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Austin, John, 1717-1784, Jesuit priest

  • IE IJA J/884
  • Person
  • 12 April 1717-29 September 1784

Born: 12 April 1717, New Street, Dublin
Entered; 27 November 1725, Nancy, France - Campaniae Province (CAMP)
Ordained: 22 September 1747, Rheims, France
Final Vows: 02 February 1753
Died: 29 September 1784, Dublin

Cousin of William Doyle - RIP 1785 - Ordained with William X Doyle (his cousin) at Rheims 22 September 1747 by Bishop Joppensi
Grand-uncle of Myles Gaffney - RIP 1861 and John Gaffney - RIP 1898

1740-43 taught Humanities at Rheims
1746 Read Theology at Rheims
1749 taught Humanities at Poitiers and Prefect at Irish College
1750 came to Ireland by July
1770 mentioned in Nano Nagle’s letters
1784 RIP and buried at graveyard of St Kevin’s Protestant Church - monument erected
In French Dictionary of Musicians he is referred to as “le Père Augustin”

A famous Preacher and Teacher and was Prefect at Poitiers.

◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronologica” :
1746 At Rheims studying Theology
1750 Sent to Dublin
1754 In Ireland and teaching Humanities for five years.
His monument in St Kevin’s calls him :
“Pious. doctus, indeffessus, apostolicus confectus laboribus. Divites admonuit, pauperes sublevavit, juventutum erudivit, orphanis loco parentis fuit, de omni hominum genere praeclare meruit, omnibus omnes factus”.
Topham Bowden, and English Protestant, in his “Tour through Ireland” in 1791 says : Austin was a very remarkable character, of extraordinary learning and piety. he was a great preacher and injured his health by his exertions in the pulpit etc”. (cf Battersby’s “Jesuits” and Oliver, Stonyhurst MSS for the full Latin inscription)

◆ Fr Francis Finegan SJ :
Place of birth in New Street Dublin was then called Austin's Grounds near Kevin Street.
1737 After his Noviceship studied philosophy for two years at Pont-à-Mousson
1739-1744 Spent the next five years in regency at the College of Rheims.
1744-1747 He resumed his studies at Rheims where he was Ordained 22 September 1747.
1747 Sent to complete his theological studies at the Grand Collège, Poitiers . During these studies he lived at the Irish College and held the post of prefect of Discipline. It is likely that he made his tertianship at Marchiennes before he returned to Ireland in 1750.
1750-1784 Spent all of his Missionary life in Ireland at Dublin. He did many ministries, but is best remembered as a devoted teacher. He died on 29 September, 1784, and is buried at St. Kevin's churchyard, Camden Row, Dublin.

The inscription on his monument aptly sums up his ministry of thirty-four years in the city: “Pius, devotus, indefessus, apostolicis confectus laboribus. Divites admonuit, pauperes sublevavit, iuventutem erudivit, orphanis loco parentis fuit, de omni hominum genere meruit, omnibus omnia factus.”

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
Note from the Myles and John Gaffney Entries :
Their Grand-uncle was the celebrated John Austin, a remarkable Jesuit in Dublin towards the middle of the eighteenth Century.

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Austin, John
by C. J. Woods

Austin, John (1717–84), Jesuit priest, was born off Kevin Street, Dublin, on 12 April 1717. He showed promise as a youth, and was said to have come to the attention of Jonathan Swift (qv). He went to France and joined the Society of Jesus in the Champagne (27 November 1735). After a period of teaching the humanities and as prefect of the Irish college in Poitiers, he returned to Dublin (1750) and took his final vows (2 February 1754). Austin soon acquired a reputation there as a powerful preacher and as a friend of the poor. After the society was dissolved by the pope (1773), he was one of twelve Jesuits who wrote from Ireland accepting their new status as secular priests. Three years later he and the other fourteen former Jesuits then in Ireland formed a voluntary association to hold their resources in common, thus anticipating the revival of the society after 1800 and enabling it in 1814 to open its famous school at Clongowes Wood, Co. Kildare.

Austin is best remembered as founder (1760) of a classical school, in Saul's Court, off Fishamble Street, Dublin, which was so well thought of that it was used as the diocesan school for Meath as well as Dublin for preparing priests prior to their going to a seminary on the Continent. His pupils there included Daniel Murray (qv) the future archbishop of Dublin and Michael Blake (qv) who was to reopen the Irish college in Rome in 1824. John Austin died in Dublin on 29 September 1784 having acquired an exceptional reputation for ministering to the poor. He was buried in St Kevin's churchyard and a pyramidal stone erected over his grave. His portrait, by James Petrie (qv), was engraved by Henry Brocas (qv) and published by Bartholomew Corcoran (1792).

George Oliver, Collections towards illustrating . . . Scotch, English and Irish members, Society of Jesus (1835), 214; W. J. Battersby, The Jesuits in Dublin (1854), 94–100; Timothy Corcoran, The Clongowes Record, 1814 to 1932 (1932), 35–6, 39–41; M. J. Curran (ed.), ‘Archbishop Carpenter's epistolae, 1770–1780’, Reportorium Novum, i (1955), 164; Louis McRedmond, To the greater glory: a history of the Irish Jesuits (1991), 108–9

◆ James B Stephenson SJ The Irish Jesuits Vol 1I 1962

FATHER JOHN AUSTIN SJ 1717-1784
We have a great deal of information about eighteenth-century Dublin, much of it trivial or stupid, practically all of it unconnected with the lives of the great mass of the people. In particular, we know almost nothing of the lives of the Irish Jesuits who worked in the Dublin slums. One of the most distinguished was John Austin, who was born in Dublin in 1717. There is a story told about him by Battersby, on what authority I do not know. About 1732 the boy was attending a school near the Deanery where Swift lived. The Dean, after seeing some verses the boy had written in defence of an old but faithful dog, sent for the parents, who said “they wished him to become a priest”. Swift recommended the parents to “send him to the Jesuits, who would make a man of him”.

John Austin entered the Jesuit novitiate at Nancy on 27 November, 1735. He made his vows on 28 November, 1737. He studied logic and physics at Pont-à-Mousson 1737-39. He then went to Rheims, where he was teaching 1739-44, repeated philosophy 1744-45, and studied theology 1745-17. He was ordained 22 September 1747. He studied theology for two more years in the Irish College, Poitiers. After which he presumably made his tertianship. He returned to Dublin in 1750, where he remained until his death: 29 September, 1784.

Of this thirty-four years' ministry in Dublin we know practically nothing. I have been able to find only two contemporary references. The dramatist, John O'Keeffe, who was born in 1747, says: “From the Greek, Latin and French acquired under Father Austin, to whose school in Cook Street I went, my fancy soon strayed to Shakespeare”. An English traveller, after seeing the monument over Father Austin's grave in St. Kevin's graveyard, wrote as follows:

I was surprised such a monument should be erected in this country to a Romish Priest, and was led to enquiries relative to Austin, I was informed he was a very remarkable character in this metropolis about twelve or fourteen years ago, of extraordinary learning and extraordinary piety; that he constantly dedicated all his acquisitions, which were very considerable, to the poor, visiting them in cellars and in garrets; never a day happy that he did not give food to numbers. The principal Catholics, knowing well his disposition, were liberal to him, and he kept his door open to all who were in want; and while the means lasted, was constantly on foot, administering relief to innumerable poor wretches, never resting while he had a single guinea. Besides this, he was a great preacher, and injured his health by his exertions in the pulpit. He was a most affectionate son to an aged mother, she died, and he was overpowered with affliction, he never afterwards raised his head, but dropped into a second state of childhood. He remained in this situation near three years, and would have perished were it not for his brother Jesuits, Messrs, Betagh, Fullam and Mucaile. When he died, his friends who neglected him on the bed of death, erected this monument to his memory.

Gilbert, in his History or the City of Dublin, says:

A portrait of Father Austin, engraved by Brocas, was published by B Corcoran, dedicated to the Roman Catholics of Dublin, and inscribed: “To you the poor were left and you became the guardian of the orphan”. A large house at the end of Archbold's Court in Cook Street was traditionally pointed out as having been occupied by Father Austin, after whose death the court became the residence of Father Magaulay, an excommunicated Catholic priest, by whom nearly all the clandestine marriages in the city were performed and who was commemorated in various popular ballads.

And that is all we know, he worked for thirty-four years in a back street of Dublin, ministering to the poor downtrodden - Catholics of his native city. The fruits of his educational work, in encouraging future priests: and! in forming lay leaders, must have been immense. One of his pupils, afterwards his fellow-worker, was the famous Thomas Betagh, who entered the Society in 1754, and died as Parish Priest of SS Michael and John in 1811.

In the Presentation Convent, George's. Hill, Dublín there have been preserved four letters of Father. Austin, which I have transcribed. As historical documents they are of no particular value. But they have their own interest as a precious memento of this zealous Dublin priest to whom we in these latter days of ease owe so much. In some ways - perhaps in their touch of prim “preachinessi” - they are not very different from the letters which a fervent Jesuit Scholastic might write today. But we see the writer's interest in Catholic education which was later to be his life-work, we can glimpse the life of Catholic Dublin which went on unobtrusively under the shadow of the Castle in spite of persecution. There are passing references to Rev Fr Austin - a well-known Dublin priest - Cousin Will, John Fullam, Peter Bullrill, Peter Cashel and various relatives, whose names, unrecorded in human annals, are written in the Book of Life. These simple letters, redolent of the piety and difficulties of our forejathers, deserve to find a place in an Irish Jesuit periodical :

LETTER I
Pont-à-Mousson, 29 December 1737

Dear and Honoured Parents,

I don't know whether my twelvemonth's silence has been disagreeable to you or not. However it be, I should not have failed to have writ once more this year past, were it not that I expected to hear from you beforehand. But as I waited in vain all the summer and no letter appearing I thought it as good to put off my writing till after my vows; which I have had the happiness to make the 28th of November here in the University of Pont-à-Mousson, where I am to reside in the study of Philosophy for two years, during one of which I shall have the pleasure of enjoying my dear cousin Will's - company for he has been here already one year, but I have not come hither from the Noviceship till the beginning of October last. We have (enjoyed) and do as yet by the grace of God enjoy both a perfect state of health and whether we are together or separated, we find nothing everywhere, both one and the other, but content and happiness. He desires earnestly to tender you his kind love and service.

A little after my arrival here he writ home, for we thought it best to write separately, to the end that if one letter should miscarry, the other might perhaps speed better. I send you this by the post; for though I sent last year's letter - according as I conceived Rev Mr Austin's directions - under cover to Mr. King at Paris, yet as I have received none since from you and consequently am not sure whether you have received mine or not. I have reason to doubt whether that I have not rightly understood the manner of directing which has been marked (for) me, or that it is not very sure, I beg you would be pleased to give my most humble respects to the Rev Mr. Austin, to whose bounty and kindness. I am so gratefully bound. If that manner of directing be sure, I would be glad to know in your first whether I might continue, it at least once a year. I have writ also to cousin Peter Cashel. He will be so kind as to direct yours to me, for I have given him the superscription which might serve whilst I am here, in case you can send by hand anywhere into France.

I should rejoice and give God Thanks to hear that you are in good health and peace of mind; ‘tis, I assure you, the continual object of my poor prayers. But your soul's welfare affects me yet more. Praise be to God I have no great subject of apprehension of that side on your part. I lay He be graciously pleased to augment more and more the care you have for your eternal salvation. It can't be sufficiently deplored how much people forget that only great necessary affair, which ought to be sovereignly preferred to a parcel of frivolous wordly beings that pass and perish every day before our eyes and the which they are sure to enjoy at most, for a short term of years. Pardon a son's boldness who would fain inspire a true sentiment of the necessity of seeking by all means possible. to assure a doubtful eternity - terrible doubt which makes tremble so many persons who live a retired and perhaps innocent life, and which of greater reason ought to imprint a salutary fear in those who are exposed to so many dangers in the world.

'Tis for young persons especially that all is to be feared, and for whom by consequence the most care is to be taken to inspire them . betimes with a great fear of God, a great hatred of vice, and an early love of piety. Redouble, I pray you, your pious industry in that point towards them young children, my dear little brothers and sister. I pray you to embrace them on my part, especially little Dicky - I suppose he begins to read at present. You are to be praised never to let your children want learning according to your means; for no one knows to what God might call him, and though you have too much piety to hinder a child's vocation, yet if he takes even to the world, learning is no burthen. Above all things care is to be taken to preserve his innocence and hinder his. manners from being corrupted; and it is not to be conceived how much one and the other is in danger even already in the very infancy of children, who have too much liberty and who take every ill impression like to wax, The best means you can take is to pray dails for their preservation from sin. Perhaps I make too much the preacher, but I assure you I am so touched with dangers to which I see exposed so many persons whom I love sincerely, that I can't forbear to speak iny mind thereupon. And I would to God that my weak words could prevail upon them who are very near to me and whom I have reason to apprehend stand in need of making such solid reflections for the welfare of their souls. A very pious practice in a family would be the frequent lecture of books of piety; the Introduction to a Devout Life (of S.Francis de Sales) is onė very proper and useful for that end.

I would be glad to hear how it is with my Uncle Simon's family. My love and service to them and all my uncles and aunts, friends and relations, particularly to dear Mrs Doyle and her good family; not forgetting cousin M Dod, to whose prayers I desire to be recommended. My thanks and kind service to all friends who shall be so kind as to inquire after me.

I would seem that I doubted of your prudence if I should caution you not to let inquisitive people know to what design I am away or what I am. You know already what dangerous consequences might hereafter ensue, even where you might apprehend the least. I would not be amiss even if those who know it already were advised to let it drop in silence.

