McGrath, Patrick, 1870-1948, Jesuit priest

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McGrath, Patrick, 1870-1948, Jesuit priest

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02 July 1870-09 February 1948


Born: 02 July 1870, Nenagh, County Tipperary
Entered: 14 August 1895, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 26 July 1908, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1913, St Mary’s, Miller Street, Sydney, Australia
Died: 09 February 1948, St Ignatius, Richmond, Melbourne, Australia - Australiae Province

Transcribed HIB to ASL 05/04/1931

by 1900 in Vals France (LUGD) studying
by 1911 at Drongen Belgium (BELG) making Tertianship
Came to Australia 1911

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
Patrick McGrath was educated at the Crescent, Limerick, and worked for some years with Pim Brothers, drapers, in Dublin. He entered the Society at Tullabeg, 14 August 1895, and after the juniorate studied philosophy at Vals, did regency at the Crescent, Limerick, 1901-05, studied theology at Milltown Park, Dublin, 1905-08, and again taught at the Crescent, 1908-10, before tertianship at Tronchiennes, 1910.
He came to Australia on the ship Ormuz in August 1911, worked in the parishes of North Sydney and Richmond, and taught at St Aloysius' College, 1915-18, but his main work was
chiefly in the parishes. He was superior at Sevenhill, 1918-20, and Richmond, 1920-31. He also worked at Lavender Bay, 1932-43, as parish priest, then at Canisius College, Pymble, for a few years, before his final placement at the parish of Richmond, 1944-47. He was a consulter of the vice-province from 1939-44.
He had, according to Albert Power, “a deep sympathy, wide knowledge of human nature, practical common sense, and great kindliness, and large-hearted generosity. He was totally devoted to his people. He was, moreover, a man of shrewd business talent, and, at the same time, a man of vision and resolution”. He was remembered in the Richmond parish for building the spire on the church, and in Lavender Bay for the parish schools. His main recreations in later life were his violin and his pipe. He practised his violin every morning for a short time before breakfast. He finally died from heart disease combined with high blood pressure.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 7th Year No 3 1932

Richmond Parish
Father Patrick McGrath, S.J., who had been P.P. of Richmond for twelve years, also bade farewell to his parishioners at a public meeting. Amongst the crowd of distinguished people assembled to say good-bye was Mr. J. H. Scullin, ex-Prime Minister. He was the chief speaker on the occasion. He said that they had assembled to say good-bye to Father McGrath. They would much prefer to be welcoming him back again. There was no one in Richmond who had endeared himself more to his people than Father McGrath, who was part of the whole city and the forefront of the parish. He had left an indelible mark on the parish, and the completed church would ever be associated with his name. Not only did he leave monuments in bricks and stones, but he had won a lasting place in the affections of the people by his fine qualities of heart and mind, and his readiness to share the sorrows and joys of his parishioners. Father McGrath would never leave the parish. He had won the respect of all classes in the community.
There were several other speeches, and when Father McGrath had made a moving reply, he gave his blessing to the great crowd that had assembled to say farewell.

Irish Province News 21st Year No 1 1946

Extracts from a letter of Fr. Patrick McGrath, S. J., St. Ignatius, Richmond, Melbourne, to Fr. Finucane, 10-9-945. Fr. McGrath is an old Crescent boy who while stationed at the Crescent 34 years ago volun teered for the (then) Australian Mission. :
“Your letter arrived just in time for the celebration of the Golden Jubilee. Besides the House celebration there was a Parish celebration in our Hall. I knew nothing about it till three days before. Since I came to Australia I have spent most of iny time between Melbourne and Sydney as Parish Priest. I did some six years' teaching in St. Aloysius, Sydney, twelve year's Parish Priest there, and the rest of my time in Melbourne as assistant, but mostly as Parish Priest. I broke down in Sydney. The hilly land there was too much for my growing years, and after a rest of a few months in our Theologate at Pymble I was sent back here as a Curate and I was very glad of it. I certainly never regretted coming to Australia.
Our Parish here is a very large one, and on the whole a very Catholic one, made up almost entirely of working people, for the most part very sincere and practical Catholics and most generous and easy and pleasant to work with. The same may be said of our Parish in Lavender Bay, North. Sydney,
The church of St. Ignatius in this Parish is a magnificent one, pure Gothic, in a commanding position, with a spire 240 feet high, the most perfect and beautiful spire in Australia. The stone of the church is Blue Stone but the upper part of the spire is white.
Looking up the Irish Catalogue a few days ago I was surprised to find that I know so few there now. Here in Australia the Irish Jesuits are dying out. The Vice-province is going on well. It is fully equipped with everything, novitiate, scholasticate with Juniors and Philosophers, and a special house for Theology, and we have this year a tertianship with 14 Australian Tertians. We want more novices, but there is good hope that there will be an increase this year. Our colleges here are doing very well. Both in Sydney and Melbourne there is a day-school and a boarding-school. The buildings in both places are first class”.

