Fr Joseph Driscoll SJ – 1999

Long ago and far away in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Joseph Vincent Driscoll was born to Elizabeth Frances (Lilly) Morrissey and William Francis Driscoll, a little brother for Billie, Katherine (Sis) and George, who had already stolen off to heaven.

The Willard Primary School introduced him to reading, writing and arithmetic from Kindergarten to Grade Three. Across the street, the spanking new Blessed Sacrament School opened its doors when he was ready for Grade Four and graduated him in its first class in 1929. The Jesuits at Boston College High School took him from where the skilled and devoted Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur had brought him and, in 1933, sent him out to conquer the world, right into the jaws of the Great Depression.

Instead of the world, he settled for the Jesuit Novitiate, then called St Stanislaus, at Guelph, Ontario. He had opted to join what he thought were the French Jesuits.

Four happy years on the farm at Guelph prepared him for the hiss of steam and the thick black smoke of the Toronto railway yards which abutted the Jesuit Seminary of Philosophy.

The Globe and Mail is on the site today.

After three years of smoke, soot and philosophy a-la-St Thomas Aquinas, Regiopolis College in Kingston, Ontario beckoned. Three years there training boys (he thought), but more being trained by them, and he was ready for theology.

Theology, four years of it, with Ordination to the Priesthood, then a glorious privilege after the third year, brought him and his classmates back to the reality that if you would be a Man for Others you must first be a Man for God.

Theology over, back to two not-to-be-missed years at Regiopolis, then Tertianship, that last valuable year of Jesuit formation, at heaven-on-earth, Xavier Hall, Pass Christian, Mississippi, later destroyed by a hurricane.

There followed, again at Regiopolis College, eight years of never-to-be-missed memories. Seven of them shared with the Royal Military College of Canada as its first Roman Catholic chaplain, preaching "truth, duty, valour". The Class of 1954 made him an honourary member.

For a year he was the assistant to the Jesuit Provincial of Upper Canada; then in 1959 his mother asked, "Why are they sending you to Winnipeg? What have you done?"

The day after Labour Day, 1959, the Great Northern Railway brought him to Winnipeg. He remembers that the flowers were frozen at St. Paul's College. "What had he done?"

Except for a three year hiatus at Manresa Retreat House, Beaconsfield and Ile Bizard, Quebec, it has been Winnipeg ever since; St Paul's College and High School with St John Brebeuf Parish in between.

In 1989 there was a new beginning: the Diocesan Tribunal and, since 1994, Archivist of the Archdiocese of Winnipeg, living at St Ignatius of Loyola Rectory.

The 1959 question: "What have you done that they are sending you to Winnipeg?"

The 1999 answer: "And he lived happily ever after."

Biography Update: Fr Joseph Driscoll SJ passed away suddenly on December 14th, 2003 while in residence at St Ignatius Parish Rectory.

During his tenure as Director of St Paul's High School, in May of 1968, Father Driscoll was faced with a difficult decision. The Jesuit Superiors of the Jesuit Provincial Upper Canada Province met at St. Paul's High School to discuss "how to tell parents that the school would be closing the following school term" because of the ever-increasing operating debt that, at the time, was slightly more than a half million dollars.

This pending threat was met with stern determination "that the school could in no way be closed. The tireless efforts of Father Driscoll, Joe Stangl KSG CM, John Puchniak, and others brought the school out of its deficit and paved the way for the school to flourish as the only Catholic boys school in the province and, as such, direly needed to develop and train young men to be "Men for Others" and leaders of tomorrow.

Father Driscoll's dream, as one of the modern-day "Founders" of St Paul's High School, was to make sure St. Paul's High School would continue for future generations. We have him to thank for laying the foundation for the great educational facility we have today.

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