My love to cousin C Maginnis and her family, and recommend to her great care of my little god-daughter. You might please to mark me how that child is. You would do well also to cast a charitable eye sometimes to see how it is with my other little one of Mr Balf's. Be pleased not to fail to let me know the good health of R Mr Austin. I shall expect yours as soon as possible. Don't forget me in your good prayers and those of other good friends. I shan't fail on my poor part, always remaining with God's will and pleasure, dear Father and Mother, your most affectionate .. and dutiful son,
John Austin

Be pleased not to forget my respects to Mr Milon and the other gentlemen

LETTER II
Pont-à-Mousson, September 9th 1738

Dear and Honoured Parents,

I suppose Cousin Will's letter is already received, for he has writ home about a week ago. If that be, I have no need to repeat to you that the Divine will which has joined us so happily is pleased at present to separate us for a while: he being destined to the in Picardy where he goes to teach, and myself remaining here as yet a year in order to finish my course of Philosophy. He parted this morning. Myself and some others accompanied him a small league out of town, where we quitted each other very cheerfully, considering that in our state we should rejoice rather than repine in accomplishing God's will and pleasure in what He ordains us for His greater glory.

Just as he was going off, your last letter arrived, so that we were already out of the town when it was sent after us. We have also received all the letters which you have made mention of this year. For since my last of April, two or three came into our hands; some of which had delayed somewhat on the road, as appeared by the date - one from Cousin Doyle was dated even of March, 1737. Don't think, dear Parents, that these letters are of any charge to us. Foe in that point as well as the rest that concerns the temporal, such is the bounty of the heavenly providence for us (that) all is paid and prepared to our hands without any care or other application on our part, besides that of our studies or exercises which may serve to our own proper sanctification and thereby put us in (the) state of procuring that or others.

But my so good fortune, far from being a matter of boasting, should rather give me a subject of humbling myself to think that in quitting the world I find myself in better circumstances than I could naturally promise me in embracing it.

I am really charmed and do heartily thank God for the pious sentiments which He has inspired you touching the education of your dear children, as well as by your personal example as by your wholesome instructions. A very important article, and which many parents neglect very often to their future sorrow, is to render the children supple and obedient to the smallest sign of their parents' good pleasure in whatsoever they bid them: so that as soon as ever they begin to have the usage of their self-will, they should be taught to renounce to it; since it is the only root of all sin and were there no self-will there would be no hell. However, it is rather by mildness than rashness that a child's stubborn humour should be thwarted, in ordering calmly but at the same time seriously and inflexibly even the smallest things - were it but to kiss the ground, to quit or take somewhat against his inclinations, or the like.

As I might seem too bold in suchlike discourse as well now as at other times, you may be pleased to consider that, a principal point of our vocation being the pious education of the youth as well as their instruction in sciences, we are wont to make there upon nore frequent and deep reflections than ordinary. And besides I can learn somewhat by the manner wherewith the children of the best families are elevated (=educated) here, where their parents send them in pension very young that they may be reared up more safely in the piety. To all which if you add that my first and chiefest zeal should be for those whom I am obliged before God to hold most dear, you will rather approve than blame this liberty which a sincere and ardent desire. of eternal welfare inspires me.

Then dear little Dicky can read - which perhaps he can already - without doubt you will make him every evening read a little in some devout book before you. If he be accustomed betimes, he'll do it hereafter of himself. There is nothing more capable to imprint the fear and love of God in the minds of old and young than pious lectures well reflected upon and meditated in the presence of God - such as you night see in the Introduction of St Francis Sales.

I am very sensible to the kindness of all my good friends and particularly of them gentlemen who did me the honour to remember me in your last (letter). I beg you will be pleased to give to them, every one in particular, my most humble respects and service as well as to all my relations: Uncle Christy, Uncle Richard, Uncle Robin, theirs and Uncle Simon's spouses and families; Cousins Mortimer, Magguinis, Savour, and their families, etc. My kind love and service to Mr and Mrs Fullam. I have lately heard from dear friend Johnny, and answered. I have writ to Mrs Doyle by Cousin Will's last, as we have both by the same to Cousin Molly Dodd.

We enjoy always, blessed be God, perfect health and contentment. Pray take great care of yours. I am, dear Father and Mother, your most respectful and affectionate son,
Jn. Austin.

P.S. - You'll please to direct henceforth: a Monsieur Austin demeurant au College, Pont-à-Mousson en Lorraine. I expect to write soon to Cousin Peter. Be pleased to give the following lines with my respects to Mr Austin.

LETTER III
Rheims, 7th October 1742

Most Dear and Honoured Mother,

I received with pleasure your last letter dated the 4th June, and have been obliged to wait ever since for an hour's leisure to write to you. But now that our yearly vacations begin, you may be sure that my first thoughts are to satisfy you. I sent immediately on the reception of your letter that inscribed to Cousin Will, with whom I have correspondence as frequent as we both please, His answer came shortly after; and as far as I can judge, Cousin Doyle need be no way alarmed as she seems to be at the light ailment of Cousin Will.

“Tis a kind of headache which at most hinders sometimes his application to certain studies, but the which neither interrupts his other occupations nor hinders his being as day and jovial as any other. Pray give my kind love and service to his dear mother and family, to whom I wish you may always acknowledge to your utmost power the obligations which bind me eternally to them. You will please to inform them likewise that Cousin Will goes this next year to dwell at Sens, a town of the Champagne, where he is to continue the same career which he has begun at Laôn and which I am to continue here next year also. They must not be Surprised at these changements of dwelling, for nothing is more common in our state which engages us to go to and fro wherever God's will and His glory calls us.

For my part, blessed be the Lord, I have enjoyed hitherto and enjoy still in these parts good health and contentment. When it shall please Him to treat me otherwise, I hope He will give me patience; but hitherto He has favoured my weakness. After a month's rest and recreation in town and at our country house, our usual application begins. Aid me with your prayers, wherein I have very much confidence; a good mother's prayers and blessing are ordinarily efficacious, and I am persuaded that I owe a great deal thereto.

Don't fail especially to pray every day for my little brothers and to offer them to God Almighty, that He may take them under His protection for what concerns their body and soul. Without His aid all the pains you'll take for their education will be employed in vain. But if God blesses then and gives then His love and fear in their hearts, all will surely prosper with them in the time and in the eternity. Tis what I ask Him each day for them and you. Pray never fail in your letters to inform me of their progress in learning and especially of their piety towards God and docility towards you. For what you have already told thereof has given me a great deal of pleasure and consolation.

I shall dwell here this next year with an Englishman of our family, who comes hither from Liège in Flanders for to study in Divinity. We shall prattle together in our tongue, and that will - serve to recall my English, For I have scarce as yet found time to read over two or three English books I brought hither. And though I have found here enough of English acquaintance, yet do I meet them but very rarely, and even then do they speak French, being partly habiting in this town for to learn that language.

For Johnny Fullam, I don't know whether he remains at Lyons next year or no.. He told me about April last that he expected to go to Poitiers, and that Mr Heneys had gave him so to understand. But as I writ since for to demand the confirmation thereof, and his next answer not having said a word upon that head, I am yet in doubt: thereupon. Pray give my kind service to his parents, and assure them that he was in good health about two months ago when he writ last to me.

We have in these parts this year plenty of corn, wine, etc. But we have this time past so wet and cold windy weather that the vintage, which is commonly finished before this time, is not as yet begun hereabouts, where we are just hard by the fine wines of Champagne and Montagne, For the wars, though we be nigher to them than you, yet I believe, you know as much in them parts by the newspapers as we do here.

My humble respects to Messrs Milan, Sweetman and to the other gentlemen as the occasion presents itself. My kind love and service to all my uncles, aunts, cousins and their families in general and in particular when you see them. My love to my dear little brothers, and charge then in my name to apply themselves heartily to their learning, and especially take great care that they know perfectly their Catechism and what concerns their religion and the fear and love of their Maker, and that it were better to die a thousand times than to offend Him.

I would willingly know what are become my uncle Simon's children, etc., as also if you could inform me - when you shall please to write - where is young Johnny Murphy and whether Laurence Walsh is as yet at Paris or no, or what youths you know of my acquaintance are, come overseas; whether you have had news from Cousin Mortimer or not.

Cousin Peter Bullfill has been partly cause that you have my letter so late. Tis above a fortnight ago since I write to him, and I began this letter immediately after. But as I had promised him in my letter to keep this till I could have news from him (which I have not had since a very long time), I have been obliged to tarry till now, whereas I might have had his answer in four or five days. But indeed he is to be excused, for, as he tells me, he has been sick these several months past and is as yet actually very weak and feeble the which has really appeared in his very short though very friendly letter. Be assured, dear Mother, that I am always, with the utmost respect, your most affectionate son,
John Austin

LETTER IV
Rheims, 22nd October 1743

(On Back.) To Mr Francis Fullam, dwelling in Bridge Street, to be furthered to Mrs Austin, Dublin, Ireland,

(At the top of the first page;) The enclosed is for Mr Milan . You'll please to send me his letter enclosed in yours, if he pleases to send me one. Or tell him my address if he desires to know it: à la Mr Jaquinet, Marchand Fabricant dans la rue Barbatre, pour faire tenir a Mr Austin a Reims en Champagne.

Most Dear and Honoured Mother,

I wrote to you a little before Easter, I suppose you have not writ since, for I have received no letter from you since that wherein you gave me account of my Uncle John's strange discovery. I remain here as yet for next year, and never enjoyed better health than I do at present, Pray let me know if yourself and all your family go well. Also especially I pray you to give me an exact account of my brothers' behaviour towards you, and for their other duties above all in what concerns the piety. Do they pray God heartily and exactly? Dicky should now be capable of reading my letters, and of writing to me even upon necessity. He must send me in your next, if you please, a little sketch of (=by) his hand. If he be not fit for learning Latin, he must read, write and cypher as well as possible he can learn. Let him never fail to read each day some time in a good pious book. When he can do it before you in the evening, twere the best, Make him learn the Catechism to his little brothers, which they must all know perfectly well before all things and as soon as they are capable of learning anything whatsoever. This point is very important, and parents in them parts seem not to know enough their great and strict obligations to have their children instructed principally in what concerns their religion. All the rest without that is not worth while, and yet commonly 'tis what's the most neglected.

If your children fear God, they will be also your consolation, Would to God there were means of giving to children in them poor countries the same Christian education which they receive in these parts. My heart bleeds to see and think upon the difference, without being able to amend it. We see here of how much piety and virtue youth are capable, and how much it depends on those who rear them (so as) to render them such, in keeping them from evil example, bad company and occasions, and in giving them early principles of piety, of good and Christian manners. Parents work and slave day and night for to get bread for their children and to establish them well in the world. Tis very well done. But if they are good Christians well instructed in the faith of an everlasting life (and) an eternal establishment, they should take a thousand times more pains for to procure to their children this latter establishment, and that their souls may be better provided for than their bodies. Many notwithstanding, who pass for very honest Christians in all the rest, are often very bad parents on this head, and have thereupon the most terrible accompts to render at God's tribunal. I could wish with all my heart that many persons who are dear to me were well convinced and frightened with this consideration; they would have reason to tremble thereupon but yet more to act in consequence thereon. Sometimes a letter as this or any other, read to a neighbour or relation seemingly without design, might make them take reflections on such a matter which is so important for the salvation of parents and which damns so many.

Cousin Doyle and. John Fullam are both in good health: the first at Sens and the second at Lyons, there they remain next year, They both salute your kindly. Give my kind love and service to both their families, and testify newly my acknowledgments to Mr Fullam's parents on their receiving always my letters, My love and service particularly to my Uncles Richard and Christy and families; Uncle Robin Walsh and family; Cousins Savour and Maginnis and families, And if anything worth while is arrived in those families, I pray let me know it. My love and service to Aunt Bridget and her family. And let me know if you have tidings of my Uncle Simon or not. My Aunt, does she still dwell with you? Are you in good intelligence together? Nothing more easy nor more natural for two sisters and widows.

All things have been abundant this year in these parts, Has it been so in Ireland and with your little spot thereof in particular? You see I am grown very curious. But nothing which concerns you or yours can be indifferent to me. I know not how I lost again my brothers ages; the pain won't be so great to send me then once more, and I’ll be more careful if I can. Embrace them all three for me and assure then that I pray for them and you every day of my life. If they and you remember me often in praying God, I shall prefer that remembrance to all the other tokens of tenderness ye can give me, All that is not good for the soul passes with the body and avails nought.

For you especially, dear mother, be assured that I have very much confidence in your good prayers. We must one and t'other also be constantly mindful to pray for my dear Father's soul. That piety will be better placed and more useful than a silly grief which serves for nothing, neither to the living nor the dead. Your young ones have especially more need of your prayers than you think. Ofter then each day to God that he may keep them in His love and service in the world or take them betimes out of the world. If you love them truly, that must be your constant wish. Wish me the same, I pray you, and believe me to be always with the greatest affection and respect, dear mother, your most loving and submissive son,
John Austin. Reims, the 22nd October, 1743.

Don't forget, I pray you, when occasion offers to tender my best respects to Mr Milan, and send me tidings of his health. What is become of Cousin Molly Dodd? And Mr Keary, lives he as yet? If Mr Atkins asks after me, give him my humble service.

Professor Alfred O’Rahilly

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father John Austin 1717-1784
Fr John Austin was born in New Street – then called Austin’s grounds – near Kevin Street Dublin on April 12th 1717. We are told that young Austin, who attended the school near St Patrick’s, one day rattled off impromptu verses to prevent some youngsters butchering a dog. Dean Swift heard about this, sent for the boy’s parents, and asked them what they intended for the boy. “The priesthood” answered his parents. Swift then told them to send him to the Jesuits, who would make a man of him. It is thought that the Dean paid for his education.

John became a Jesuit in 1735, returning to Dublin in 1750. He acted as curate to Fr John Murphy, PP of St Michael and John’s. Together with his PP Fr Austin opened a school, in spite of the law, in Saul’s Court in 1760. For several years this was the only and for 50 years the principal school for Catholics in Dublin, as well as being the nearest approach to a Diocesan Seminary.

