30 July 2023

Richard Comerford (1911-1970),
an Australian Jesuit priest
who studied in Dublin

Rathfarnham Castle, the former Jesuit house of studies in Dublin … Richard Comerford was a student from 1929 to 1932 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

The Revd Richard John Comerford (1911-1970) was a Jesuit priest and teacher who spent most of his ministry and teaching career in Sydney. He was from an Irish family that emigrated from Dublin to New South Wales in the 1830s, and he returned to Ireland for part of his studies in Rathfarnham Castle and University College Dublin, from 1929 to 1932.

Father Richard Comerford was a near contemporary but a generation younger than Father James Comerford (1885-1963), from Ballinakill, Co Laois, the Irish Jesuit missionary in India I was writing about yesterday, who had once been at school with James Joyce.

Richard Comerford was born on 7 January 1911 in Chiltern, Victoria, Australia. His father was Joseph Richard Comerford (1880-1953); his mother was Mary Elizabeth (Walsh) Comerford (1889-1978).

His family can be traced back to Patrick Comerford (1730-1795), who married Mary Harty (1770-1865), and they were the parents of:

James Comerford (1769-1839), who seems to have lived most of his life in Dublin. He married Mary Lowan, and they were the parents of:

Patrick Comerford (1792-1855). He was born in Dublin on 11 November 1792, and was baptised in Saint Michan’s Parish, Dublin (sponsors: Matthew and Mary Ryan). He married Jane Pigot (1810-1870). In 1834, he emigrated through Liverpool to Australia, and was followed by his wife and Dublin-born children.

Patrick and Jane Comerford were the parents of eight children:

1, Teresa Comerford (1828- ), born Dublin, baptised Saint Nicholas Parish 19 October 1828.
2, James Charles Comerford (1830-1907), born Dublin, October 1830.
3, Patrick Peter Comerford (1834-1902), born Dublin, 1834.
4, John Comerford (1836- ), born New South Wales, Australia, 1836.
5,Jane Mary Comerford (1839-ca 1849), born New South Wales, 1839, died before 1849.
6, Richard Comerford (1841-1892), born West Maitland, Australia, 1841.
7, Rebecca Clara Comerford (1842-1918), born Maitland, New South Wales, 9 August 1842.
8, Jane Ann Comerford (1849-1903), born 9 February 1849, George Street, Sydney.

Patrick Comerford died in Sydney on 28 March 1855; his wife Jane (Pigot) Comerford, died Chiltern, Victoria, on 24 October 1870, and was buried in Melbourne General Cemetery, Carlton North, Melbourne City. Their eldest son:

James Charles Comerford (1830-1907), was born in Dublin in 1830, and was baptised in Saint Nicholas Parish 25 October 1831 (priest: James Rickard; sponsors: John and Rebecca Pigott). He was an infant when he emigrated from Ireland to Australia with his family. He married Mary Horn (1858-1893) in Chiltern, Victoria, on 4 November 1877. They were the parents of two children:

1, Jane Anne (1878-1958), married Alfred Blackney (1875-1956) Cootamundra, New South Wales, in 1896.
2, Joseph Richard Comerford (1880-1953).

James Charles Comerford died on 29 May 1907, aged 75. His only son:

Joseph Richard Comerford (1880-1953) was born 6 September 1880 in Chiltern, Indigo Shire, Victoria. He married Mary Elizabeth Walsh (1888-1978) and they were parents of eight children, one son and seven daughters:

1, (The Revd) Richard John Comerford SJ (1911-1970), born on 7 January 1911 in Chiltern, Victoria, Australia.
2, Kathleen Clare Comerford (1913-1932).
3, Sheila Comerford (1916-1916), twin.
4, Joyce Comerford (1916-1916), twin.
5, Eileen Mary Comerford (1918-1920).
6, Maureen Beatrice (1920-2003), married Francis Joseph Patton (1921-2002).
7, Patricia Wilma (1923-2004), married Martin Francis Reidy (1924-1981).
8, Carmel (1928-2012), married Patrick Simon Ryan (1930-2014).

Joseph Richard Comerford died on 26 July 1953 in Kew, Victoria, at the age of 72, and was buried in Fawkner, Victoria.

Richard John Comerford was born in Chiltern, Victoria, on 7 January 1911. His early education was at Saint Patrick’s College, Melbourne, before entering the Society of Jesus or Jesuits in Loyola College, Greenwich, Sydney, on 2 March 1927.

After his first vows, he was sent to Rathfarnham Castle, Dublin, at the age of 18 in 1929 to begin his Jesuit studies and to study at University College Dublin. His contemporaries at Rathfarnham Castle and UCD included the Jesuit brothers from Bunclody, Co Wexford, the Revd Brendan Comerford Lawler (1909-1993) and the Revd Donald Joseph Comerford Lawler (1911-1984) The Revd Donald Joseph Comerford Lawler (1911-1984)During his time in Dublin, Richard had an accident. Although there was no lasting damage, he received quite a shock, and he returned in 1932.

