St Leger, Robert, 1788-1856, Jesuit priest

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St Leger, Robert, 1788-1856, Jesuit priest

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08 February 1788-22 June 1856


Born 08 February 1788, County Waterford
Entered: 07 September 1807, Hodder, Stonyhurst, England - Angliae Province (ANG)
Final Vows: 09 December 1821, Palermo, Sicily
Died: 22 June 1856, St Francis Xavier's, Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin

Brother of John St Leger - RIP 1868, and a nephew of John St Leger RIP 1783

Superior of St Stanislaus College, Tullabeg, County Offaly: 7 July 1818-1831
First Vice-Provincial of Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus: May 1830-1834; 1841-1850

in Clongowes 1817
in Tullabeg 1818/9
1st Vice Provincial 1830
by 1839 in Calcutta Mission

◆ ◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronologica” :
Nephew of John St Leger RIP 1783, and a brother of another John St Leger RIP 1868
1830 Vice-Provincial and again in 1841.
1834 Vicar Apostolic in Calcutta, India. (cf “Mission du Bengale” Fr H Josson SJ, 1924, pp 162-185)
He was remarkable for his gentleness of disposition, clearness of mind, and accurate knowledge of Theology, which he had studied and graduated DD at Palermo.

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
Nephew of John St Leger RIP 1783
Early education in Humanities and Rhetoric at Stonyhurst before Ent.
One of a band that were sent to Sicily after First Vows, where he studied Philosophy and Theology for six years Graduating DD.
1815 Sent to Ireland and on the Waterford Mission for a while.
1817 Sent to Tullabeg to establish a Novitiate there, and to open a small school, which later became St Stanislaus College. For some years this house suffered from extreme poverty, and it was almost as though he could not appear for a time without being in danger of being arrested. His brother John, having completed his Noviceship, displayed considerable talent for economy and the management of the school, so the debts were cleared and the number of pupils increased. It was possibly an error that Robert appointed John as procurator, as his economies were rather severe. A Visitor was sent from England, and Robert was soon removed.
1830 Appointed Vice-Provincial
1834 He was appointed Vicar Apostolic in Calcutta, India, and his brother John accompanied him. It was unfortunate that ANG opened a school in Calcutta at the same time as Robert, and both he and the ANG Rector were at variance in their views. Complaints were sent to Rome, and perhaps too readily accepted by the General. Robert was unhappy with the position he found himself in, and so he returned to Ireland.
1840 He was appointed Rector of Clongowes which was in sever financial debt at the time
1841 Appointed Vice-Provincial again, holding the position for nine years, and entertained Father General Roothaan in 1849. He was succeeded in 1851 by John Curtis.
1851 He went to live in a house in Killiney, which had been bought with the view of opening a chapel there. This didn’t work out, so he moved to Gardiner St and remained there until his death. His health had been failing, and he was less able to work.
He was a saintly and spiritual man, always held in high esteem by Ours and externs.
The suavity of his manners won over all whom he encountered. When he first came to Ireland from Sicily, his austerity was so great that he applied for permission to refrain from eating meat, and this was refused. He loved the Cross, and asked other to pray for that Grace for him.
He was, at the same time, a man of strong will, and was thought to perhaps stick too rigidly to his own views. He was a man of great erudition and literary knowledge and was also a good Theologian. He was remarkable for his gentleness of disposition, clearness of mind, and accurate knowledge.
His mind became weak in his last illness, which was protracted and severe. He died 22 June 1856

◆ Fr Joseph McDonnell SJ Past and Present Notes :
16th February 1811 At the advance ages of 73, Father Betagh, PP of the St Michael Rosemary Lane Parish Dublin, Vicar General of the Dublin Archdiocese died. His death was looked upon as almost a national calamity. Shops and businesses were closed on the day of his funeral. His name and qualities were on the lips of everyone. He was an ex-Jesuit, the link between the Old and New Society in Ireland.

Among his many works was the foundation of two schools for boys : one a Classical school in Sall’s Court, the other a Night School in Skinner’s Row. One pupil received particular care - Peter Kenney - as he believed there might be great things to come from him in the future. “I have not long to be with you, but never fear, I’m rearing up a cock that will crow louder and sweeter for yopu than I ever did” he told his parishioners. Peter Kenney was to be “founder” of the restored Society in Ireland.

