From the Archives: Jesuit Brothers

POST BY RSomerset

Black and white photograph showing five young men in clerical dress
Whiteside brothers

From a family of 10 children, five brothers became Jesuits at the turn of the last century. In order of age they were Louis (1877-1969), Denis (1880-1942), Bernard (1882-1962), Austin (1883-1965) and Philip (1885-1974) Whiteside. They were all born in Blackpool and had received a Jesuit education.

In the obituary for Bernard, the second of the brothers to die, one of the others wrote:

“The chief influence in our vocations was our father-we lost our mother in 1895-who was a very pious man and a disciplinarian. For us to become priests was almost automatic and I do not think that any of us had any special difficulty in following up the call. Of course, life in the ‘nineties was on simple lines-and the Church figured very prominently. We were a large family and tended to find our recreation in the family circle.” (L&N, 67,222)

Of these five brothers, three (Austin, Bernard and Denis) served as army chaplains during World War I. Denis and Austin began their service in 1916 whilst Bernard joined in 1917, all three remained chaplains until the end of the war in 1919.

During World War II, Fr Louis looked after evacuees in Sussex. Fr Philip’s efforts during World War II are also set out in his obituary:

“During the war years, food rationing was a great hardship. Fr [Philip] Whiteside decided to take up Poultry Keeping and subsequently the rearing of ducks. He eventually managed to keep the Community larder supplied with eggs (a great rarity) through his hard work and attention to his hens and ducks. He had a selected team of boys to help, and I remember how each of the hens was given a name-the ducks too. He also dug out a simple earthen pool for the latter.” (L&N,79, 365)

The first of the brothers to die was Fr Denis, who sailed to British Guiana via New York when he was forty years old and would remain there for the rest of his life. He reached Demerara in January 1921 and was appointed headmaster of St Stanislaus College, Georgetown. At weekends he served the little mission at Kitty in the suburbs. When he finished his work in the College in 1925 he resided for many years among the Arawak Indians on the Santa Rosa mission. He returned to England to receive surgical treatment for his failing eyesight but only one eye was successfully operated on before he returned to Georgetown and then to the mission station at Belfield, where he died in August 1942, two days before his 62 Birthday.

The other brother to die abroad was Fr Austin, who sailed for South Africa in October 1921. “It was in a spirit of sacrifice that he had volunteered for the mission, and that spirit of sacrifice was, for those who knew him at all well, one of the predominant motives of his life.” (L&N, 71, 59) He was teacher, Minister and Rector at the college at Bulawayo and then at Salisbury when it moved there. He spent time studying the African languages and became very fluent in Shona. His work was chiefly concerned with the pastoral care in the Musami mission and vicinity, but he was also Novice master for the Brothers of St Peter Claver. He died in Musami in August 1965.

Although they did not die abroad, both Bernard and Louis spent time on the foreign mission. Bernard in South Africa and Louis in Guyana, where he went in 1914, before moving to Barbados in 1929 until his return to England in 1933.

Few personal records for these five brothers can be found in the archives, but if you would like to know what has survived or to find out more contact the archives.