Item 33 - Abstract of the customs of Mungret College (in Fr William Ronan's handwriting)

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Abstract of the customs of Mungret College (in Fr William Ronan's handwriting)


  • 23 December 1882 (Creation)

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(13 July 1825-10 December 1907)

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Born: 13 July 1825, Newry, County Down
Entered: 13 November 1850, St Acheul, Amiens, France (FRA)
Ordained: 1848 - Maynooth College, County Kildare - pre entry
Final Vows: 02 February 1865
Died: 10 December 1907, Mungret College, County Limerick

by 1855 in Istanbul?
by 1864 at Rome Italy (ROM) making Tertianship
by 1899 at Villa Saint-Joseph, Cannes, France (LUGD)

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
He had studied at Maynooth and was Ordained 1848 for his native Diocese of Dromore before Ent.

A Few years after his Novitiate he went with Fr Patrick J Duffy as a Chaplain in the Crimean War, where he worked for more than a year in the hospitals of Scutari Hospital (of Florence Nightingale Fame in the Istanbul Region) and other Military stations.
On his return to Ireland he worked for many years as a Missioner, and became well known in almost every diocese and district in the country. Few men were better known as a Spiritual Director in religious communities through Ireland as well as the clergy of many Dioceses.
He was Superior in turn of the Galway and Limerick houses, and was known for extraordinary zeal and devotion to the Sacred Heart. he shared this devotion with one to Our Lady of Lourdes and St Joseph.
1880 While Rector in Limerick, he founded the Apostolic School, and when Mungret was given to the Jesuits, and the AS moved there, he became its first Rector. He considered the founding of the AS as the greatest work of his life. He travelled to the US in 1884/5 to get funds for the AS so that he could set up a more permanent financial foundation for it.
1887 He began the second phase of his life as a Missioner in Ireland, and continued this even when he was appointed Superior at Gardiner St.
1897 By now he was compelled to give up active work due to ill health and he spent some years in the South of France.
1901 He was sent back to Mungret and spent the last six years of his life there as Spiritual Father and Confessor to the Community and students. During these years he had the great consolation of seeing the growth of the College, and always spoke of those Priests, former students, working in all quarters of the world, as his children.

His last days were happy ones “How good God is to me and how happy I am to be here”, were almost the last words he spoke when he was in the full of his health. It was a massive stroke which brought about his death on 10 December 1907 at Mungret, and he was buried in the College Cemetery, following a funeral procession which was led by the younger students walking in twos, followed by the clergy, the the coffin borne by senior students and then the mourners, of whom there were many. Afterwards many stories were shared by his former students in Mungret and the Crescent, as well as many who had come to know him through his Missionary work. General Sir William Butler (who had been educated at Tullabeg), who had visited Father William three days before and listened carefully to him as he spoke about his time in the Crimea, and Sir William thought of him a a soldier of the truest type :
“he said to me some memorable things in that first and last interview I had with him on December 9th. Amongst other things he said ‘In the hospital near Scutari I suppose more that 1,000 poor soldiers from the Crimea were prepared for death by me. Some were able only to utter an ejaculatory prayer, some of them had known little of their faith before this time, but I have never doubted for one moment that every one of those poor souls went straight to Heaven. And when I go and meet them in Heaven, I think they will elect me their colonel, and I shall stand at their head there. I pray our Lord that he may take me at any moment. I am quite willing to go, but I say that I am ready to stay too, if he has any more work for me to do here’. It is an intense satisfaction to me that it was given to me to see this grand veteran on this, his last full day of his long and wonderful life - all his faculties perfect”.

Note from Patrick Hughes Entry :
1888 He was appointed Rector of Galway, and continued his involvement in the Mission Staff. On Father Ronan’s retirement, he was appointed Superior of the Mission Staff.

Note from Christopher Coffey Entry :
He died peacefully 29 March 1911, and after the Requiem Mass he was brought to the small cemetery and buried between Brothers Franye and MacEvoy, and close to the grave of William Ronan.

