Born: 1556, Clonmel, County Tipperary
Entered: 11 June 1593, Villagarcía, Galicia, Spain - Castellanae Province (CAST)
Ordained: pre Entry Valladolid, Spain
Died: 07 May 1622, Irish College, Santiago de Compostela, Spain - Castellanae Province (CAST)
Older Brother of Stephen - RIP 1647; Uncle of Peter White - RIP 1678; Cousin of William White - RIP 1625
Brother was Mayor of Clonmel
Before he entered he was Rector of Irish Seminary (Salamanca??). Salamanca SAT 1592 “Este Padre es Irlandes y està fuera “T or Y”)??) no se sabe lo particular del” C 08/09/1601
Studied 3 years Casus.
1606 Age 50 Soc 12 - was 9 years Rector of Irish Seminary Salamanca. Helps in Irish, English and Scotch business
1617 Ib CAST Age 60 Soc 24
His portrait is at Irish College Salamanca
In Irish Ecclesiastical Record 1922 pp578-597 there is an article on Fr Thomas White and the Irish College Salamanca. It appears to contain some first hand information and would be read to advantage by anyone wishing to give a life of him (JPR)
◆ Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronolgica” :
First Rector Irish College Lisbon 1593
With William White and Richard Conway he took possession of Santiago, Compostella (cf IER September 1874)
Mentioned honourably in a letter of Henry Fitzsimon 26 October 1611 (Irish Ecclesiastical Record March 1873)
Founder of Irish College Salamanca 1592, which was the first, or one of the first establishments the Irish Catholics obtained on the Continent after the Reformation
Juvencius (“Hist SJ” xiii p215) says he was an elderly secular priest at the time, and that he entered the Society, after putting the College (Salamanca) under the charge of our Fathers, under whose charge it remained until 1762 (expulsion of Jesuits from Spain). He was a man of great piety and zeal, and a great pillar of the Irish Church.
(cf his life by William McDonald DD in IER 1873)
Note from Bl Dominic Collins Entry
About a year after he arrived in Spain, he met Fr Thomas White, Rector of Salamanca, and by his advice entered the Society. Two of his fellow novices were Richard Walsh and John Lee
◆ Fr Francis Finegan SJ :
Priestly education seems to have been provided mostly by an unknown Bishop uncle at Santiago and otherwise at Valladolid (according to Luis de Valdivia who wrote his obituary).
What seems certain is that members of White's family had settled in or near Santiago, e.g. Baiona. The year of Thomas's ordination cannot be determined but if we can trust all the details in the obituary notice it was the Bishop uncle who Ordained him. It was at Valladolid that White first conceived the idea of organising a regime of life for wandering Irish scholars who wished to study for the priesthood. But it was at Salamanca 22 August 1592 that his work was placed on a permanent basis by the generous foundation effected by the King of Spain. All this before Ent 11 June 1593 Villagarcía.
After First Vows the whole of his life as a Jesuit was to be devoted to the education of Priests for Ireland.
1596-1603 First Rector Irish College Salamanca
1604 He visited the General at Rome to discuss the future of Salamanca and ways and means of promoting the Jesuit mission in Ireland. It seems he also visited Ireland that year but his stay cannot have been for more than a few weeks
1606-1608 Rector Irish College Lisbon
1612 Acting Superior at Santiago
1619 Acting Superior at Santiago until his death there 07 May 1622
The foregoing summary of his periods of offices seems almost to indicate periods of enforced leisure after his extensive journeyings in quest of alms for the support of his students or for that matter of any needy Irish student who wished to pursue his Priestly studies. His success as an organiser was known to Dr. Christopher Cusack who repeatedly asked the General to send White to help him with his own work for Irish seminarians in Belgium.
◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
by Terry Clavin
White, Thomas (1556–1622), Jesuit and founder of Irish colleges in Europe, was the son of Pierce White of Clonmel and was born into one of the most staunchly catholic families in Ireland. A younger brother Stephen (qv) was a celebrated Jesuit antiquarian. His uncle Peter ran a famous catholic school in Waterford, where Thomas White was probably first taught. By 1582 he was studying theology in Valladolid and in 1593 he became a Jesuit. The city had a small community of Irish scholars at the time, most of whom were in great want. White took them into his house, providing for them out of his own resources. In the summer of 1592 he brought the students before King Phillip II at the royal villa of St Laurence; the king granted them some money. However, White sought another audience with the king, petitioning that he endow the Irish with a college. On 2 August 1592 the first Irish college on the continent was established at Salamanca, with White as its vice-rector and spiritual director.