On the Suppression of the Society, Fr Austin became one of the Trustees of the Province Funds.

He died on September 29th 1784, and was buried at St Kevin’s Churchyard. Two years later an obelisk was erected over his grave by the grateful citizens of Dublin. The following is his epitaph :
“To the Memory of Rev Father John Austin of the City of Dublin, priest and until the Suppression of the Society of Jesus a professed Jesuit. During six and thirty years a pious, learned and indefatigable labourer in the vineyard of the Lord, who after deserving well of the rich whom he admonished, of the poor whom he relieved, of the youth whom he instructed, of the orphan to who he was a father, of all ranks of men, whome he by making himself all in all, was active in gaining to Jesus Christ, on the 29th September 1784, closed, in the 66 year of his age, a life worn out in the sight of the Lord. Religion, weeping for her faithful Minister, on the 8th December 1786 with grateful hand erected this Monument”.

◆ George Oliver Towards Illustrating the Biography of the Scotch, English and Irish Members SJ
AUSTIN, JOHN, was born in Dublin on the 12th of April, 1717, and joined the Order in Champaigne, on the 27th of November, 1735. After completing the high er Studies, he was employed in teaching Humanities for several years. In 1750, he reached his native city, and obtained a reputation for talents in the pulpit. On the 2nd of February, 1754, he was admitted to his religious Profession.
This good Father, dying on Michaelmas day, 1784, was buried in St. Kevins Church-yard, Dublin. A plain stone monument, of pyramidal form, stands over his grave ; and the following inscription is read on the West and South Panels of the Pedestal. On the opposite sides there is the English translation:
Viro Reverendo
Johanni Austin
Dubliniensi
Societatis Jesu, dum fuit, Sacerdoti
In Vinea Domini per annos 36,
Pio, Docto, Indefesso Operario,
Qui
III Calendas Octobris, A. D. 1784
Aetatis anno sexto et sexagesimo
Vitam
Apostolicis, confectam laboribus
Cum morte In conspectu Domini pretiosa
Commutavit

Cippum Hunc
Ministri fidelis Rcligio non immemor
VI Idus Decembris, A. D. 1786
Flens Possuit.
Divites admonuit
Pauperes sublevavit
Juventutem erudivit
Orphanis loco Parentis fuit
De omni Hominum genere
Praeclare meruit
Omnibus oninia factus
Ut
Omnes Christo lucrifaceret.

◆ 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.

Betagh, Thomas, 1738-1811, Jesuit priest

  • IE IJA J/469
  • Person
  • 08 May 1738-16 February 1811

Born: 08 May 1738, Kells, County Meath
Entered: 03 November 1754, Nancy, France - Campaniae Province (CAMP)
Ordained: 24 May 1766, Pont-à-Mousson, France
Final Vows: 02 February 1772
Died: 16 February 1811, SS Michael and John, Dublin

1761 Master of Arts from Metz College and taught Humanities and Rhetoric for 3 years.
1765 Teaching Humanities at Pont-à-Mousson - not yet ordained.
1767 in Ireland

◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronologica” :
He was of the Betagh family of Moynalty, but “the hospitable mansion, the ample patrimony, had become the portion of plunderers” (Dr Blake’s funeral oration)
A sketch of his life with an engraved portrait is given in “Watty Cox’s Magazine”, March 1811, and in a funeral oration by Doctor Blake, Bishop of Dromore.
His monument, with an inscription, is in the Church of SS Michael and John.
He was Vicar General in Dublin; a celebrated and indefatigable Preacher. A Priest glowing with charity for the poor.
His name in Dublin was still synonymous with learning, piety, zeal and philanthropy (Oliver, Stonyhurst MSS)

◆ Fr Francis Finegan SJ :
Received a classical education at John Austin’s school in Dublin.
After First Vows he was sent for studies to Pont-à-Mousson, graduating MA, and then taught for 4 years Regency before being sent for Theology at Pont-à-Mousson where he was Ordained 24 may 1766.
1767 Sent to Ireland and became an assistant Priest at SS Michael and John, Dublin. While there he worked with Frs Austin, Mulcaile and Fullam at Saul’s Court Seminary
1773 At the Suppression he was appointed a curate at SS Michael and John, Dublin
1781 Founded a free parish school for boys at SS Michael and John, Dublin
1799 Appointed PP at SS Michael and John, Dublin and Vicar General of the Diocese until his death 16 February 1811
His memorably large funeral took place (temporarily) at the vaults of St. Michan's. Later his remains were brought back for reburial in the vaults of the newly-finished parish church of SS Michael and John

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
The name “Betagh” is Biadhtach” in Irish, which signified a hospitable man. In the early days of Christianity in Ireland, it was customary that the “proprietor of the soil” who lived close to the high roads, to keep an open house for the entertainment of passing travellers, who would otherwise find it inconvenient, and in many instances fatal, to travel through the country. These people were called Biadhtach. It was very common practice, and suggests that communication between different parts of the kingdom must have been frequent.
The Betagh family held possession of a large tract of land in Moynalty, near Kells, undisturbed until 1641. When Cromwell had killed the King, Thomas’ father fought against him, as one of many Catholics who fought against the regicide, and on behalf of the Stuarts. He was requited for his bravery and loyalty. He had also sent his son to Paris at the start of the Cromwellian war for education. The land was taken by Cromwell and given to one of his followers. When Charles II was restored, the dispossessed were invited to reclaim their lands, and an application was received from a young Thomas Betagh, though the English possessor claimed he did not have the right, as he was a rebel, and the possessor prevailed in Court. His father then lived as a tanner in Kells.
In Paris, Thomas received his early education and then entered the seminary at Pont-à-Mousson, and progressed very rapidly through his studies. He became remarkable for his extraordinary literary attainments. he was highly esteemed in the seminary, never contradicting anyone unless it was a mater of dogma or morality. He had great self possession, and was heard to say “from the age of fourteen, Providence seemed to encompass him with an impervious shield, or barrier, which secured him against the attacks of the enemy of mankind”.
He remained in France until the Suppression by Clement XIV, and had been appointed a Professor of languages. He had intended to remain in France but for the Suppression. He returned to Ireland in 1773, and opened a Latin school with John Austin in Sall’s Court, Fishamble St. He was later appointed as curate at St Michael’s, called Rosemary Lane, where he earned a great reputation for sanctity and apostolic zeal. His main focus was the poor, and he seemed to have a great capacity to communicate with them, and at the same time, he retained his scholarship. He subsequently became PP at St Michael’s and also a Vicar General of the Diocese. All of this while he suffered from a severe infirmity, and protests from his physicians. He also established an “Evening School” in Skinner’s Row, primarily for the poor, and in an effort to support them from the punitive laws of the time. From that school he chose a certain number, whom he thought might at some future time be appropriate for the priesthood. In many ways he is the link between the Suppressed and Restored Society. The same year that he died, his protégée Peter Kenney, founder of the restored Society, finished his Theological studies.
An obit in “The Dublin Magazine” March 1811
His death was looked on as a public calamity. On the days of his funeral, many shops were closed, and a huge number followed his remains to their resting place.
Nicholas Sewell SJ to Thomas Betagh SJ 07 July 1809 :
“About three weeks ago I informed you that we proposed, towards the end of this month, sending some of the Irish Eleven to Palermo, in order to finish their studies there, and to obtain ordinations. For this end, we wrote to our friend Mr George Gifford, at Liverpool, to inquire whether there would be any ship sailing from thence for Palermo, about this time. Mr Gifford, finding a good ship, with proper accommodations, ready to sail, engaged with the captain to take six of our young men , binding himself to forfeit the whole passage money if he did not get on board by the 5th of this month. Thus we were obliged by the contract to send the young men immediately to Liverpool, and by a letter from one of them, they were going on board the ship on the 4th, and I suppose the have sailed before this. The names of the young men are : Bartholomew Esmonde from Kildare; Paul Ferley Dublin; Charles Aylmer from Kildare; Robert St Leger, Waterford; Edmund Cogan, Cork; James Butler, Dublin. The first two are not on the Irish Establishment. It was the free voluntary choice of them all to go. They are all young men of abilities, have done very well in their studies here, and are likely to do credit to their country, and Mr Plowden speaks much praise of them all. A time was pressing, we could not wait for your answer to my last letter, which I hope you received. The Rev mr Stone will return home tomorrow. We are all very well, and our new building rises fast and well..........

◆ 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 you 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 June 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 July 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 anti 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.

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Betagh, Thomas
by Dáire Keogh

Betagh, Thomas (1738–1811), Jesuit priest and educator, was born in May 1738 in Kells, Co. Meath, into a family of tanners whose ancestors had lost their estates in the Cromwellian confiscation. He received his early education at Kells, but was enrolled in the Jesuit academy in Saul's Court newly established by Fr John Austin (qv) when his family moved to Dublin. In 1755 he entered the Jesuit seminary at Pont-à-Mousson in Lorraine, France, where he taught theology and languages following his ordination in 1762.

Betagh returned to Ireland in 1769 and began his ministry as a teacher at Saul's Court. His arrival in Dublin coincided with the revival which characterised late eighteenth-century Irish catholicism; Fr Betagh was in the vanguard of this movement. Throughout, his priority remained education. In 1784 he succeeded Austin as rector of Saul's Court, and his graduates included Daniel Murray (qv), later archbishop of Dublin, and the Jesuit Peter Kenney (qv), founder of Clongowes Wood College. In addition to this academy for the ‘better sorts’, Betagh founded evening, day, and Sunday schools, first in Schoolhouse Lane and finally in Smock Alley. In this ‘Free School’ he was, in the words of his funeral oration, ‘father, physician and director’ to three hundred boys.

Following the suppression of the Jesuits by Clement XIV in 1773, Betagh served as a priest of the diocese, first as a curate in SS Michael and John in Rosemary Lane. In time he became a vital collaborator of successive archbishops, as vicar-general to the reforming Archbishop John Troy (qv) and advisor to Archbishop Daniel Murray, his former pupil. In Jesuit history he forms a bridge between the Old Society, of which he was the last survivor and guardian of their funds, and the restored Society, whose revival, in 1814, he facilitated by sending a number of his students, including Peter Kenney, Bartholomew Esmonde, and Charles Aylmer (qv), to Stonyhurst and Palermo. A renowned preacher, he was also influential in nourishing the vocation of the young Catherine McAuley (qv), who founded the Sisters of Mercy.

Betagh lived through troubled political times. In the radical politics of the revolutionary age he was ranked, in 1796, among the ‘moderates’ by Dublin Castle informer William Corbet (qv) (d. 1838?). Recommended to the English traveller William Reed as ‘the most learned and best informed man in Ireland’, he was prominent in the anti-veto faction of the post-union era.

Betagh died 16 February 1811 at his home in Cook Street. In an age of increasing sectarianism, an obituary in Walker's Hibernian Magazine celebrated ‘this truly great man . . . as much esteemed by the Protestants as he was beloved by his own flock’. His funeral, attended by upwards of 20,000 people, was among the largest seen in the city. His remains were placed in the Jesuit vault in old St Michan's church. In 1822 they were transferred to the crypt of the new SS Michael and John chapel, Essex Street, the foundation of which he laid in 1810. His resting place was marked by an elaborate monument executed by Peter Turnerelli (qv). In 1990, when that church was deconsecrated, his remains were removed to the Jesuit plot in Glasnevin cemetery.

A stipple and line engraving likeness by John Martyn (d. 1828) (after William Brocas (qv)), published in 1811, is in the NGI, as is a pencil drawing by William Brocas; while the monument by Turnerelli in SS Michael and John, Dublin, has been dismantled, the medallion remains.

NAI, 620/25/170; Archives of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus, Dublin, Betagh MSS; ‘Prosopography of Irish Jesuits’, Archives of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus, Dublin; Monologies, 1800–99, Archives of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus, Dublin; Walker's Hibernian Magazine (Feb. 1811); Cox's Irish Magazine (Mar. 1811); W. Reed, Rambles in Ireland (1815); M. Blake, Sermon preached on the lamented death of V. Rev. Thomas Betagh (1821); W. J. Battersby, The Jesuits in Dublin (1854); G. A. Little, Father Thomas Betagh (1960); ODNB

◆ James B Stephenson SJ The Irish Jesuits Vol 1 1962 & ◆ Irish Jesuit Directory 1934

FR THOMAS BETAGH, SJ
(And the Popular Schools of the Irish Jesuits in Dublin during the late Penal Times)

The eighteenth century was the epoch of triumph for the English State Church of the Protestant Colony in Ireland. That triumph was seen most strikingly in their joint action against Catholic Education. Evidence of this, as conclusive as it is laconic, may be adduced in the following excerpts from the Roman Records of the Irish Jesuit Mission during twenty-five years, the years when the Penal Code was wrought with care to its iniquitous perfection, 1692 to 1717.

On November 25th, 1694, Father Antony Knoles, SJ, Superior in Ireland (May 15th, 1694, to his death at Waterford, August 14th, 1727), writes to his personal friend, Thyrsus Gonzalez, General of the Order, at Rome : “ Very great is the diligence of our adversaries, and it is nou most intense, to prevent members of the Order from giving education to boys. But their zeal is enough to urge then to face the work and its danger with courage; they toil in secret”.

Father Knoles writes again to Rome, February 17th, 1695, telling how “at Kilkenny the State officials have committed to prison the colleagues that I had, because they carried on the education of a few boys”.

On February 12th, 1717, the Triennial Account sent to Rome states that “Father Michael Murphy is taking the risks of giving education to young people at this time in the capital of the country. He has taught Greek and Latin throughout the last five years, and is doing so at present”.

