- IE IJA J/1867
- 25 September 1728-15 June 1807
Born: 25 September 1728, Dublin
Entered: 15 January 1753, Seville, Spain - Baeticae province (BAE) for Philippinae Province (PHI)
Ordained: 1753, Seville, Spain - Pre Entry
Died: 15 June 1807, Upper Church St, Dublin
◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronologica” :
Had studied at Seville before Ent.
Spent many years in the Philippine Islands, where his tongue was split by the savages through hatred of his zeal and faith.
1771 Sent to Ireland in November 1771. There he preserved the funds of the Old Society for the Restoration, to which he always looked forward with confidence, and he may be called the founder of the Restored Society in Ireland. He was a very holy man and rejoined the Society at the Restoration.
He died 15 June 1807 in Dublin and is buried at the family plot in Ardcath, and not at the Convent in George’s Hill, as Oliver, Stonyhurst MSS has it.
Note from then Thomas Tasburg Entry :
Father R O’Callaghan’s sister was cured by an application of the above relic (Hogan)
◆ Fr John MacErlean SJ :
Educated at the English College Seville, where he was Ordained in 1728 and Ent for the Philippines Mission
1755 Arrived Manila on 14 July 1755 and did two years Theology
1757 Working on the Missions with natives (one one occasion his tongue was slit to stop him preaching his doctrine!)
1768 Minister at Residence of Barugo on the island of Leyte when Jesuits were expelled on 12 May 1768
1769 Arrived in Italy from Philippines and the General agreed for him to return to Ireland
1771 Arrives in Ireland and worked in Dublin during the suppression in 1773
1804 Entered the Restored Society
1807 Died in Dublin revered for his holiness
◆ Fr Francis Finegan SJ :
Had already completed his Studies at English College Seville and was Ordained before Ent there 15 January 1753 Seville
After First Vows he was sent to the Philippines and arrived 14 July 1755. He completed his studies at Manila and worked in the Philippines until the Society was expelled from Spain and Spanish territories.
1774 He arrived from the Philippines in Spain he was instructed by the General to join the Irish mission and was back in Dublin by 07 February 1774, to sign the instrument accepting the suppression of the Society.
He was then incardinated into the Dublin diocese and served as a curate at St Mary's Lane Chapel. He was appointed “Fidei Commissarius” of the diocese in succession to John Fullam when he died.
At the partial restoration of the Society in 1804 he renewed his solemn profession and died a Jesuit, 15 June 1807.
◆ 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 Richard O’Callaghan 1728-1807
Fr Richard O’Callaghan had the distinction of entering the Society before its Suppression, of living right through that sorrowful period, and of rejoining on its Restoration.
He was born in Meath in 1738, and after studying for seven years at the English Seminary of the Society at Seville, he became a Jesuit.
After his ordination he was sent as a missioner to the Philippine Islands where he laboured with great zeal for many years. On one occasion he was wounded by savages and taken prisoner, and only released on the payment of a good ransom.
Shortly before the Suppression he returned to Ireland in 1771, where he worked in the parish of St Michan’s. During the weary years of waiting for the Restoration, he never ceased to pray for that happy event. “To him” says Oliver “his country must be indebted for his honourable and generous efforts for the education of youth and the re-establishment of his brethren”. He was one of the Trustees of the Province Funds. The supreme consolation of his life was the actual renovation of his Vows as a Jesuit in the Restored Society, which he did in the presence of Fr Marmaduke Stone, Superior of the Restored Jesuits in England.
During his ministry at St Michan’s, Fr Richard usually resided with his good friends the Doyle’s at No 76 Upper Church Street Dublin. Attacked by his last illness, the Doyles transferred him to their country house at Cabinteely, where he passed to his reward on June 15th 1807, and is interred in Arcath Cemetery.
◆ George Oliver Towards Illustrating the Biography of the Scotch, English and Irish Members SJ
CALLAGHAN, RICHARD, was born in 1728. After studying for seven years in the English Seminary at Seville, he enlisted under the banner of St. Ignatius : and, I have been told, soon after his promotion to Holy Orders, was sent to the Mission in the Philippine Islands, were he resided several years, and was wounded on one occasion by the Savage Islanders, for his zealous labours in the Gospel. In November, 1771, as I ascertain from one of his letters, he returned to his native country, and, within two years, had to weep over the dissolution of the Society of Jesus. Yet he never lost hopes of its revival : and, to use his own words, he “ever ardently wished for the renovation of his Profession, and without any change of mind in this point”. At the first news of its restoration he hurried to rejoin his ancient colours. To him his country and religion must ever be deeply indebted for his honourable and generous efforts for the education of youth, and the re-establishment of his Brethren. The Venerable Patriarch died at 76, Upper Church-street, Dublin, on the 15th of June, 1807, and was interred in the Chapel of St. George’s hill, but without any inscription. “Sem per honos nomenque tuum laudcsque manebunt”.
