From the Archives: Minister’s log books

POST BY RSomerset

Picture showing open log book entry with a small card menu inserted.
Minister's Log book

In order to find the answer to a recent enquiry the archive team has been occupied with looking through the various log books for the Farm Street community. The earliest log book dates to 1859, at which point the community lived at Hill Street before moving to Mount Street in 1868, and the latest to 1988. There are 9 volumes in total.

It may be prudent to share this explanation of the title ‘Minister’:

‘Father Minister’ was, of course, a title, not a name. The minister is the business manager, guest master, accountant, and general factotum on the administrative side of a Jesuit community. (Obedient Men, D Meadows, 1953, p9)

The Minister was the person who was responsible for food, clothing and other temporal things. The log books therefore tend to account for the movement of the community, the arrival and departure of guests and details of meals, as well as a list of services celebrated and who by. A record was kept for each day. Occassionally additional material such as a menu or instructions are inserted into the volume. It is a useful and rich resource for finding out more about the daily life of the community and to track the movement of a particular individual, though it would be time consuming to do so.

The following excerpts are fairly typical of the kind of information recorded:

2nd Wednesday [July 1884]: Renovation of Vows-Reverend Brother Masterson, Redington, Tansley-Wine given-2 glasses during dinner & 2 glasses after-Fr Partanella Superior of New […] arrived before dinner & is lodged in the house-Father Papall arrived about 7pm - he went out & had supper when he returned about 10.30 pm- he sleeps out.

10th Friday [April 1885]: 2 French Fathers from the Continent for Slough breakfasted & lunched passing through. Fr Gouttipagnor left after B’fst [Breakfast] also Fr Croonenberghs for Manresa. Mgr Pollen dined. Br Bash arrived for Supper & bed.

Reading the log books can prove difficult as some of the handwriting is less legible than others and gives all those doing so practice of their palaeography skills. There is the added challenge that abbreviations and terminology is used that was no doubt familiar at the time or to the Jesuits, but for an outsider now may be perplexing. Nonetheless, the information contained can make it a worthwhile endeavour. It is a pity that more use of this source has not been done and no doubt further research potential remains to be discovered.

The Jesuits in Britain Archives has Minister’s log books or similar sources for many of the communities in its collections. If you should be interested in studying these valuable resources then please get in touch to make an appointment to visit.