A tribute to the life and work of Brian Torode
Saint Charles of St Andrew of Mount Argus, Father Ignatius of St Paul, Father Paul Mary Pakenham and Blessed Bernard Mary of Jesus – Local Links with the Passionists
by Brian Torode 1989 (with additions from Richard Barton)
The fourth meeting of the Gloucestershire and North Avon Catholic History Society was one never to be forgotten, devoted to the Life of Blessed Dominic Barberi. Blessed Dominic, first missioner at Woodchester from 1846, was beatified in 1963. His ‘fame’ and reputation have somewhat overshadowed the connection that Catholicism has in this area with yet another Passionist who was also beatified recently.
Andrew Houben was born in Holland in 1821. His childhood and youth pointed in the direction of the religious life and in 1845, Andrew presented himself at the Passionist monastery near Tournai, in Belgium. The Provincial of the Passionists at the time was Father Dominic Barberi. Andrew was accepted and was given the name of Charles of St Andrew. In December of the following year he was professed and then began his studies for the priesthood. Before, himself, leaving for England Father Dominic had seen to it that all students were well prepared for the possibility of being sent on the English Mission and of the ‘dangers’ they would have to face there ‘and at the end, death, it may be, and suffering and pain.’
Brother Charles was priested in 1850 and six months later he was sent to the Passionist community at Aston Hall in Staffordshire. Father Charles’s flock consisted mainly of Irish immigrants, many of whom had neglected their faith and were living in conditions of abject poverty. This was a period of anti-Catholic riots and effigy burning – of no Popery demonstrations – and Father Charles found plenty of opportunity for fortitude and zeal during his two years at Aston Hall. He was next transferred to Cotton Hall where he had charge of a difficult parish – again Irish immigrants. He spent hour upon hour walking through the enormous parish visiting the homes, and day and night attending the sick and offering the sacraments. Zeal for souls was his predominant passion. In 1857 he was sent to the recently founded Retreat at Mount Argus, Dublin. He had grown to love and admire the Irish during his work among them in England – “my people” – he called them. Soon his sympathy, understanding and closeness to God became an attraction and people queued to receive his blessing or to entreat him to lay his hands on the sick. The comfort and help he brought resulted in claims that he had wrought miracles but adverse publicity in the Press caused him to be transferred back to England in 1866 (1). He arrived in Broadway on 4th July.
‘Today the Reverend Father Charles arrived from Dublin, and also Brother Michael (Behan), a lay-brother, came with him by mistake…’ (Broadway Noviciate Chronicles)
During his term at Broadway it is likely that Father Charles helped with parochial work and one entry in the baptism register bears witness to this. It is likely that from time to time he might have supplied the mission at Chipping Campden and the chapel of the Duc d’Aumale at Woodnorton, near Evesham. At that time there was no Catholic church between Broadway, Kemerton and Cheltenham (2).
On November 27th, 1867, Father Charles was again transferred, this time to Sutton in Lancashire. Nardocci notes that he ‘arrived here from Broadway (and) is appointed to remain here as a member of this community.’ He returned to Ireland in 1874 and died at Mount Argus, where he was loved as a companion and revered as a saint, on January 5th 1893.
Another prominent Passionist of the period was Father Ignatius Spencer. He was born in 1799, the son of the second Earl Spencer, an ancestor of Sir Winston Churchill and Diana, Princess of Wales. He was ordained an Anglican priest but in 1830 he was received into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church at Leicester, by Father Benedict Caestryck O.P., who in the following year became Chaplain to the Dominicanesses at Hartpury Court, Gloucestershire. Spencer was ordained priest in 1832 and joined the Passionists fourteen years later.
