Barry, Brendan, 1920-1972, Jesuit priest
- IE IJA J/60
- 09 May 1920-30 January 1972
Born: 09 May 1920, Limerick City
Entered: 07 September 1937, St Mary's, Emo, County Laois
Ordained: 31 July 1950, Milltown Park, Dublin
Final Vows: 02 February 1955, Milltown Park, Dublin
Died: 30 January 1972, St Ignatius, Lower Leeson Street, Dublin
Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus, 5 August 1965-24 July 1968.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 34th Year No 4 1959
On 17th June Very Reverend Fr. General appointed Fr. Brendan Barry as Socius to Fr. Provincial in succession to Father John Coyne. Thus came to an end a term of office which had lasted for nearly a quarter of a century. This surely must be an easy record. Many members of the Province had known no other Socius and some of the younger generation might not have been able to name any of Fr. Coyne's predecessors. Provincials might come and go but Fr. Coyne remained, an abiding element in a changing world. In all, he worked under four Provincials; Fr. Kieran, during whose period of office he became Socius (22nd February, 1935), Fr. J. R. MacMahon, Fr. T. Byrne and Fr. M. O’Grady. On more than one occasion he deputised as Vice-Provincial. He had come to be regarded as an almost indispensable appendage of government, and then in June the appointment of a new Fr. Socius came as a reminder that even Socii are, after all, subject to the law of mutability.
At the celebration of his golden jubilee in 1956, Fr. Coyne said that his career in the Society had been a series of false starts and changes of direction. But these seemingly false starts, his interrupted classical studies, his years as Substitute to the English Assistant, as Rector of Belvedere and as Master of Novices were preparing him for what was to be the great work of his life. These experiences gave him an understanding of the day-to-day business of the government of the Society and of individual houses, and, of course, his impeccable Latin prose and mastery of curial style. At the same jubilee celebrations the Provincial for the time being and two former Provincials paid tribute to his skill in the dispatch of business, his loyalty, generosity and other personal qualities. To these the Province may add: his courtesy, tact, sympathy and good sense. The timid or diffident who considered a personal interview with Fr. Provincial too formidable found in Fr. Coyne the perfect intermediary. To all who had permissions to ask or MSS. for censorship or other small business to transact he was always approachable and gracious. The province takes this opportunity of thanking him and of expressing its admiration, not to say amazement, at the cheerfulness with which year after year he went about the infinity of his important but monotonous tasks. It also extends a warm welcome to Fr. Barry in his new work.
Irish Province News 47th Year No 2 1972
Fr Brendan Barry SJ (1920-1972)
Father Brendan Barry was born in St John's Parish, Limerick, on May 9th, 1920. He was an only child. His early schooling was at the Christian Brothers in Roxboro Road. At the age of twelve, he was sent to the Augustinian College, Dungarvan, as a boarder. However, after two years absence, he continued his secondary education with the Christian Brothers, Limerick. While there, he made a Retreat under the direction of Fr Ernest Mackey and one result of this was that he entered the novitiate at St. Mary's, Emo, on 7th September. There were in all nineteen novices in his year, of whom fourteen were subsequently ordained priests. He took his first vows on September 8th, 1939, a few days after World War II had erupted. For the next six years he lived in communities of scholastics who varied in number between forty-four and fifty-one. The years 1939-42 were spent at Rathfarnham where after three years study he took his BA degree with honours in English and and Latin. The next three years were spent at Tullabeg where he studied Philosophy.
Those who knew him in these early years remember him as a quiet, reserved, cheerful and occasionally gay young man who, like everyone else, accepted philosophically the small privations and restrictions which World War II made inevitable. During these years, his intellectual gifts were slowly revealed and his zeal was manifested in his work for the Men's Sodality, then attached to the People's Church. Two years of Regency, 1945-47, followed. These two years at Belvedere were years that lived in his memory. In later times, he often spoke of them with real affection. The value of Regency in bringing a scholastic to full maturity was manifest in his case. From now on it became increasingly difficult for him to hide his gifts. What was hitherto known to a few, now became common knowledge; he was a religious of regular observance, of unostentatious piety, of dedicated attention to the work he was given to do: teaching, prefecting or refereeing rugby football. He did all these things well, and, while he particularly enjoyed the company of his fellow scholastics, he became and always remained a good “community man”.