There is no need to set out here the ingenious thoroughness of the Penal Laws under which this educational work was being done through the eighteenth century. But it may be serviceable to insist upon the proved fact that the laws on education were being enforced by both the Cromwellian State and its State Church. There are fragmentary portions of the Grand Jury Records available for three or four counties of Munster, 1712 to 1724. They show continuous action by Grand Juries and Magistrates. In County Limerick alone, from 1711 to 1723, nineteen Popish schoolmasters were “presented” by the Grand Jury. With an absolutely Protestant common jury, and a Protestant judge of the new type this indictment meant conviction and transportation for life to serve as a bondsman on the cotton and tobacco plantations in America. Rewards were voted to informers. Scores of Catholic parents were also indicted at Assizes, as we know from the surviving patches of the “Record Books” for Galway and Clare and Kerry. We have the testimony, in “Reports to the Dublin House of Lords, November, 1731”, as to the activities of the prelates of the State Church, testimony given under their own hands and seals, Henry Naule, Bishop of Derry, declares that in his diocese, even in its mountainous areas, no Popish schoolmaster is allowed to teach. If they try to do so, they are constantly threatened with indictment at Assizes: and “they generally think proper to withdraw”. Edward Synge, State Archbishop of Tuam, Administrator of Clonfert and Kilmacduagh, in three separate reports confirms the evidence from Derry in precise detail. Then one Popish schoolmaster was recently convicted, he says, the effect was very salutary; the rest “absconded”.

A new policy of Constructive Aggression dated from 1733. In addition to these persecuting activities, the Parliament and Government at Dublin, with the enthusiastic support of Prelates and Press, Deans and Grand Juries, set on foot the Charter School system in 1733, and gave it liberal public grants from 1714. The Irish Jesuits had in very deed additional reasons for being active in education. Their reports to Rome at this period show fully that they realised this need. Rarely as many as twenty in number, they were at work in many or the former Anglo-Norman cities and towns, places no longer as Catholic as they had been, for they were very thoroughly cleared of Popish inhabitants both under William and under Anne. The need of schools, however, was greatest in Dublin. Aggressive proselytism, both under State auspices and by independent societies, has always been conspicuous in the capital of Ireland. Its preferred region for action has always been the poorest part of Dublin, from the Coombe northwards across the River Liffey to Henrietta Street and Bolton Street. From 1714, Dean Swift was thus active around the deanery house beside the Coombe; he had the constant support of Archbishop Willian King, 1702-1729, from his palace hard by. From 1727-30 the same work was powerfully pressed forward from his town residence by Primate Hugh Boulter of Armagh, the real governor of Ireland, from 1730 to 1750, the originator of the Charter Schools in the years 1730 to 1733.

This work of evil was combated on the spot by the Irish Jesuits, who, in the lanes and alleys of oldest Dublin, conducted schools all through the later Penal period, 1750 to 1810. They combined elementary with classical education, as did the country schools of that epoch, all over Ireland. There was then no talk of the educational ladder for the gifted children of the Catholic poor of Ireland. They had a broad highway, and the enemy knew it well. Samuel Madden wrote of it in 1738 in his “Reflections from the Gentlemen of Ireland, as landlords and as Members of Parliament”. In close collaboration with Bishop Berkeley and with Thomas Prior, he founded in 1731 what became the Royal Dublin Society. The determination of the Irish people to have full opportunities for a liberal education disgusted him. “Crowds of the Irish”, wrote the founder of the Madden Prize in Trinity College, Dublin, “waste their time and their substance as poor scholars. If only their spiritual governors were effectively removed, and their Church government by that means subverted, this would finish the work for us”. This “work” was repeatedly defined, in the Protestant school documents of the epoch, as to make the whole nation Protestant and English.

But even in that sorely-beset region of Dublin, commanded by the Castle, the King's Inns of Court, the two Protestant cathedrals, in addition to their two deaneries and the residences of the State Archbishops of Dublin and Armagh, Catholic schools managed to operate throughout that terrible century. The older Religious Orders, as the Carmelites from 1758, did great work in the cause of popular Catholic education. So did many hundreds of humble Catholic teachers, laymen and women, who conducted illegal schools among the very poor, north as well as south of the river. There was a sequence of efforts to conduct schools in the cities and larger towns from 1690 to 1720 and the ensuing decades. In 1750, John Austin, SJ whose name was long held in reverence, opened in Saul's Court, off Fishamble Street, a classical school. By 1770, with the aid of his brethren, such as James Philip Mulcaile and Thomas Betagh, a boarding house for pupils from the country was set beside Father Austin's school. It became, formally or virtually, the Diocesan School for Dublin, Meath, and adjoining counties. It produced such men as Daniel Murphy and Michael Blake, both determined opponents of the Veto proposals, 1799 to 1825.

The work for Catholic education, thus developed on what may well be termed the front line of action, was maintained all through their long lives by such men as Fathers Mulcaile, Austin, and Betagh. The alteration of ecclesiastical status which supervened for them, when, in the autumn of 1773, the Order to which they belonged was suppressed by the Holy See, made no difference in their daily service of popular education. When thus advanced to the rank of the pastoral or diocesan clergy, they acted as assistant priests in the same populous areas as before. Their school system expanded from Saul's Court into Skinner's Row, Hoey's Court, Smock Alley, Archbold's Court, and Schoolhouse Lane, while Father Mulcaile's energies were spent chiefly north of the River Liffey, in the lanes around George's Hill, Phrapper's, Ball's, Fisher's, and others besides.

Father Austin was the first of these school-men to be called to his reward. His death evoked a wonderful manifestation of regard from Catholic Dublin, Twelve years afterwards, 1789, a Protestant English traveller, Charles Topham Bowden, visited Dublin during an extended Tour in Ireland (London, 1791). Having come upon Father Austin's epitaph in the parish Cemetery of St. James, he recorded its text in full, and added :
“I was led to make inquiries relative to Austin, and was told he was a very remarkable character in this metropolis about twelve or fourteen years ago, of: extraordinary learning and extraordinary: piety; that he constantly dedicated all his acquisitions, which were very considerable, to the poor, visiting them in cellars and in garrets, never a day happy that he did not give food to numbers”.

Even more remarkable is the record and the popular recollection :of the great educational no less than the great ecclesiastical work done on to the very last week of his long life by the surviving Irish Jesuit of the Old Society, Tatler Thomas Betagh (1738-1811). When the Order was ejected from its 108 colleges in French, in 1762, by the arbitrary decrees of Louis XIV, at the instigation of Choiseul and Pompadour, Betagh was a student in Theology, just ordained at Pont-á-Mousson in Lorraine. The Irish Jesuits were well known at that ducal University as far back as 1592. Then one of their number, Richard Fleming, was Chancellor there, having among his students Pierre Tourier, the staunch Lorraine patriot, who became a notable organiser of schools for the children of the countryside, and who was canonised in our own times. Having given up his whole energies to work among the Catholic poor or St Michan's* parish, Father Betagh became its parish priest late in life, and was also Vicar-General of the diocese of Dublin some years before his death in February, 1811. Two aspects of his career have impressed themselves very distinctly on local tradition. He was a determined opponent of the “Veto” movements that would have subjected the entire religious administration of Catholic Ireland to the intervention of a Protestant, civil power, bitterly hostile in all its official instruments, and in all its political and social connections in Ireland, even more than in England, to everything Catholic and Irish. His courageous and outspoken views on this vital issue were a main determinant of the definitive rejection of the “Veto” by the Bishops of Ireland in 1808; and he was naturally a centre, of strength and influence for the whole country on that and on cognate questions. He exercised this influence, no less than he practised the noble work of popular education, up to the end. Unsuspected external evidence has recently been acquired:which sets his position forth very clearly; it may be here drain on in an abbreviated form. Among the numerous English travellers in Ireland who printed some account of their experiences on their return was a Baptist minister, William Reed, of Thornbury, in Gloucestershire. Reed landed at Cork in September, 1810, reached Dublin in November, and the very rare volume of his travels appeared in London, 1815. Of Father Betagh he writes thus:
“I desired to be better acquainted with the real character of the Roman Catholic religion in Ireland. On arriving in Dublin, I was desired to consult Dr Betagh, who was said to be the most learned and the best informed man in Ireland, and who added to these accomplishments an amenity of manners that was almost enchanting. Accordingly, one morning I knocked at the door of this venerable monk, but could not have access to him then, as he was giving audience to two Bishops. The next morning I found him alone. Requesting to know my business, he desired me to draw my chair nearer to the fire, and we soon entered into the depths of the most serious conversation. I questioned him on the subjects of Purgatory, Indulgences, the use of Holy Water, Praying for the Dead, Transubstantiation, Praying to the Saints, and particularly of the Virgin Mary, whom they call the Mother of God. I found him very eloquent. He defended every part of his system with an acuteness and force, ingenuity and masterly address, that astonished me. He had received me with the greatest politeness”.

His Baptist visitor did not have occasion to see Father Betagh at work in those schools of his, schools of the parish where he laboured and that still bear his name. But we may draw on Mr Reed's text to show how popular education then fared in the South of Ireland, along the roadside. It will serve to illustrate, by immediate comparison, the arduous service which the parish priest and Vicar-General of Dublin rendered during that autumn of 1810, which was to be the last in his earthly life. He taught his scholars in the cellars of Cook Street. The work was thus severer than that seen by Mr Reed on his way to Dublin in 1810, through Munster.

“A desire for education manifests itself, and very generally, among the lower orders of the people. In any wanderings through the country I found several very humble seminaries, called Hedge Schools. Not having any other convenience, the scholars are taught reading, writing, etc., in the open air, under the shade of some embowering hedge, or branching tree; and very often the green bank and the smooth shelves of the rock answer purpose of the bench and the desk”. - (Ramples Through Ireland, London, 1815, p.52).

The urban counterpart of the Munster Hedge Schools was described in the sermon on Father Betagh's life and work. It was delivered on Palm Sunday, 1811, by his own scholar, his colleague in the pastoral work of Dublin City, that Father Michael Blake, who was afterwards Bishop of the northern diocese of Dromore, down to 1860, He recorded with emphasis his experience of the poor among whom he, and his master, had worked for many years. “Our poor”, said Dr. Blake, “are the most interesting people on the earth, the most noble-minded, the most grateful, and most hospitable, the most considerate, and the fondest of learning”. To that decisive finding may be subjoined two sentences spoken by Dr. Blake on Father Thomas Betagh, the Dublin parish priest whose name and work have survived to this day on the lips of the poor and plain Catholics of the oldest city regions:
“Look to that Free School, where three hundred boys, poor in everything but genius and spirit, receive their education every evening, and where more than three thousand have been already educated. Can you estimate sufficiently the value of the man who established that institution; who cherished the objects of it; who supervised their instruction; who rewarded the most promising of them with a classical education; who, at the age of seventy three, would sit down in a cellar to hear their lessons?”

The Irish Jesuit, the last of the Old Society of 1540-1773, who provided and who taught in that Free Popular School for elementary and for classical education, died in February, 1871, at 92 Cook Street, Dublin. Just a year later, in 1812, Father Peter Kenney SJ, pupil of Father Betagh, the first Superior of the Restored Irish Mission of the Society of Jesus, reached Dublin after completing his ecclesiastical studies at Palermo in Sicily, and took up work at Mary's Lane Chapel, north of the River Liffey. His seven fellow-students, all of whom had been Father Betagh's scholars, followed him home, from 1811 to 1814.

Timothy Corcoran SJ
*Addendum for St Michan's read “St Michael’s”
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father Thomas Betagh SJ 1738-1811
Fr Thomas Betagh was the last survivor of the Irish Jesuits of the old Society. Like many another Irish family, his forefathers had been deprived of their estate, Moynalty, near Kells, for their loyalty to the Stuarts and their Faith. They were reduced to the state of peasantry. Thomas’ father was a tanner at Kells. He was born on May 8th 1738, and having received a grammar school education in Father John Austin’s school in Saul’s Court, Dublin, he was sent at the age of fourteen to the Jesuit Seminary at Pont-á-Mousson, in Lorraine, in 1752. He had a brilliant course here and ended up as professor of Classical Languages at the Ecclesiastical University. On the Suppression of the Society, he returned to Ireland and resumed his teaching activities with his old master, Fr Austin in Saul’s Court.He was appointed a curate at St Michael’s parish in Rosemary Lane, and succeeded as Parish Priest and Vicar General in 1799.

His work as a pastor and educationalist was unflagging, in spite of continual ill-health, for which he suffered all his life with a hernia. In addition to the ordinary school at Saul’s Court, which served as the sole source of education for Catholics in Dublin, and as the Seminary for the Diocese, he instituted his famous night-schools for the poor, in Schoolhouse Lane, in Hoey’s Court, Smock Alley, Derby Acre and Skinners Row. With good reason he did become a legend to the people. A friend once voiced the sentiments of the public “Oh Betagh, what will become of us when you go to heaven?” With his brilliant student Peter Kenney in mind, he replied “No matter; I am old and stupid; there is a cock coming from Sicily that will crow ten times as loudly as I could”.

He died at twelve o’clock on the 16th of February 1811, at his residence in 80 Cook Street, Dublin, aged 73. His remains were finally deposited in the old chapel at Rosemary Lane. A monument was erected to him there and subsequently removed to a new Church of SS Michael and John. It is estimated that no fewer that 20,000 people walked at his funeral.

