Fr. Francis Joseph Ripley
(Photo courtesy of Mgr. Barltrop of the Catholic
Missionary Society in England.)
Fr. Ripley was a priest of
great zeal for souls, with a particular zeal for the reconversion
of his native England. Powerful influences on his missionary
spirit were his devout Catholic parents - particularly is father
- and Mr. Frank Duff, founder of the Legion of Mary, who became
a close personal friend.
Francis Ripley was born in
1912 in Windleshaw, St. Helens, Lancashire, England, a region
long known for its sterling Catholic Faith dating back to the
penal days. When Francis' mother died suddenly in 1916, leaving
three little children - Francis being the eldest - the widowed
father's two sisters supplied a mother's care, maintaining the
home in the same spirit of Catholic fervor. After graduating
with honors from the local Catholic grammar school, Francis entered
the Jesuit novitiate in London. He was supremely happy there,
but persistent ill health indicated that this was not his vocation.
Recovering, he entered the Capuchin novitiate and there studied
philosophy for three years, but when his superiors decided he
was more suited to the secular priesthood, he entered the archdiocesan
seminary at Upholland in 1935. There he took first prize in dogmatic
theology for three years in a row.
Francis was ordained in 1939.
He was sent to the Gregorian University in Rome for post-graduate
study in moral theology and canon law. This was followed by parish
work, military service as a chaplain and squadron leader in the
Royal Air Force, and frequent speaking on the outdoor platforms
of the Catholic Evidence Guild - a work which he had begun as
a student. During these early years as a priest, Fr. Ripley wrote
a work on the Legion of Mary called "Terrible as an Army,"
and, with Frank Duff (under the pen name of F.S. Mitchell), a
major work on Catholic Action entitled Souls at Stake.
Also at this time he penned two small works on marriage called
Letters to Muriel and Letters to Molly. Fr. Ripleys
most famous book, This Is the Faith, was composed of a
series of twice-weekly talks which he had given many times for
non-Catholics under the auspices of the Legion of Mary. The first
presentation of the talks brought in over 100 converts in three
years, and similar ventures were undertaken in many other places.
Such inquiry classes became an established method of winning
Fr. Ripley joined and eventually
became superior of the Catholic Missionary Society, London, which
gave inquiry classes and preached the Faith to non-Catholics.
In years to come, Fr. Ripley would also take part in or lead
various other initiatives aimed at conversions, including serving
as chairman of the Catholic Truth Society and serving as director
of the Catholic Information Society in Liverpool from 1962-1970,
as well as continually encouraging the work of the Legion of
Mary. During his life, Fr. Ripley also edited and/or managed
Catholic periodicals including Flarepath (Catholic periodical
of the Royal Air Force), Catholic Truth and Catholic
Gazette. Fr. Ripley lectured in the United States during
various tours in 1947, 1973, 1974, 1976 and 1989. In 1980, he
was named a canon of the Archdiocese of Liverpool. Canon Ripley
went to his eternal reward on January 7, 1998.
Priest of Christ
Your Sunday Gospels
A Priest For Ever
One Christ, One Church
Talks to Legionaries
A Basic Guide to Religious Instruction
The Apostolate of the Laity
Pope Paul Says . . . (as editor)
The St. Peter Catechism of Catholic Doctrine
The Diary of a Small Town Priets
The Rosary and the Blessed Virgin in Pre-Reformation England
201 New Prayers
Mary, Mother of the Church (as editor)
Biography compiled from Catholic
Authors: Contemporary Biographical Sketches, 1952
and Contemporary Authors (Gale database).