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Forming Catholic Communities

Irish, Scots and English College Networks in Europe, 1568–1918

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Edited by Liam Chambers and Thomas O'Connor

Forming Catholic Communities assesses the histories of Irish, English and Scots colleges established abroad in the early-modern period for Catholic students. The contributions provide a co-ordinated series of case studies which reflect the most up-to-date research on the colleges. The essays address interactions with European states, international networking, educational frameworks, financial challenges, print culture and institutional survival into the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. From these essays, the colleges emerge as unexpectedly complex institutions. With their financial, pastoral, and intellectual networks, they provided an educational infrastructure that, whatever its short-comings, remained crucial to the domestic and international communities they served during more than two centuries.
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Thomas O’Connor

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Due to labour shortages in key areas, early-modern Spain frequently employed foreigners to provide missionary and military manpower, administrative personnel, and technical expertise. Like their Flemish, English, and French contemporaries, Irish Catholics served Spain as priests, soldiers, bureaucrats, and operatives. The Irish colleges functioned as elements of these service networks, although this aspect of their activity remains relatively obscure. In part, this is because the colleges and their students are usually viewed in the context either of Spain’s international Catholic commitments and its geopolitical strategy or from the vantage of the Irish mission. Yet service to Spain and to the Spanish monarchy was also an important function of the collegial network and one that was not at odds with but rather complementary to its better known mission to the Irish church. Spanish support of the colleges, in fact, appears to have been at least tacitly predicated on Irish readiness to serve in the diverse religious missions of the Habsburg and Bourbon monarchies. Over time, this arrangement adapted to Spain’s changing needs and to the exigencies of the Irish mission. By the end of the eighteenth century, however, this largely complementary arrangement began to come under strain as Irish bishops sought more control over the formation and placement of clerical students trained overseas.


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Marc Caball

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It is argued in this essay that the Gaelic print initiative at the Irish Franciscan college at Louvain was a critical factor in the construction and articulation of a seamless Gaelic Irish and Catholic identity in the early decades of the seventeenth century. In contrast, the publication of a Protestant Gaelic translation of the New Testament in Dublin in 1602 was considerably less successful in its putative cultural legitimation of the established church’s status and role in Gaelic Ireland. It is suggested that a former Gaelic praise poet and Franciscan friar at Louvain, Bonaventura Ó hEódhusa, was especially influential in the deployment of cultural tradition and print technology to promulgate a potent amalgam of faith and cultural identity whose ideological resonances have endured over ensuing centuries.


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Liam Chambers

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The closure of the Irish, English, and Scots colleges in France in the early 1790s disrupted ancien régime patterns of student mobility from Britain and Ireland to the Continent and encouraged the development of alternative educational provision for Catholics at home. As this essay shows, however, Irish, English, and Scottish Catholics regained access to the infrastructure and investments created over earlier centuries. Under the Empire, they were united into the ‘British Establishments’ which re-opened the Irish college in Paris in 1805. This article addresses the conflict which ensued during the Restoration period as competing interests in France, Britain, and Ireland struggled for control of what remained of the colleges and their finances. The essay argues that Paul Long, a Dublin priest sent to Paris by the Irish bishops in 1814, played a key role in asserting their claims over the Irish college. The essay traces the means by which Irish, English, and Scottish Catholic interests assumed control of infrastructure (at least in the Irish case) and finances during the Restoration period by drawing on a wealth of new archival material.


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Iida Saarinen

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From 1818 onwards, the Scottish Mission sent a large number of seminarians to complete their studies not in dedicated Scots colleges on the Continent, but in various non-Scottish establishments on French soil. There were certain benefits in training Scots missionary priests in France, with its offer of cosmopolitanism and a high-quality Sulpician education. However, France also had a reputation for exposing Scottish seminarians to unwelcome ideas. This essay investigates aspects of the study experience of France-trained Scottish seminarians, pursuing their studies in the politically tumultuous nineteenth century immersed in a foreign national and ecclesiastical culture. By looking at correspondence from the Scottish Catholic Archives as well as priestly obituaries, it investigates the potential effects of France-based study with its distinctive features, namely Sulpician ideals of priesthood and French Gallicanism. The essay will discuss how far the seminary walls were penetrated by political ideas from the surrounding society and ask what the trouble with France was by addressing the peculiarities of the experience and attempting to establish whether some unwanted ideas might have accompanied students back to Scotland. 