◆ Clongowes Wood College SJ HIB Archive Collection - SC/CLON/142

Thomas Betagh 1738-1811
Thomas Betagh, born 8 May 1738 of an old Meath family, once Lords of Moynalty, received his classical education at Father Austin’s school in Dublin before he entered the Society at Nancy 3 November 1754. After his noviceship he studied at the University of Pont-à-Mousson where he graduated M.A. He entered on his regency in the same city and having professed rhetoric there for four years he studied theology, He was ordained priest at Spire on 24 May 1766. He was recalled to Ireland the following year and appointed assistant priest in the parish of St Michael and John He also collaborated with Fathers Austin, Mulcaile and Fullam in Saul's Court seminary.
On the Suppression of the Society he was incardinated in the diocese and appointed curate at St Michael and John's. As curate of the parish he founded in 1781 his free school for boys. In 1799 he was appointed parish priest and Vicar General of the diocese. Shortly before he resigned his parish in 1810 he laid the foundation stone of the parish church. He died on 16 February 1811 and was buried temporarily in the vaults of St.Michan's church. His remains were later reburied in the vaults of the new church and remained there until the deconsecration of the venerable church building. He now sleeps in the great Jesuit plot at Glasnevin. He was the last to die of the ex-Jesuits of the Third Irish Mission but he lived long enough to know that the first Jesuit of the Irish Mission soon to be restored, Peter Kenney,one of his own former pupils, was already ordained priest and ready to return from Sicily to Dublin.

◆ MacErlean Cat Miss HIB SJ 1670-1770
Loose Note : Thomas Betagh
Those marked with
were working in Dublin when on 07/02/1774 they subscribed their submission to the Brief of Suppression
John Ward was unavoidably absent and subscribed later
Michael Fitzgerald, John St Leger and Paul Power were stationed at Waterford
Nicholas Barron and Joseph Morony were stationed at Cork
Edward Keating was then PP in Wexford

◆ George Oliver Towards Illustrating the Biography of the Scotch, English and Irish Members SJ
BETAGII, THOMAS. This very Rev. Father and Vicar General of the Archdiocess of Dublin, entered into his rest in the Irish Metropolis on the 16th of February, 1811, aet. 74. The vast attendance of Citizens and Clergy at his Funeral Obsequies was a public testimony to his worth and charity. His monument was to be seen in the Old Chapel, Rosemary Lane, and now in the New Chapel of SS. Michael and John, Lower Exchange street, Dublin, on the Epistle side of the Altar. The inscription is as follows :

" Glory to God, most good, most great."
" THIS MARBLE,
CHRISTIAN BROTHER, PRESENTS TO YOUR VIEW, THE LIKENESS OF
THE VERY REV. THOMAS BETAGH, S. J.
(VICAR-GENERAL OF THE ARCHDIOCESS OP DUBLIN,)
AND DURING MORE THAN TWENTY YEARS
THE EXCELLENT AND MOST VIGILANT PASTOR OF THIS PARISH,
WHO GLOWING WITH CHARITY TOWARDS GOD AND HIS NEIGHBOUR,
WAS EVER INDEFATIGABLE IX HIS MINISTRY,
TEACHING, PREACHING, AND EXERTING ALL HIS POWERS
TO CONFIRM THE TRUE CHRISTIAN IN THE FAITH ONCE DELIVERED TO THE SAINTS, AND TO BRING BACK THE STRAYING INTO THE WAYS OF SALVATION.
HIS CHIEF DELIGHT AND HAPPINESS IT WAS
TO INSTRUCT THE YOUNG, ESPECIALLY THE NEEDY AND THE ORPHAN,
IN RELIGION, PIETY, AND LEARNING,
AND TO FORWARD AND CHERISH THEM WITH AFFECTION TRULY PATERNAL.
HIS ZEAL FOR THE SALVATION OF SOULS CONTINUED TO BURN WITH UNDIMINISHED ARDOUR,
UNTIL THE LAST MOMENT OF HIS LIFE,
WHEN WORN DOWN BY LINGERING ILLNESS, AND INCESSANT LABOURS,
THIS GOOD AND FAITHFUL SERVANT DELIVERED UP HIS SOUL TO GOD
IN THE YEAR OF HIS AGE, 73, AND OF OUR REDEMPTION 1811.
MAY HE REST IN PEACE.
TO THIS MOST DESERVING MAN, THE OllNAMBNT OF HIS PRIESTHOOD AND HIS COUNTRY,
THE CLERGY AND PEOPLE OF DUBLIN WHO ATTENDED HIS FUNERAL,
WITH MOST MOURNFUL SOLEMNITY AND UNEXAMPLED CONCOURSE,
HAVE ERECTED THIS MONUMENT AS A LASTING MEMORIAL OF THEIR LOVE AND GRATITUDE."

N.B. Brocas has engraved the Portrait of this Apostolical Father, whose name is still synonymous in Dublin, with Learning, Piety, Zeal, and Philanthropy. In the Freeman s Journal of the 17th of October 1815, is the following description of the Monument:
"DR. BETAGH’s MONUMENT,
“The Monument erected to the memory of the late Rev. Dr Befagh, in the Chapel of St. Michael and St. John, was Sunday opened for public inspection. It was executed by Turnerelli, of London, who is, we understand, a Native of Ireland. The composition of this elegant piece of Sculpture, consists of two figures in beautiful statuary marble ; the one a female, representing religion in a pensive attitude, with the usual symbol of redemption, the cross ; the other, an orphan whom religion seems to protect, and who is resting on an urn that stands between them. The Boy s countenance is expressive of that sorrow, natural to the impression on the mind, when a benevolent protector no longer exists. So far the group is connected : but the Medallion of the deceased, attached to the Pyramid of black marble, appears at the top and this rests on a plinth, supported by fluted pilasters, with the inscription title in the centre. Much simplicity of character pervades the whole of this specimen of art, at the same time the recollection of departed worth, and its grateful tribute, are well sustained by the chaste power of the chisel. And every person of taste will rejoice, that the calm delights of science are not totally extinguished in this country”.

Kenney, Peter J, 1779-1841, Jesuit priest and educator

  • IE IJA J/474
  • Person
  • 07 July 1779-19 November 1841

Born: 07 July 1779, Dublin
Entered: 20 September 1804, Hodder, Stonyhurst, England - Angliae Province (ANG)
Ordained: 04 December 1808, Palermo, Sicily, Italy
Final vows: 16 June 1819
Died: 19 November 1841, Professed House, Rome, Italy

Superior of the Jesuit Mission in Ireland : 30 September 1812- 28 September 1817; 29 September 1821- May 1830;
Visitor to Maryland Mission : 1819 - 1822; 14 November 1830 - 1833;
Vice-Provincial: April 1834 - May 1836;
Vice-President Maynooth College : 1813 - 1814;

Peter Kenney was an Irish Jesuit credited with restoring the Society of Jesus in Ireland after their suppression, as well as with establishing several colleges and devoting much of his life to the education of youth.
There were seventeen Jesuits at the time of the suppression in Ireland. No longer members of the Society, they were forced to act as diocesan priests. One of these last remaining Jesuits, Fr Thomas Betagh, taught children of poor families in Dublin. One of his students was Peter Kenney, the son of a coachmaker. Sponsored by Betagh, Kenney entered Maynooth College. From here he travelled to Palermo in Sicily to continue his religious training, as Sicily was allowed to maintain its branch of the Society of Jesus. Here in 1808 he was ordained as a priest.
Kenney travelled back to Ireland in 1811, the same year that Fr Betagh, the last remaining Jesuit in Ireland, died. Kenney arrived intent on re-establishing the Jesuits in his home country. Using money that had been put aside by the previous Jesuits, he bought Castle Brown in 1813. This would become the site of a new Jesuit school, Clongowes Wood College, which opened the following year. In 1818 a further school was opened in Tullabeg, Offaly. Tullabeg College was originally planned as a noviciate for the Society but became in time a proper college.
In 1822 Kenney travelled to America to visit the missions. In Missouri he met Jesuit farmers and was appalled that they owned slaves, ordering them to set their slaves free. Back in Ireland, Kenney and three others founded the Jesuit Church of St. Francis Xavier in Dublin after the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829 was passed. For his remaining years, he continued his work across Ireland, both as a preacher and as an educator, until he passed away in 1841, worn down by constant toil and travel.

◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronologica” : :
Early education in Humanities at Carlow and Stonyhurst. Father Betagh was the first to discover his abilities. Priests used to go listen to him teaching Catechism while he was an apprentice coach-builder. Betagh and O’Callaghan, ex-Jesuits, sent him to Carlow College, and he was loudly applauded by fellow students, and even the venerable President. In the Novitiate - as per fellow Novice Father Postlethwaite - he was asked to leave the Refectory pulpit by Father Charles Plowden, as the Novices interrupted their meal as they were spellbound and astounded by his exordium. At Stonyhurst, he distinguished himself in Mathematics and Natural Philosophy.
He completed his Higher Studies and Theology at Palermo, where he defended his theses of Divinity with applause, and was Ordained there. In a letter from the Procurator General to Father General, he calls him “l’incomparabile Kenny”. Father Angolini writes to Father Plowden from Palermo in 1809 “in the public disputations vel maxime excelluit P Kenny”. In 1810 he says “P Kenny excellit supra omnes; dona habet ingenii, virium, zeli animarum, activitas et efficaciae in agendo simulet prudentiae vere insignia. Deus illum ad sui gloriam Hibernorumsque Missionis incrementum conservit”. Father Provincial writes in 1810 “P Kenny ingenio pollet prompto et acri”, and again in 1811 “P Kenny acerrimi et ingenii, studiique amans, ut optimam de se spem faciat. Tum religiosum colit disciplinam, ingenio ipse nimis vivido, quandoque judicii, sui tenacior apparet”.
1811 Sent to Ireland in November, and served at the Chapel of St Michan, Dublin, the ancient Residence of the Society. He was vice-President of Maynooth for a short while at the request of Archbishop Murray, and his portrait is preserved there.
1815-1817 Destined by Providence as an instrument to revive the ancient Irish Mission SJ, he was joined by four Fathers and several Scholastics from Stonyhurst, and was Superior until 1817. He bought Castle Brown, or Clongowes Wood Co Kildare, and took possession 04/03/1814 and opened it as a school on 15 May 1816, himself being the Rector.
1819 He was sent as Visitor to the American Mission SJ, and returning again to Ireland, was declared Superior of the Mission, 27/08/1822, and its first Vice-Provincial, in its being erected into a Vice-Province in 1829. He remained Vice-Provincial until 1836.
1830-1833 He was again sent as Visitor to the American Mission SJ, where he rendered signal services, and in July 1833, published the General’s Decree for constituting the American Mission into a Province, installing Fr William McSherry as its first Provincial. During his years in America, he was constantly Preaching and Confessing, kept diaries of his travels, and had a very extensive correspondence with people of all ranks and conditions. His Retreats and Sermons were spoke of by Priests fifty and sixty years later, and long eloquent passages quoted with enthusiasm.
Tullabeg, and St Francis Xavier’s Residence Dublin are principally indebted to him for their foundation and erection.
Recommended by medical men to winter in warmer climates, he made his way to Rome with great difficulty, and died at the Gesù of an attack of apoplexy aged 62. He is buried at the Gesù. (Oliver, Stonyhurst MSS). Archbishop Murray of Dublin was overwhelmed with grief at his passing, and considered him a national loss. He and the other Bishops celebrated High Mass and said the Office for the repose of his soul.
He tried several times to write the history of the Irish Mission. Of his own life, short sketches have been written in Oliver, Stonyhurst MSS and Foley’s Collectanea, as well as Mgr Meagher in his “Life of Dr Murray” and by Father Hogan in some numbers of the Limerick Reporter.

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
His mother was said to have been a woman of remarkable piety and high intellect. She trained him in piety. he soon proved himself an apt scholar of virtue. Even as a young boy, he joined one of the sodalities for young men, which, in spite of Penal times, were flourishing in Dublin at the time. Their custom was to gather after nightfall, say prayers together and listen to a pious reading. It was Peter’s custom to regularly give ferverinos to his young companions which moved them so much, and even the priests - encouraged by Father Betagh - would stop to listen to him. This was a forerunner perhaps of his reputation later on as one of the foremost English speaking pulpit orators of his day.
1802 he was at Carlow College studying Logic and Metaphysics, and here too, his oratory was highly thought of, as it was usual for the students to preach in turn to each other. A famous talk he gave was on “The Dignity of the Priesthood” which was met with applause, even from the Superior.
1804 He went to Stonyhurst and completed his Noviceship. After First Vows he remained and studied Mathematics and Physics. His health troubled him, especially his eyes, and his Superiors decided to send him to a milder climate in Sicily for Theology. He duly completed his Theology to much acclaim and graduating DD (document of record of achievement from the University of Palermo preserved at Clongowes).
After Ordination he offered some support to Irish and English soldiers stationed at Sicily. At the same time, the King of Sicily was anxious to give refuge to Pope Pius VII, and Cajetan Angiolini SJ was commissioned to negotiate the matter with the Pope. He chose Peter Kenney as his assistant. The Pope refused to leave Rome.
1811 he left Sicily for Ireland. On the way he spent some time at Malta, ministering to English soldiers there. His name remained for a long time in fond memory.
1812 He arrived in Ireland to begin his long and fruitful career. The timing saw a Catholic Church beginning to emerge from the strictures of Penal Laws, though they were still in force.
He is described as the “foundation stone” of the Restored Society in Ireland. Father Betagh had just died the previous year, and since he was so beloved, Kenney was received with open arms by the Archbishop and priesthood in Dublin. He quickly earned a reputation as a great Preacher, and on all the great occasions, was called upon, including the funeral of the Archbishop and the Jubilee of 1825. He was then asked by Maynooth College, supported by the Archbishop to become the President. He accepted, only on condition that the Archbishop should be declared President, and he the Vice-President, but only for one year. His real desire was to found a Jesuit College.
1814 He purchased Clongowes. The money used to purchase it had been carefully handed down from the time of the Suppression. The College opened that year, and students flocked from all parts of the country. Due to overcrowding, a fever broke out at the College, and it had to be disbanded for a while.
1817 He left Clongowes to Bartholomew Esmonde, and took his place in Hardwicke St, Dublin, and he remained working there until 1819.
1819 Fr General Thaddeus Brzodowski entrusted the task of Visitor to the new Maryland Mission to Peter Kenney. It was a difficult task, but his work was approved of by all.
1821 He returned to Ireland, and initially back at Hardwicke St, but was then appointed Rector of Clongowes again, and later Mission Superior. This was a difficult period for the Church in the country, and some focus was on the Jesuits, with the old accusations of intrigue etc, being spoken of to the point where a petition was sent to Parliament by a group of zealous Irish Protestants asking that measures be taken to check the dangerous machinations of the Jesuits. Kenney’s diplomatic skills, particularly among influential Protestants in the Kildare area resulted in Lord Leinster moving a counter petition, suggesting the opposite, and this position was supported in the Irish press. Nonetheless, the Government set up an inquiry on the influence of the Jesuits, and Peter Kenney was summoned before the Chief Secretary and Privy Council. Again his skills won the day and the admiration of the Council which had summoned him.
1829 He went to a General Congregation, and there it was announced that Ireland would become a Vice-Province, and he the first Vice-Provincial. He was again sent as Visitor to American Provinces, and achieved much in that position, to the point where there were efforts to keep him in the US.
1833 On his return, his health was beginning to suffer, to the point that he found it difficult to be about, but he nonetheless stuck to his task to the end. He ran a Provincial Congregation in 1841 and he was even elected himself as Procurator of the Vice-Province to go to Rome. In spite of appalling weather conditions which made travel very difficult, especially for one in such health, he made the journey, but once in Rome succumbed to a fever. He is buried in the Gesù in Rome.
News of his death was issued at Gardiner St, and vast crowds assembled there in sorrow. The Archbishop wrote of the great loss to the Society and Church, in a letter of condolence. Many clergy and bishops attended his funeral, and a similar memorial event at Maynooth.
He was a man of exceptional powers as an administrator and Superior. In addition, he was known as a remarkable Preacher.
Note on excerpts from Mgr MacCaffrey, President Maynooth, “The Holy Eucharist in Modern Ireland” at the International Eucharistic Congress, Dublin 1932 - Book of Congress p 160 :
“There is not wanting evidence to indicate that even in the lifetime of St Margaret Mary (Alacocque) devotion to the Sacred Heart found many warm adherents in Ireland, and amongst them ...Blessed Oliver Plunkett. But whatever about individuals, the first Sodality of the Sacred Heart in Ireland of which we have an authentic record was founded at Maynooth College in the year 1813 by the eminent Jesuit Father Peter Kenney, Vice-President of Maynooth and founder of Clongowes. This new Society was regarded as important and so dangerous that it was denounced in English newspapers and reviews, was warmly debated in the House of Commons, and was even deemed worthy of investigation by a Royal Commission. But that Father Kenney’s work bore fruit in spite of much hostile criticism is proved by the fact that when years later Pope Gregory XVI granted an extension of the Mass of the Sacred Heart to Ireland, he did so, as he says, in consequence of the great devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus that prevails in that Kingdom.”

