francis Xavier's Gardiner Street, where he gave the Lenten Lectures many times during the twenties and thirties. Two of his published works which proved to be best sellers were simply amplifications of his lectures on “Holy Matrimony” and “The Old Law and the New Morality”. He was also the author of many pamphlets on religious and social questions as well as a frequent contributor to the learned contemporary reviews. He was a formidable adversary in the controversies which occasionally find a forum in the daily newspapers. But he was first and last a great priest who prayed and battled for the honour of Holy Church in whatever he spoke or wrote.

His affection for his old school never waned with the passing of the years. He seldom missed our Christmas play, was frequently present on the occasion of a gala debate in the House, and for many years spent Christmas with the community at Clongowes. His passing was sudden but not unexpected even by himself. We can feel confident that he has entered on the incorruptible inheritance promised those who “instruct others unto justice”.

◆ The Mungret Annual, 1954


Father Patrick Gannon SJ

The death took place at Milltown 1 Park on December 12th of Father Patrick Gannon SJ. Father Gannon taught at Mungret in the years 1906-07.

A native of Cavan he was educated at Clongowes Wood College and at St Patrick's Seminary, Cavan. He entered the Society of Jesus in 1897 and studied Ancient Classics in the old Royal University before going to Valkenburg, Holland, to study Philosophy. Afterwards he taught Classics and English at Mungret and Clongowes Wood Colleges. He studied Theology at Milltown Park and was ordained there in 1913. Before taking up His life work as Professor of Theology and Apologetics Father Gannon did some special studies at Hastings with French Jesuits.

In the fire which destroyed part of Milltown Park in 1949, Father Gannon was trapped in his room and sustained severe burns to his face and hands before being rescued. He never completely recovered from the shock he sustained though he continued some of his teaching and writing to the end. Father Gannon was an eloquent preacher and was much in demand for sermons, retreats and missions. He also acted as Catholic champion in many press controversies. He preached several series of Lenten lectures at Gardiner Street. He was also a contributor to the “Irish Ecclesiastical Record”, “Studies” and other periodicals in Ireland and America. RIP

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