Interfuse No 34 : September 1984
PORTRAIT FROM THE PAST : RICHARD O’CALLAGHAN
Roland Burke Savage
A finely-researched article on Father Richard Callaghan (1728 1807), a man described as one of the langely forgotten links between the original & the restored Society of Jesus in Ireland
In the living tradition of the Province Fr Thomas Betagh (1738-1811), has long been revered as the link between the old Irish Mission and what is now the Irish Province; it is true that he was the school master of the majority of the young men who re-founded the Irish Mission but he was by no means the only former Jesuit who inspired them. While not wishing to question the part played by Betagh, I wish to focus attention on the largely forgotten Richard Callaghan; from the facts that I shall record here I contend that Callaghan was the greater benefactor of the Irish Mission. He was the only former Irish Jesuit to renew his solemn profession (May 1803) in the partially restored Society. He was greatly disappointed that Betagh did not join him in doing so; so grieved was he that a certain friction developed between them. To be fair to Betagh it is only right to state his view: be thought the Pope's oral approval to be an insufficier.. foundation for the partial restoration; he held that as the Society was suppressed by an official Brief so its restoration must be grounded on an equally official Brief. In addition as Vicar General to Archbishop Thomas Troy, he was torn by conflicting loyalties.
Richard Callaghan was born in Dublin on 25 September 1728. He made his studies and was ordained a secular priest in the English College, Seville. On 15 January 1753 he entered the Society in Seville for the Philippine Province. On completing his noviceship he set out for Manila where he arrived on 14 July 1755. Unfortunately there are no annual letters covering that period in the Roman archives so the account of his work there is scanty. He spent his first two years repeating his theology in Manila. Then he worked in the islands of the Pintados and the Visayas, on one occasion the natives split his tongue in hatred of the doctrine he taught. In 1768 the Spanish Government ordered the expulsion of the Jesuits in the Philippines; at that time Callaghan was Minister and Missioner in the residence of Barugo in the Island of Leyte, one of the Visayas. From there he boarded the frigate San Carlos bound for Acapulco in Mexico, the first stage on his way back to Italy. Not being a Spaniard, be was not entitled to the pension which the Spanish Governnent paid to the expelled jesuits. Before returning to Dublin he made his profession of the 4 vows in Genoa on 12 January 1771. The autograph of his vow formula is in the Roman archives.
With nine other Jesuits working in the Archdiocese of Dublin, Callaghan formally accepted the Brief of Suppression from Archbishop John Carpenter on 7 February 1774. It may be of interest to cite the document he signed :
We, the undersigned of the Suppressed Society
of Jesus, anxious to manifest our ready
obedience to the command of the Holiness,
hereby declare that we accept fully and
simply the apostolic Brief suppressing the
Society, and conformable to the tenor of the
Brief, we acknowledge ourselves brought back
to the state and condition of secular priests
under the complete obedience of his
Illustrious and most Reverend Ordinary.
In testimony of which we have signed our
names this seventh day of February 1774.
The first signature followed by the remaining eight.
Though later on, as we shall see, Archbishop Carpenter came to recognise the quality of his new subjects, promoting theo to positions of responsibility, he was far from being sympathetic towards them at the outset. To instance this by two examples we may first cite his letter to Dr Nicholas Sweetman, the Bishop of Ferns, who made plain to hin his deep distress of the suppression. Replying to Sweetman, Carpenter lets himself go:
Why, in the name of wonder, should be aggregate to ourselves the power of judging an affair on
which we have not the least right to pronounce? ................ The Brief, in order to preserve peace
and prevent animosities, has very wisely forbid the entering into any dispute concerning the
suppression, nor can I at all perceive what reasonable end such a controversy would answer.
I must confess that I never received a letter that astonished me so much as your last has
done. It must surely have been written when the storm of passion was up, and calm reason
absent from the helm. for your comfort let me observe to you that the members of the
suppressed Society are now become members of the most perfect and most illustrious body of
men (the order of St. Peter) that ever was or ever will be on the face of the earth, and one
that never has suffered, and never will suffer dissolution or suppression. Reflect on this,
and be pacified and consoled.