On his return to Australia from Dublin, Richard was sent to teach in Saint Aloysius College, Milson’s Point, Sydney, from 1932 to 1936 where he also assisted the Prefect of Discipline. Then in 1937, he studied philosophy in Canisius College, Pymble, Sydney, and Loyola College, Watsonia, Melbourne.

He was back in Saint Aloysius College, Milson’s Point, for a year in 1939-1940, and then studied theology in Canisius College in 1941-1944. His ordination group in 1944 was the first group of Jesuits to be ordained in Sydney, and he was ordained priest on 8 January 1944, alongside the Revd Donald Comerford Lawler from Bunclody. Richard was back in Loyola College, Watsonia, in 1944-1945, and took his final vows on 15 August 1946.

He returned to teaching in the junior school at Saint Aloysius, and also taught science in the middle school (1946-1961). His greatest work was the annual production of a Gilbert and Sullivan opera in co-operation with William Caspers. It was said later that these operas were one of the great highlights of the college each year, ‘and were most professionally produced. They were his crowning glory.’

However, Richard Comerford became one of the casualties of the visitor’s changes within the Jesuit Province in Australia in 1961. He was sent that year to Saint Ignatius College, Norwood, Adelaide, where he taught Religion, English, Physics, Chemistry and elementary Science for some years. Ill-health, however, finally reduced him to working in the tuck shop.

The Rector of Saint Aloysius College, Milson’s Point, Father Vincent Conlon, finally succeeded in gaining Richard’s return to the college in 1967. On his return, he taught Religion, Geography and elementary Science. But his health did now allow him to resume his production of Gilbert and Sullivan operas. He looked after the bookshop in 1968.

Richard Comerford has been described as ‘one of nature’s real gentlemen, a man of great courtesy who respected the dignity of each individual. He was also a most genuinely humble and self-effacing person. He was easily upset by student immaturity, but was much appreciated by those whom he taught and those who worked with him in opera productions. He had great creative talent, was a good teacher of English, spoke polished English and had a fine singing voice.’

It was said ‘his practice of personal poverty was obvious to all, and he was most faithful to his ministerial duties as priest.’

He died on 14 September 1970, at Saint Aloysius College, Milson’s Point, after a stroke and heart complications. He was 59. His funeral mass in the college chapel was attended by his widowed mother and his three surviving sisters, Maureen Patton, Patricia Reidy and Carmel Ryan, Archbishop Eris O’Brien of Canberra, four former rectors, and many former parents. The Mass was sung by the college students, who also formed a guard of honour outside.

His mother, Mary Elizabeth Comerford, died on 21 April 1978 in Kew, Boroondara City, Victoria.

It is said that all who knew Father Richard Comerford held him in high esteem.

This posting is now available on the Comerford Genealogy site as part of the series of Comerford Profiles HERE

For a posting on Comerford missionaries, visit HERE

The north side of Rathfarnham Castle … Richard Comerford was a Jesuit student in 1929-1932 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (63) 30 July 2023

Christ Enthroned in the World War I memorial window in Saint Editha’s Collegiate and Parish Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and today is the Eighth Sunday after Trinity (30 July 2023). Later this morning I hope to attend the Parish Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Old Wolverton.

But, before this day begins, I am taking some time this morning for prayer, reading and reflection.

This morning I continue my reflections which for the past week have included:

1, Looking at stained glass windows in Saint Editha’s Collegiate Church, Tamworth;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The World War I Memorial Window(1920) by Henry George Alexander Holiday in Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

A World War I memorial window, Saint Editha’s Church, Tamworth:

Saint Editha’s Church in Tamworth has three interesting war memorials side-by-side in the North Aisle, and the windows have interesting connections with the Pre-Raphaelite windows in Saint George’s Chapel.

The first of these windows, at the west end of the north aisle, is the World War I Memorial Window, dating from 1920, and by Henry George Alexander Holiday (1839-1927).

The dedication reads: ‘To the Glory of God and in reverent memory of the men of this Parish who nobly gave their lives for freedom and humanity in the Great War 1914-1918.’

The artist Henry Holiday entered the Royal Academy Schools at the age of 15 and was soon drawn to the ideas and the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite movement.

He succeeded Sir Edward Burne-Jones as the chief designer for the stained glass firm James Powell & Sons in 1863 and his style had a long-lasting effect on their production into the 1920s. Some of his windows were made by Lavers & Barraud and by Heaton, Butler & Bayne.

After Holiday ended his association with Powells, he established his own workshop in 1890, and from about 1900 he made his own glass at the workshop. His later work was made at the Glass House, Fulham.