Such was the reputation he brought with him to Milltown Park in the Autumn of 1947; and meeting him there for the first time, I came to appreciate his quiet strength of character, his invariably cheerful disposition and his dedication to the work in hand. One of his Professors at that time described him as “a gifted student” and he passed his Ad Gradum examination in 1961 after 4 years of consistent application to his studies. As he had little interest in organised games, he found his relaxation in walking and swimming; and from this period dates his long association with the “Forty Foot” Swimming Club. His administrative gifts became apparent at this time and his appointment as Beadle of the Theologians caused no surprise. On July 31st, 1950, he was ordained priest by the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. John Charles McQuaid, of whose policies and plans Fr Brendan was, in future years, to be such a stout defender and champion. His relationship with the Archbishop, which was at first necessarily indefinite, became in time confidential and and intimate. It was founded on the same virtue of Faith which in later years made him, what he sometimes jokingly called, “a Pope's man”.
Now this aspect of Fr Brendan's outlook was derived from his understanding of the mind of St Ignatius in founding the Society and in placing it at the service of the Church and of the Pope. In a letter to the Province in 1967, he wrote: “It is obvious our ministries will not be renewed without internal renewal, without a deep knowledge of the Ignatian idea of our vocation ... To develop (this) in ourselves we need to study the person and writings of St. Ignatius - in his autobiography and his letters, in the Constitutions and in the Spiritual Exercises ... This will ensure great co-operation among ourselves, with the diocesan clergy and the hierarchy, with other religious and with the laity ...” This letter, so full of high ideals and sane ideas, mirrors, as do few other things he wrote, the spirit of faith in the Church and in the Society which was so characteristic of him. He never saw the Society, which he loved dearly, as an end in itself, only as a means; never as master, but always as a servant at the disposal of the Pope and the Bishops and of the People of God. His faith in the Pope and the Bishops as successors of Peter and his fellow Apostles and as divinely ordained teachers and rulers of the Church, never wavered. And he saw the role of the Society in the Church to-day as being loyally and fully supportive of papal teaching and policy, in every field and in every detail, in every place and at all times. Much prayer and study, much discernment and self-discipline led him to lay aside all private judgment and “to obey in all things the true spouse of Christ our Lord, the Hierarchical Church”.
During 1952-53, he made his Tertianship under his former Master of Novices, Fr John Neary. He welcomed this opportunity to deepen his understanding of the Institute of the Society and of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. This understanding was to serve him well when he was elected as a delegate to the General Congregation in 1965. He attended both sessions of this Congregation, during the first of which, he was appointed Provincial of the Irish Province, an appointment which was announced on August 5th, 1965. To this office he brought the fruits of thirteen years of varied administrative experience, a year as Minister in Galway, followed by four years as Minister in Milltown Park. In 1952, he was appointed Superior and Bursar of the Apostolic School at Mungret College. In the early summer of 1959, his appointment as Socius to : Fr Michael O'Grady was announced. He continued on as Socius to Fr Charles O'Conor on his becoming Provincial in July, 1959. Fr O'Conor recalls those days: “Although Fr Barry had already been a member of the Province for over twenty years, it was not until 1959 that our paths first crossed, One afternoon towards the end of May of that year, we found ourselves leaving Eglinton Road together armed with the knowledge that we were to be Provincial and Socius in the near future. We were both wondering, no doubt, how this hitherto unforeseen alliance would work out. In the sequel it fared very well. Once the initial stages had been passed, we found ourselves firm friends and remained so ever since”.