Three months earlier (11 December 1773) Carpenter suggested to Cardinal Marefoschi that whatever capital the Irish Jesuits held should be confiscated and given to the Irish Colleges in Europe. In replying Marefoschi said the Irish College in Rome was badly in need of £300. A debt of at least £1,600 was due to the Dublin residence arising from an old mortgage on the estate of Castle Browne; this mortgage Carpenter and his Vicar General Dowdall, took upon themselves to compound with John Browne, then on his death bed, for £300. Browne, a just and religious man, would have paid the Society in full had not his directors decision prevailed. Fullam adds had he not timely alienated the rest of our property, they might have seized upon the whole and left us as beggars.
The rest of the property was not great: somewhat short of £8,000. It remained over from what was left of the property of the Irish College in Poitiers and what remained of the gift of Catherine Breganza destined for a foundation, never made, in Athlone. Were it not for injudicious speculation by the Father in charge of the funds in Paris in 1750's the Irish Mission fund would have been worth much more.
The reader may have wondered what all this has to do with Richard Callaghan. To help him understand what may appear to be an un justifiable degression, in 1793 Callaghan became the custodian of the former Mission Fund.
On the death of John Ward in October 1775 the last Superior of the old Irish Mission, the property devolved on John Fullam. As the remaining fifteen former Jesvits were convinced that one day the Society would be restored, they were anxious to keep the capital intact. Three fathers were chosen to discuss with Fullam how their property was to be dealt with. John Austin, Henry Nowlan and Joseph Halloran. These four proposed that the capital should be untouched and chat from the interest arising from it each should receive an annuity or £50 a year during their lifetime. All accepted this arrangement which continued until Fullam's death in 1793. In his will he named Richard Callaghan as his Executor Callaghan called together the four remaining survivors to discuss the future of the fund. They confirmed Callaghan as the guardian of the fund but instead of allowing themselves 250 a year, they decided, against Callaghan's wishes, that the interest should be divided equally between the five so that they would have money for various charitable purposes. On Fullam's sisters death he willed his personal property should be added to the fund, bringing it up to almost £16,000.
In addition to their decision to make the interest available to then, they discussed the future of the fund. With the revolution in France at its height, the prospect of the restoration of the Society in the immediate future did not appear bright. As their numbers were so few it was necessary to decide what should become of their patrimony. An agreement was signed binding the last three survivors, in the event of the Society not being restored, to consult with some of the Irish Bishops how best the money could be used in endowing some college for the education of secular priests for work in Ireland.
Callaghan was never satisfied with this agreement as he considered it did not sufficiently safeguard the rights of the Society but as things were so unsettled he thought it better to defer the matter.
Though fully occupied by his work as Curate in St. Andrew's (old Townsend Chapel) and in St. Mohan's (Mary's Lane Chapel) he never forgot the possibility of a restored Society; he knew that the Society still had a precarious existence in White Russia depending on the oral approval of the Pope, Pius. A letter written from Leghorn by a former Irish Jesuit, Peter Plunkett, on 1 July 1794 reveals the way he was thinking and what Fullam also had in mind before he died:
Russia is by no means fit for rearing missioners for your country. Besides the climate which is
intensely rigid and the language which is extremely difficult, the breeding and manners
are somewhat uncouth ............. taste for the pulpit and polite literature neglected.
Consequently, all thought of Russia should be laid aside in my opinion as a place unfit for
those who are not natives and unfit moreover for answering the wishes of our dear friend
(Fullam who from his private means left £50 for 10 years to the Vicar General in White Russia),
Europe is too: unsettled and precarious to think of making new establishments. When peace is declared
I doubt not in the least of seeing the Society also restored at least in some parts of Italy and Spain. This last country I would prefer for putting into execution the intentions of Mr Fullam.
At the request of the Czar Paul I, Pius VII by the decree Catholicae Fidei (7 March 1801) publicly recognised and formally approved of the Society in White Russia. Anticipating a more general restoration Callaghan sent Peter Kenney and three other young men to St. Patrick's College, Carlow on 6 June 1801 to study humanities with å view to preparing them for entry into the Society: these four were followed by seventeen more students whose pensions Callaghan paid from the Mission fund.
Shortly after the election of Pius VII, the gentlenen of Stonyhurst, as they styled themselves, asked the Vicar General, for the second time, to receive them back into the Society. The Vicar, Gruber, thought it better to consult the Pope before doing so. Writing from Leghorn on 21 December 1801, Peter Plunkett told Callaghan that a Brief had been sent to the Court of Moscovey authorizing the Vicar General of the Jesuits there to assume the title of General and to act throughout the whole Russian empire with the full powers annexed to that dignity authorizing him moreover to take under bis inspection and government all the missions of those countries towards the east that bordered on the said empire. He added. that Cardinal Brancadara, who alone the Pope consulted in drawing up the Brief, said: “The Brief is such that you all may well be contented with”.