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Justin Dolan Stover

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The French Third Republic transformed numerous aspects of civil and religious life throughout France. Perhaps most fundamental was the relationship between church and state, which was changed in various ways, notably in the areas of education and bureaucracy. In many ways, the experience of the Irish college in Paris, which was broadly reflective of France and French society during this period of war, social unrest, and national transformation, provides a valuable insight into the nature and extent of these changes. Between 1870 and 1918, the college, a small seminary situated within the Latin Quarter of the fifth arrondissement, underwent enforced modernisation, a process complicated by friction between college administrators and Irish bishops over appointments, finances, and student admission. Particularly significant was the administrative reformation of the institution in the wake of the foundation of the Third Republic. 
A shift in management from one man, a French representative appointed by the Archbishop of Paris, to the Bureau gratuit, a collective of French interior managers and ecclesiastics, allowed the college to survive as a distinct Irish institution. The Great War also impacted the Irish college. With its students absent between 1914 and 1918, it served as a refuge for displaced nuns and local Parisians. It fell within range of German artillery during the 1918 spring offensive, but escaped total destruction, as it had in 1871. This chapter details the administrative, financial, educational and, at times, military aspects of the Irish college, Paris, during this turbulent and formative period.


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Mícheál Mac Craith

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Given the persecution of their members and the destruction of their houses during the Elizabethan conquest, the Irish Franciscans had little option but to found colleges on the Continent to ensure the survival of the province. The recently founded Capuchin order, on the other hand, had to found its Irish mission on the Continent, before ever gaining a foothold in Ireland. Insomuch as the Capuchins were a reform movement that had broken away from the Franciscans, both orders viewed one another with suspicion. Furthermore, the Capuchin higher authorities were initially reluctant to initiate a mission in a country where essential external elements of the reform, such as wearing the habit and the non-use of money, could not be practised. Moreover, Francis Nugent, founder of the Irish Capuchins, was a committed Francophile, something that set him at loggerheads with the Irish Franciscans and their philo-hispanic tendencies. The continental colleges of both the Irish Franciscans and the Irish Capuchins succeeded admirably in their primary aim of training young religious for the Irish mission. It should not be forgotten, however, that this role was played out against a background both of the mutual suspicion between the two orders, and the rivalry between France and Spain as both states vied with the other to become the leading Catholic power in Europe.


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Declan M. Downey

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The Spanish and Austrian Habsburgs were key to the foundation and maintenance of the network of Irish Catholic colleges established in their territories from the late sixteenth century. This essay explores how their support of the Irish colleges expressed the Habsburgs’ strategic aim on both the political and the cultural fronts. Comparisons are drawn with the English and Dutch collegial networks established at the same time. The histories of the individual colleges are followed to the middle of the seventeenth century, when Habsburg dominance of the Irish network began to weaken in the face of French competition.


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Jan Graffius

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This chapter provides a rare insight into everyday life in an early modern overseas collegial institution. It focuses on the purpose and daily operations of the English Jesuit college of St Omers, founded in 1593, now located at Stonyhurst in Lancashire, England.Through surviving documentation, including the extraordinary ‘Custom Book of 
St Omers’ penned by the college’s third rector, Gilles Schondonck, it explores how the rule book structured the lives of collegians and expressed the primary function of the institution. Specifically, it places the Customs Book in the context of the St Omers’ sodality, whose declared mission was the reconversion of England to Catholicism. The Customs Book emerges as a contemporary testament of spiritual and cultural identity tailored for an early modern educational institution dating from 1599 to c. 1650. It is one of the earliest surviving responses to the comprehensive Jesuit system of education, the Ratio Studiorum, published in January 1599. Elements of the Customs Book have, before now, appeared in the work of Hubert Chadwick, Joseph McCabe, and Maurice Whitehead but it has not yet been examined as a complete document. This paper seeks to assess the manuscript in the light of its significance as a manual of operations for English Jesuit collegiate education and for the spiritual and cultural formation of a community in exile.


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Frédéric Richard-Maupillier

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The role of the English colleges and religious communities in Flanders for secondary education is already well known. This essay examines an under-researched example further to the east. From the installation of the English Benedictine monks in Dieulouard in 1608, the monastery housed and ran a school. The Thirty Years War reduced the number of students but the eighteenth century marked a new beginning. The development of the school obliged the monks to erect new buildings and also to face the challenges of maintaining an English environment and identity in a foreign place. These challenges were negotiated with relative success, especially in the eighteenth century. In 1779, a college was created in the monastery of Dieulouard, enabling boys to continue their studies in the same location, without going to Douai. Its students were drawn mainly from England, particularly from Lancaster recusant families. The absence of an important English community in Lorraine helps explain the low number of Jacobite students in Dieulouard. Only half of the students became novices in Dieulouard, Paris, or Douai. The other half returned to England. For some former students, Dieulouard could be considered as the first step of the Grand Tour. Until 1793, Dieulouard contributed to the intellectual and religious training of several generations of English students. The article argues that the school was an important source of income for the monks, but also illustrates that it maintained the link, across the English Channel, between the exiled religious communities and England. Missions established in England by Dieulouard facilitated relations among Catholics families and was important, in this way too, for the maintenance in England of a Catholic identity. The archives of Dieulouard, particularly the personal notebooks written during missions, demonstrate the influence and prestige of the Benedictine in English society, both Catholic and Protestant. To a great extent the history of Dieulouard is that of English recusancy.