Obituary: Fr Brian Porter SJ

Brian Porter was a longstanding Jesuit Missionary in Zimbabwe, and a regular visitor to Jesuit Missions. He died this morning (Monday, 8 July) aged 90.

Brian was born in Hornchurch, Essex, in 1933. He was educated at primary school near his home by religious sisters and completed his secondary education at the Jesuit St Ignatius College, Stamford Hill, North London.

At school he and his friends used to visit old men to cheer them up, and he developed an interest in parish work and becoming a priest.

He was inspired by two scholastics at St Ignatius. “They introduced us to Missionary Magazines and the lives of the English martyrs,” he recalled at a community meeting at Richartz House, Harare, in April 2023.

“All these influences turned me towards thinking of joining the Society of Jesus. I was also impressed by the headmaster, Fr Brinkworth, who gave spiritual talks and led the Sodality of our Lady (now CLC). I made a retreat in Birmingham and decided to join.”

He entered in 1952 at Harlaxton, Leicestershire, along with two others who subsequently left. After the novitiate, he completed the technical studies he had been doing at Dagenham and earned a teacher’s certificate in ‘City and Guilds’.

He did the normal course of studies in philosophy and theology at the old Heythrop in Oxfordshire and did his regency at three places in Zimbabwe: St George’s College (1960), St Paul’s Musami (1961) under ‘Jeep’ Davis teaching Maths and working in the mission garage, and at St Ignatius College, Chishawasha, where he was one of the founding team under Fr Desmond Ford as rector in 1962.

Regency over, he went back to Heythrop for theology and was ordained in Manchester in 1966 and did his tertianship the following year at St Beuno’s, Wales.

In 1968, he returned to St Ignatius College, Chishawasha, where Jim Hughes was now rector and he was teacher, minister, bursar and boarding master for the next twenty years. Jim and Brian had a good relationship and would chat together in the evening.

Brian became involved in a number of extra curriculum activities with the students, for example, sailing on a local dam and developing photos in a basic dark room.

Full of ideas, he devised a scheme of audiobooks to sooth the juniors to sleep. He read and recorded extracts he thought would interest them and played them as the youngsters settled down for the night.

In 1989, Brian was asked to move to Garnet House as Province Treasurer and again he did a long stint – 20 years – in that job. Meanwhile he had become chaplain to the LCBL novitiate in Borrowdale and fulfilled that task from 2002 to 2015.

In 2016, he took up light duties at Garnet House, helping the new treasurer and being house bursar. About four years later he moved across to Richartz House. 

Brian told the Richartz community: “It seems strange that, despite my early ideas about becoming priest, I never worked in a parish – though I used to do Sunday supplies at St Martin’s. I can say that, over my while life, I never had any miserable years.”

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