Gruber, the General, then wrote to England:
I notify your Heverence that I have received from Cardinal Consalyi from Home an explanation of the
Brief concerning the aggregation to us with regard to those outside (ad exteros). The said Cardinal replied
that it was true that the Holy Father in the Brief had restricted our existence. to Russia but by that His Holiness
did not wish to prevent others in non-Catholic or Catholic countries from aggregating to us provided they
did not open new professed houses; suon faculty inheres in the Brief, since without it, it would seem that the
Society could not maintain itself. So the field is open. His Holiness could not reply more clearly.
In March 1803, at William Strickland’s suggestion, Gruber named Marmaduke Stone, a professed father of the old Society, as English Provincial: he commissioned Strickland to admit Stone, the Superior of the gentlemen of Stonyhurst, to solemn profession and then to install him as Provincial of England. Stone took his vows on 22 May 1803 and shortly afterwards he re-admitted six members of the former English Province with Nicholas Grou, the well known spiritual writer and Richard Callaghan who journeyed over from Dublin to Stonyhurst for the ceremony.
Before renewing his profession he told Stone that he had made his will transferring the Mission fund and his own personal property to him whom he had named as trustee for the future Irish Jesuits. Before returning be handed his will to Stone.
Four years later Callaghan died on 15 June 1807 with the reputation of being an outstandingly zealous priest; in 1852, forty-five years after his death he was described as “the great Callaghan”. On hearing of his death Stone and Sewell crossed over to Dublin where Betagh introduced them to an eninent Catholic Attorney named Browne. He advised them to take possession of Callaghan's effects and papers without the slightest risk from his relations in virtue of the will they produced. Browne also advised them to have all the debentures transferred to Stone's name. In an amusing sentence in his letter to Wright, Stone tells how he found £4,000 in cash under the floorboards of Callaghan's sitting room: “it is lucky”, he writes, “that I was made acquainted with Callaghan's secret repository three years ago”.
Both Stone and Sewell were greatly taken by Betagh's kindness and concern for them: they had earlier formed a wrong impression largely because of his failure to rejoin the Society which had so disappointed Callaghan. Betagh told them that he was leaving £200 and his library to Stone in trust for the future Irish Mission, The highlight of their stay was when he brought them to dine with the Doyles of Church Street to meet five Irish Bishops.
When Callaghan's affairs were settled Sewell noted on 30 August 1807 that £30,000 had been lodged with Wright's of London in trust for the future Irish Mission. Callaghan's wisdom in transferring the Mission funds to Stone will become clear in the sequel.
Early in the year of Callaghan's death Archbishop Thomas Troy of Dublin wrote a long letter to Cardinal Di Pietro alleging misappropriation of the funds of the former Irish Jesuits. He asked the Cardinal to write to Stone at Stonyhurst firmly and decisively and “to threaten him with suspension if he does not transfer the funds...”. His agent in Rome, Luke Concannon OP, in a covering
dated 14 July 1807 enclosing Di Pietro's answer, wrote that he thinks “the Jesuits havo outwitted Propaganda and all of you and you'll never get a farthing out of them now..... It is not known whether the Jesuits exist or not in the British Empire; De Pietro believes they do not, but cannot swear to it ... Such an artful and political body of men (as the Jesuits) never existed”.
In an earlier undated letter Concannon expressed amazement at the obstinacy of the old ex-Jesuit Callaghan. Dr Carpenter was too indulgent. Callaghan will now be pleased that the Society survives in the persons of the Abbé O'Connell and the Abbé Plunkett, both ex-Jesuits.
The next move is a letter from Propaganda to Archbishop Troy, dated 23 January 1808, stating that a letter is being sent to Stone about all the ex-Jesuit funds: the Arcbbishop is to forward to Rome all documents relevant to the same. Under the date 5 May 1808. We have a draft reply in which Plowden (the English Master of novices) makes two points succinotly: (1) three former Irish Jesuits are still alive: Fr. Betagh (Dublin), Peter Plunkett (Leghorn) and James Connell (Rome); (2) does the Archbishop wish “to invoke the spiritual power to invalidate the will of a British subject?” This last point is a reference to the statute of Praenunire. There is no evidence in the Dublin diocesan archives of a letter based on Plowden's draft. There is a letter from Concannon, dated 8 October 1808, upbraiding Troy for giving up the Callaghan affair and urging him to take the matter up again with Di Pietro.
