Father John E. Morris, MM
Born: January 1, 1889
Ordained: June 13, 1914
Died: July 10, 1987
At the age of 98, after 73 years of fruitful priesthood, Father John Edward Morris died on July 10, 1987 at St. Teresa’s.
John was born in Fall River, Massachusetts on January 1, 1889, son of Edward and Johanna Morris. He had two brothers, Benjamin and Edward; and one sister, Catherine. He attended public schools in Fall River and was graduated from St. Dunstan’s College, Prince Edward Island, in 1909. After five years at St. Mary’s Seminary, Baltimore, he was ordained a priest on June 13, 1914, for the Diocese of Fall River.
Father Morris served as an assistant pastor at St. Joseph’s Church, Fall River, for nearly seven years until he entered Maryknoll on January 25, 1921. In releasing him to Maryknoll Bishop D. F. Fechan wrote to Father James A. Walsh: “Although we regret to lose the services of so good a priest, we feel we cannot refuse Father Morris to your splendid cause, and we relinquish him to you and pray that his work with you and the foreign missions may be the success that his labors have been here, in the service of Christ.”
His first Maryknoll assignment was to the Venard where he taught English and did very effective promotion work for the Society. He received his overseas assignment to North Korea in August, 1923. He gained a reputation as a zealous, generous, hard-working missioner. His good humor and ready smile made him well liked among the people and Maryknollers. By his good example and faithfulness to prayer he “exercised a good priestly influence among the Maryknollers,” according to Bishop James E. Walsh.
He was appointed the first Prefect Apostolic of the newly established Prelature of Peng Yang, Korea, on April 1, 1930. Monsignor Morris served in that capacity for six turbulent years. Among his notable works, in collaboration with the Maryknoll Sisters, he founded the Korean Sisters of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in 1932, a religious congregation which has grown and successfully served the Korean Church since then. To the present date, the Sisters revere him as their beloved founder. Monsignor Morris was forced to resign as Prefect Apostolic in 1936, due to intense controversy over “religious rites and obeisances” which affected Catholics in Korea and Japan. After this he was assigned to work among the Korean Catholics in Kyoto, Japan. He was interned there in 1941 and later returned to the United States on the Gripsholm in August, 1942. For a year and a half he worked on Promotion in Los Angeles and in the Gila, Arizona Japanese Internment Camp. In 1944 he was assigned to Hawaii and served as pastor of various Maryknoll parishes until 1956, except for the year 1948 when he served as interim Director of the Brothers at Bedford Novitiate.
Father Morris was Director of the Seattle Promotion House from 1957 to 1959, when he returned to Korea at the age of 70. The rigors of the land and language proved too much for him and three years later he came back to the States. He then served on Promotion in Buffalo and New Orleans. Finally, in August of 1965, Father John at the age of 76 retired from active work to Los Altos. Even there, however, he was always willing to accept any and every short-term helping-out assignment, regardless of where the parish might be located. He entered St. Teresa Residence at Maryknoll in February, 1970 and was assigned to the Special Society Unit in 1975 at the age of 86.
Father Morris was truly one of the builders of Maryknoll’s reputation for dedication to the Church in overseas missions and at home in the U.S. He accepted his many and varied assignments in a gracious spirit of obedience. During his 73 years in the priesthood the words of Bishop Lane about him are indeed applicable: “I must say that Father Morris gives satisfaction as a Maryknoller in every way.”
Wake Service was conducted by Fr. John Corcoran on July 13, with the Biography read by Fr. Richard Smith. A concelebrated Mass was offered the following day in the Center Chapel, with Fr. William Boteler as Principal Celebrant and Fr. Robert Sheridan giving the Homily. Graveside service was conducted by Fr. Thomas McDermott.