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Ronan, William
by David Murphy

Ronan, William (1825–1907), Jesuit priest and Crimean war chaplain, was born 13 July 1825 in the parish of Clonduff, near Newry, Co. Down, son of Patrick Ronan, farmer. His mother's maiden name was Rooney. He was educated at St Patrick's College, Maynooth, and was ordained priest in 1848, entering the Society of Jesus in November 1850. Completing his noviciate at Dromore, Co. Down, he studied philosophy at Saint-Acheul, near Amiens, France, and went to Laval (November 1852) to study theology. In 1854 he joined the Jesuit community at St Francis Xavier's in Gardiner St., Dublin. At the end of 1854 he was appointed to serve as a chaplain with the army in the Crimea. This was the first occasion since the reign of James II (qv) that catholic chaplains had been given official status in the British army, and Ronan (along with fellow Jesuit Patrick Duffy and some Irish diocesan priests) travelled to the Crimea at the end of 1854. Specifically instructed to look after the welfare of the Irish Sisters of Mercy working in the hospital at Scutari, he arrived in January 1855 and immediately clashed with Florence Nightingale, who was in charge of the hospital. He disagreed with the way the Irish nuns were employed and also found them living in unsuitable conditions. Following negotiations with Nightingale, the conditions for the Irish nuns improved. He outlined his initial impressions of the Scutari hospital in a letter (preserved in the Dublin Diocesan Archive) to his superior in Dublin, Fr Robert Curtis, SJ. While in the Crimea he occasionally found some Irish secular priests to be hostile towards the Jesuits and experienced particular difficulties with one priest, Fr Michael Cuffe.

Returning to Ireland at the end of 1855 in bad health, he initially worked as a missioner. A noted preacher and retreat-giver, he toured the towns and cities of Ireland before being appointed superior of the Galway Jesuit community. He took his final vows in February 1865. In 1880 he became rector of Limerick and founded the Irish Apostolic School, which transferred (1882) to Mungret College. He then travelled to the USA on a fund-raising tour and raised over £10,000 (1884). In 1887 he worked as a missioner again before joining (1893) the Gardiner St. community, of which he was made superior in July 1895. His later years were overshadowed by controversy, as he was accused of an improper relationship with a wealthy widow, Mrs Doyle. He denied these accusations but spent some time abroad, living first in Jersey and then in the south of France. In 1901 he returned to Mungret and remained at the college until his death. On 9 December 1907 he was visited by Gen. the Rt Hon. Sir William Butler (qv), who was recording the accounts of men who had served in various military campaigns of the nineteenth century, including the Crimean war. At the end of his interview, Ronan remarked ‘I pray hard that He may take me at any moment. I am quite willing to go but I say that I am ready to stay too, if He has any more work for me to do here’ (cited in Murphy, War Correspondent, 45). The next day, 10 December 1907, he suffered a stroke and died. He was buried in the college cemetery at Mungret.

There is a substantial collection of his papers in the Irish Jesuit archives in Dublin. There are further letters in the papers of Cardinal Paul Cullen (qv) in the Dublin diocesan archives.

Fr William Ronan, SJ, files in Irish Jesuit Archives, Dublin; Freeman's Journal, 12 Dec. 1907; Evelyn Bolster, The Irish Sisters of Mercy in the Crimean war (1964); Louis McRedmond, To the greater glory: a history of the Irish Jesuits (1991); Tom Johnstone and James Hagerty, The cross on the sword: catholic chaplains in the forces (1996); David Murphy, ‘Irish Jesuit chaplains in the Crimean war’, War Correspondent, xvii, no. 1 (Apr. 1999), 42–6; id., Ireland and the Crimean war (2002); Thomas J. Morrissey, William Ronan, SJ: war chaplain, missioner, founder of Mungret College (2002)

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father William Ronan 1825-1907
Fr William Ronan was born on July 13th 1825 in County Down. He was ordained priest in Maynooth for his native diocese of Dromore. After two years as a secular priest he entered the Society in the Crimean War, where he laboured for more than a year in the hospitals of Scutari, where, as he afterwards recounted to a famous friend he met there, Sir William Butler, “more than 1,000 soldiers were prepared for death by me”.

On his return to Ireland he worked on the Mission Staff, and he was a much sought after giver of retreats to religious and diocesan clergy. He was Superior in turn at Galway and the Crescent. It was while he was Rector of the Crescent that he founded the Apostolic School, first at the Crescent, and then with the help of Lord Ely and the Abbé Heretier, in Mungret, where he became the first Rector. He went to the United States in 1884 to collect funds for the new College.

After another period on the Mission Staff and a period as Superior at Gardiner Street, owing to ill health he had to spend some years in the South of France. In 1901 he returned to Mungret, where he spent the last six years of his busy and extraordinarily fruitful life.

He was a man of remarkable zeal and fervent piety, outstanding for his devotion to the Sacred Heart, and to which devotion he attributed the great success of all his undertakings.

