From Listowel to Bergen Belsen – The life of Jesuit Chaplain Michael Morrison

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As part of its current series of historical talks highlighting prominent figures from Listowel, Kerry Writers’ Museum will host a lecture entitled ‘From Listowel to Bergen Belsen – The life of Jesuit Chaplain Michael Morrison’ on Thursday July 11th at 8pm.

Michael Morrison (1908-74) was an Irish Jesuit, and witness to the liberation of Bergen Belsen concentration camp in April 1945. Born in Listowel, County Kerry and reared in County Limerick, at age 18 Morrison decided to become a Jesuit and entered the Novitiate in 1925. As part of his training Morrison was sent to Belvedere College S.J. to teach Maths and Religious Knowledge and to live in a Jesuit Community. 

When World War 2 broke out across Europe, the British army appealed for any Irish priests to join the army as chaplains. In 1941 Fr. Morrison answered this call and joined the 2/5th Battalion of the Welsh Regiment.

Morrison was one of the first chaplains who entered Bergen Belsen and the series of letters that he sent back to Ireland describe the horror that he witnessed, and never fully recovered from. ‘The work here has been physically the most revolting that I have been called to do but it has also been the most consoling. Even if I had done no other work since I joined up, I consider my four years in the army were worthwhile’. 

Following the war, Fr Morrison served as a parish priest in Australia, before eventually returning home to Ireland, where he died in 1973.

The lecture will be delivered by Jesuits Ireland Archivist Damian Burke.  A native of Cork, Damian edited Irish Jesuit Chaplains in the First World War, published by Messenger Publications (2014).