File 359 - Letters from Fr Aloysius Sturzo SJ to Irish Fr Provincial concerning the Mission in Australia

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Letters from Fr Aloysius Sturzo SJ to Irish Fr Provincial concerning the Mission in Australia


  • 12 November 1883 - 17 May 1887 (Creation)

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(24 April 1826-1908)

Biographical history

Born: 24 April 1826, Mineo, Catania Sicily, Italy
Entered: 03 November 1840, Palermo Sicily Italy - Siculae Province (SIC)
Ordained: 1857
Professed: 15 August 1859
Died: 17 September 1908, Loyola College, Greenwich, Sydney, Australia - Siculae Province (SIC)

Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus: 18 March 1877-30 July 1880;
Superior of the Irish Jesuit Mission to Australia: 2 September 1883-5 April 1890;

Irish Provincial 18 March 1877
Australian Irish Mission Superior 02 September 1883; then Mag Nov

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
He was a member of SIC and he, along with many Jesuits, was expelled from Sicily in 1860. He and his companions were received with open arms at Milltown. Here he worked as a Master of Novices (he had brought many novices with him from SIC). His brother was also a Jesuit who ended up in Portugal, another was a Priest in Italy, and a cousin was a Bishop of Ancona.
1865 He was loved by all in Milltown and was appointed Rector there in 1865, and built the new Retreat House in 1874.
1877 He was appointed Provincial of HIB, and when he finished that job he was appointed Rector of Tullabeg in 1881.
1883 At the express command of Father General Jan Roothaan, he was sent to Australia as Superior of the Mission. He had been 23 years in Ireland at that stage. When he finished that office, he still took charge of the Novices both in Melbourne and Sydney, until blindness prevented him from continuing.
1908 He died a holy death at Loyola Sydney, 17 September 1908, and he died with the reputation of a Saint.

On his death the following notice appeared in a Sydney newspaper (paraphrased in parts) :
“Australia has lost one of the oldest and notable members of the Society of Jesus, in the person of Luigi Sturzo. For 68 years of his life, which closed at Loyola, Greenwich on Thursday afternoon, he followed in the footsteps of St Ignatius. In the evening of his life, the old Jesuit, who was 82 years of age, and a Sicilian, lived in practical retirement at Loyola. The almost total loss of sight prevented him from doing work for which he was otherwise physically capable, but the giving of instructions to the communities and the private Retreats at the North Sydney Novitiate of the Order brought him some little comfort. Up to the last, his intellect was as vigorous as ever. His funeral was at St Mary’s, Sydney, presided over by Msgr Carroll, with George Kelly at the graveside in Gore Hill, attended by many.
Father Sturzo was a real Jesuit in spirit and deed, and that is saying a good deal. His amiability and genuine kindliness won for him hosts of friends...... although unable to read at Mass, his community read for him. The Church, Rome and the Holy Father and the doings of his Society, these were the subjects that thrilled him.

He was born in Mineo, Sicily. he then went to Caltgirone, where the Society had two houses. Sicilian boys were encouraged to give ‘ferverinos’ to their families, and on one occasion his father remarked ‘Why, Luigi, you are a real Jesuit’. When he finished school, he told his father he wanted to be a Jesuit. Along with a letter of introduction from his Jesuit uncle, his father got him to Palermo, and he was accepted at 14 years and 6 months. This meant he had to wait an extra 6 months to take Vows until he was 17. He subsequently made studies and taught at the Palermo College. He was there when the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception was promulgated in 1854. Garribaldi was in power and came to Palermo, and eventually Luigi found himself in Ireland with the Novices of Sicily and Naples where they had been offered sanctuary. They were nervous going to a country not wholly Catholic, but the warmth of reception and the respect of the people made them feel at once at home. After that he became if anything, more Irish that the Irish! At first they were housed in Tullabeg, and then with the Irish Novices at Milltown. (cf note below of those celebrated Irishmen who were his Novices)

1877 He was made Provincial of HIB, a further proof of the trust reposed in him. In 1881 he was then made Rector at Tullabeg, with William Delaney Rector as Prefect of Studies.

1883 He was sent by the General to Australia as Superior of the Mission, and remained Master of Novices until 1901. So here too the young Australian Jesuits had the privilege of being trained by him.

In Ireland he had spent much time giving retreats, and he had a deep understanding of what lay behind the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius.

His Celebrated Novices : Timothy Kenny and Patrick Keating HIB Provincials and ASL Mission Superiors; James Murphy HIB Provincial and Novice Master; Thomas P Brown HIB Provincial and ASL Mission Superior; John S Conmee ASL Mission Superior; Thomas Gartlan Rector of Riverview; Thomas Fay Rector of St Aloysius; Luke Murphy Rector of Riverview and St Patrick’s; George Kelly Superior North Sydney; James Colgan Superior Hawthorne. In fact all Superiors and prominent Irish Jesuits of the time were either his Novices, or Novices of his Novices, which means he could be called the Father of the Province!