◆ 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 you 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 June 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 July 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 anti 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 Privy 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.

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
Kenney, Peter
by Patrick Maume

Kenney, Peter (1779–1841), Jesuit priest and educationist, was born in Dublin, probably at 28 Drogheda Street, on 7 July 1779, the son of Peter Kenney, a businessman, and his wife, Ellen (née Molloy). He had one sister (who became a nun) and a much older brother (possibly a half-brother by a previous marriage of his father). Kenney attended schools conducted by the former Jesuit Thomas Betagh (qv), who became his principal mentor, at Saul's Court and Skinner's Row; after being briefly apprenticed to a coach-maker, he became Betagh's assistant in his schools. In 1799 Kenney took a leading role in the foundation of the first Young Men's Confraternity in Dublin.

On 6 June 1801 Kenney entered St Patrick's College, Carlow, to study for the priesthood. He was one of a group of young men who had their fees paid from the residual funds of the Irish Jesuit mission (administered by Irish former Jesuits) in return for a commitment to enter a revived Society of Jesus. The Jesuit order had been suppressed by the papacy in 1773, but survived unofficially in Russia. In 1801 the holy see granted official recognition to the Russian province of the order and allowed Jesuits elsewhere to attach themselves to it. Former Jesuits in England took advantage of this dispensation to reestablish the English province of the society under the jurisdiction of the vicar general in Russia, but the legality of this remained uncertain until the formal restoration of the society in 1814.

In September 1804 Kenney went to Stonyhurst College, Lancashire (founded 1794), to undertake his novitiate. He was recognised as an outstanding student, particularly in theology and philosophy. After developing asthma and eye problems he was sent to Palermo in April 1808 to complete his studies. This also allowed him to take his vows with the surety of being recognised as a Jesuit by church law, since the society had been formally reestablished in the kingdom of Naples in 1804. Shortly after his arrival Kenney served as interpreter on a secret and unsuccessful mission to persuade Pope Pius VII to leave French-occupied Rome and place himself under the protection of British forces in Sicily. Kenney received his tonsure and minor orders in June 1808, was ordained deacon and subdeacon in November, and received priestly orders on 4 December 1808. He carried on his studies at the Jesuit college in Palermo (completing them in April 1811, though he did not receive a degree for technical reasons), while ministering to catholics in the British garrison, despite obstruction from their superior officers.

Kenney returned to Ireland in August 1811 as acting superior of the Jesuits’ Irish mission (whose independence from the English province he successfully asserted). He ministered in Dublin with three other newly admitted Jesuits, and rapidly acquired a reputation as a calmly eloquent preacher. For the rest of his life he was much in demand as a preacher of charity sermons and as principal speaker on major ecclesiastical occasions; the Maynooth professor Patrick Murray (qv) compared his style and eminence as a pulpit orator to those of Daniel O'Connell (qv) as a public speaker. Between August 1812 and 1813 Kenney acted as vice-president of Maynooth at the insistence of Daniel Murray (qv), co-adjutor archbishop of Dublin, who had been asked to serve as temporary president. Kenney appears to have undertaken most of the administrative duties because of Murray's other commitments, but his principal impact was as a spiritual guide and retreat leader to the seminarians.

In 1813 Kenney used much of the money inherited from the former Irish Jesuit funds to purchase Castle Browne House, Clane, Co. Kildare; in summer 1814 this opened as Clongowes Wood College, which became the most celebrated school run by Irish Jesuits. In managing the new school and overseeing the implementation of the traditional Jesuit curriculum, Kenney showed himself a capable organiser. At the same time he lobbied against calls by ultra-protestant politicians for the passage of new anti-Jesuit legislation, acquired a chapel in Hardwicke Street, Dublin (from which Gardiner Street church and Belvedere College later developed), and negotiated the purchase of the site of the future Jesuit novitiate at Tullabeg, near Tullamore, King's County (Offaly).

In September 1817 Kenney (whose career was punctuated by lamentations over the burdens of leadership and expressions of desire to devote himself to pastoral work) resigned as rector of Clongowes and superior of the mission. The acceptance of his resignation was encouraged by tensions among the Irish Jesuits, which were aggravated by his frequent absences owing to other commitments. He spent the next year and a half at the Jesuit chapel in Hardwicke Street, adding to his lifelong reputation as a skilled (though perhaps somewhat strict) confessor to all classes of penitents and a leader of retreats.

In April 1819 Kenney was appointed visitor to the North American Jesuits. As a preliminary, he took his four solemn vows as a fully professed Jesuit on 16 June 1819 and sailed on 31 July, thereby avoiding an attempt by the secular clergy of Kerry to secure him for their vacant bishopric. During his first mission to America (September 1819 to August 1820) Kenney reorganised the struggling Jesuit college at Georgetown, and reported on the financial and pastoral problems created by the American Jesuits’ badly managed slave plantations in Maryland. His Irish and continental experience enabled him to mediate effectively between older European-born Jesuits and their native American confreres (who combined ignorance of Europe with pride in republican institutions). Evading efforts to nominate him for the sees of Philadelphia and New York, Kenney returned to Europe in August 1820 to participate in the election of a new Jesuit general and report to the general congregation on the state of the order in America.

Kenney returned to Ireland in 1821 and in 1822 was reappointed to the rectorship of Clongowes and the leadership of the Irish Jesuits (whose status had been raised to that of a vice-province in 1819) [This is incorrect Vice-Province 1830; . In this period he experienced tensions with Bishop James Warren Doyle (qv) on such issues as Jesuit social aspirations and the perceived desertion of parish clergy by penitents seeking lenient Jesuit confessors. He testified before a royal commission on Irish education and advised Edmund Ignatius Rice (qv), Mother Mary Teresa (Frances) Ball (qv), and Mary Aikenhead (qv) on drawing up the constitutions of their nascent religious orders. He later experienced tensions with Aikenhead and Rice over disputes within the Irish Sisters of Charity and the Christian Brothers.

In 1830 Kenney was relieved of his offices at his own request and thereafter the positions of Clongowes rector and vice-provincial were separated. But this respite was brief as he was promptly sent on a second mission to America as temporary Jesuit superior as well as visitor. On this visit, which concluded with his receipt and formal promulgation of the Vatican decree constituting the Maryland Jesuits a full province, covering much of the eastern United States, he implemented further reforms in Georgetown, reclaimed a church formerly run by the Jesuits in Philadelphia, and visited the Jesuit mission in Missouri, which had been founded by Belgian Jesuits in 1823 with the intention of evangelising the indigenous population. In Missouri he greatly raised the standing of the Jesuit college at St Louis, which became the first university west of the Mississippi, and attempted to diminish the harsh discipline exercised by the local superiors. His support for the continuing independence of the Missouri mission from the Maryland province was one of the achievements that mark his two visitations as a watershed in the development of the American Jesuits and, by extension, of the whole catholic church in America. His memory was revered among his American brethren for decades.

After his return to Ireland in September 1833 (having refused the bishopric of Cincinnati on health grounds) Kenney was reappointed vice-provincial in 1834, but stepped down in 1836 as he was no longer able to combine this role with his pastoral duties as superior of the Gardiner Street community, where the Dublin Jesuits had moved when their new church was constructed in the early 1830s; the Hardwicke Street chapel became the site of a school, which later moved to Belvedere House. Kenney remained superior at Gardiner Street until 1840, though he was now suffering from heart problems complicated by asthma, overwork, and obesity. In this period he strongly supported Archbishop Murray's acceptance of the national schools, writing to Rome in rebuttal of the position of Archbishop MacHale (qv).

In 1840 Kenney was relieved of his superiorship, having asked permission to spend some time in southern Italy for the good of his health and to undertake historical research on the history of the Irish Jesuits. He reached Rome in October 1841 but died on 19 November 1841 of a stroke, his condition exacerbated by poor medical treatment; he was buried at the Jesuit church of the Gesù in Rome. Kenney was a significant force in the nineteenth-century revival of institutional Irish catholicism, the key figure in the revival of the Irish Jesuits, and an important presence in the American church; but perhaps his greatest influence was wielded through his labours in pulpit and confessional, which led Archbishop Murray's eulogist to call Kenney ‘the apostle of modern Dublin’.

Louis McRedmond, To the greater glory: a history of the Irish Jesuits (1991); Patrick J. Corish, Maynooth College, 1795–1995 (1995); Thomas Morrissey, As one sent: Peter Kenney SJ 1779–1841, his mission in Ireland and North America (1996); ODNB

◆ Jesuits in Ireland : https://www.jesuit.ie/news/jesuitica-going-multi-denominational/

JESUITICA: Going multi-denominational
In founding Clongowes, Fr Peter Kenney told Sir Robert Peel that he intended to establish a lay school for education of Protestants as well as Catholics. Jesuits had made such moves before. In 1687, with royal sponsorship, they opened a school in the Chancellor’s House in the Royal Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh. It lasted only a year, but its prospectus is an object lesson in the virtues of religious tolerance and educational opportunity. Its book of rules begins with the welcome news that the scholars shall be taught gratis; nor shall they be at any farther charges or expenses than the buying of their own pens, ink, paper and books. The prospectus was copied in founding other Jesuit schools, and remains instructive today. Read more “Although youths of different professions, whether Catholics or Protestants, come to these schools, yet in teaching all, there shall be no distinction made, but all shall be taught with equal diligence and care, and every one shall be promoted according to his deserts. There shall not be, either by masters or scholars, any tampering or meddling to persuade any one from the profession of his own religion; but there shall be all freedom for every one to practise what religion he shall please, and none shall be less esteemed or favoured for being of a different religion from others. None shall upbraid or reproach any one on the account of religion; and when the exercise of religion shall be practised, as hearing Mass, catechising, or preaching, or any other, it shall be lawful for any Protestant, without any molestation or trouble to absent himself from such public exercise, if he please.”
Behind this were agreed moral norms: “All shall be taught to keep God’s Commandments, and therefore none shall be permitted to lie, swear or curse, or talk uncivil discourse. None shall fight or quarrel with one another.”

◆ Irish Province News

Irish Province News 7th Year No 3 1932

Father Peter Kenney Saves the Scholastic Method

On the occasion of the Congregation of 1829 the Fathers had to deal with the question of the direction of studies, and with the means of bringing the old Ratio Studiorum into line with the requirements of modern times. The principal matter under discussion was the use of the scientific method in dealing with sacred studies. The majority, having completed their studies in seminaries or in lay universities, according to the system then in vogue, showed themselves hostile to the “metodo scolastico” and favored the “metodo dissertivo”.
But Father Kenny, a gifted orator, at that time Superior of the Irish mission, addressing the Fathers, made a spirited and vigorous defence of the Scholastic method. He recalled
how deeply the Church and the Society were indebted to it, how the most distinguished men had been trained on that system, and how the enemies of religion had belittled and assailed it precisely because of its force and perfection. He concluded by affirming that by rejecting the Scholastic method they should not have carried out a work of construction but one of destruction.
All were carried away by the eloquent words of Father Kenny so much so that the Congregation declared unanimously that as in the past, the Scholastic method should remain as a sacred patrimony of the Society, and that the questions of “scientist media” and others commonly held by the theologians of the Society, should be considered as anything but useless and obsolete.
It were difficult to describe with what warmth Father Roothan applauded the eloquent words of the orator, He entertained for Father Kenny such affection and gratitude that he declared him to be a signal benefactor of the Society, and attributed to him the merit of having replaced the Society's true method and, true doctrine in its honoured position. He concluded by saying that were it not contrary to the practices of the Society a monument should be erected to him as a mark of that Society's everlasting gratitude.
The above is taken from a “Life of Very Rev. J. Roothan General of the Society”, written in Italian by Father P. Pirri.

