File 47 - 'The priest among the soldiers' edited by Martin Dempsey

Identity area

Reference code

IE IJA CHP/2/47

Title

'The priest among the soldiers' edited by Martin Dempsey

Date(s)

  • 1947 (Creation)

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File

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211pp

Context area

Name of creator

(05 October 1908-07 April 1973)

Biographical history

Born: 05 October 1908, Listowel, County Kerry
Entered: 01 September 1925, St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly
Ordained: 31 July 1939
Professed: 07 February 1942
Died: 07 April 1973, Belvedere College SJ, Dublin

Chaplain in the Second World War.

by 1948 at Riverview, Sydney Australia (ASL) teaching
by 1962 at Holy Name Manchester (ANG) working

◆ Companions in Mission1880- Zambia-Malawi (ZAM) Obituaries :
Note from Lol Kearns Entry
“While driving in convoy on the first stage of our journey to Brussels, my driver ran the car into a tree north of Magdeburg and my head was banged into the glove compartment in the dashboard. I saw Fr Morrison again at CelIe as he bent over my stretcher and formed the opinion that I should never look the same again.

◆ Jesuits in Ireland : https://www.jesuit.ie/news/into-journal-remembers-jesuit-chaplain/

INTO journal remembers Jesuit chaplain
Irish Jesuit and Second World War chaplain Fr Michael Morrison features in the Irish National Teachers Organisation’s InTouch magazine for the January/February 2019 issue.
Fr Morrison was born in Listowel in County Kerry, was educated by the Jesuits in secondary school, joined the Society and taught at Belvedere College SJ in Dublin. He enlisted as a chaplain with the British army, initially ministering in the Middle East and later transferring to the Derry Regiment of the Lancashire Fusiliers.
He arrived with British and Canadian forces to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Northern Germany in April 1945, which was the first camp to be liberated on the Western Front. At that time, there were 60,000 individuals within the camp with conditions described as ‘hell on earth’ – 13,000 people died from sickness and starvation in the weeks after liberation.
While at Bergen-Belsen, Fr Morrison administered the last rights, held Mass for people of different religions and conducted a joint service over a mass grave with, for example, the Jewish British army chaplain. In a letter home, he wrote: “What we met within the first few days is utterly beyond description”, and it was reported that he spoke very little about what he witnessed in later years. He is buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

◆ David Strong SJ “The Australian Dictionary of Jesuit Biography 1848-2015”, 2nd Edition, Halstead Press, Ultimo NSW, Australia, 2017 - ISBN : 9781925043280
Michael Morrison lived in his early years at Ballysimon on the outskirts of Limerick city. The Christian Brothers educated him at Sexton Street, and then he went to Mungret from 1922, where he excelled himself at hurling. In his last year at school he was a member of the junior team that won the O'Mara Cup.
He entered the Society at Tullabeg, 1 September 1925, and after his home juniorate at Rathfarnham, studied philosophy at Tullabeg. He did regency at Belvedere and Mungret, 1933-36, teaching mathematics and was involved with sport. He studied theology at Milltown Park, 1936-40, and was at Rathfarnham, 1940-41, for tertianship.
During the Second World War he was a military chaplain with the British Army in Egypt 1941-46, serving with the Eight Army and was present at the fall of Tunis. He was later at Belsen in 1945, working in Camp Number 1, the Horror Camp. Herded together in this camp were 50,000 people where typhus was raging When Morrison's unit entered the camp between 7.000 and 10,000 people were found dead in the huts and on the ground. The majority of the living were seriously ill. Many thousands died subsequently Morrison anointed about 300 people daily, helped by very few chaplains. He celebrated Mass on 22 April 1945, the first time at the camp. It was a moving experience for those able to attend.
After the war he went to Australia, teaching briefly at St Aloysius' College, and then at Riverview, 1947-48. He finally did parish work at Richmond, 1949-58.
After leaving Australia, he spent several years attached to the Jesuit Holy Name church in Manchester. He returned to Ireland later, and taught at Mungret, and then at Belvedere College as college bursar, 1963-73.
Morrison was a good listener, allowing others to speak. His quiet, matter-of-fact way of viewing things rendered him one of the most factually objective witnesses of the day-to~day circumstances of World War II. His health deteriorated in his latter years after a series of strokes. He was a man of strong principles, loyal to his duties, and, in his sickness, always unwilling to be a burden.

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 16th Year No 2 1941

General News :
The Irish Province has to date sent 4 chaplains to England for home or foreign service for the duration of the war. They are Frs. Richard Kennedy, Michael Morrison, Conor Naughton and Cyril Perrott. The first three were doing their 3rd year's probation under Fr. Henry Keane at the Castle, Rathfarnham, while Fr. Perrott was Minister at Mungret College. They left Dublin on the afternoon of 26th May for Belfast en route for London. Fr. Richard Clarke reported a few days later seeing them off safely from Victoria. Both he and Fr. Guilly, Senior Chaplain to British Forces in N. Ireland, had been most helpful and kind in getting them under way.

Irish Province News 17th Year No 1 1942

Chaplains :
Our twelve chaplains are widely scattered, as appears from the following (incomplete) addresses : Frs. Burden, Catterick Camp, Yorks; Donnelly, Gt. Yarmouth, Norfolk; Dowling, Peebles Scotland; Guinane, Aylesbury, Bucks; Hayes, Newark, Notts; Lennon, Clackmannanshire, Scotland; Morrison, Weymouth, Dorset; Murphy, Aldershot, Hants; Naughton, Chichester, Sussex; Perrott, Palmer's Green, London; Shields, Larkhill, Hants.
Fr. Maurice Dowling left Dublin for-Lisburn and active service on 29 December fully recovered from the effects of his accident 18 August.

Irish Province News 21st Year No 4 1946

Australia :
Frs. Fleming and Mansfield (who is a member of the Australian Vice-Province) were able to leave for Australia via America in July.
Frs. Lennon and Morrison are still awaiting travel facilities.

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'The priest among the soldiers' edited by Martin Dempsey, (London, 1947) which includes ‘At Belsen’ by Fr Michael Morrison SJ (pp188-194).

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The Irish Jesuit Archives are open only to bona fide researchers. Access by advance appointment. Further details: archivessj@gmail.com

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No material may be reproduced without the written permission of the Archivist. Copyright restrictions apply. Photocopying is not available. Digital photography is at the discretion of the Archivist.

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2015; 2020

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