Fr. George Congreve, SSJE

Father George Congreve, a priest of our Society, died on 18 April 1918 at Oxford in the eighty-third year of his life and the forty-third year of his religious profession.

Father Congreve was born in Cork, Ireland in 1835 and came from a distinguished Anglo-Irish family, a nephew was awarded the Victoria Cross during the First World War. A graduate of Eton School and Exeter College, Oxford, Father Congreve was ordained in 1859. For two years he served as the assistant curate at St. Denys, Warminster in Wiltshire and was then appointed the Vicar of St. John the Divine, Frankby in Cheshire. He came to our community at the Mission House in Oxford in 1873 and was professed 30 December 1875. He served as the Master of the Lay Brothers and as the Assistant Superior to both Father Benson and Father Page. He made a short visit to South Africa in 1893, returning there to live in 1899. He was the Superior of our house in Cape Town from 1899 until 1904. He took great delight in the scenery, the marvelously rich vegetation and the botanical treasures of South Africa. His letters during this time are full of wonderful descriptions of all that he saw. He took great pains in his teaching and preaching as well as in his parochial visiting and would often visit the leper colony on Robben Island or the girls’ penitentiary at Leliebloem. Speaking of the girls’ penitentiary he commented: It is the congregation I like best to preach to. I feel most at home with them.  In addition he was in charge of our church in Cape Town, St. Philip’s. In 1898 he began to write. His first book was called: Christian Life, A Response. His final work, Treasures of Hope for the Evening of Life, was completed only a month before his death. He also assisted Father Longridge in editing Father Benson’s letters. An early retreat given by him is among our published treasures. He returned to Oxford in 1904 and remained there for the rest of his life. As a counterpoint to Father Benson’s mystical theology, Father Congreve’s theology is deeply rooted in the mystery of the Incarnation. He had the ability to see God revealed in the people and creation around him. He is the subject of a biography, Father Congreve of Cowley, by M. V. Woodgate. He is buried along with other members of our community, in the churchyard of St. Mary and St. John, Oxford.

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