Dominic Barberi died in 1849 and Father Spencer succeeded him as Superior of the English Province. In October of 1849 Father Ignatius Spencer was at Woodchester for the consecration and solemn opening of the Church of Our Lady of the Annunciation. On the following Sunday he opened a retreat at the evening service for a congregation which was chiefly non-Catholic. Bishop William Ullathorne, Vicar-Apostolic of the Midland district, was present on this occasion. Father Spencer wrote of this event:
‘I am in the course of giving a retreat here in our new Church, which was opened last week. It is the first time I have preached in this way to a Protestant congregation, and my hearers (at least in the evening) are for the most parts Protestants.’
During the following year Father Ignatius was in Ireland and, whilst there, the Passionist Community left Woodchester to take over the former Benedictine house at Broadway, founded by Dom Augustine Birdsall O.S.B. An entry in his diary for November 20th, 1850, states that Father Spencer ‘took railway to Cheltenham where I expected Father Vincent but had to take a car fifteen miles to Broadway.’
Father Ignatius paid a number of visits to the Passionist noviciate at Broadway and from 17th April until 5th May in the year 1852, he was Novice Master there, It is possible that on his departure from Broadway that his presence in Cheltenham gave rise to the following report in the Cheltenham Journal of the 8th May 1852:
‘Father Ignatius, alias the Rev and Hon George Spencer, brother of Earl Spencer, and formerly a clergyman of the Established Church, has during the past week, paid a visit to Cheltenham. He was dressed in a course black serge coat, a low-crowned hat, with an immense brim; his feet were bare. Suspended from his breast were two silver orders of the Jesuits (sic). It is said he is on tour through England to collect funds for the conversion of this nation to Romanism.’ (Gloucester Journal, 8th May, 1852)
Finally mention should be made of Father Paul Mary Pakenham (1821-1857). He was born Charles Reginald Pakenham and he came from a distinguished Irish Family and was a close relative of the Duke of Wellington, the hero of Waterloo. Having served as a Captain in the Guards he was received into the Roman Catholic Church by Cardinal Wiseman in 1850. The following year we know that he was staying with his uncle, General Lygon, at Spring Hill, Worcestershire, three miles from Broadway.
‘The nearest Catholic church at the time was that of the Passionists, in the village of Broadway, three miles distant, and thither Pakenham went regularly to assist at Mass and discharge other religious duties. The presence of the tall, handsome, young guardsman, so recent a convert, created something of a sensation in this quiet, old world spot as he took his place Sunday by Sunday among the handful of villagers that attended the humble little church; but the more lasting impression received alike by the congregation and the religious community was that made by the deep, manly, and unaffected piety of him whom they soon began familiarly to call “The Captain.” Only a short time elapsed before he became acquainted with Father Vincent Grotti, then superior of the Passionist house at Broadway, and at his invitation paid several visits to the community, gaining the affections of all by the charm of his manner and conversation.’ (‘Paul Mary Pakenham, Passionist’ by Fr Joseph Smith C.P.)
Shortly afterwards Pakenham applied to join the Passionists, he resigned his commission and dispersed his property, in fact, for some years an annuity helped to maintain the village school which the Passionists provided for the poor Catholic children of Broadway. The Duke of Wellington is said to have bid farewell to Pakenham with the words, “Well, you have been a good soldier, Charles; strive to be a good monk!” On Thursday 22nd May 1851 Pakenham was invested at Broadway in the black habit of the Passionists by Father Vincent Grotti.
‘Among those who witnessed that ceremony, so memorable in the life of Father Pakenham, was another eminent convert, who seems to have been deeply affected by the scene, and by the devoted self-renunciation of the central figure in it. “on the occasion of his clothing,” again to quote Father Salvian, the master of novices, “the Rev. Dr Manning, who was at that time making the spiritual exercises (in our house at Broadway) preparatory to his ordination, being present was much moved by the devotion with which the fervent novice made the oblation of himself to God. He told me he envied very much his happy lot, and that he would gladly follow his example had not the Divine will, manifested to him by his superiors, ordered it otherwise”.’ (‘Paul Mary Pakenham, Passionist’ by Fr Joseph Smith C.P.)
