Jesuit Brother Tom Phelan has just finished restoring the oldest Jesuit burial plot in Glasnevin Cemetry. In this video, he explains what was involved in the make-over to Pat Coyle, of Irish Jesuit Communications. He also speaks with her about his plans for the other two Jesuit plots there. Tom says his work was done on behalf of the Irish Jesuit Province which wants to honour not just the men who give their lives to the Jesuits, but also their families who generously shared their loved ones and supported them and the Jesuit Order in Ireland. “It’s important that the families have a place where they can come and remember their loved ones, and see their last resting place is cared for and respected,” he says.
Tom and Pat are joined by the Province assistant archivist Damien Burke, who talks about the history of the Jesuit graves there and the Jesuits who are laid to rest in them, including some Sicilians. The first Irish Jesuit buried in Glasnevin, was John Shine, in 1834. The plot was full by 1878. The last Jesuit buried there was John Boyle. Before moving to the second plot Damien notes how the Jesuit Brothers and Fathers are buried separately – a custom no longer adhered to – and Tom explains the riddle of the disoriented angel on the railings.
As they make their way further down the cemetery to the place where Jesuits were buried from 1878-2005, Damien notes that, “You can go around any grave in this cemetery and find a Jesuit connection”. He gives two examples: renowned engineer William Dargan, whose great grandnephews became Jesuits; Brendan Behan, whose father was a Jesuit brother for a short while; and Daniel O’Connell, who sent his children to Clongowes.
Tom’s work has started on the second plot, where the graves have sunken down and need leveling. The large branch of an overhanging tree is a worry for him as it might break off and destroy the large Celtic cross in the plot.
Damien meanwhile is preoccupied with the Jesuits buried in this site, including the much-loved English poet Gerard Manly Hopkins SJ, and the world-renowned photographer and WWI chaplain, Fr Frank Browne SJ. Among other notable Jesuits buried there, Damien points out John Bannon, who was a chaplain on the Confederate side in the American civil war before leaving to join the Irish Jesuits.
From the sinking graves of the second plot to the newly-raised graves of the third and most recent burial plot for Irish Jesuits. It was opened in 2005 and sadly lists the names of many well-known and much-admired Jesuits of modern times. Michael Hurley SJ, the founder of the Irish School of Ecumenics, is buried there. So too is Michael Paul Gallagher SJ, cultural commentator, author, and theologian. Tom Phelan speaks movingly about his friend Kennedy O’Brien SJ, who died suddenly in 2018. And as he’s talking, one of Kennedy’s students from Gonzaga appears to pay his respects to a teacher he loves and misses.
Damien points out that there is one Jesuit named as being buried in the plot whose remains are actually elsewhere. He’s referring to Bishop James Corboy, who was so loved by his parishioners in Monze that they asked to have his remains disinterred and returned to them in Zambia.