Plowden supplies us with the end of the story in a letter, dated 20 November 1808: in it be records that “Archbishop Troy is satisfied that Mr Stone will fairly employ the property in question. Mr Granger says the affair is now closed and settled”. (1) + (2)
(1) To make for easier reading I have deliberately omitted all references as this is meant to be a straightforward popular account.
(2) In his Biographical Dictionary of Irish Jesuits in the old Society, Fr Francis Finegan SJ, in a brief notice of Callaghan states that he was appointed Fidei Commissarius by Archbishop Carpenter. I failed to trace where he got the information so I asked him these two questions, What was the function of Fidei Commissarius? and what was his source for his statement? He said he had forgotten.
I deliberately omitted this matter from text as I have a source for every statement in it.
Interfuse No 47 : Easter 1987
The Suppression in Ireland
Roland Burke Savage
There were sixteen Jesuits working in Ireland when the Society was suppressed. Here's what happened to them and to their money during the forty years of darkness. The story has a happy ending.
Without entering into details about the Suppression it will be enough to recall that the enemies of the Jesuits in Europe, rationalists and free thinkers for the most part, were not satisfied with Pombal's victory in Portugal from where he expelled them in 1759; with Choiseul's dissolution of the Society in France in 1762; or with the deportation of the Jesuits from Spain by Charles III in 1767. What they wanted was the total destruction of the Society as a religious order; relentlessly they pressed forward to achieve their purpose. Clement XIII exerted all his efforts to defend the Jesuits but his successor Clement IIV, four years after his election, yielded to mounting pressure from the Bourbon governments, more especially from Spain. Accordingly, without any judical process, Clement suppressed the Society by the Brief Dominus ac Redemptor dated 21st July, 1773.
of the sixteen Jesuits then working in Ireland, the eleven working in Dublin formally accepted the Brief of Suppression from Dr. Carpenter, Archbishop of Dublin, on 7th February, 1774; four others accepted it in Waterford and the remaining one in Wexford.
John Ward, who had been the superior of the Irish Jesuit nission from 1760 to 1773, was the first of the suppressed Jesuits to die. Shortly after his death in 1775, the remaining fifteen survivors met in Dublin. They elected John Fullam as chairman; all were convinced that the Society would some day be restored and so they drew up an agreement to safeguard the future of the mission fund, sadly depleted some twenty years before by financial failure in France. At that meeting and at a subsequent one on Fullam's death in 1793, they decided to leave their capital intact and to allow each of them and annuity of £50 a year as long as he lived. At Fullam's death the fund stood and £8,650 but it was more than doubled by his leaving his own private money to be added to the fund on the death of his sister. Though he does not appear to have been as well known as Austin or Betagh, he had many staunch friends and admirers among the better-off Catholics who showed their esteem for him by giving him considerable gifts of money from time to time. In some instructions regarding his will he modestly attributed their largesse to their regard for the Society to which he had belonged.
John Austin was born in New Street (then called Austin's Grounds) near Kevin Street, Dublin, on 12th April, 1717. Battersby, the well-known Dublin bookseller and publisher of the directory, tells how young Austin, who went to school near St. Patrick's, one day rattled of impromptu Latin verses to divert some youngsters from butchering a faithful old dog. Being told of these verses and much struck by the talent they displayed, Swift sent for Austin's parents and asked them what they wished to make of the boy. When the Dean heard that they hoped he might become a priest, he told them to send him to the Jesuits who would make a man of him. There is a tradition that the Dean went further by offering to pay some of the expenses involved.
Whether that tradition be true or not, John Austin entered the Society of Jesus at Nancy in the Champagne Province on 27th November, 1735. He studied at Pont-à-Musson in Lorraine, at Rheims where he was ordained priest, and at Poitiers where the Irish Jesuit mission had its only continental college.
In 1750, Austin returned to Dublin to work as an assistant priest in St. Michael's chapel, Rosemary Lane, Though he is best remembered as a great schoolmaster, it is well to recall some of his other activities. Contemporary evidence stresses his immensely energetic and generous disposition; besides his church work, the mass, the confessional and the pulpit, he was tireless in visiting the sick and the poor in the garrets or cellars, constantly giving away all he had. The more prosperous Catholics, knowing his disposition, were liberal in their gifts to him: they knew he kept his door open to all in need.
He was much in demand as a preacher, and may be said to have begun the practice of 'charity sermons' which raised 30 large a part of the revenue for various good works in late eighteenth and early nineteenth century Dublin. A touching proof of the Patrician Orphan Society's gratitude to Austin is found in the silver medallion presented to him on 17th March, 1776, still preserved in Clongowes.