Holiday also worked as a painter, illustrator and sculptor, and his broad range of interests led to his involvement in the campaign for Irish Home Rule, women’s suffrage and dress reform.

In the centre of this window, the crowned Christ is enthroned and holds a cross in his left hand, his right hand raised in blessing. Above him are the words: ‘Come unto me & ye shall find rest to your souls.’ On either side are the words ‘Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.’

The rainbow above the throne not only helps to define the composition but is also a sign of the Covenant of God and of hope. Above Christ the King and the rainbow, two cherubs are symbols of Divine Love.

The four angels in two pairs on each side of him bear a scroll with the words: ‘Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted.’

The words at the bottom read: ‘The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord hath anointed me to bind up the broken hearted, to comfort all that mourn, to give unto them the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.’

Below the figure of Christ, groups of bereaved people are bringing their sorrows to him.

In the first group, the man on the left, wearing a helmet with his sword at his side, represents one of the many cases where a soldier had returned from the war unhurt but mourning a brother who had lost his life. Next to him is seated an elderly working man, with a leather apron, whose son, we may suppose, has fallen in battle. Above them is a young girl, perhaps a sister of one of the victims.

In the second group in the centre light beneath Christ, a young mother is with her two children, having lost her husband and their father.

In the third group, a young woman is seated, her hand on her heart, having lost her fiancé who has been slain. In her hand she holds her wedding wreath and is going to lay it on his grave. Above her, an elderly couple are mourning a lost son. Above these three, a crying and desolate orphan has lost his only parent.

In the tracery lights, King, Country and Church are represented with the crowned initials GR and the date 1921, the royal monogram of King George V (centre); a fleur-de-lys from the former coat-of-arms of Tamworth (left); and the coat-of-arms of the Diocese of Lichfield (right).

The second war memorial window in Saint Editha’s Church is in memory of the Revd Maurice Berkeley Peel, Vicar of Tamworth in 1915-1917, and I plan to look at this window in detail tomorrow.

The third window, at the east end of the north aisle of Saint Editha’s, is a World War II Memorial Window from 1949. It is inspired by the themes in the canticle Te Deum, and I hope to look at this window in detail in this prayer diary on Tuesday.

Christ enthroned, with a young mother and her two children, having lost her husband and their father (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Matthew 13: 31-33, 44-52 (NRSVA):

31 He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.’

33 He told them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.’

44 ‘The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

45 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; 46 on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

47 ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; 48 when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. 49 So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous 50 and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 ‘Have you understood all this?’ They answered, ‘Yes.’ 52 And he said to them, ‘Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.’

The inscription on the World War I Memorial Window (1920) by Henry Holiday (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayer:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Reflections from the International Consultation.’ This theme is introduced today by the Very Revd Dr Sarah Rowland Jones of the Church in Wales:

‘It felt poignantly appropriate that a conference on modern slavery and human trafficking should take place near what was the centre of the East African slave trade 200 years ago. Open slave markets might have gone but sadly slavery still exists and indeed is increasing in the form of sex trafficking, forced labour, and exploitation of those vulnerable through poverty or displacement, including refugees and asylum seekers.

‘Over the course of the week at the consultation, we listened to those who work to address the issues involved with human trafficking and modern slavery, often in extremely complex and dangerous situations.

‘It was clear from our discussions that collaboration is an essential dimension to tackling the evil of human trafficking. Churches have an important part to play, both in partnering with others locally and regionally and in working together across the Communion.

‘At the conclusion, we agreed on a communiquĂ© committing us to work together across the world to address human trafficking by speaking out, working with governments and other agencies, developing networks to share best practices and producing resources to support the work.’

Her original reflection can be found here: https://www.churchinwales.org.uk/ en/news-and-events/its-time-to-break-the-shackles-of-modern-slavery.

The USPG Prayer Diary today (30 July 2023, Trinity VIII, World Day Against Trafficking in Persons) invites us to reflect on these words:

‘Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy’ (Proverbs 31: 8-9).


Almighty Lord and everlasting God,
we beseech you to direct, sanctify and govern
both our hearts and bodies
in the ways of your laws
and the works of your commandments;
that through your most mighty protection, both here and ever,
we may be preserved in body and soul;
through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

Post Communion:

Strengthen for service, Lord,
the hands that have taken holy things;
may the ears which have heard your word
be deaf to clamour and dispute;
may the tongues which have sung your praise be free from deceit;
may the eyes which have seen the tokens of your love
shine with the light of hope;
and may the bodies which have been fed with your body
be refreshed with the fullness of your life;
glory to you for ever.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

King, Country and Church represented by the crowned monogram of King George V, a fleur-de-lys from the former coat-of-arms of Tamworth, and the coat-of-arms of the Diocese of Lichfield (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org