On the last day of his life, chatting to his old friend Sir William Butler, and referring to the soldiers he had anointed in the Crimean War, he said “I have never doubted for one moment, that every one of these poor souls went straight to heaven, and when I go and meet them in heaven, I think they will elect me their colonel, and I shall stand at their head there”.

Death came on him unexpectedly at six o’clock on the evening of Tuesday December 10th 1907, after he had spent an hour in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament, as had been his custom for many years. He survived a heart attack long enough to receive the Last Rites, and was buried in a spot chosen by himself years before, facing the window of the College Chapel.

◆ The Mungret Annual, 1908

In Memoriam : Rev Father Ronan SJ (1825-1907)

by Thomas Cassidy (Matriculation Class)

We saw a flower in bloom one summer day,
The glowing dawn imbued its petals sweet,
But when the night came on it passed away
And fell a faded cluster at my feet.

We saw another power in bloom full bright,
And in its day its sweetness far it shed;
But then, when o'er it fell the robe of night,
A crown of splendour settled on its head.

O God; we missed him, but he'was Thine own,
A benefactor and a friend to all;
And called by Thee he fled unto Thy Throne
To answer sweetly to Thy loving call.

He was a man of constant mind and strong,
Of powerful frame, more powerful still in prayer;
Throughout his life, and that had been full long,
He breathed heavenly sweetness everywhere.

And Mungret stands his living monument,
Looks o'er his grave and guards his memory,
Prays for him e'er, and thanks the hand he lent,
To breathe in her a soul so heavenly.

List, sainted Father, to thy children dear,
Who in thy widowed habitation dwell:
We pray thee, in our need be evěr: near
Far from us drive the tempting powers of hell.

That on that day, sweet saint, when nations rise.
To bliss eternal, or to lasting woe, .
We may with thee ascend unto the skies,
And bless the days you spent with us below.



Rev William Ronan SJ (1825-1907) : Founder of The Apostolic School and Mungret College

In the afternoon of Tuesday, December 10th, 1907, while the boys were at supper, a rumour reached both their refectories that Father Ronan had been taken suddenly ill, The Apostolics soon learned the whole truth and knew that he whom they looked upon as a father, and whom all the boys in the College had learned long ago to revere as saint, had gone to the reward for which he had laboured so long.

Full particulars, however, were not known till about two hours later when all the boys had assembled in the College chapel for night prayers and the spiritual director of the pupils detailed to them the circumstances of Father Ronan's unexpected, but singularly happy death. The boys listened with awestruck and eager attention,

Fr. Ronan was apparently in his usual vigorous health a few hours before. Some of the boys had seen him come to the chapel about 5 p.m., as he was accustomed to do every evening, to spend an hour in prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. He returned towards his room about 6 p.m. He spoke for a short time to a father of the community a little while later on, and after leaving the room of the latter seems to have been struck with a sudden fit of apoplexy in the cloister... leading to his own room, Here he was found a short time after 6 p.m., prostrate and speechless, but still breathing, 'The Father Rector was immediately summoned and, assisted by several of the community, administered Extreme Unction. The dying man gave no further sign of consciousness, and calmly breathed his last while the prayers for the dying were being recited by those present.

The boys were profoundly impressed by the story; and the lessons of Father Ronan's life his singleness of purpose, his zeal for the Master's glory, his union with God-now came home to all most strikingly, as it was so clear that these were the only things that retained their value when the Almighty Master sent the final unexpected summons. And while all joined in performing the Stations of the Cross for the repose of the good father's soul, the prayer uppermost in their hearts was “may I, too, die the death of the just, and let my last end be like to his”.

Father Ronan had attained the ripe age of 82 years. He was in the sixtieth year of his priesthood, and the 58th of his life in the Society of Jesus. He was born July 13th, 1825, in Co. Down. He read his ecclesiastical course in Maynooth, where, in the year 1848, he was ordained priest for his native diocese of Dromore. After about two years work as a secular priest he entered the Society of Jesus in 1850. A few years after his novitiate he went with the Rev Fr Duffy SJ, as chaplain to the British forces in the Crimean War, where he worked for more than a year in the hospitals at Scutari and other military stations. After returning to Ireland he laboured for many years as a missioner, and became well known in almost every diocese and district of the country. His untiring zeal, his spirit of prayer, and his power of work, secured extraordinary fruit to his missionary labours; and ill very many parts of the country his name is even still held in benediction. Few men were better known for more prized as a spiritual director of religious communities of both sexes throughout Ireland, and of the clergy in very many dioceses. He resided in turn in the Jesuit houses in Galway and Limerick; in the latter of which he was Superior; and here, too, his zeal, his spirit of prayer, and his extraordinary devotion to the Sacred Heart brought manifest blessings on his work.

