Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Forro, Ferenc István (Frank) (1914–1974)

by J. Eddy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

Ferenc István (Frank) Forro (1914-1974), Jesuit priest and chaplain, was born 20 March 1914 at Hajós, Hungary, son of Ferenc Nébl Forro and his wife Maria, née Kohl. His twin became a Franciscan priest. Following five years at high school, on 30 July 1930 young Ferenc entered the novitiate of the Hungarian province of the Society of Jesus in Budapest where he completed the normal courses of humanities and philosophy. From 1938 he studied theology at Szeged, and was ordained priest on 22 June 1941. For the remainder of World War II he was successively based at Kolozsvár (Cluj, Romania), as chaplain and catechist (1942-43), and at Hódmezöovásárhely where he taught in the Jesuit high school. In 1945 he returned to Budapest for his tertianship (third year of spiritual training). Back at the theological seminary at Szeged, he served as minister (procurator) in 1946-47 while preparing for the Chinese mission in Hopeh province.

Father Forro was sent to China in 1948, first to Chabanel Hall, Peking (Beijing), and later to Villa Flor, Macao. After being driven out of China by the communists, he was posted to Australia in 1950 to minister to Hungarian immigrants. Making Sydney his base, he worked (1950-54) from St Francis Xavier's, Lavender Bay. In 1954 he moved to St Louis School, Claremont, Perth, which became his centre until 1959 when he returned to Lavender Bay for a pioneering period of pastoral work that lasted ten years.

Called Frank by his friends, Forro was an attractive and witty priest whose pastoral work among the Hungarian community in Australia was to have lasting results. Despite his lack of formal training and his frail health, and despite frequent misunderstandings and disappointments, he became an encouraging and popular rallying-point for a widely dispersed and politically divided community. His leadership showed itself in his capacity to work cheerfully and effectively with a great variety of Hungarians and Australians, clergy and lay. With the Hungarian Ursuline nuns, he founded the St Elizabeth homes for the aged, initially in Perth and then in Sydney. He and his fellow chaplains provided spiritual, emotional and social support for the scattered and demoralized émigré community. It was often a heartbreaking and thankless task, particularly in the early period of forced assimilation. Forro's indomitable kindness, impish grin and sincere interest comforted hundreds of Hungarian-Australian families in every State, and he gave an extraordinary example of personal devotion, practical charity and applied modern urban missionary skill to his Catholic confrères.

In 1968 Forro suffered a coronary occlusion. He spent a year in Canberra before being recalled to Europe in October 1970 to live as chaplain to the convent of the 'English Ladies', the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Mary Ward Sisters) at Schrobenhausen, Bavaria, West Germany. Plans were in train for his return to Australia when Forro died at the convent on 13 January 1974; he was buried in the Jesuit cemetery at Pullach, near Munich.

Select Bibliography

  • E. F. Kunz, Blood and Gold (Melb, 1969)
  • E. F. Kunz, The Hungarians in Australia (Melb, 1985)
  • J. Jupp (ed), The Australian People (Syd, 1988), p 94
  • Jesuit Life, July 1974, p 28
  • Society of Jesus Archives, Hawthorn, Melbourne.

Citation details

J. Eddy, 'Forro, Ferenc István (Frank) (1914–1974)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/forro-ferenc-istvan-frank-10221/text18069, published in hardcopy 1996, accessed online 23 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 14, (MUP), 1996

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Birth

20 March 1914
Hajós, Hungary

Death

13 January 1974
Schrobenhausen, Bavaria, Germany

Cultural Heritage
Religious Influence
Occupation