From the Archives: Jesuit Portraits

POST BY MAllen

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John Bodenham SJ

Back in 2016 we reported on the redevelopment of the Jesuits in Britain Archives following the introduction of rolling stacks to create more and improved storage for the collections. Work on improving the physical layout and appearance of the archives has been ongoing since then and in early 2019 the final refurbishment work took place. The Archive now has a refreshed look and the library has finally been fully put back on to open access shelves.

In addition to the ‘new’ reading room and library, the corridor outside the Archives has also been updated: it has been given a fresh coat of paint, a lighter carpet has replaced the old red carpet, and the ceiling lights are now operated by a timer to save energy. While previously the walls were cluttered with artworks, it will now display a selection of portraits of eminent Jesuits: John Bodenham SJ, Philip Caraman SJ, Edmund Lester SJ, John Morris SJ and Charles Plater SJ.

John Bodenham SJ (1690-1750), pictured above, was born in 1690, educated at St Omer’s College and entered the Society of Jesus at Watten in July 1709. He was professed in August 1726 and was chaplain at Courtfield. In 1724, he was appointed Rector of the South Wales and Herefordshire District (known as the Francis Xavier’s College). He held this appointment for 10 years and was reappointed as Rector in September 1739. The following year saw him made Rector of Watten and Master of Novices. He was recalled to England in October 1741. He died at Croxteth Park on 29 October 1750.

Philip Caraman SJ, 1974

Philip Caraman SJ (1911-1998) was born 11 August 1911, London. He entered the Society of Jesus in October 1930 and was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in September 1945.

He resided for a considerable time at Farm Street, where he held the positions as editor of Letters and Notices, editor of The Month and Vice-Postulator of the Cause of the Blessed Martyrs of England.

From 1965-1968 and again 1975-1979 he was in Norway. On his return to England he was at turns lecturer in Church History at St Edmund’s Ware, researching history in Paraguay and Rome and working as a parish priest. Caraman was a prolific writer.

He died on 6 May 1998.

Edmund Lester SJ by Simon Elwes

Edmund Lester SJ (1866-1934) was born in January 1866, converted to Catholicism in 1883 and entered the Society of Jesus at Roehampton in 1885. He was ordained in 1899. His work for late vocations began during his time at Accrington (1902-1910) which ultimately developed into Our Lady’s Young Priests at Osterley. He was editor of Stella Maris and founded the ‘Sodality Knights of the Blessed Sacrament’ (later ‘The Knights, Handmaids and Pages of the Blessed Sacrament’), which by the time of his death had grown to 3 million associates around the world. Each Knight had an enamel brooch to wear on their lapel. 

In 1915, Fr Lester went to Campion House, Osterley, where he was to remain for the rest of his life.  Initially founded in 1913 as a Retreat House, by 1919 Fr Lester was welcoming its first students, who came because they wanted to become priests but did not have the necessary education to join a seminary or an order.  Fr Lester at Osterley supplied a rigorous two year course aimed at giving young men enough Maths, Latin, French, English and Public Speaking to enable them to start their studies. Eventually over 1500 young men became priests due to the education given to them at Osterley.

Fr Lester died suddenly in October 1934. 

Simon Elwes (1902-1975) was a British war artist and society portrait painter whose patrons included prominent social figures and many members of the British Royal Family.

John Morris SJ

John Morris SJ (1826-1893) was born in July 1826 in India and converted to Catholicism in 1846. He was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1849 at the English College, Rome. He was made a canon of the Diocese of Northampton and then Vice-Rector of the English College Rome (1853-1856). During this time he became Postulator for the English Martyrs. He entered the Society of Jesus in February 1867.

He spent time at Roehampton, Oxford and St Beuno’s. From 1871 until 1873 he held the position of Socius (Assistant to the Provincial). He also collected material for the history of our Province and of English Catholics since the Reformation. He spent a year in Malta, undertaking the establishment of a College there in 1877. On his return to England, he was Rector and Master of Novices (officially holding this position from 1880-1886) at Roehampton. Later he was Director of the staff of Jesuit writers at Farm Street from 1891 until he retired in 1893.

He died on 22 October 1893 while preaching in the pulpit uttering the words “Render to God the things that are God’s”.

Charles Plater SJ by Margaret Fletcher, 1920 [ACC 2013/7]

Charles Plater SJ (1875-1821) was born in September 1875, educated at Stonyhurst College and entered the Jesuit novitiate in Roehampton in 1894 where he was ordained in 1910.   Although a talented classicist, he devoted his intellect to the study of industrial economics and the pursuit of social justice through education. Inspired by the retreat-work he witnessed during his travels in Europe, he was determined to popularise retreats for working people and to promote social study in general.  The Catholic Social Movement brought people together to enrich their spiritual lives and to encourage social reform.  While Rector of Oxford (later Campion Hall) Plater travelled all over Britain, giving retreats, delivering lectures, forming study classes and social guilds for working people and wounded ex-servicemen. In 1920 he travelled to Malta for health reasons and, ignoring advice to rest, he founded the Leo Union, which sought to educate, inform, and raise the morale of the working-classes.

When Plater died in Malta in January 1921 aged 45, he was honoured in the press: “in the field of social action his death is an irreparable loss... [he was a] remarkable priest, a pioneer in many movements.”  Nine months after his death the Catholic Workers’ College in Oxford, which was renamed Plater College in 1965, was founded in his honour.

Margaret Fletcher (1862–1943) was an author, artist and a pioneer in the field of women's education, promoter of Christian feminism and founder of the Catholic Women's League.

If you have any enquiries or would like to find out more about the Jesuits in Britain Archives, please contact us: archives@jesuit.org.uk.

Rebecca Somerset, Archivist