◆ James B Stephenson SJ The Irish Jesuits Vol 1 1962

A MODERN APOSTLE OF DUBLIN
FR PETER KENNEY SJ (1779-1841)
Just a hundred years ago, on 19th November 1841, Father Peter Kenney, S.J., the founder of the Irish Province of the restored Society of Jesus, died in Rome. Few men played so large a part in the Catholic Renaissance which marked the opening half of the nineteenth century in Ireland. On his death Dr. Murray, then Archbishop of Dublin, said that Rome alone was worthy to be the scene of Fr. Kenney's death; some ten years later Mgr. Meagher, in a sketch of the dead Archbishop's life, called Fr. Peter Kenney the Apostle of Dublin.(1) To-day, one hundred years after his death, Dublin has forgotten almost all but the name of her great Apostle.

I.
Peter Kenney was born a Dubliner on 7th July, 1779, just six years after the Suppression of the Society of Jesus. Of his early years we have no very full record; he was already a young man of twenty-three when he entered Carlow College to begin his philosophy in 1802. While quite a boy he was apprenticed to a coach-builder and spent his days in the work-shop. Like many another ambitious lad he profited by Dr. Betagh's evening school in Saul's Court, off Fishamble Street, and every evening when his work was done he took his place in the old cellar where Dr. Betagh taught his free school, and where, as Dr. Blake, Bishop of Dromore, tells us “three hundred boys, poor in everything but genius and spirit, receive their education every evening, and where more than 3,000 have been already educated”. Dr. Betagh, carrying on the work of his confrère, Fr. John Austin, S.J., rewarded the more diligent of his pupils with a full classical education ; his school in fact did duty for a Diocesan Seminary for Dublin and Meath, and besides Peter Kenney numbered among its pupils Dr. Murray, Dr. Blake, Mgr. Yore and many others who did so much for the Church in the early nineteenth century.
The future Apostle of Dublin early showed his marked talent for preaching. While still an apprentice he used to treat his fellow-workers to versions of the sermon he had heard the previous Sunday. One day his master entered the work-shop and found young Kenney, mounted on a chair, preaching a sermon to his fellows who were gathered round him. “This will never do”, cried the master in a rage, “idling the apprentices! You'll be sure to be at it again. Walk off now; and never show your face here again”. Thus a sudden end was brought to his youthful apostolate and poor Peter's zeal had lost him his job. Much put out by his dismissal he stayed away from the evening school. But Dr. Betagh soon missed him and decided to find out what had happened to him. He feared that there had been some trouble at home, but when he questioned Peter the young lad admitted that he had been trying to preach to his fellow-workers and had been dismissed for his pains. From that day Peter and Dr. Betagh became fast friends. Realising the great zeal and ability of the boy he decided to give him every chance to become a real preacher, and, perhaps if God willed it, he might yet become a worker for Christ in Dr. Betagh's old Society now slowly rising from the tomb. (2)
In 1802 Dr. Betagh sent him to Carlow College to begin his higher studies. Here his powers as a preacher were more appreciated. It was customary for the students to preach in turn before their professors and companions. Young Kenney was chosen to preach On “The Dignity of the Priesthood” and so well did he grip his audience that at the end of the sermon they greeted him with rounds of applause in which the President joined heartily.
On 20th September 1804, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus at Hodder near Stonyhurst. Of his noviceship we have little record; his future life seems to point to the thoroughness with which he made it. But once again his powers as an orator proved troublesome. On the authority of Fr, Postlewhite, a fellow-novice of his, we know that he was told to leave the refectory pulpit by Fr. Charles Plowden, his novice-master, as the novices were spell-bound by his sermon and listened to him intently at the expense of their dinner. After his noviceship he studied mathematics and natural philosophy at Stonyhurst with much success. His health, however, became poor, and he suffered a great deal from his eyes. His Superiors thought a change of climate would prove beneficial and so he was sent to Palermo in Sicily to read his course in theology.
In Palermo he quickly made his mark; in a letter of the Procurator General of the Society of Jesus to Fr. Plowden he is referred to as “l'incomparabile Kenney” and even in his first year's theology he is said to have spoken “da maestro”. At the end of his course he defended his theology in a public disputation with great distinction. And yet while working at his theology he found time also for apostolic work. Ordained in 1808 he was shortly afterwards appointed chaplain to the British soldiers in Sicily. The Governor of Malta objected to this and asked him to give up his work among the soldiers. Fr. Kenney replied that as he was ordered by his General to act as chaplain he could not abandon his work unless he received a written order from the Governor to do so. As the Governor was determined to force him to give up his ministry he wrote the necessary order forbidding him to act as chaplain to the troops. Later Grattan raised the question at Westminster; the Prime Minister, Perceval, denied that any such order was ever given. Fortunately, however, the document had been preserved and was forwarded to the Prime Minister by Dr. Troy. As a result Catholic soldiers were from that time given liberty of conscience.
Sicily at this period was occupied by British troops who were defending it for the King of Naples against the French who had already driven the King out of his kingdom of Naples. The Pope, Pius VII, was a prisoner of the French in Rome and a daring attempt to free him was determined upon in which Fr. Kenney was invited to play a leading part. He was told by his Superior to be ready to set sail within an hour's time on a British man-of-war, bound for Civita Vecchia. When the frigate, which was commanded by Captain (afterwards Admiral) Cockburn, reached the Papal port Fr. Kenney remained aboard while his companion Fr. Angiolini went on to Rome to propose to the Pope that he should leave Rome, come aboard the man-of War and sail for England where the British Government were willing to put a residence at his disposal until the French were driven out of Rome. However, the Pope preferred to remain with his stricken flock and so the project fell through. Captain Cockburn was charmed with his two Jesuit guests and was afterwards fond of recounting that he alone of His Majesty's Navy could boast of the honour of being ordered to hold himself and his ship at the disposal of two Jesuits with a view of bringing the Pope to England.

II
Dr. Betagh died on the 16th February, 1811; he was the last surviving Irish member of the old Society of Jesus. Towards the close of his life his friends often used to say to him: “Oh! Dr. Betagh, what will become of us all when you go to heaven?” To such questionings Dr. Betagh, it is said, always answered : “No matter; I am old and stupid ; but there is a young cock coming from Sicily that will crow ten times as loudly as ever I could”.
Just ten months after his death in November 1811, Fr. Peter Kenney, accompanied by ty. Dinan and Fr. Gahan, arrived in Dublin from Palermo to prepare the way for the new Irish mission of the restored Society of Jesus. He took a house on George's Hill, beside the Presentation Convent which his old friend and former master in Dr. Betagh's classical Academy, Fr. James Philip Mulcaile S.J., had helped to found ; thus the first Residence of the restored Society was in the middle of St. Michan's parish which had been so faithfully served by the Jesuits of earlier times.
Dr. Betagh had succeeded Fr. Mulcaile as Vicar-General of the Diocese and by his great sanctity, learning and zeal had become one of the greatest figures of the Irish Church. Dr. Troy and his clergy were, therefore, doubly warm in their welcome of Fr. Kenney to whom they looked to carry on the Venerable Betagh's work. On his arrival in Dublin in 1811 Fr. Kenney was a young man of thirty-two. Between 5 foot 7 inches and 5 foot 8 inches in height he looked a good deal taller because of his large build and his majestic bearing. His face was not regular, though some of his features were very fine; his forehead noble, his eyebrows massive, his eyes most brilliant and piercing, though winning, his mouth and the under portion of his face full of strength, it up at times with a sweet smile. Though his limbs were irregularly formed yet few seem to have noticed this so carried away were they by the sweeping effect of his strong personality. Richard Lalor Sheil wrote this description of him ; “His rectilinear forehead is strongly indented, satire sits upon his thin lips, and a livid hue is spread over a quadrangular face the sunken cheeks of which exhibit the united effects of monastic abstinence and meditation”. (3)
Fr. Kenney lost no time in getting to work; preaching, hearing confessions, giving missions, all these he undertook and with great fruit. He was not long in Dublin, however, before the Archbishop, Dr. Troy, and his co-adjutor, Dr. Murray, began to beg of him to take on the Presidency of Maynooth. For many reasons Fr. Kenney was slow to accept this responsible position, in the end he consented to act as Vice-President for one year during which time Dr Murray was to act as President. Writing to the Archbishop in October, 1812, Fr. Kenney pointed out : “Nothing could be more foreign to my intention and to the wishes of my religious brethren than a situation in Maynooth College. I, however, yield to your Grace's desire and opinion that in my actual circumstances, the greater glory of God may be more effectually procured there than in my present situation, Your Grace's anxiety on this head is now removed, since I promise to go for the ensuing year, provided a duty more directly mine does not necessarily call me thence before the expiration of that time. I must, however, earnestly request that if your Grace meet in the interim with a person who would accept the proposed situation I may be allowed to spend in the humble domestic library of George's Hill, not as yet arranged, the hours that I can spare from missionary labours”. (4)
The Archbishop was glad to have Fr. Kenney's services even for a year and he had every reason to be delighted with his prudent and skilful rule which was most fruitful in the fervent spirit of piety and study and in the exact observance of discipline which he instilled into the students. His memory has long been held in grateful and kindly memory in Maynooth where his portrait hangs in the Students' Refectory. Besides his year of office he had frequent contacts with the College in later years giving retreats to the Students and to the Priests from time to time. While Vice-President he proposed points for meditation to the students regularly and these were eagerly copied down and continued to circulate in Maynooth for many years afterwards. I have one copy-book of these meditations before me as I write these lines. Dr. Patrick Murray, the great Maynooth theologian, in some MSS. reminiscences of Fr. Kenney, published after his death, in 1869, states : “The first trace of his (Fr. Kenney's) luminous and powerful mind I saw was in some MSS, meditations which he composed during the short period of his holding the office of Vice-President in Maynooth November, 1812 November, 1813), and copies of which were handed down through some of the College officials. It was in the second or third year of my course (I entered College at the end of August, 1829) that I was fortunate enough to obtain the loan of a copy of some of these meditations - how I now utterly forget. But I remember well that I was quite enchanted with them; they were so different from any thing I had up to that time seen. I transcribed as many of them as I could—they were given me only for a short time-into a blank paper-book which I still have in my possession”. (5)
Fr. Kenney's reluctance to remain longer than a year in Maynooth was due to his anxiety to establish as soon as possible a Jesuit College for boys. The Fathers of the old Society had always believed that the day would come when the Society would once more flourish. To provide for this new dawn they had carefully husbanded the resources of the old mission and these with some legacies and the accumulated interest now amounted to the goodly sum of £32,000. With this capital behind him Fr. Kenney began to look about for a suitable home for his new College. The Jesuit tradition had been to have their schools in the cities or near them, and from this point of view Rathfarnham Castle seemed a good site. However, it was thought that it would be more prudent not to open a Jesuit school so near Dublin Castle. Fr. Kenney wrote to Dr. Plunkett, the Bishop of Meath, about his plans and the difficulties in the way; the following is part of Dr. Plunkett's reply, dated 25th January, 1813 :
"My dear and Rev. Vice-President,
Having been so long honoured with the very obliging letter you were so good as to write to me, I cannot suffer the bearer, Mr. Rourke, who is going to place himself under your care, to withdraw from us without a line of thanks for your late communication. I have been educated in this kingdom by the pious and amiable Mr. Austin. afterwards in a seminary ever attached to your Society, the seminary in Paris which gave you the venerable Mr. Mulcaile. I naturally feel a most sincere desire of seeing your revival commence amongst us in one shape or other, as soon as circumstances will allow. That a combination of such favourable circumstances approaches rather slowly I am not surprised. Few great undertakings advance fast to maturity ; obstacles of various kinds stand in the way. Active zeal is a powerful instrument well calculated to remove them, but must be accompanied with patience, prudence, caution and foresight. Dunboyne Castle, for the reason you mention, cannot be thought of at present; it is perhaps, also, too near Maynooth. Balbriggan, as to situation, would suit you better, not however, without considerable expense. I mean the house at Inch. I saw it some years ago. No striking idea of it remains in my mind. A convenient extensive building would appear there to great advantage. To the price or rent asked for the ground I should not very much object; we pay here higher for chosen spots of land. I should prefer purchasing if it could be done. Building, whatever advantages might attend it, would be tedious. There are in this county a few ancient mansions, some one of which your cordial friend Mr. Grainger, my most excellent neighbour, thinks ere long may be disposed of. It would afford you every thing desirable. Divine Providence is perhaps preparing a place of this sort for you. Your friends in England are, perhaps, waiting to be informed that such a place is attainable. It would, I humbly imagine, be worth waiting for. In the meantime your actual highly respectable occupations do not estrange you from your vocation ; out of your own sphere scarcely could they be more conformable to it. I am inclined to think that the esteem and respect entertained for you in the College, and the reputation you there and throughout the kingdom enjoy, have a closer connection than is apprehended with the designs of the Divine Founder of our holy religion. It has at times occurred to me that the Capital would be the situation most advantageous for your principal residence; because the means of cultivating learning, and kindling the fire of the true religion, which the Saviour of the world came to spread on earth, abound chiefly in great cities. ...” (6)
Towards the close of the same year, Fr. Kenney decided that the Wogan Browne's family seat, Castle Browne, formerly known as Clongowes Wood, would provide a suitable home for the first College of the Society. Details of the purchase were hardly fixed before the alarm that the Jesuits were plotting against the Government went abroad. Fr. Kenney was summoned before Peel, the Chief Secretary for Ireland, to explain his position. Dr. Corcoran, S.J., has printed an account of part of this interview in The Clongowes Record to which we also refer the reader for a full account of the early years of Clongowes, whose history is inseparably linked with that of Fr. Kenney. The following less well-known account of the interview from Lord Colechester's Diary will show how good a match Fr. Kenney was for Peel.
“May 29th, 1814 : Peel called by appointment. Talked over the Church fermentation about Quarantotti's letter and Dr. Kenney's foundation of the school of Clongowes 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 that his vow was simple not solemn. (7) To all questions he generally answered by putting some other question instead of giving an affirmative or negative. He admitted that he was in early expectation of two Jesuits from Sicily, Wolfe and Esmonde, whose fathers and brothers respectively had been hanged in Ireland as traitors, and that he proposed to employ these two men as Professors in the College. (8)
Despite the refusal of the Protestant Bishop of Kildare to grant a licence for the new school and the lively interest of Dublin Castle in all his proceedings, Fr. Kenney opened Clongowes in May, 1814; by December, 1816, there were 200 pupils in the house. Fr. Plowden, S.J., of Stonyhurst wrote in October of that year: “I must tell you that the most heartfelt comfort which I have enjoyed these many years comes from Mr. Simpson's report (which fills Stonyhurst) of the excellent arrangements, order, progress, and success of your new establishment. It shows what one intelligent and active man can achieve”. (9)
The boys in Clongowes both then and later always called him "”he great Kenney”; his Sunday instructions were indescribably impressive, according to some of his pupils; he seems to have been able to grip their attention completely and to have won their confidence as the kindest of fathers. He loved talking to boys and engaging them in discussions. On one occasion probably after his return from America, “he was heard to give a brilliant exposition of the American constitution, which he very much admired, and he unconsciously delivered for twenty minutes before a large company what might be called a masterly statement that would have carried the admiration of any Senate - all were amazed and enchanted”.
Besides being Rector of Clongowes he was also Superior of the Irish Mission. Plans for a Residence in Dublin and for a novitiate occupied his attention but did not prevent him from satisfying the constant demand from Bishops and priests for retreats, missions, sermons and advice. In a short account like this his varied activities can only be barely indicated, but the reader will easily gather from their mere mention how closely Fr. Kenney was bound up with the life and development of the Irish Church. In February, 1815, Mary Aikenhead and her companion Mother Catherine Walsh returned from the Bar Convent in York to begin, under Dr. Murray's direction, the founding of the Irish Sisters of Charity. In all his plans for this new institute Dr. Murray constantly consulted Fr. Kenney, and when in September 1815, he had to return to Rome to give the opinion of the Irish Bishops on the Veto question he entrusted the care of the infant Congregation to Fr. Kenney. In September, 1817, Fr. Kenney preached on the occasion of the first public clothing of novices of the new Congregation; taking as his text the words of St. Paul : Caritas Christi urget nos (2 Cor. 7 v14) - “The Charity of Christ urgeth us”. From that day to this the text of that sermon has been used as the motto of the Irish Sisters of Charity. Later on Fr. Kenney introduced Fr. Robert St. Leger, the first Rector of the College of St. Stanislaus, Tullabeg, to Mother Aikenhead; in Fr. St. Leger, Fr. Kenney gave to the new Congregation a staunch and learned friend, to whom the Sisters owe their Rules and Constitutions which he modelled on those of St. Ignatius. (10)
The only criticism levelled against Fr. Kenney was that he was inclined to take on too much work. And yet in this matter of accepting extra work, though Superior of the Mission, he consulted his brethren. Fr. Aylmer records in his diary : “The letter from Mr. Kenney on the 3rd was to desire the opinions of Frs. Ferley, Butler and Aylmer with regard to his preaching a charity sermon in Cork at the request of the Bishop, Dr. Murphy, and, consequent to his accepting that of Cork, another in Limerick. The two former were of opinion that both ought to be accepted; the latter said that he did not entirely agree with them, because he thought that Fr. Kenney's frequent absence from the College, where he had so often declared that all were too young and not to be depended upon, was highly injurious. As to the propriety of preaching both sermons, Mr. Kenney himself could alone determine, as he alone knew the circumstances and situation of affairs”. (11)
Fr. Kenney seems to have followed Fr. Aylmer's opinion and to have declined the sermons but in so gracious a way as to win this reply from Cork : “Your apology (for not preaching for the Poor Schools) was calculated to produce a different effect from what you intended, for the more the Committee heard of it, the more they seemed eager to hear yourself”. However his over-activity was soon forgiven him for, if we may anticipate a little, Fr. Plowden wrote to him when on visitation in America in 1820 :
“The General, or rather Fr. Rosaven remarks as an inconsistency, that while you governed Clongowes complaints used to arrive of your conduct, and that now all Clongowes re-demands you loudly, as indispensably necessary for the support of the Irish mission”. (12)
Before Fr. Kenney left Ireland to make his first Visitation of the Maryland Mission in July, 1819, he had founded besides Clongowes, the Jesuit Residence attached to Hardwicke St. Church and the College at Tullabeg, but we shall have to reserve details of these foundations for some other occasion.

