Francis Douglas (priest)

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Francis Vernon Douglas (22 May 1910 – c. 27 July 1943) was a New Zealand priest of the Missionary Society of St. Columban who was killed in the Philippines by Japanese soldiers in 1943.


He was born in Johnsonville, in Wellington, the fifth of eight children (five sons and three daughters) of Kathleen (née Gaffney) and George Charles Douglas, an Australian-born railway worker. His mother was a devout Catholic from County Sligo, Ireland, and his father became a Catholic in 1926.[1]

Douglas trained for the Catholic priesthood at Holy Cross Seminary, Mosgiel. Within a few months of his ordination, at the end of 1934, he applied to join the Missionary Society of St. Columban. He was curate at New Plymouth when he left to join the society at the start of 1937. He was appointed to the Philippines in July 1939. He was posted to Pililla. Five years later during the Japanese occupation he was taken by secret police looking for information on guerillas active in his area.

Over three days in the Church of Saint James the Apostle in Paete, Laguna, he was savagely beaten and had a cruel torture of the water cure, the presumption being that police were trying to extort information from him about guerillas whose confessions he may have heard. He remained silent through it all, and was last seen on the evening of 27 July 1943, very weak but still conscious, being put on a truck with a guard of Japanese soldiers. He was never seen again. It was only after the liberation of the Philippines from Japanese occupation at the end of 1944 that the Columbans could start to piece his story together. What emerged was a picture of a priest, aged 33, who could be regarded as a martyr, having demonstrated outstanding priestly fidelity (especially to the Seal of Confession). He is remembered in the name of a boys college in New Plymouth, Francis Douglas Memorial College.[2]


  1. ^ Hugh Laracy. 'Douglas, Francis Vernon', from the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography. Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand; updated 7 June 2013.
  2. ^ Michael O'Meeghan, Steadfast in Hope: The Story of the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington 1850-200, Dunmore Press, Palmerston North, 2011, page 260

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