Father Francis A. Bridge, MM
Born: January 16, 1895
Ordained: June 17, 1928
Died: April l8, 1934
Francis A. Bridge, a veteran of World War I, entered Maryknoll at the Venard in 1920. He was born in New Alexandria, Pa. on January 16, 1895 and his youth was spent working in the soft coal mines in the vicinity of Pittsburgh. At the outbreak of hostilities in 1914 Frank enlisted in the Army, and because of his First Aid experience gained in the mines, was assigned to the Medical Corps. In France, as a Top Sergeant, he was placed in charge of a 400-bed section of the large field hospital at Toul.
It was the inspiration of newly ordained Father Joseph Donovan, M.M. that led Francis, at the age of 25, to apply for entrance to the Society. After two years at the Preparatory College he was advanced to the Major Seminary where he was ordained to the priesthood on June 17, 1928.
After serving for a year as Procurator at Maryknoll Father Bridge was assigned to Manchuria. In May of 1930 he was given the care of the mission at Hsin Pin, a primitive town located three and a half days by cart from the Center at Fushun. Typical of Father’s brief missionary career was his history-making trek in 1931, in company with Fr. Joseph Sweeney, to the town of Antu, bringing to this distant point of the Korean and Siberian borders its first real Christmas. Braving the 450 miles in fierce cold and the perils of the Kirin Forest, the two reached Antu on Christmas Eve and the following morning Fr. Bridge celebrated the first Mass ever offered in that area.
Father Bridge’s work in Manchuria was brought to an abrupt close in 1933 when a doctor in Mukden informed him that due to his failing health his life would end with in two years. He was ordered to return immediately to the States for medical treatment. For the following year the young missioner remained bed-ridden in a San Francisco hospital.
Father Francis prayed hard that, if it were God’s will, he might be cured and be able to return to his mission. Meanwhile, offering his sufferings for the Society, he devoted himself to winning friends for Maryknoll’s work among his hospital contacts. On the morning of April 18, 1934, after many months of patient endurance, Father Bridge died. On April 24 his body was laid to rest at Maryknoll, N.Y.