III
The new Mission in Maryland needed help in its difficult task of reorganisation and Fr. Kenney's great skill as an administrator, coupled with his prudence and discretion, made him ideally suited for the difficult position of Visitor. During the few months he remained in the United States he did excellent work the full fruits of which he was to witness ten years later when Fr. John Roothaan sent him to make a second visitation of the Mission in 1830. Though absent from Ireland for less than a year on this first visitation he was greatly missed. Fr. Plowden writes to him on September 24th, 1819 : “You are much missed and wanted in Ireland. As soon as I heard of your being elected by the diocesan clergy Co-adjutor to Dr. Sughrue (Bishop of Kerry), I wrote to Rome to engage our friends to frustrate the measure by every means in their power. We know now that the Lord Lieutenant has publicly notified that the election of Mr. Kenney to a bishopric is disapproved of by the Government. What a dreadful man you are! It seems your conference with Mr. Peel terrified the Ministers. All this makes me smile....” (13)
But the bishopric of Kerry was not the only honour which Fr. Kenney had to take steps to avoid; later on we shall see how anxious the American bishops were to have him as a confrère. Even now on his first visit to the States many influential people were anxious to keep him there. He wrote to Fr. Aylmer from Georgetown on October 5th, 1819 :
“I arrived at New York on the 9th ult. Matters are not so bad as they were made to appear. The General has been more plagued than he ought to have been.
All parties seem glad that a visitation has been instituted by the General.
I assure you that I have not the least intention or wish that you should take any measure to prevent the success of the Archbishop's efforts. In strict impartiality, after contrasting the wants of this country with my obligations to the Irish Mission, I have resolved to guard cautiously that religious indifference that leaves the subject sicut baculum in manu senis. Were I at my own disposal, I should think it almost a crime to return from any motive of affection or attachment to those comforts and sympathies which I shall never enjoy outside Ireland.
Were a man fit to do no more than catechize the children and slaves he ought to consider his being on the spot, by the will of God, a proof that it is most pleasing to God to remain amongst them, and so sacrifice every gratification under heaven to the existing wants of Catholicity, I shall not even lift my hand to influence the General one way or the other, because I am unwilling and unable to decide between the claims of the Irish Mission and the wants of this, when I am myself the subject of discussion”. (14)
However Ireland was not to be deprived of so valued a son and in the following August (1820) he returned to Dublin. On his arrival he took up duties as Superior of Hardwicke Street; in the next year he was reappointed Superior of the Mission and Rector of Clongowes. His work in Clongowes has been treated of elsewhere, and so here we shall give it scant mention; there were many worrying moments when the old outcry against the Jesuits was raised again, and it took all Fr. Kenney's influence and tact to avert the storm.
It was during this period between his American visitations that Fr. Kenney's greatest work as a preacher was done. On almost every big occasion he was invited to fill the pulpit. Thus he preached the panegyric of Dr. Troy in 1823, the consecration sermon of Dr. Crolly in 1825, the first appeal for the Propagation of the Faith ever preached in Dublin, and the great Jubilee of 1826. Dr. Murray opened the Jubilee on 8th March, 1826, in the new Church of the Immaculate Conception (the Pro Cathedral). Every day for a month Fr. Kenney addressed the faithful with commanding eloquence which achieved the most astonishing conversions. Mgr. Meagher tells us that the confessionals were crowded almost without interruption by unprecedented multitudes. On the first morning of General Communion the Pro-Cathedral presented a spectacle such as Dublin had never before witnessed. The Church was packed to overflowing and every member of the vast congregation received Holy Communion. At the conclusion of the ceremonies Fr. Kenney led the people in a renovation of their Baptismal vows. Beholding the sight that met him as he ascended the pulpit he“burst forth into such strains of jubilation and thanksgiving, as made his overflowing audience almost beside themselves, while with uplifted hands and streaming eyes they literally shouted aloud their eternal renunciation of Satan and his works”. (15)
Dr. Patrick Murray, the Maynooth Professor, has left us his opinions of Fr. Kenney's powers :

“Fr. Kenney aimed not at the ear or the fancy but through the understanding at the heart. Not to steal it; he seized it at once and in his firm grasp held it beating quick in its rapt and willing captivity. ... The only other orator to whom I thought of comparing him was Daniel O'Connell. I recollect that while both were yet living I remarked in a conversation with a very intelligent friend on Fr. Kenney's great powers that he was ‘the O'Connell of the pulpit’. My friend not only agreed with me but expressed his surprise that the resemblance had never occurred to himself. The reason it did not occur to him was, no doubt, that ordinarily men do not think of searching for such comparisons out of the species; but set off pulpit orators against pulpit orators as they set bar orators against bar orators, and parliamentary against parliamentary.
Overwhelming strength and all-subduing pathos were the leading, as they were the common, characteristics of these two extraordinary men. I say nothing of clearness, precision, and those other conditions which must be found in all good composition, whether written or spoken, and especially in oratory addressed to the many; without which all seeming or so-called eloquence is mere hurdy gurdy clattering. Also I say nothing of O'Connell's inimitable and irresistible humour. There are undoubtedly certain occasions on which this talent may be exercised in the pulpit. But Fr. Kenney, if he possessed it, never in the least degree displayed it. I never saw a more serious countenance than his was on every occasion of my hearing him. Not solemn, not severe, but serious and attractively and winningly so. There he stood - or sat as the case might be - as if he had a special commission direct from heaven on the due discharge of which might depend his own salvation and that of every soul present. Indeed so deeply did he seem to be penetrated with the importance of his sacred theme, so entirely did the persuasion of that importance display itself in his whole manner that his discourses appeared to be the simple utterances of what his heart and soul had learned and digested in a long and absorbing meditation before the crucifix. That they were often in fact such utterances I have no doubt whatever ; one instance of this I once, by mere accident, happened to witness with my own eyes.
In another point he also strikingly resembled O'Connell. He never indulged in those poetic flights of mere fancy which delight only or mainly for their own sake. Imagination, of course, he had and of a high order, too; otherwise he could never have been a true orator. But it was imagination subservient not dominant; penetrating the main idea as a kindling spark of life, not glittering idly round about it; the woof interwoven with the warp not the gaudy fringe dangling at the end of the texture. You will find none of these poetic flights to which I allude, in Demosthenes, or Cicero in Chrysostome or Bourdaloue; and where they are found in modern orators of high name they are blemishes not beauties. Of course, too, he had great felicity of diction, which is equally essential - using the very words and phrases which above all others exactly suited the thought and set it off in its best light, so that the substitution of any words would be at once felt as an injury like the touch of an inferior artist covering the delicate lines of a master....
Fr. Kenney, like O'Connell, attained the highest perfection of his art which consists in so appearing that no. one ever dreams of any culture or art having been used at all, according to the hackneyed phrase summae artis autem celare artem. So perfect was O'Connell in this respect that though I heard him very often in the winter of 1837-8 and the following years it never once entered my mind to suspect that he had ever given any great attention to oratory as an art; his delivery always appearing to me spontaneous and unstudied as are the movements and prattle of a child. It was only after his death that I learned from some published memorials of him, and was at the time surprised to learn, that in early life he had taken great pains in forming his manner, and in particular that he had marked and studied with care the tones and modulations of voice for which the younger Pitt was so famous. Fr. Kenney, like O'Connell, hardly used any gestures. His voice was powerful and at the same time pleasing, but I I do not ever remember to have heard from him any of those soft pathetic tones sometimes used by O'Connell which winged his words to the heart and the sound of which even at this distant period still seems to vibrate in my ears.
Fr. Kenney was eminently a theological preacher, and this too without the slightest tinge of that pedantry and affectation always so offensive to good taste, but particularly so in the pulpit. Indeed he was the only preacher I ever heard who possessed the marvellous power of fusing the hardest and most abstruse scholasticisms into forms that.at once imparted to them clearness and simplicity and beauty without in the least degree lessening their weight and dignity.....” (16)

Dr. Murray was not alone in thinking Fr. Kenney an outstanding orator. One old bishop used to recall the over mastering tenderness and vehemence of his apostrophes to the crucifix, which he delivered with streaming eyes on some occasions ; this same bishop declared that his vivid recollection of Fr. Kenney's preaching had made him unable to relish any other preacher however eminent, even Fr. Tom Burke himself. Fr. Aylmer, who was an effective preacher, used to say that his greatest humiliation was to have to preach from the same altar steps from which Fr. Kenney had electrified the congregation on the previous Sunday, So packed was the church when he preached that the congregation overflowed out on to the street; his following numbered all classes. It is said that Grattan used to admire his eloquence greatly and used to attend his sermons at Hardwicke Street.
As this account of Fr. Kenney's career has already grown too long we can make no mention of Fr. Kenney's close connection with the Presentation Convent on George's Hill. We must, however