In ordinary circumstances, it could have been expected that he would remain as Socius for a longer term. Apart from this being a tradition in the Province, Fr Brendan brought to this Office a knowledge and love of the Institute and an administrative capacity and experience of a high order. But it was not to be. Indeed, as subsequent events will show, the fragmentary nature of his apostolate was to continue throughout his entire career. In the summer of 1962, he was appointed Rector of Milltown Park in succession to Fr James Corboy. Thus, after an absence of four years, he returned to a house where almost a third of his religious life in fact was spent, In August 1965, his “apprenticeship” being completed, he crossed over the Milltown Road to take up residence in 85 Eglinton Road as Provincial. During his three years in this office he was responsible for many initiatives. In his anxiety to get the best advice on many, difficult problems, he set up the following : the Commission for Studies and Training of Ours; the Commission on Ministries, the Social Survey; the Man-Power Planning Commission; the Commission on our Brothers; the Advisory Committee on Comprehensive Schools. He saw clearly that, in regard to our apostolic works and the manner in which we conducted them, it was vital that we recognise that we were living in a world of rapid and profound changes and that we be ready to adapt our ministries and methods to meet these changes. In this connection, too, he stressed the value of community discussions on all our problems, local and provincial, for he saw that it was necessary not only to arrive at the correct solutions, but also to enlighten one another about the reasons for consequent changes. He knew that such discussions involved “self-denial in working together at a common task” but he also knew that they were, today, recommended to us all both by the Church and by the Society. His, too, was the final decision to build a new Retreat House with a Circular Chapel at Manresa, Dollymount. During his years as Provincial, he visited our Mission in Zambia and concluded a friendly pact with the newly independent Vice-Province of Hong Kong. Among the many assessments of his work in the Province up to this point, the following by his former Provincial and life-long friend, Fr John R MacMahon, summarizes what many members of the Province should like to say: “In a way I knew him well. As my Minister in Milltown, as my Rector there and as Provincial, he impressed me as being a loyal and efficient assistant, a prudent and kindly Superior and as a courageous and faithful ruler. I refrain from using superlatives, though they are richly deserved. If I wanted an ‘Imago optimi Superioris’, I would find it in him”.
Now, looking back over his life, I am of the opinion that if he was drawn to one Jesuit ministry more than another, it was to the giving of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius to priests, religious and to the People of God. As Minister and Rector of Milltown, he gave many a week-end Retreat. As Provincial he encouraged the holding of Seminars and other meetings for those engaged in this ministry. In his letter of September 1967, he urged Retreat-Directors not to spare themselves in trying to think themselves into the minds of retreatants, giving what is most suitable to young and old alike. It was fitting, then, when he was relieved of the responsibility for the whole Province, that he should, after a brief period as Minister and Bursar in the College of Industrial Relations, spend what were in fact to be his last years as a director of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. In this miniştry, he excelled, and he ran by faith to this work of bringing Christian life and hope to dead and despairing men and women, Between July 1969, and January 1972, a period of two and a half years, he directed three Retreats of 30 days-two to students at Clonliffe and one to the Religious of Jesus and Mary, Gortnor Abbey..seventeen eight-day retreats, seven six-day retreats, twenty tridua, several days of recollection, and one Novena of Grace. Right up to the end his one anxiety was that he would not have enough to do. His programme for 1972 already included six retreats in succession, between June and July, followed by a 30 day retreat in August and another in September October. He was booked, also, to give a third 30 day retreat to Loreto Nuns in Johannesburg, South Africa in December next. In all this, he felt confidently prepared; and how well prepared he was, is attested by tributes from religious in all parts of the country and of England.
The following will suffice as being typical of all: “I know that many of our sisters valued his personal direction and advice. I have been very much struck by the fact that he is so much regretted by
people of such different age-groups and of widely different views. He, undoubtedly, understood the young and was greatly trusted by them. They valued his honesty and appreciated especially his wide knowledge of Council documents. But, I think that he will be best remembered in our Irish Province for his retreats. In particular, I have heard many sisters mention a Superior's retreat which he directed, based on the Gospel of St. John, and, as he changed his retreat so often, this may not be the one you know. Every Sister I met who made that retreat has spoken of it as an exceptional spiritual experience”.
