Death of Jesuit poet, Patrick Purnell SJ

Fr Patrick Purnell SJ, whose poetry has been enjoyed by many in print and on the radio, has died at the age of 91. Over his 73 years as a Jesuit, he also made significant contributions to Religious Education in England, Scotland and Wales.

Augustine Patrick Purnell was born in 1923 in Cardiff, and joined the Society of Jesus in 1941 at the age of 17. After studies at Heythrop College, Oxfordshire, he was ordained in 1955 and then spent some years teaching Latin and Maths at St Ignatius College, Stamford Hill.

In the mid-1960s, Patrick moved into full-time catechetics, first in the Motherwell diocese and then as the National Advisor for Religious Education for the bishops of England and Wales. In this capacity, he was responsible for several adult education handbooks, including Our Faith Story: Its Telling And Its Sharing, Which Way Do I Choose? (Scripture for Living) and To be People of Hope.


After Religious Education, Patrick’s main work was in spirituality, and in 1995 he became Director to the Novices. From 2000 he lived in Southall, Middlesex, directing the Spiritual Exercises, before retiring to Boscombe in Dorset in 2007. Having written his first book of poetry in 2003 (Imagine, with photos of sculptures by fellow Jesuit Fr Rory Geoghegan SJ), Patrick continued writing poetry during his retirement. The Book of Furrows was published in 2011, followed two years later by The Passion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, Son of God. Patrick contributed occasionally to The Tablet and his poetry reached a wider audience through BBC Radio 4's programme Something UnderstoodCopies of his books are available from The Way.

Patrick died in the Jesuit community house in Boscombe on 2 February 2015. May he rest in peace.