Austin's school in Cook Street quickly established itself as the leading classical academy in the city. Among pupils in its early years were Thomas Betagh, later to return from France as a Jesuit priest to assist him and, after his death, to carry on and extend his work; John O'Keeffe, the dramatist, who tells “how from Greek, Latin and French acquired under Father Austin, to whose school in Cook Street I went, my fancy soon strayed to Shakespeare”.
The dissolution of the Society of Jesus in France in 1762 brought welcome assistance to him by the home coming of James Philip Mulcaile and Thomas Betagh. Mulcaile took up duty in Mary's Lane chapel; in addition to starting an elementary school for boys and help Mary Teresa Mulally to open a small school for girls of the parish in 1766, he taught in Austin's school.
Four years after Mulcaile's return, Thomas Betagh arrived in Dublin. Born on 8th May, 1738, in Kells, Co. Meath, where his father was a tanner, he received his classical education in Austin's school in Cook Street. He entered the Society of Jesus at Nancy on 3rd November, 1754; graduated master of arts at Pont-à-Musson in Lorraine, taught humanities for four years before beginning his theological studies also at Pont-à-Musson and was ordained on 24th May, 1766. In the following year, he began his work as assistant priest in Rosemary Lane. Of all the Jesuits of the old Society his career is the most fully recorded in the newspapers and magazines of the period and in the folklore of old Dubliners, many of whom treasure engravings or busts of him which depict him characteristically as a hunchback.
With Mulcaile and Betagh to help him, Austin was able to expand his school work and moved to a larger house in Saul's Court, off Fishamble Street. He also set up a boarding house to provide for boys from the country; one such was Daniel Murray from Arklow, later to become Archbishop of Dublin. Other pupils included Michael Blake, later bishop of Dromore, William Yore, a future vicar general in Dublin and Charles Stuart, later Provincial of the Augustinians.
Austin died on 29th September, 1784, after a tedious illness. An English traveller visiting Dublin in 1789 was surprised to find a neat and elegant obelisk in St. Kevin's churchyard commemorating a Catholic priest only a few years dead. This obelisk was removed when Dublin Corporation turned St. Kevin's churchyard into a public park; it has now been restored and may be seen inside the main gate on Camden Row.
That Betagh and Mulcaile maintained with success Austin's work is evident from the relatio on the state of his diocese sent to Rome in 1790 by Dr. Patrick Plunkett, bishop of Meath. He reported that there was a remarkable school in Dublin presided over by two secular priests who had belonged to the Society of Jesus and that he had adopted it as a seminary for his diocese.
On Fullam's death the care of the mission fund devolved upon Richard Callaghan who as a young priest had worked for many years in the Philippines where his tongue was slit by one of the islanders in hatred of his faith and zeal. In August, 1793, Callaghan with four other surviving members of the old Society discussed the future of the fund. With the Revolution at its height in France, the prospect of the restoration of the Society in the immediate future did not appear bright; as their numbers were becoming so few it was necessary to determine what should become of their patrimony. An agreement was signed binding the last three surviving members, whoever they should be, in the event of the Society not being restored, to consult with some of the Irish bishops as to how best the money could be employed in endowing some college for the education of secular priests for work in Ireland.
Callaghan was never satisfied with this agreement as he considered it did not sufficiently safeguard the rights of the Society, but as things were so unsettled he thought it better to defer the matter. He knew that the Society still led a precarious existence in White Russia, depending on the oral approval of Pius VI who feared to commit himself in writing.
A happy turn of events brought new hope. At the request of the new Czar, Paul I, Pius VII by the decree Catholicae Fidei (7th March, 1801) publically recognized and formally approved of the Society in White Russia. Anticipating a more general restoration, Callaghan sent Peter Kenney with three other young men to St. Patrick's College, Carlow, on 6th June, 1801, to study humanities with a view to preparing them for entry into the Society: these four were followed by seventeen more students, whose pensions Callaghan paid from the mission fund.
Events now took another turn. On the suppression of the Society the English Jesuits were allowed to continue their college in Liège as an academy for the education of secular priests for the English mission and for a certain number of lay boys. In 1786, while living as secular priests in community, they petitioned the vicar general in Russia to receive them into the Society; the vicar had to refuse their request as his jurisdiction was confined to Jesuits living in White Russia. Eight years later, on the outbreak of the revolutionary wars in the Netherlands, they crossed to England with their students and established themselves at Stonyhurst near Blackburn, Lancashire, put at their disposal by Thomas Weld of Lulworth Castle, Dorset.