He also had a wonderful devotion to, and confidence in the Blessed Mother of God, under the invocation of Our Lady of Lourdes, a devotion which he constantly preached and recommended; and he himself always attributed the temporal success and prosperity which were never wanting to any of his undertakings to his confidence in St. Joseph.

In 1880, while Rector of the Crescent College, Limerick, Father Ronan founded the Irish Apostolic School; and when Mungret College was handed over to the charge of the fathers of the Society of Jesus, and the Apostolic School transferred thither in 1882, he was first rector of Mungret. A full account of these events has already been given in the Jubilee Number of the “Mungret Annual”, July, 1907. The founding of the Apostolic School he always regarded as the great work of his life, and one which he said God enabled him to accomplish, as the result of twenty years of constant effort and prayer for its realisation.

Up to that required to found the Apostolic School on some the United States, in order to procure the funds.

In 1884 and 1885, Father Ronan travelled in the United States, in order to procure the funds required to found the Apostolic School on some kind of permanent financial basis. Up to that time he had depended solely on the support and alms of the clergy and faithful throughout Ireland.

In 1887, he began the second period of his career as a missioner in Ireland, continuing to do great work in this capacity, even after he became Superior of St. Francis Xavier's, Gardiner Street, Dublin, in the middle nineties. In 1897, however, being now in the seventy-second year of his age, he was compelled to give up active work, and he spent the following years in the South of France.

In 1901, Fr. Ronan returned once more to Mungret, after an absence of fourteen years, and there he spent the last six very happy years of his busy and extraordinarily fruitful life. During that time the greater part of each day was spent in prayer. He still continued, however, in his capacity of spiritual father of the house, and confessor of very many of the pupils of the College, to do remarkable work for the great cause of the salvation of souls, to which his life was devoted with such extraordinary singleness. Not the least fruit of his spiritual direction of the pupils during this time was the practice of daily Communion, which, owing to his special encouragement, became common in the College, and practically universal among the Apostolic students.

During the last years of his life he had the consolation of seeing the growth and progress of the College and the Apostolic School, which, under God, owed their existence to him, and he always spoke of the priests educated in the Apostolic School and now labouring in the ministry in all quarters of the world, as his children.

Few men are privileged to live and die a life of such quiet but unvarying success as Father Ronan; and to the lot of very few, indeed, will fall such consolation as he must have enjoyed a few months before his death, when the College which he looked on as his own child, and in which he lived as a beloved and revered father, celebrated her silver jubilee. Although his. death was unexpected, the great wish of his closing years was granted: that he should celebrate the Holy Sacrifice, which he had never once voluntarily omitted during the three score years of his priestly life, on the morning he was to meet his Maker.

Fr Ronan was not a man of exceptional intellectual powers, but he possessed what is infinitely more valuable in the race of life : indomitable strength of will, a power of perseverance in the teeth of all difficulties, and a cheerful courage that bore him up and inspired a certainty of success even when affairs looked most unpromising. He had a clear idea of his purpose and object, and went straight and frankly for it without recking of minor obstacles. He had a wonderful faith in the all-ruling Providence of God, and calmly received all eventualities, whether apparently favourable or otherwise, as the outcome of the eternal decree which is formed by infinite Wisdom solely for our good. Hence, he never gave evidence of despondency or doubt, and his cheerful spirit, which he preserved to the day of his death, reacted on all around him.

Though a man of stern, determined, fearless : character, who flinched before no opposition, and knew not what it is to yield or compromise: where principle or what he considered the glory of God or the advancement of God's work was involved, he was in social relations singularly : amiable, and forgiving and considerate. Even to the last he was unusually free from the idiosyncrasies that often accompany old age, and was constantly bantered on his youthfulness of heart, He never denied that he was in a way the spoiled child of God's goodness, for he enjoyed life thoroughly, he said, and expected nevertheless to get off with little or no Purgatory after death. Even when he was over eighty years of age, none enjoyed a joke more or bore with better grace the turning of the tables against himself, or told a good story with richer humour, or contributed a more considerable share to the general social cheerfulness which he loved.

