Dean Herbert Friedrich Friess


Herbert Friess, who was one time Dean of Killala, died in Co Mayo during Easter week. Herbert Friess was born in 1909 a Markneukirchen in Saxony, Germany, near to the Czech border After schooling at the Classical Grammar School in Plauen, he studied at several universities finally taking an honours degree in Theology from the University of Leipzig in 1934. He was a Hebrew and Greek scholar, hut certainly no bookworm. He spent his spare time as an instructor in physical education. During this period of study, he was employed in many ways, varying from labouring for a bricklayer to reporting football matches and acting as a skiing instructor!

In 1934, he was ordained as a Pastor in the Lutheran Church in Saxony. Nazism was growing in power by the day, and was reaching into the Church itself. Herbert had no time for Fascism, and had aligned himself with those who saw that Nazism and the Christian Gospel had nothing in common. In those difficult times, when Church leadership was more and more infiltrated by the Nazi party, Herbert suffered deprivation and persecution for his witness. He was dismissed by Nazis from his pastorate. He came to the notice of an English Bishop, George Bell of Chichester, who though equally an opponent of Fascism was determined that his own country must not simply become anti-German, hut must recognise that there was another voice alongside Fascism in Germany to be encouraged and welcomed.

In 1939, Bishop Bell met with Herbert Friess, and when Herbert was finally expelled later that year, he personally invited him to England under the auspices of the Church of England Committee for Refugees 1939, as the War began, was a strange and exciting year for Herbert, to be expelled from his homeland, to come to England, and to be married in England to his German fiancee, Hildegard, from Silesia.

In England, Herbert worked for some time as the travelling secretary of the Anglo German Christian Fellowship in Wartime. This can hardly have been a popular task in the midst of the xenophobia that accompanies military conflict. In 1942, Herbert was given the opportunity to extend his ministry, by being admitted into the ministry of the Church of England, ordained deacon and priest in quick succession, so that he was in the ministry of both the Lutheran and the Anglican Churches. He worked in industrial mission in Sheffield, then in a busy mining community, before going south to work with his friend and mentor, Bishop George Bell, and he was there first in a large industrial parish in Brighton before moving to a suburban parish, also in Chichester diocese. Commendations written by Bishop Bell describe Herbert in terms like this "He is a good man".

He is a quite admirable man quite first rate, and so it was in 1964, 25 years after the first great upheaval in his life, Herbert and Hildegard and their family came to Ireland, and Herbert became Rector of Crossmolina, Co Mayo. In 1968, he became also Dean of Killala, where he served until he went to Achill Island in 1973, from which he retired in 1979. It was among the people of this western, group of parishes he was to live in retirement in the village of Mulranny.

Herbert is survived by his widow Hildegard, son Michael, and daughters Christine, Frances and Ursula, and by several grandchildren.

Few could have met Herbert without recognition of his ability, his inner calm, and his sense of good humour. He was a humble and good man, a faithful pastor and priest. He left his mark among the people whom he served.

May light perpetual shine upon Herbert as he enters with joy into the presence of the Risen Lord, who is the Resurrection and the Life.