One of John P. Portelli's Maltese poems is entitled "To Fr. Lawrence Bonavia" ("Lil Fr. Lawrence Bonavia" in Maltese): it's number 52 in his poetry book available from his website (pp. 107-110 in the linked PDF). The opening stanza is:

As a Father we salute you
gentle friar here among us,
much faith, much zeal you’ve shown us
like the good shepherd cared about us.

The poem later mentions "in Fingal you found sweet rest" and "to live as a Franciscan / in a Province far away"; it's all very Christian and religious in theme and wording. But who is this Lawrence Bonavia?

I searched online for Lawrence Bonavia and found one at the University of Malta and one working for the Maltese government as well as a Londoner on Twitter by that name. Perhaps the name Bonavia is a common one in Malta. But is there a specific real person that Portelli's poem was addressed or dedicated to?

1 Answer 1


He was the chaplain aboard the Vulcania, which carried the second group of Maltese migrants to Canada in 1948.

According to Maltamigration.com:

The chaplain on board was Fr Lawrence Bonavia who was later on to be appointed parish priest of the Maltese church of St Paul in Toronto.

I found this link by searching for the name Bonavia along with 'Fingal' and 'St Paul' as mentioned in the 3rd and 6th verses.

  • Ah, that fits. Portelli is himself a Maltese migrant in Canada, so it makes sense that he'd know this Lawrence Bonavia rather than the others I found on the internet.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Commented Jan 11, 2022 at 14:20

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