Irish Province News 23rd Year No 2 1948


Fr. Patrick McGrath (1870-1895-1948) – Vice Province of Australia

Perhaps the first thought of his friends, on hearing of the death of Fr. Patrick McGrath, was “we have lost, indeed, an Israelite, in whom there was no guile”. For though the call to religious life came to him much later than to his fellow-novices, the business career in the world, which he had mapped out for himself, left no trace on his soul, which remained childlike to the end.
Born in Nenagh, he received his secondary education at the Crescent College, Limerick. He went through the classes with the quiet, solid perseverance which characterised his whole life. He was then apprenticed to a Dublin draper (Messrs. Webb), and he persevered at the trade until his 25th year, when the ‘Leave all and follow Me’ won his unhesitating essent. He entered the noviciate, Tullabeg, in 1895. With him he brought no worldly relic, inimical to noviceship harmony, unless perhaps his fiddle, for fiddle it was, not a Stradivarius, no more than he was a Kreisler. A tribute to his character is the tolerance of his companions to the instrument, won by the geniality of the kindly strummer.
The noviceship routine was hard for one who had enjoyed the liberty of some seven or eight uncontrolled years. In fact, they had been controlled by his genuine spirit of Catholic piety, which ultimately made a religious of him, and which set him in the midst of the younger novices as an example of cheerful endeavour at tasks which often must have sorely tried him.
Hosiery was no preparation for Latin and Greek, which awaited him in the Juniorate. One of the relaxations was boating on the Grand Canal and adjoining rivers. Others took to the oars in relays. Mr. McGrath never relinquished his. If his hands were blistered at the start, the constancy would harden them - it did, and it carried him through those years, fitting him with the baggage needed for later years as a successful master.
In 1899 he set out for Vals. The country is a beautiful one - the Cevennes run into it. Long walks, which he loved, were alluring: often the way lay over mountain paths. Climbing was stiff, but not as stiff as the Metaphysics, which nonetheless he bravely faced, and it was amusing to see him frowning, in the library, over the hard nut difficulties to be cracked. His mind was not made for the abstract, but perseverance gave him a sufficient grasp of the principles which dogmatic theology, later, would require.
We next find him a master in his old school, the Crescent, where for five years, his good humour, his patience, and his sympathy made him an excellent teacher. After his theology and tertianship he returned again to the school. Not for long. The vision of Australia, crying out for workers of all kinds, appealed to him, and he set sail in 1911.
To an old fellow novice he wrote in 1945 : “I certainly never regretted coming to Australia, and since I have come I have never had any desire to go back, not that I have lost interest in Irish affairs, for I am always rejoiced when I hear that Ireland is going ahead”.
With the exception of six years teaching at St. Aloysius' College, Sydney, the rest of his work in Australia was in the parishes, either as curate, or, for a considerable time as P.P, partly in Melbourne and partly in Sydney. That he fulfilled the function happily is best told in his own words, written at the time of his Golden Jubilee, in 1945, to a friend. They are a good reflection of his simple, straightforward character : “The people organised a great celebration for my Golden Jubilee in our parochial ball. I knew nothing about it till three days befcre, when Fr. Lockington told me to be ready for it. The people kept it a secret from me, wishing in their kindness to give me a pleasant surprise, and they succeeded beyond measure.. I knew from my many years living and working amongst them that I was popular, but I had no idea that I was so popular until that night”. Fr. McGrath spent thirty-six years in Australia. It was indeed fitting that his Golden Jubilee should be celebrated where his untiring devotion reaped so many sheaves for the Master's golden harvest.
By a curious coincidence, Fr. Wilfred Ryan, S.J. (Superior of Norwood, S.A.), who entered the Society in the same year as Fr. McGrath happened to be in Melbourne at the time of his death and preached a touching and beautiful panegyric at the Requiem of his old comrade in arms. R.I.P.


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