Before concluding this notice, it will be of interest to have a record of some of the judgments passed on his life and work by ours and by others for whom he worked. The following are typical examples : “Brendan was by disposition undemonstrative and retiring but he was incisive in his assessments of people and situations. He was most conscientious in regard to his work and very loyal to his friends. He could be sensitive in some matters and wonderfully resilient in others”. “He was somewhat reserved and he did not wear his heart upon his sleeve. But, there was no doubt about the depth of his sincerity and I looked on him as a true friend on whose sympathy and solid help I could rely. This may seem too formal, even frigid. It may give a false impression. Perhaps, I, too, don't wear my heart on my sleeve”. “I was always impressed by his great sincerity, by his balanced judgment, by his generous and completely detached spirit of service, by his simplicity, his kindly tolerance and his sense of humour”. “His was a sane and balanced approach, in his own homely style, he flavoured his talks with his own dry humour, e.g. ‘the modem superior can't be remote. If he is remote, they write him off! If he is not remote, his personal faults stand out - the boys know!’” “We have lost in Fr Barry a dedicated friend, an enlightened spiritual guide, whose humility and limpid sincerity were notable characteristics of his personality”.
For myself, in the quarter of a century that I have known him, I had come to see his fine physical stature as a living symbol of the greatness of his mind and heart. He had a mind that could go to the heart of any question and his judgments of men and affairs were rarely wrong. While he did not suffer fools gladly, he did feel and sympathised with the failures and follies of his fellow men. He was less interested in condemning a man than in seeking a practical solution to his problems. He was loyal to commitments and to persons. He was not a respecter of persons and friendship for him never degenerated into favouritism. He was, in truth, detached even from his friends. Though like most men, he had need of friends, in whose company he could relax and come out of himself and relieve the inner loneliness that dwells in the heart of every man. This loneliness is said to be more keenly felt by those whose ministry separates them from community life. In the last few years, Fr Brendan was always happy to return from his frequent ‘missionary expeditions to the Community at “35”, where he found a homely welcome and congenial company. The knowledge of this was not the least of this Community's consolations at the time of his sudden death at the comparatively early age of 52. The Irish Province has lost one of its really great men; his spiritual children have lost a sympathetic guide and his friends everywhere a man whose judgment and companionship were a source of encouragement and strength. May he rest in peace.
An appreciation by Most Reverend Dr. Joseph A. Carroll, President of Holy Cross College, Clonliffe
It is no easy tasks nowadays to give the Thirty Days Retreat. The classic material has to be adapted to the new mentality and up dated in accordance with the new insights in Sacred Scripture and Theology. It is as true as ever that the success of the Retreat de pends to a large extent, under God, on the qualities of the Director. Young people to-day are not particularly impressed with a man's erudition nor even with his eloquence. What they look for and are quick to recognise is his sincerity. Father Brendan was both erudite and eloquent but his outstanding quality, as we saw him, was hs sincerity. It was patent to all. When one adds to this an immense patience and capacity for listening, a complete dedication to the task, a large fund of common sense and a keen sense of humour, one begins to understand how the Thirty Days Retreat that could so easily be a burden was not simply tolerable but decidedly acceptable to our Second Year students. I have a distinct recollection of meeting one of them during the Retreat last year and asking him how things were going. “Father Barry”, he said “is terrific”. The fact that they asked him to return on more than one occasion to give a Day of Recollection is a measure of their appreciation. He will be greatly missed in the College. With his unassuming manner and the twinkling bashful smile he had won the affection of the Staff. We always welcomed him as an amiable companion during the Thirty Days he spent with us each year. May he rest in peace.
NB - Members of the Province may not have known that Father Brendan was on the staff of the Mater Dei Institute of Education, He gave occasional lectures to the students there on the spiritual life. Right up to his death, he frequently offered Mass in the Oratory of the Institute and preached a homily. The Director of the Institute, Father Patrick Wallace in the course of a recent letter writes: “To the students of the Mater Dei Institute Father Brendan Barry, SJ, was a man of God. He spoke so convincingly of the need for prayer, he treated every problem so calmly, he showed such respect for everyone who met him that one had to conclude that here was a man who had a deep experience of God in his own prayer life, who had received God's guidance in tackling the problems life had posed for him, who had reached the heights of appreciating the dignity of every man as a brother in Christ. In the homily delivered at the Requiem Mass in the Institute the celebrant spoke for us all when he said 'while we mourn the loss of Father Barry we rejoice that through him the Spirit of Christ was visibly active among us for so long'. The above sentiments are genuinely the sentiments of the students and the staff”.