Thereafter White dedicated himself to organising and furthering Irish academic life in Spanish territory, being also greatly pre-occupied with the Irish colleges founded in Lisbon, Santiago and Seville, acting as rector for the latter two. His stewardship of the college in Salamanca provoked controversy in May 1602 when ‘Red’ Hugh O’Donnell (qv) and Florence Conroy (qv) petitioned on behalf of the provinces of Ulster and Connaught against him. The northerners won out and in 1605 a Spanish superior was appointed. But the new system was not a success and in 1613 White was reinstated as head of the college. Although he never returned to Ireland, he received a steady stream of reports from missionaries there, many of whom were educated in his colleges, who constantly drew attention to the persecution of Irish catholics. He died 28 May 1622 at Santiago.
John Coppinger, Mnemosynion to the catholics of Ireland (1608); Edmund Hogan, Distinguished Irishmen of the 17th century (1894), 48–70; Patrick Power, Waterford and Lismore (1937), 25; T. Corcoran, ‘Early Irish Jesuit educators’, Studies, xxix (1940), 545–60; William Burke, History of Clonmel (1983 ed.), 464–9
Note from Paul Sherlock (Sherlog) Entry
Like many of his contemporaries, he left Ireland for Spain, aged 16, to study at the Jesuit-run Irish College at Salamanca. He landed in Bilbao in May 1612 and reached Salamanca at the beginning of July. Together with Thomas Vitus (Wyse), a fellow-student from Waterford, he was admitted to the Society of Jesus at Salamanca on 30 September 1612
Note from Bl Dominic Collins Entry
He moved to Spain, where he met an Irish Jesuit, Fr Thomas White (qv), at Corunna and, experiencing a change of heart of truly Ignatian proportions, he applied to enter the Society of Jesus. Due to his age and previous career, he was initially refused but was finally accepted as a brother-novice at the Jesuit College at Santiago de Compostela in late 1598
◆ James B Stephenson SJ The Irish Jesuits Vol 1I 1962
EARLY IRISH JESUIT EDUCATORS
Thomas White of Clonmel (1556-1622)
The outstanding figure in the constructive work for Irish Education, done by Irish Jesuits within the century 1540-1640 either within Ireland or abroad, was that of Father Thomas White of Clonmel. The two historians of his birthplace and of his diocese, Canon William Burke (History of Clonmel, 1907, pages 457-469) and Canon Patrick Power (Waterford and Lismore, 1937, page 24), following up the researches of Dr Edmond Hogan SJ, agree in giving the year of Thomas White's birth as 1556, the year of the death of St. Ignatius of Loyola. They also concur in stating that Thomas White and the more celebrated Father Stephen White SJ, (born 1574) were brothers, sons of Pierce White and brothers of James White, Vicar-Apostolic of Waterford; another brother, chief magistrate of Clonmel, was deposed from that civil office in 1606 as being a recusant Catholic. Near relatives, Patrick and Nicholas White, were heavily fined in Castle Chamber, at Dublin Castle, for refusal to attend Anglican services. In the entry lists (1601 1619) of the Irish College, Salamanca, more than one White is set down as a Waterford diocese student, coming from the school of Master John Flahy, who sent some fourteen students to the University of Salamanca in those years. In 1608 John Coppinger (Mnemosynion to the Catholics of Ireland) tells of how Father Thomas White, a Jesuit since 1593, devoted himself to the most practical academic service of organising Irish student life at Valladolid, Salamanca, Lisbon, Seville, and St. James of Compostella.
Was it not great charitie of Father Thomas White, naturall of Clonmel, seeing so many poor scholars of his nation in great miserie at Valladolid, having no means to continue their studie nor language to begge, having given over his private commoditie, did remcollect and reduce them to one place, which he maintained by his industrie and begging ?
Thomas White, as Canon Burke notes, was at Valladolid by 1582. Having in the summer of 1592 presented his assembled students to King Philip II at his Royal Villa of St. Laurence beside the city, he got from the King a large initial sum for housing, an annual grant for maintenance, and this Royal letter :
To the Rector, the Masters, and the Members of the University of Salamanca.
The young Irishmen who have been forming a kind of community in the city of Valladolid have decided to go to your city, in order to avail of the advantages there placed at their service for progress in Letters and Languages. A house has been prepared for them, in which they purpose to live under the direction of the Jesuit Fathers.
Besides providing for them a substantial annual grant, I desire them to deliver to you this letter, to charge you, as I now hereby do, to regard them as highly recommended to you. Favour and assist them to the utmost of your power. They have left their own country and all dear to them there for the service of God our Lord and for the preservation of the Catholic Faith; they declare their determination to return there to preach it and, if need be, to suffer martyrdom for it. They are to have in your University the good reception that they promise themselves. I am certain that you will see to this being done. With your aid and with what I feel sure of from the City of Salamanca (to which also I now write), these young Irishmen will be enabled to pursue their studies in content and freedom, and so will give full effect to their purpose.