Shortly after the election of Pius VII, the gentlemen of Stonyhurst, as they were styled, again asked the vicar general to receive them back into the Society. The vicar, Gruber, thought it better to consult the Pope before doing so. Writing from Leghorn on 21st December, 1801, Peter Plunkett told Callaghan that a Brief had been sent to the Court of Moscovy authorizing the vicar general of the Jesuits there to assume the title of general and to act throughout the whole Russian empire with the full powers annexed to that dignity; authorizing him moreover to take under his inspection and government all the missions of those countries towards the east that bordered on the said empire. He added that Cardinal Brancadara, whom alone the Pope consulted in drawing up the Brief, said: "The Brief, he assured, is such that you all may well be contented with'. Plunkett then suggested that there should be no difficulty in getting privately a Brief to cover England and Ireland. He added, however, that James Connell, also a former Irish Jesuit and then secretary to Cardinal Rinuncini in Rome, consulted Brancadara who advised seeking a Brief for Ireland alone as the vicars apostolic in England were hostile to the Jesuits.
In March, 1803, at William Strickland's suggestion, Gruber named Marmaduke Stone, a professed father of the old Society, as English Provincial: he commissioned Strickland to admit Stone, the Superior of the Stonyhurst community, to solemn profession of the four vows and then to install him as Provincial of England.
Stone took his vows on 22nd May, 1803, and shortly afterwards he re-admitted six members of the former English Province, with Nicholas Grou, the well-known spiritual writer, and Richard Callaghan who had journeyed over to Stonyhurst for the ceremony.
Before renewing his profession, Callaghan told Stone that he had made a will transferring the Irish Jesuit mission fund and his own personal property to him whom he had named as trustee for the future Irish Jesuits.
On hearing of Callaghan's death, Stone and Sewell crossed over to Dublin on 25th July, 1807, where Betagh introduced him to an eminent Catholic attorney named Brown who advised them to take possession of Callaghan's effects and papers without the smallest risk in virtue of the will they produced. Brown also advised them to have all the debentures transferred to Stone's name. In an amusing sentence in his letter to Wright, Stone tells how he found £4,000 in cash under the floorboards: “it is lucky that I was made acquainted with Callaghan's secret repository three years ago”.
When Callaghan's affairs were settled Sewell noted on 30th August, 1807, that £30,000 had been lodged in England for the benefit of the future Irish mission.
Early in the same year Archbishop Troy wrote a long letter to Cardinal di Pietro alleging misappropriation of the funds of the former Irish Jesuits. He asked the Cardinal to write to Stone at Stonyhurst “firmly and decisively” and “to threaten him with suspension if he does not transfer the funds... He (Troy) has always been friendly with the Jesuits, giving them parishes and appointing one his vicar general (Father Betagh)”.
His agent in Rome, Father Luke Concannon, OP, in a covering letter dated 14th July, 1807, enclosing Cardinal di Pietro's answer, wrote that he thinks “the Jesuits have outwitted Propaganda and all of you and you'll never get a farthing out of them now.. It is not known whether the Jesuits exist or not in the British Empire; di Pietro believes they do not, but cannot swear to it... Such an artful and political body of men (as the Jesuits) never existed”.
In an earlier undated letter, Concannon expressed amazement at the obstinancy of the old ex-Jesuit, Fr. Callaghan. Dr. Carpenter (Dr. Troy's predecessor as Archbishop of Dublin) was too indulgent. Callaghan will now plead that the Society survives in Rome in the persons of the Abbé O'Connell and the Abbe Plunkett, both ex-Jesuits'.
The next move is a letter from Propaganda to Archbishop Troy dated 23rd January, 1808, stating that a letter is being sent to Stone about all the Irish ex-Jesuit funds; the archbishop is to forward to Rome all documents relevant to same. Under the date 5th May, 1808, we have a draft reply to Archbishop Troy written by Plowden in which he makes two points succinctly: (1) three former Irish Jesuits still alive: Fr. Betagh (Dublin), Peter Plunkett (Leghorn) and James Connell (Rome). (2) Does the archbishop wish “to invoke the spiritual power to invalidate the will of a British subject?”. This last sentence is a reference to the statute of Praemunire.
There is no evidence in the Dublin diocesan archives of the letter based on Plowden's draft; there is a letter from Concannon dated 8th October, 1808, upraiding Troy for giving up the Callaghan affair (the ex-Jesuit funds) and urging him to take the matter up again with Cardinal di Pietro.
