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Friday, December 9, 2016
Britain's oldest Jesuit celebrates 100th birthday
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 The Queen, the Jesuit General and the British Provincial were among the dozens of well-wishers on the occasion of Fr John ('Doc') Russell's 100th birthday on Thursday. The event was marked by a Mass at which the Provincial, Fr Michael Holman SJ, was the Principal Celebrant and which was attended by all the residents and staff of St Mary's Home in Worthing, as well as a dozen fellow Jesuits. During the Mass, Fr Holman read a letter of congratulations from Fr Peter Hans Kolvenbach, the General of the Society of Jesus, to which Fr Russell responded by saying he had enjoyed "many blessings" during his 69 years as a Jesuit. Later in the day, the Mayor of Worthing brought the celebrations to a close by joining Doc and the other residents for cream tea. The day before his 100th birthday, Fr Russell had been visited by members of his family including his brother, his sister and various nieces and nephews. John Leonard Russell was born on 22 June 1906 at Wye in Kent and studied at Oundle School, one of the largest independent boarding schools in the country, near Peterborough. His father, Sir (Edward) John Russell, was the Director of Rothamsted Experimental Station (now IACR-Rothamsted) from 1912-43, and his son had obviously inherited his father's interest in science, and the land in particular, since he attained an MA, a PhD and a Diploma in Agriculture (scientific research in soils) at Cambridge University between 1925 and 1937. After joining the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) in 1937, he continued his studies at Heythrop College (Oxfordshire) throughout the War years. He was ordained a priest on 12 September 1945. He lectured in cosmology, chemistry, physics, maths and the philosophy of science at Heythrop (now part of the University of London) from 1947 until 1986. In August 2004, he became the oldest British Jesuit ever.
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