Br Austin Kinsella OFM

Austin was born on 21st November 1930, to Richard and Jane (nee Walsh) Kinsella, in Dublin. He was baptised Joseph Damian, at the church of St Nicholas of Myra, Francis Street, Dublin, on 24th November 1930.

Aged 19, Joe approached the friars at Merchants’ Quay, Dublin, regarding the Franciscan vocation. However, as Fr Sylvester of the Irish Province wrote in a letter to the then English Provincial, Fr Paulinus, at that age he was considered a ‘late vocation’, and the Irish Provincial was ‘not interested’! Fr Sylvester recommended him to the English Provincial as ‘an excellent boy’, an active Legionary of Mary for many years, ‘and I believe will make a very good priest’. Fr Sylvester added: ‘He comes of a good, respectable family.

Fr Justin, the English Provincial who succeeded Fr Paulinus, accepted Austin for the English Province and asked him to go to Campion House, Osterley, in West London, a college run by the Jesuits, for older men who were discerning their vocation for priesthood and religious life. There they would undertake studies to supplement their previous education, and especially the study of Latin. Fr Clement Tigar, SJ, the Director of Campion House, wrote to Fr Justin in May 1952. He noted some improvement in Austin’s academic achievement, and added: ‘[Joseph] is very devoted to Irish saints, and Irish customs, and has all the Irish charm, at its best. He is much liked here, because he is so kind and friendly and generous. He is very devout. He works hard.’

From Osterley, Austin went to the noviciate at Chilworth, receiving the habit on 6th September, 1952. He made his Temporary Vows on 7th September, 1953, and Final Profession at East Bergholt on 7th September, 1956. Sadly, shortly after the Profession, his father died suddenly on 12th September, having suffered a coronary thrombosis, according to the doctor who attended him. Austin accompanied his mother back to Dublin, where the funeral and burial of his father would take place.

Austin was ordained priest at East Bergholt by Bishop Leo Parker on 20th September 1958. Since that time, his appointments have been as follows:

  • 1958-1959 Woodford Green
  • 1959-1962 Clevedon
  • 1962-1964 Stony Stratford – Vocations Director
  • 1964-1972 Forest Gate – Vocations Director
  • 1972-1981 Nottingham – Guardian & Parish Priest
  • 1981-1984 Gorton, Manchester
  • 1984-1987 Glasgow – Guardian & Parish Priest
  • 1987-1999 Woodford Green – Parish Priest (Guardian 1993-1999)
  • 1999-2005 Stratford – Vocations Director, Master of Postulants*, Novice Master*
  • 2005-2006 Stratford – Vicar and Parish Priest
  • 2006  Resigned as Parish Priest and moved to Woodford Green
  • 2010  Moved into care at Forest View, Walthamstow

    * Austin was nominated to these offices, but the Postulancy was located at Osterley, then in Dublin, and the Noviciate was at Ennis, Co Clare, Ireland.

Over the years Austin was involved in a great deal of preaching work, giving retreats to religious communities, and missions in parishes and schools. He read widely and studied. He was awarded a BA at the Open University in 1985, and an MA at Heythrop College (University of London) in Contemporary Theology in the Catholic Tradition, in 1999. He took short sabbatical breaks in America and Australia. Many will remember Austin as a keen golfer.

In his pastoral work, Austin brought imagination and ingenuity to pastoral care and planning. He was particularly concerned to develop collaboration in parish life and ministry, and promoted this attitude among the friars. He visited the homes of parishioners, and was supportive of many at times of bereavement and family or personal crisis.

In 2006, it was noted he was beginning to grow forgetful, and he resigned as Parish Priest at Stratford and moved to Woodford Green. On 5th September, the Right Reverend Thomas McMahon, Bishop of Brentwood, wrote these words in a letter to Austin, which can be taken as a fitting appreciation of all Austin’s pastoral work:

‘I want you to know how greatly I have valued and appreciated your wonderful ministry. We will always be grateful for your vision and inspiring leadership. You have contributed in a marvellous way to the Church in my diocese. I know that the parishioners at Stratford will be very sorry to learn that you are leaving as I know of the affection and esteem in which you are held.’

The following year, in March 2007, there was a diagnosis of ‘mild dementia of the Alzheimer’s type.’ His condition deteriorated in subsequent years, and he was taken into care by a long time friend, Nuala Heath, at Forest View Care Home, Walthamstow, in 2010. While he was physically able, he was brought to Mass at Woodford, and many friends from that parish, and elsewhere, visited him and took him out.

Austin collapsed just before Christmas 2014, and was admitted to Whipps Cross Hospital. He seemed to rally after a few days, but his condition worsened, and he died on Sunday, 4th January, 2015, the day we were celebrating the Solemnity of the Epiphany.

Br Austin (Joseph) Kinsella, OFM

    • born in Dublin 21 November 1930
    • baptised in Dublin 24 November 1930
    • professed in the Order 7 September 1953
    • ordained priest 20 September 1958
    • died in Whipps Cross 4 January 2015

The Funeral

Austin died peacefully in Whipps Cross Hospital on Sunday 4th January, about 4:40 pm. Michael Copps, and one of Austin’s nieces were with him when he died.

His remains were received into the friary church at Woodford at 7.30 pm on Tuesday 13th January and the funeral Mass was at 10.00 am the following day. A good number of people came to the Reception and even more to the Mass. Relatives of Austin came from Ireland and England, as well as people he had known in Nottingham and the other friaries where he had lived and worked. There was a good representation of friars at the funeral Mass, and 20 priests concelebrated. These included brethren, priests from Brentwood and Westminster, and two priest friends (one time golfing companions) from Nottingham.

At the end of the Mass, Austin’s eldest nephew, Gerald Kinsella, spoke movingly about the affection Austin’s family had for him, and the part he had played in their lives.

The burial took place in St Patrick's Cemetery, Leytonstone.