Plowden supplies us with the end of the story in a letter dated November 20th; in it he records that “Archbishop Troy is satisfied that Mr. Stone will fairly employ the property in question. Mr. Granger says that the affair is now closed and settled”.
To complete the restoration of the Society in England, Stone founded a noviciate at Hodder Place about a mile from Stonyhurst. Here on 26th September, 1804, Peter Kenney with four other Irishmen and seven Englishmen began their noviceship with Charles Plowden as their master. Tempting though it be to follow Kenney through Hodder, Stonyhurst and Palermo where he was ordained, the aim of these pages rules this out: the starting point must be his return to Dublin on 1st September, 1811, six months after Betagh's death. In his Palermo journal he had recorded, “God forbid that I should ever be a Superior, especially over the Irish”; before setting out for Dublin, however, he found himself appointed Superior by the Provincial of Sicily, later to be confirmed by the General in Russia. On arrival in Dublin, he learned that Stone held £32,000 for him in trust to rebuild the Irish mission.
Foremost in Kenney's mind from the outset was the setting up of a boarding school but he knew that he would have to wait for the arrival of the second batch of his confrères not due to finish their studies in Palermo until the summer of 1814. Stone wrote to him early in 1812 to tell him that he met Dr. Moylan in London who 'would welcome a college in Cork and (he) though that Dr. Power in Waterford'. Even before this Kenney, knew that Dr. Plunkett, Bishop of Meath, would also be glad to have him in Meath.
Meanwhile he lost no time in settling into other work while his plans matured. First he lodged in the house in Cook Street where Betagh had lived and before long he moved across the Liffey to No. 3, George's Hill to Mulcaile's old home. He gave his attention to what was near at hand: helping the nuns in George's Hill with conferences and advice, hearing confessions in St. Michan's, preaching there and in other city churches.
Kenney was not long in Dublin before Dr. Troy asked him to become vice president of Maynooth, as Dr. Everard, the president, had become seriously unwell. For many reasons Kenney was slow to accept this responsible position, especially as he was not twelve months back in Ireland: in the end he agreed to act for the academic year 1812-13, on condition that Dr. Troy's coadjutor Dr. Daniel Murray held the presidency.
In the autumn of 1813, Kenney began negotiations with General Michael Wogan Browne for Castle Browne which he had inherited on the death of his brother; as the estate was heavily in debt he was anxious to find a purchaser for the house and some of the land. Situated some twenty miles west of Dublin near the village of Clane, co. Kildare, Castle Browne seemed suitable for Kenney's purpose. Daniel O'Connell, always cautious in questions of title, was fully satisfied that the property was confirmed by letters patent of King Charles II. Long before the deal was completed, the anti-Catholic faction raised hue and cry. Despite it, Kenney was satisfied to buy the house and 219 acres for £16,000. The deed of conveyance from Browne to Kenney was signed on 4th March, 1814. Kenney's sharpened sense of history led him to deem that day Founders' Day, as the purchase was made possible for the foresight and generosity of his predecessors.
Hansard recorded in full detail a debate in the House of Commons on 17th May, 1814, initiated by Sir John Cox Hippsely who asserted that it had come to his knowledge that nearly £30,000 had been remitted from Rome to Ireland for the purpose of purchasing lands. Sir Henry Parnell told the House that Mr. Kenney had put into his hands the prospectus of his establishment; the whole object which it aimed at was neither more nor less than the education of young persons; it did not even exclude those the Protestant religion. Sir Henry Newport, MP for Waterford, said that he had looked into the statute book and could not see what objection could be raised against the conduct of Mr. Kenney.
Replying to the debate, Robert Peel told the Commons that he had interviewed Mr. Kenney and had received from him the prospectus of his school. The only point Kenney refused to divulge was how he came by the money which he asserted was his private property. Peel told him that he must not be surprised if the same feeling which had induced the British Government to confiscate the property of the Jesuits in Canada should induce them at least to watch with the utmost diligence and suspicion an institution established and superintended by one of the order, supported by funds, the origin and nature of which were totally unaccounted for.
The debate is best summed up in an entry in Charles Abbot's Diary under the date 23rd May, 1814:
“Peel called by appointment... talked over the foundation of the school at Clongrove (sic) Wood, late Castle Browne, Kenney's conversation with him asserting the £16,000 to be his own funds, though how obtained he refused to disclose; and that when his vow of poverty was objected to him in bar of his being the proprietor of such funds, he said the vow was only simple not solemn. To all questions he generally answered by putting some other questions instead of giving an affirmative or negative”.
On 18th May, 1814, Clongowes Wood College received its first pupil, James MacLorinan, of Dublin.