History of Mungret College


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“On Shannon’s Shore” a history of Mungret parish compiled and researched by John  O’Connor

A PDF of College History.

In 1858 the Commissioners of Education had opened an agricultural college at Mungret. This was largely due to the influence of Thomas Spring Rice, Lord Mounteagle of Bandon, Chancellor of the Exchequer in England and a good Irish landlord. It was built to accommodate seventy to eighty students but never had more than fourteen students and at times as few as four. In 1877 it was decided to close the college.

It was rented by the Bishop of Limerick for his seminarians for the scholastic year of 1880-1881 and was then vacated.

The driving force.

In 1850 a young priest of the Diocese of Dromore , Co Down was received into the order of the Society of Jesus; his name was Fr. William Ronan. Four years later he went to the Crimea as spiritual director to the Irish Sisters of Mercy who were working there as nurses.

On his return to Ireland he gave missions and retreats thoughout Ireland for the next seventeen years, during which time he became aware of the need to provide the means for young men to realise their vocation to the priesthood.

In 1872 he was appointed rector of the church and college at the Crescent in Limerick, a position he was to occupy for the next ten years. He continued to think about the posssibility of setting up a college to provide for those unfulfilled vocations in Ireland. He discovered that a fellow Jesuit in France, in 1865, had started a scheme for the endowment of special colleges in France and Belgium, called apostolic schools, which were supported by benefactors and by the parents of students. He travelled to the Continent to visit these colleges and to seek out an experienced man to take charge of a similar college in Limerick. While staying in a Jesuit house in France , he met Fr Jean Baptiste René, S.J. a member of the community, an English speaker and to the great delight of Fr.Ronan, a former head of the apostolic school at Poitiers. He was also willing to come to Ireland if his Provincial would sanction his departure. With some difficulty this permisssion was obtained and Fr René was in Limerick for the opening of the apostolic school in September 1880. This had eight boys in its first year and by the end of the second year there were twenty eight. Clearly a larger building was required.

Fr Ronan had been considering the former agricultural college at Mungret as an alternative. However the apostolic school alone was not a viable proposition so he persuaded the Bishop of Limerick to send the diocesan seminary back to Mungret. The apostolics moved to Mungret on the 10th of August 1882, and were joined by the seminarians on September 14th of that year. Fr Ronan was the first Rector and Fr René was in charge of the apostolics. So the college started with thirty-two apostolics and thirty-one seminarians.

The Bishop and Lord Emly were trustees of the estate of Lord Dunraven and he had left £2000 to be used for “catholic purposes”. This was given to Fr Ronan for the building of a chapel, on condition that he would match the bequest with a similar amount for college buildings. The architect was instructed to site the church at some distance from the then existing buildings, and to make plans for another building linking the two. With no funds to pay for this and now sixty years of age , he set out for the United States from Cobh on the 21st September 1884 in an attempt to raise funds. He had planned to spend one year, but remained for two years travelling extensively fund and received a mixed reception as he travelled extensively. In his prolonged absence Fr René was appointed Rector, Fr Ronan then returned to take charge of the apostolics.

Shortly after its founding a new Bishop of Limerick decided to house the seminarians in the city where they would be nearer the cathedral. This reduction in numbers was made up by accepting more lay boys. In the course of time the numbers of lay boys considerably exceeded the numbers of apostolics.

The Founding Fathers
Fr William Ronan : Rector
Fr Charles Mc Kenna (1836-1910)
Fr William Sutton (1847-1922)
Fr Maurice Woulfe
Fr Thomas Head
Fr Patrick Hughes
Fr Jean Baptiste René
M. Joseph de Maistre
Abbé l’Héritier

The French connection 
For the first six years of the college a considerable number of the the members of the community were French :
Pères Eugène Carré, Octave de Bénázé, Joseph Rousseau, Jean Aubier, Jacques Daniel and the scholastics Felix Perrin, Sylvain Allenou, Marc Barthélemy

The Pride of Lord Emly
In his speech at the conferring of degrees in Earlfort Terrace, Dublin in the autumn of 1888 Lord Emly said “ A new college that I happen to take a particular interest in has been founded at Mungret. . . .and is , I believe , the only Catholic college outside Dublin which confines itself altogether to university education. It has magnificent buildings, ample lecture halls, and one of the most beautiful chapels in Ireland. At our last examination the distinguished success of of its students showed how admirable its teaching must be.”

The Begrudgers
Not everyone at that time held the hard working Jesuits in the same high esteem. Mungret benefited from public funds by way of a small annuity for the former Agricultural College , which had been made over to the Jesuits. Anthony Traill, a future Provost of Trinity College and a member of the Educational Endowments Comission which oversaw the endowment for Mungret, referred darkly to “ a valuable piece of public property left in the possession of an illegal body of men who had been turned out of almost every Roman Catholic country in Europe. Many of these at the time were French refugees ”


Fr Senan Timoney SJ in his Headmaster’s Address which is published in full in the 1974 Final Mungret Annual, said the following “ Perhaps I am fortunate, but I have not yet come across a disgruntled past Mungret boy. The smile of recognition and the hand of friendship always seem to be there” and he continues “ I have not the slightest doubt of the educational apostolate of the Jesuit. This is because I believe intensely, as I think every Christian must, in the value of the human person, who must learn so to pass through the good things of time that he does not lose the things of eternity. The spiritual, the cultural,the academic, the sporting must all be synthesised so that the the growth in Christ which was fostered during the five years spent in Mungret as a boy may continue throughout a man’s life”.

At the concluding paragraph, he said the following, “ There are no short-term quick results in true education and so Mungret will continue to live, as long as a Mungret man lives who tries with God’s grace to be true to the principles inculcated there right through the years from 1882 down to 1974”

Further information
The Final Mungret Annual of 1974 , and all the Annuals published in Mungret are available for inspection at the reading room of the National Library, (beside Dáil Éireann), Kildare Street, Dublin . Visitors may also have selected excerpts photo-copied from the annuals at the Library.