His spiritual life and his ascetical teaching bore the impress of his natural character. It was founded above all on the virtue of hope ; and he always insisted on prayer and union with God as the one means to do successful work in God's service.

When congratulated on all hands, as he was during the Jubilee celebrations in September, it seemed most striking to all how little he was moved or affected by congratulation or praise. His invariable reply was: “Thank God! It is all His work; I really had very little to do with it”.

A striking trait in Fr. Ronan's character was his singular loyalty to the claims of friendship. He had many friends, and his friendships seemed be lifelong. In that matter he was always most sincere and earnest, and no trouble or in convenience seemed worthy of regard when it was a question of doing a service to a friend. .

“How good God is to me! how happy I am here!” were almost the last words he was heard to utter, while apparently in his usual vigorous health, and before he had yet felt the approach of the apoplectic stroke. which terminated his earthly career on the evening of December 10th.

The body of the deceased father was laid out in his room; and during Wednesday, December 11th, the pupils of both sections of the College visited the room to look on the venerated re mains, and to say a prayer beside the bier.

On the morning of December 12th he was borne to his quiet resting place in the College Cemetery, and laid in the spot--which he himself had carefully chosen long before - facing the window of the College Chapel, where the Blessed Sacrament is, which had been to him the great support and consolation of his life!

After the Solemn Requiem Office and Mass, which began before 11 am, in the College Chapel, the procession proceeded to the cemetery. The pupils of the College went first, marching two and two, and reciting aloud the Rosary ; next came the clergy in choral dress; after these the coffin was borne along on the shoulders of the senior students, and was followed by the mourners, who were present in considerable numbers.

Among those latter were some elderly men who retained vivid recollections of the missions preached by Father Ronan half a century ago; some others had been boys in Crescent College, Limerick, a quarter of a century later, when he was Rector and Spiritual Father of the pupils. A goodly number of the pupils of the Crescent College had come in a body to show their appreciation of the old Rector of their College; and General Sir William Butler was there to do honour, as he said to the saintly old veteran of the Crimea, whom he looked upon as a soldier of the highest and truest type.

Sir William had listened with intense interest three short days before in Mungret to Father Ronan, who then seemed quite hale and vigorous, as the latter recounted anecdotes of his life as Military Chaplain in the Crimea, and of his travels in the United States.

One statement which Father Ronan always insisted upon, when speaking of his work in the Crimea, and which he then repeated to General Butler, is interesting, and so characteristic of the man that we give it here. We quote from General Butler's account of their interview:

He said to me some memorable things on that first and last interview I had with him, on December 9th. Amongst other things he said:

“In the hospital near Scutari I suppose more than one thousand poor soldiers from the Crimea were prepared for death by me. Some of them were able only to utter an ejaculatory prayer some of them had known little of their faith before that time, but I have never for one moment doubted that every one of those poor souls went straight to Heaven; and when I go”, he added, smiling, “and meet them in Heaven, I think they will elect me their colonel, and I shall stand at their head there”; and again, “I pray our Lord that He may take me at any moment; I am quite willing to go - but I say, too, that I am ready to stay, if He has any more work for me to do here”.”

Sir William adds : “It is an intense satisfaction to me that it was given me to see this grand veteran on the last full day of his long and wonderful life - all his faculties perfect”. RIP

◆ The Crescent : Limerick Jesuit Centenary Record 1859-1959

Bonum Certamen ... A Biographical Index of Former Members of the Limerick Jesuit Community

Father William Ronan (1825-1907)

A native of Co. Down was educated for the diocese of Dromore and ordained at Maynooth in 1848. Two years afterwards he entered the Society. He served as chaplain in the Crimean war. He became rector of Sacred Heart College in 1872 and occupied that post until 1882. During his rectorship, the St Joseph transept of the church was built and the three altars of the sanctuary consecrated. In 1880 he founded at the Crescent an Apostolic School or the education of boys who wished to serve in the missions. This school was transferred to Mungret in 1882 when the Jesuits acquired the property of the Mungret Agricultural School. Father Ronan spent two years in the USA, where he was able to collect enough money for the building of the Apostolic School wing. He spent some years on the mission staff and was for some years in Gardiner St, where he became superior. His last years were spent at Mungret College which will always be associated with his name.

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Abstract of the customs of Mungret College (in Fr William Ronan's handwriting). Notes the Order of Time' for each day, the food eaten at each meal, lists first, second and third class feasts and their dates, describes the clothes worn (with prices) by priests and brothers.

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