I discovered from Indolent Server (whose blog I found through Father Tim Finnegan) that yesterday was the Feast of Blessed Mary McKillop, the great Scottish Australian who founded the Sisters of Saint Joseph with Father Julian Tenison Woods. I looked at the Sisters’ websites, which give a biography of the said Father. What they don’t mention is that, before going to Australia, he had joined the Passionists in England, but left through ill health. In those days, Australia was considered a much healthier climate than Britain (which, I think, it still is); some of our 19th and early 20th century Passionists who contracted tuberculosis were sent there in the hope that the climate would slow down the disease.
Tenison Woods was a novice at Saint Saviour’s Retreat, Broadway (Worcestershire) with Charles Pakenham, who later (as Father Paul Mary Pakenham) was the first Rector of Mount Argus. Charles Reginald Pakenham was the son of the second Earl of Longford and a nephew of the Duke of Wellington (the “Iron Duke”). A Captain in the Grenadier Guards, Charles became a Catholic through reading the works of John Henry Newman. His copies of Newman’s works (first editions) are still kept in Mount Argus. As a Passionist, he was at first allowed to keep his own name and was known as Confrater Charles Mary, but later changed his name to Paul Mary to avoid confusion with another Charles who arrived in England from Belgium, and who is known today as Blessed Charles of Mount Argus.
After Paul Mary’s death in 1857, at the early age of 35, Father Tenison Woods wrote a short biography, recalling the time they spent together in Saint Saviour’s Retreat, Broadway, and Saint Wilfred’s Retreat, Cotton Hall, Cheadle (Staffordshire). He says of Paul Mary Pakenham: He was naturally averse to speak of his former life. He would have made no exception in my case but for one circumstance. He was for some months infirmarian at a time when I chanced to be laid up with a tedious illness, and he used to make me forget my pains and beguile the weary sleepless hours by turning my attention to other things. Thus I came to know many parts of his early career which are indelibly fixed upon my memory. Poor Pakenham! How well I can remember his appearance as he sat by my bedside in the long Gothic infirmary of St Wilfrid’s Retreat, Staffordshire. His gentle but animated face, his mortified yet affable manner, his light, spare form in the austere habit of the Passionists are not easily forgotten, and when one heard his words, so full of piety, of sense, and even of lively wit at times, he soon came to be as much impressed upon the heart as upon the recollection. (Quoted in Joseph Smith C.P., Paul Mary Pakenham, Passionist, Dublin, 1930.)
For more information about Father Paul Mary Pakenham, who celebrated the first Mass at Mount Argus 150 years ago (next Tuesday), on 15 August 1856, click here. Another short sketch of his life can be found here