Date of Birth: 13/08/1918
Date of Death: 31/08/2002
Date of Ordination: 19/07/1953

Fr Paul Grienins


Early Life

Paul Grienins was born in Livberge, Latvia on August 13, 1918. He was the only child born to Edward and Veronica Grienins and he grew up on the family farm which was about 60 kms from the Capital city, Riga. He was educated at the High School at Jelgava and at the University of Riga.

He began his ecclesiastical studies in Riga, but these were interrupted by the outbreak of war. The country was occupied firstly by the Soviets and then by the Germans. He was conscripted into the German Army in 1941 and he was badly injured in the war.  He thought his arm would have to be amputated, and that would have destroyed his hopes of being ordained as a priest. A third operation in Germany in 1944 saved his arm, but he continued to suffer constant pain. At the end of the war he was detained as a Prisoner of War for four months, and then found himself in a Displaced Persons camp, firstly in Germany and then in Bavaria.

In 1947 he was able to resume his studies for the priesthood in Liege in Belgium where he was ordained priest on July 19, 1953. He then went to Rome to continue studies at the Lateran University and obtained a licentiate in Theology, a Doctorate in Canon Law and a Diploma in Church Administration and Discipline Law.

Life in Adelaide Archdiocese

In 1960 he was somewhat shocked to receive a letter from his superiors appointing him a “Missionary to Emigrants”, specifically to work among the Latvian migrants in Adelaide. He arrived in Adelaide on July 27, 1960 and was appointed Chaplain to the Latvian Community and to live in Archbishop’s House, West Terrace. The following year, while continuing his work as a Chaplain he moved to live at Goodwood. After three years he returned to Archbishop’s House where he remained for the rest of his active life. He had always hoped he would be able to return to his beloved Latvia, but with the Communists firmly in power this was never possible.

On January 26, 1966, Australia Day, Fr Paul was naturalised as an Australian citizen at a ceremony in the Adelaide Town Hall. Then in February 1982, in virtue of a faculty formally granted by the Sacred Congregation of the Clergy he was incardinated as a priest of the Archdiocese of Adelaide.

In 1990 he was invited to return to Riga to teach Canon Law to 65 students for the priesthood, but at the age of 72 years he felt it was too late to make the change. But throughout his life he remained ever a student, keeping up with the latest in theology. He had a great supply of books, which were well read. Apart from his love for reading and study, Fr Paul, for relaxation, loved to listen to Parliament, watch the cricket, tennis and swimming on TV, or wander through the central market buying his favourite cheeses and other delicacies. For many years his ‘days off’ were devoted to fishing.

Fr Paul was a valuable member of the Cathedral staff. He would walk to and from the Cathedral on six days a week. Apart from being a patient, non-judgemental spiritual director to his own people he spent many hours in the Cathedral confessional, where he was a valued confessor in several languages. But after suffering a heart attack and a stroke, and also being knocked down by a car in Victoria Square his health began to deteriorate significantly.

On February 1, 1999 Fr Paul retired from his work in the Cathedral parish and moved to live at Villa St Hilarion at Fulham Gardens, although he continued some work with the Latvian community for another year. Fr Paul did not like the thought of spending his final days in a hospital; it was his desire to die in his own room, and that wish was granted by God when he died peacefully on August 31, 2002.

His Funeral Mass was celebrated in St Francis Xavier’s Cathedral on September 5. In his eulogy for Fr Paul, Fr Maurice Shinnick who as Administrator at the Cathedral had known him well, described Fr Paul as being noted for his fidelity to the priesthood, his famous smile and his warmth in greeting people. He said: “It was a tribute to the spirit of the man, and the power of God’s grace alive in him that he should have experienced so much pain and distress in World War II, plus the aching disappointment of not being able to be a priest in Latvia, and yet be one of the gentlest of men who, as one person said, has an aura about him. The spirit of the patient Christ was vibrant within Paul.”

Fr Paul’s mortal remains were interred at Centennial Park Cemetery.

May he rest in Peace.





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