Given at Valladolid, this second day of August 1592
Yo el Rey
Hieronimo de Cassell
Over the following thirty years (1592-1622) Thomas White laboured indefatigably at this great Catholic and national service. He was thus the initiator of the Irish Colleges in Spain, rapidly succeeded by those of France, Italy, Flanders, Bohemia. Always associated with the great Catholic Universities, they secured for our students, that fine university training, general and professional, which easily enabled them to outrank over all Europe, as at Paris, Louvain, Salamanca, Prague, the work essayed at the decadent Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and other heretical centres. The prestige thus everywhere achieved for Catholic Irish students, both in academic training and office, as well as through published works, on the lines initiated and on the foundations well laid by Thomas White or Clonmel and his Irish collaborators in Spain, was expanded and enhanced down to the destructive years of the French Revolution. Fr White's death at Santiago, on 28 May 1622, was thus most fittingly recorded by a Spanish pen “
This day, Sunday, at seven in the morning, Our Lord called to the reward of his labours and merits Father Thomas White. He died of fever, at the age of sixty-four and in the thirty-fourth year of his religious life. During that period he had worked with apostolic spirit in the service of God and of the Catholic faith, which, through the means of the Colleges which he had founded in Spain, has been preserved in Ireland. His life and virtues, so well known in the Society of Jesus, cannot receive full justice in this brief letter, His thoughts and desires were all for the glory of God and for the progress of the Colleges for which he toiled unceasingly. On the road and in the duties of an external character on which he was almost constantly engaged, Father White was a singularly recollected man, assiduous in prayer and meditation. Always resigned to the will of God, he never asked Him for anything (so he said shortly before his death) which was not accorded to him. God always blessed his petitions by moving the minds of Chapters, Prelates, and Princes with whom he was brought into contact to aid his work by their alms and gifts; they knew him well for a man of great zeal and rare virtue. He practised great mortification, and even in advanced years kept in use every day the hair shirt and discipline.
He was most simple both in dress and in manner; his usual food every day was a little bread and cheese, which he ate while journeying along the roads. To the lay fold whom he met he gave great edification; to his students he was a living model of piety. Through his efforts many religious institutes were filled with excellent members, and his native country received many holy priests and bishops, who acknowledge that under God they owe everything to Thomas White.
In his last illness he gave great evidence of the holiness of his life; and though death came unexpectedly while he was still organising this College of Santiago, he made very perfect acts of
conformity to God's will, bewailing his not having served Him more fervently. In the fifteen days of his illness he received Holy Communion three times and had Extreme Unction in good time. As we closed the commendation of his soul to God, he peacefully breathed his. last; his countenance retained all the appearance of life, All this gives us a special pledge of heaven; but we are greatly grieved for the loss to the Colleges of this Father, the Protector of his country. His death has caused a profound sensation in this City, where it is deeply lamented.
Father White's opening period of work for the new Irish College at Salamanca extended almost continuously from 1594 to 1605; it was often varied by his apostolic questings, described in this letter of Father de Castro SJ, composed and despatched from Santiago de Compostella on the very day of his holy and happy death. He was again Rector at Salamanca from 1617, and was constantly concerned with the sister Irish foundations : Lisbon stabilised by 1593, Santiago founded in 1612, Séville founded 1619. Midway in those three decades of unremitting toil, King Philip III had given its full formal rank as a foundation of the Spanish Crown to the “Royal College of Irish Nobles” (El Real Colegio de Nobles Irlandeses), the title borne to this day by this ancient and most fruitful foundation for our race and faith.
Timothy Corcoran SJ
◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973
Father Thomas White 1558-1622
Fr Thomas White was born in 1558 of a family in Clonmel which gave many priests to the Church. His brother James was Vicar-Apostolic of Waterford, and another brother was the famous Fr Stephen White SJ. Thomas entered the Society when already a priest at 30 years of age.
His name should ever be held in benediction, for it was he who first started the idea of founding Colleges for the Irish on the Continent. In this way, he was instrumental in founding Valladolid, Salamanca, Lisbon, Seville and Santiago. It was he too who petitioned the General to establish the office of Procurator General for the Irish Mission, which post Fr James Archer was first to fill.
Fr Thomas died on Sunday May 28th 1622, 64 years of age after 34 spent as a Jesuit. In his obituary by Fr de Castro we read : “we are left overwhelmed with grief for what all the Colleges have lost in this Father and Protector of his country, and his death has created a profound sensation in this seminary and city, where it is bewailed with tears.
◆ George Oliver Towards Illustrating the Biography of the Scotch, English and Irish Members SJ
WHITE, THOMAS.The only occasion that I find this Father mentioned is in a letter of the 22nd of August, 1607. He was then in Spain, with F. James Archer. I cross him again six weeks later. F. Fitzsimon, in the Preface to his Treatise on the Mass, printed in 1611, mentions him.