There were seventeen Jesuits in Ireland at the Suppression : John Ward, Clement Kelly, Edward Keating, John St Leger, Nicholas Barron, John Austin, Peter Berrill, James Moroney, Michael Cawood, Michael Fitzgerald, John Fullam, Paul Power, John Barron, Joseph O’Halloran, James Mulcaile, Richard O’Callaghan and Thomas Betagh. These men believed in the future restoration, and they husbanded their resources and succeeded in handing down to their successors a considerable sum of money, which had been saved by them.

A letter from the Acting General Father Thaddeus Brezozowski, dated St Petersburg 14/06/1806 was addressed to the only two survivors, Betagh and O’Callaghan. He thanked them for their work and their union with those in Russia, and suggested that the restoration was close at hand.

A letter from Nicholas Sewell, dated Stonyhurst 07/07/1809 to Betagh gives details of Irishmen being sent to Sicily for studies : Bartholomew Esmonde, Paul Ferley, Charles Aylmer, Robert St Leger, Edmund Cogan and James Butler. Peter Kenney and Matthew Gahan had preceded them. These were the foundation stones of the Restored Society.

Returning to Ireland, Kenney, Gahan and John Ryan took residence at No3 George’s Hill. Two years later, with the monies saved for them, Kenney bought Clongowes as a College for boys and a House of Studies for Jesuits. From a diary fragment of Aylmer, we learn that Kenney was Superior of the Irish Mission and Prefect of Studies, Aylmer was Minister, Claude Jautard, a survivor of the old Society in France was Spiritual Father, Butler was Professor of Moral and Dogmatic Theology, Ferley was professor of Logic and Metaphysics, Esmonde was Superior of Scholastics and they were joined by St Leger and William Dinan. Gahan was described as a Missioner at Francis St Dublin and Confessor to the Poor Clares and irish Sisters of Charity at Harold’s Cross and Summerhill. Ryan was a Missioner in St Paul’s, Arran Quay, Dublin. Among the Scholastics, Brothers and Masters were : Brothers Fraser, Levins, Connor, Bracken, Sherlock, Moran, Mullen and McGlade.

Trouble was not long coming. Protestants were upset that the Jesuits were in Ireland and sent a petition was sent to Parliament, suggesting that the Vow of Obedience to the Pope meant they could not have an Oath of Allegiance to the King. In addition, the expulsion of Jesuits from all of Europe had been a good thing. Kenney’s influence and diplomatic skills resulted in gaining support from Protestants in the locality of Clongowes, and a counter petition was presented by the Duke of Leinster on behalf of the Jesuits. This moment passed, but anto Jesuit feelings were mounting, such as in the Orange faction, and they managed to get an enquiry into the Jesuits and Peter Kenney and they appeared before the Irish Chief Secretary and Provy Council. Peter Kenney’s persuasive and oratorical skills won the day and the enquiry group said they were satisfied and impressed.

Over the years the Mission grew into a Province with Joseph Lentaigne as first Provincial in 1860. In 1885 the first outward undertaking was the setting up of an Irish Mission to Australia by Lentaigne and William Kelly, and this Mission grew exponentially from very humble beginnings.

Later the performance of the Jesuits in managing UCD with little or no money, and then outperforming what were known as the “Queen’s Colleges” forced the issue of injustice against Catholics in Ireland in the matter of University education. It is William Delaney who headed up the effort and create the National University of Ireland under endowment from the Government.from the Government.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father Robert St Leger SJ 1788-1856
Robert St Leger came from a family that lived in Waterford, where he was born February 8th 1788. He was a nephew of John St Leger of the old Society, and had a younger bother John who was also a Jesuit.

In 1817 Fr Robert was sent to the newly acquired property at Tullabeg to open a novitiate and a small school there. It was a difficult undertaking financially. Indeed, it was said that at one period the College was so heavily in debt, that Fr Robert could not appear in public for fear of arrest.

He became Vice-Provincial in 1830, and again in 1841. He was also for some time Vicar Apostolic in Calcutta.

I 1851, he opened a new house, Druid Lodge in Killiney, but the venture was not a success.

He played a big part in the founding of the Irish Sisters of Charity, being the spiritual director of Mary Aikenhead. When he was Rector of Tullabeg, she came to Rahan Lodge to be in touch with him while writing the Constitutions,

His last years he spent in Gardiner Street and he died there June 22nd 1856.


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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830- (1830-)

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Irish Vice-Province of the Society of Jesus, 1830-


St Leger, Robert, 1788-1856, Jesuit priest

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Angliae Province of the Society of Jesus, 1622- (1622-)

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Angliae Province of the Society of Jesus, 1622-


St Leger, Robert, 1788-1856, Jesuit priest

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