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
Aloysius Sturzo was one of four brothers to enter the Society of Jesus, and was the nephew of a well-respected Jesuit, Antonio Ayala. His parents, Don Francesco and Donna Antonia Taranto were traditional pious Catholics, and Luigi followed in the ways of faith of his parents. He entered the Society, 3 November 1840 in Palermo, at the noviciate, which is now the Casa Professa, under the care of the novice master Antonio Vinci. Rhetoric studies followed in the same house for a further two years before two years of philosophy at the Collegio Massimo in Palermo. In his second year he was the beadle of the group.
Regency followed for the next six years at the Collegio Massimo, teaching grammar, history and geography, Italian, Latin and Greek at various times. In his second year he was appointed beadle of the regents.
From 1854-57 Sturzo studied theology at the College Massimo, during which time he was the prefect of the Sodality of Our Lady After ordination he was appointed confessor of the parlour and to prisoners. In 1858 he made his tertianship in the Roman province, and the following year for two years, he returned to Palermo to the House of Probation to be socius to the master of novices, Giuseppe Spedalieri. He was also spiritual father to the young scholastics, and continued his work as confessor of the parlor, and also at the hospital and in the prison. He was solemnly professed of the four vows on 15 August 1859.
In 1860, with the dispersion of many Sicilian Jesuits, together with others, he was invited to Ireland, especially to care for the Italian novices. He became the first novice master of the
Irish province, then rector of Milltown Park, Dublin, 1866-77, followed by provincial of Ireland,1877-80.
He went as rector to St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, 1880-83, and was sent to Australia and was superior of the mission and novice master until 1890, living at Richmond and Xavier College. After that he became rector of Loyola, Greenwich, and was master of novices at the same time, as well as procurator of the mission. He remained rector until his death.
Sturzo had entered the Society six months before the canonical age for the reception of novices, but could not he persuaded to leave. He was highly respected, as he was master of novices at the age of 33. One of his Irish novices and later Irish provincial, John Conmee, praised him for his gentleness, meekness, admirable patience, faith, and ardent love of the Lord. He was greatly respect by all who encountered him, and in his last days, he talked much about Sicily, his family and friends. He never learned to speak English well, but his spiritual sense and inward fervor came through the imperfect utterance. His Australian novices spoke highly of him. As a superior he was mild, but not weak, and was well endowed with prudence and sagacity. He had a sense of humor, and never minded being laughed at for his solecisms in English. He was a truly international Jesuit, highly respected in three countries.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father Aloysius Sturzo 1826-1908
Fr Aloysius Sturzo was a Sicilian born in 1826. He entered the Society when only fourteen years of age in 1840. On the expulsion of the Society from Sicily in 1860, Fr Sturzo and his companions were received with open arms by the Irish Province and housed at Milltown Park. Here Fr Sturzo was appointed Master of Novices, becoming Rector of the house in 1865. He was responsible for the erection of the new Retreat House in 1874.

He became Provincial of the Irish province in 1877, and in 1881 was appointed Rector of Tullabeg. At the express command of Fr General he went to Australia in 1883 as Superior of that Mission. He had spent 23 years of must useful administrative labour in Ireland. When he retired from office as Superior, he again became Master of Novices in the noviceship which he himself had founded.

In the evening of his life Fr Sturzo, who was 82 years of age, lived in practical retirement at Loyola. The almost total loss of his sight prevented him from doing work for which he was otherwise capable, though he retained the use of his vigorous intellect right up to the end.

He died a holy death at loyola, Sydney on September 17th 1908 with the reputation of a saint.

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A file of letters from Fr Aloysius Sturzo SJ (Superior: 2 September 1883 - 5 April 1890) to Irish Fr Provincial concerning the Mission in Australia. Includes a letter asking permission to open a novitiate if he felt it was needed (12 November 1883 , 6pp). Includes a letter expressing his frustration over the delay in receiving answers to his letters. Remarks 'I feel very much embarrassed when there is anything to be done that requires the signing of a contract. I think that Fr General should give me as much power as he can communicate...' Refers to the lack of men and remarks that Fr Bietal SJ, an Austrian Jesuit is likely to be recalled to his own Mission in Adelaide (17 December 1883, 4pp). Includes a letter referring to the type of person suitable for the Mission in Adelaide (17 December 1883, 4pp). Includes a letter referring to the type of person suitable for the Mission. Remarks 'I hope you will not send to Australia anyone who is in any way weak concerning drink and the other fault that comes after drinking to excess. In this country...our dealings are more before the public and any fault in those two matters would ruin our character entirely.' (14 October 1886, 4pp). Includes a letter referring to Fr Joseph O'Malley's return from New Zealand. Remarks that Fr Thomas McEnroe SJ remains in New Zealand but that he is not certain whether the Mission has been closed or not. Includes a letter referring to the election of Fr Clancy as Rector of St John's College. Remarks that his election has been declared invalid. Describes how this has occurred. (10 January 1889, 4pp). Includes a further letter concerning Fr Clancy and the Rectorship of St. John's College. Remarks that they have consulted a lawyer who felt the election was invalid '...we saw that this was the best opportunity for us to retire with honours and without offending our friends from the truly dangerous battlefield...' (7 February 1884, 6pp). Includes a letter referring to the need for more Fathers to be sent out particularly a German or French Father that could be employed as a prefect in one of the colleges (17 September 1884, 8pp). Includes a letter concerning a decision to publish the Messenger of the Sacred Heart in Melbourne. Refers to the sale of land at St Patrick's Melbourne for the construction of a portion of the railway. Remarks that Fr Christopher Nulty SJ (Rector) has paid off all debts and wishes to spend the remainder on finishing the college (9 August 1886, 3pp). Includes a letter referring to the closure of Tullabeg and the possibility of Fathers being sent out to Australia. Remarks 'I hope that even independently from the closing of Tullabeg you will send me some good prefects and masters who are wanted here very badly...' (20 August 1886, 3pp). Includes a letter concerning an offer by the Bishop of Tasmania to the Society of a house for the purposes of opening a seminary for the Bishop's diocese and that it could also be used as a sanatorium for Jesuit Fathers '...I wrote to him would not be prudent...for us to accept an offer...which we could not accomplish through want of men and money (1 October 1886, 10pp).

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