Frank Lombard

Lombard, Francis William (1911–1967)

by Bruce Duncan

This article was published: 

in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15 , 2000

online in 2006

Francis William Lombard (1911-1967), Catholic priest, was born on 26 April 1911 at Brighton, Melbourne, third son and youngest of five children of John Lombard, police constable, and his wife Bridget, née Collins, both from County Cork, Ireland. Frank spent his childhood at Brighton and Berwick before his father was posted to Ivanhoe police station about 1923. He was educated at Berwick State School, Christian Brothers’ College, East Melbourne, and St Kevin’s College, Toorak. In 1927 he decided to become a priest and returned to St Kevin’s to study Latin. Over 6 ft (183 cm) tall and 17 stone (108 kg) in weight, he was a splendid sportsman, but tuberculosis in 1933 forced him to spend twelve months in the Greenvale Sanatorium. He studied for the priesthood at Corpus Christi College, Werribee, and was ordained by Archbishop Mannix on 26 July 1936 at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne.

While assistant-priest at Northcote, Lombard served part time as an army chaplain in 1939-40. Impressed by the youth movement established by the Belgian priest Joseph Cardijn, he received Mannix’s approval in 1940 to establish the Young Christian Workers movement in Melbourne and was named its chaplain. In 1942 he was appointed priest in charge of the parish of Collingwood to test the Y.C.W. in an industrial area. When the movement spread to other States under the direction of the coadjutor archbishop Dr Justin Simonds, Lombard was made national chaplain.

Despite his inherently shy disposition, Lombard developed a more extroverted side to his nature. He was a superb public speaker, especially to large crowds, and had a particular appeal for the young. By October 1943 the Y.C.W. had expanded to forty-seven leaders’ groups and over four thousand members in Melbourne. It also ran recreational and sporting activities, and later sponsored housing and trading co-operatives.

During 1949-50 Lombard visited Europe. He met Cardijn and other Y.C.W. officials who confirmed his view that the organization aimed to influence the mass of workers and not merely their leaders. None the less, Lombard staunchly resisted B. A. Santamaria’s attempts to use the Y.C.W. as a recruiting-ground for his anti-communist Catholic Social Studies Movement and insisted that the Y.C.W. avoid politics and act independently in factories. In England, in March 1950, he secured British agreement for young immigrants to come to Australia.

In January 1955, having retired from Y.C.W. in ill health, Lombard became parish priest at Clayton. There he built up the premises, fittings and equipment, and a lively community. Following a heart attack in 1960, he remained totally invalided. He died of coronary vascular disease on 28 July 1967 at Clayton and was buried in Melbourne general cemetery. The Y.C.W. Co-operative Centre in Melbourne was named after him

Dedicated to youth and popular with them, Lombard had emphasized religious practice. He was a tough and strong-willed activist who read little and left no writings. Some considered him authoritarian and found it difficult to work with him, but most admired his energy, self-discipline and frugality. According to Bishop John Kelly, ‘he under-estimated his own very considerable, intellectual abilities’, but compensated for this by his gift for leadership.

Select Bibliography

Advocate (Melbourne), 15 June, 3, 17 Aug 1967

Herald (Melbourne), 31 July 1967

D. Kehoe, History of the Young Christian Workers (YCW) in Melbourne (manuscript, YCW Holdings, Melbourne)

Lombard file (Melbourne Diocesan Historical Commission)

YCW Archives (Phillip Island, Victoria).

Citation details

Bruce Duncan, ‘Lombard, Francis William (1911–1967)’, Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 25 January 2023.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

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