Pakenham served his noviciate at Broadway but illness struck and, when he was well enough, he was removed from the monastery there and sent for recuperation to the home of a Catholic physician at Prestbury, near Cheltenham. Here, he and his infirmarian strove hard to live the Passionist life and on Sundays they both attended Mass at St Gregory’s. After a few weeks Pakenham was well enough to return to Broadway where he made his profession before leaving for Cotton in Staffordshire.
In due course Pakenham was ordained priest at Oscott College, Birmingham, and he celebrated his first Mass at Broadway on the feast of the Holy Rosary, October 7th, 1855. During the following year Father Paul was sent to Ireland where he became the first superior of the new community at Mount Argus. However, within six months he had died and it was said that, ‘all Dublin mourned over him with an almost universal cry of sorrow.’
Finally, the Blessed Bernard Mary of Jesus (Cesare Pietro Silvestrelli, 1831-1911) was in England in 1879 and during his visit he came to see his brethren at Broadway:
‘On this day (4th August) Fr General, Bernard of the blessed Virgin Mary, arrived in Broadway. The school children were marshalled in front of the schools to welcome him, and the Catholic Broadway Band played some pleasing airs. This reception seemed rather to pain the humility of Father General, and would seem rather to have displeased with (sic) this public manifestation of joy at his arrival in Broadway. He did not conceal this feeling, and said in justification of the feeling “Vita nostra abscondita est in Xto. Jesu” Nevertheless he understood the motives that prompted such a welcome, and knew it was but the prelude to the hearty welcome we all this religious (sic) gave him as soon as he set foot into the grounds of the Retreat.” (From In Diebus Illis, Series II no,5., August 1988 – Two Beati in England)
On 8th August he left for Sutton but, before he left, ‘he went with Fr. Rector to see the schools and was very pleased with the neatness and industry of the children, and in token thereof made a little present to the schoolmistress.’
Through Woodchester and then Broadway local links were established with the Passionist Order and it is good to remember the contribution of some of these Passionists whose holiness was recognised in their life times by so many.
(1) From In Diebus Illis, Series II no,5., August 1988 – Two Beati in England: He was appointed to Broadway partly to give him a rest from his heavy load in Dublin and partly because of the sharp practice of some Dublin chancers who were selling ‘holy water’ reputedly blessed by Fr. Charles. This led to a false accusation in a letter by an anonymous doctor oublished in a Dublin newspaper to the effect that ‘the Blessed! Fathers of Harold’s Cross’ tod a girl suffering from purulent ophtalmia to “drink holy water and not go near the doctors”)
(2) From In Diebus Illis, Series II no,5., August 1988 – Two Beati in England: A report in the ‘Evesham Journal’ of 16th November 1978 states that Fr. Charles was ‘engaged as a supply priest celebrating Sunday Masses at Evesham, Chipping Campden and other places in the area where there was not yet a Catholic church.’
This statement needs to be taken with caution. It begins by saying that Fr Charles spent three years in Broadway from 1866 to 1869,and that he ‘visited the village at other times afterwards.’ Both statements are wrong. What credence, then, can we give to the other statement that he dis supply work?
There was a parish in Campden from as early as 1855, and our brethren from Broadway may well have supplied there. We certainly gave a successful mission there in February 1855. In ‘Preachers of the Passion, Greenan says that the parish in Campden was founded from Broadway. This seems to be a mis-reading of the Broadway Platea which gives an account of the first mission there in 1855. It I,s therefore, possible that Fr Charles did supply in Campden. However, it seems unlikely that he did so in Evesham. It was not until 1887 that we established a Mass centre there. However, priests from Broadway did say Mass on Sundays and Holydays in the chapel of the Duc D’Aumale at Woodnorton, two and a half miles from Evesham, from October 1865. It is possible that Fr Charles supplied there on occasion. But, in the absence of documentary proof or other reliable evidence, we cannot be certain that Fr Charles worked in Chipping Campden or Woodnorton.