Born: 09 August 1865, Rosenallis, Co Laois
Entered: 03 November 1883, Milltown Park, Dublin/Loyola House, Dromore, County Down
Professed: 15 August 1902
Died: 05 September 1934, St Vincent’s Hospital
Part of the St Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin community at the time of death
Chaplain in the First World War.
by 1894 at Leuven Belgium (BELG) studying
by 1901 at Sartirana, Merate, Como, Italy (VEN) making Tertianship
by 1917 Military Chaplain : 8th Royal Munster Fusiliers, France
by 1918 Military Chaplain : 7th Leinster Regiment, BEF France
by 1919 Military Chaplain : Chaplain to the Forces, Schveningen, Netherlands
◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
Note from Nicholas Walsh Entry :
He died in the end room of Bannon’s corridor, and the Provincial William Delaney and Minister Joseph Wrafter were with him at the end.”
◆ Jesuits in Ireland :
A sparrow to fall
A BBC Northern Ireland documentary, Voices 16 – Somme (BBC 1 NI on Wednesday 29th June,
9pm) explores the events of 1916 through the testimony of the people who witnessed it and their families. Documentary makers and relatives of Jesuit chaplain Willie Doyle were shown his letters, postcards and personal possessions kept here at the Irish Jesuit Archives. In the 1920s, Alfred O’Rahilly used some of these letters in his biography of Fr Willie Doyle SJ. Afterwards they were given to Willie’s brother, Charles, and were stored for safekeeping in the basement of St Francis Xavier’s church, Lower Gardiner Street, Dublin in 1949. In 2011, they were accessioned into the archives.
Fr Willie Doyle SJ was one of ten Irish Jesuits who served as chaplains at the battle of the Somme (1 July- 18 November 1916): seven with the British forces; three with the Australian. Their letters, diaries and photographs witness their presence to the horror of war.
Fr Joseph Wrafter SJ, 8th Royal Munster Fusiliers (06 July 1916):
It is a very terrible thing where a show is on & no one I know wants any more of it than he has seen if he has been in it at all. But of course all have to see it through & the men are really splendid...Between killed & wounded we lost in that period quite a fourth of our Battalions & the Leinsters nearly as many. But they did good work & the enemy got a good deal more than they gave. It is dreadful to see the way the poor fellows are broken & mangled sometimes out of all recognition.
Jesuits and the influenza, 1918-19
The influenza pandemic that raged worldwide in 1918-19 (misnamed the Spanish flu, as during the First World War, neutral Spain reported on the influenza) killed approximately 100 million people.
The influenza was widely referenced by Irish Jesuit chaplains in the First World War. And Fr Joseph Wrafter SJ writing in December 1918: “the influenza is raging here and all over Holland as everywhere”.
◆ Irish Province News
Irish Province News 9th Year No 4 1934
Father Joseph Wrafter
Father Wrafter died at St. Vincent's Hospital on Wednesday5th September, 1934. For a considerable time he had been in very poor health, even before he left Clongowes in 1932, he had suffered a good deal. He ws an invalid for nearly the two years he spent in Gardiner St., yet, with his usual courage, he did very fully all the work he was allowed to do. At last he was compelled to go to St. Vincent’s, where for some three weeks before his death he was very often quite unconscious.
In next number, we shall give a short sketch of his life in the Society.
Irish Province News 10th Year No 1 1935
Father Joseph Wrafter Continued
Father Wrafter was born near Rosenallis in Leix on the 9th August, 1865. He went with his two elder brothers, William and Thomas, to Tullabeg in 1877, where he remained until
- On November 3rd of that year he entered the Novitiate which was then at Milltown Park, but was transferred the following year to Dromore, Co. Down. He next spent a year
as a Junior in Milltown, and had just begun his Philosophy there, when in November, 1886, the year of the amalgamation (Tullabeg and Clongowes) he was sent to Clongowes. He was Third Line and Gallery Prefect there for three years, and from 1889 to 1891 had charge of the Large Study. In the former of these years he utilised his great histrionic powers in getting up “The Tempest” which was an unqualified success. In 1891 he was appointed Higher Line Prefect although he had not yet done his Philosophy, and was the youngest man on the prefectorial staff. But his strength of character and sense of justice made up for these drawbacks. In 1893, after seven years' work as a scholastic in Clongowes, he went to Louvain for Philosophy, and in 1896 to Milltown Park for Theology, joining the Long Course.
In the early summer of 1899 he went down to Clongowes to stay for about a month, in order to take the place of Father Fegan who had left to undergo a serious operation. However Father Wrafter remained in Clongowes the following year as Prefect of the Small Study, and next year saw him a Tertian in the Province of Venice.
From 1900 to 1903 he was stationed in University College St, Stephen's Green, as Minister. After a year on the Mission Staff, with headquarters at the Crescent, Limerick, he renewed
his connection With Clongowes, this time as Minister, remaining there until 1908, when he went to Gardiner St. and, in addition to the ordinary work, got charge of the Police Sodality. The next year he was appointed Minister and held that position until 1942, with the exception of a break of three years (1916-1919), when he was Military Chaplain in France and Holland. While at the front he distinguished himself by his great coolness and bravery. He was awarded the MC, but an officer who himself won the V.C., said that “every day, Father Wrafter did things that deserved the VC”.
In 1924 he became Minister in Leeson St., and had charge of University Hall. Next year he again took up work in Clongowes as Minister and held the position for ten years. It was during these years that the new building was erected in Clongowes, in which Father Wrafter took a very great interest. 1934 saw him once more in Gardiner St, but incapable of much active work. However, as long as he possibly could, he said Mass and attended to his Confessional to which he had always been most devoted.
He celebrated his Golden jubilee in the Society in November 1933, but did not long survive the event. The malady to which he had long been subject - phlebitis - had poisoned his system and after some weeks in hospital he died on 5th September 1934.
The most remarkable thing about Father Wrafter's life in the Society was his long term of office as Minister in all twenty six years, thirteen in Clongowes, ten in Gardiner Stand ten in the University. He possessed in a high degree the qualities required for that office. He was a fine organiser quickly saw what was wanted, and then had the power to descend to details. He was extremely just and patient and was moreover the very soul of generosity, loving to see and to make others happy. To the poor also he was very kind. Many of the beggars and tramps who came to Clongowes made it a point to ask for Father Wrafter, they almost seemed to be personal friends of his so familiarly did he chat with them.
What struck one most in Father Wrafter was his strong will and his great sense of duty Whatever he took in hand he saw through, and whatever was his duty would be done thoroughly. During his last few years as Minister in Clongowes he suffered from phlebitis which caused his legs to become very much swollen and painful, but unless absolutely forbidden by the doctor, he was sure to go down to the refectory to preside at the boys' meals. He was indefatigable in his care of and kindness to the sick, frequently visiting them in the infirmary during the night. This did not prevent him from being the first to rise in the morning. He always said the 6 o'clock Mass. Indeed it was wonderful how he contrived to do with so little sleep. In his last illness this strength of character was most noticeable, for though he suffered very much he never complained, but always made as little as possible of his sufferings. The nurses who attended him marveled, and were much edified at his patience and resignation.
How much his kindness and help to so many were appreciated was shown by the number of people, many of them in humble circumstances who called at the hospital to enquire for him during his last illness. R.I.P