Category Archives: Missionaries
TG4 has been showing an interesting four-part series on Irish missionaries — Misinéirí Radacacha (Radical Missionaries). Fr Séan Coyle appears in the third episode, which focuses on the work of Irish missionaries in the Philippines during the Marcos dictatorship — to view go here, click on ‘Documentaries’ on the right-hand side (under ‘Archive’) and scroll down to the Misinéirí Radacacha episode dated 19.09.11. (The second and fourth episodes are also still available to view.)
The following letter from the Most Rev. John Charles McQuaid, Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland, was read out in all the churches of the Archdiocese of Dublin on Sunday, July 9th, 1961:
Very Reverend and Dear Father,
I wish to thank you for your share in the success of the Dublin Congress of the Patrician Year. I am grateful for the spiritual preparation that you organised in your parish.
It is a duty, but very much more a privilege, to thank the Faithful for their most generous co-operation. The very great numbers of those who went to Confession and received Holy Communion are an immediate proof of the Faith with which our appeal was answered. The marked place in the Congress taken by young persons, boys and girls, is to me perhaps the most consoling feature of all the week, for where the youth are interested, the future is secure.
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Cardinal D’Alton enters Croke Park on the final day of the Dublin Congress, 25th June, 1961
The following letter from Cardinal John D’Alton, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, was read out in all the churches of the Archdiocese of Armagh on Sunday, 12th March, 1961:
In a few days time Ireland will begin the solemn commemoration of the fifteenth centenary of the death of St. Patrick. Here in St. Patrick’s own city of Armagh the Irish people, represented by dignitaries from the four provinces of the land, will give thanks to God for the Saint who came to us over fifteen hundred years ago and brought us the gift ‘more precious than gold,’ of the Catholic faith. On that day too, Ireland will be joined by Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops from all over the world who are coming to share our joy and to unite with the Irish people in giving thanks to God for all that He has done for Ireland through Saint Patrick and for the Church through Ireland.
Above all, the occasion will be crowned with the presence of the special Legate, His Eminence Cardinal McIntyre, whom our beloved Holy Father is graciously sending to us to preside, in his name, over the solemn ceremonies. The successor of Pope Celestine who, over fifteen hundred years ago, sent his missionary to pagan Ireland, to-day sends his own Legatus a latere to an Ireland which has remained faithful through the centuries to the words of her great Apostle: ut Christiani ita et Romani sitis.
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The Irish bishops resolved to send two letters to counterparts abroad during their October meeting in 1937 at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth. One was a Reply to the Spanish bishops concerning their Letter on the Civil War in Spain (incidentally today is the 75th anniversary of that War’s outbreak), and another letter, appended below, to the bishops of the Church of New Zealand — one of the farthest-flung outposts of the massive ecclesiastical empire that was then Irish Catholicism.
At that time Catholicism was a very important factor in how the Irish seen themselves. Just as in the other traditionally White Anglo-Saxon Protestant countries (USA, Australia, Canada, Great Britain) Irish Catholic immigrants and their descendants in New Zealand faced considerable ethnic and religious discrimination. This, along with the Church’s extensive educational and social infrastructure, helped keep intact a cohesive Irish Catholic community, often maintaining a very distinct communal identity and cherishing its ties to the motherland. This is reflected in the mother-daughter style language of the letter and the response. (The recipient of the letter, Most Rev. James Liston, Bishop of Auckland, was himself a son of Irish Catholic immigrants and had given a controversial speech in 1922 on the Irish political situation, which caused uproar among New Zealand’s ferociously imperialist British Protestant population and provoked William Massey’s government to prosecute him for ‘seditious utterances’.)
We, the Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All-Ireland, and the other Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland assembled at our annual October meeting in Maynooth College, offer to your Excellency and to the Archbishop and other Bishops of New Zealand our felicitations and affectionate greetings on the occasion of the commemoration of the Centenary of the Church in New Zealand, and we thank you for your kind invitation to us to participate in the celebrations with which you intend to commemorate the first Centenary of the Church in your country.
This, indeed, is for you an occasion for much thankfulness, great joy and legitimate pride. One hundred years ago the faithful numbered but a very few scattered throughout your land; New Zealand was without her priesthood. To-day New Zealand has her Hierarchy, her very efficient and zealous clergy, her many flourishing Religious Communities of men and women, her well-equipped Catholic colleges and schools, her numerous well-instructed and faithful laity.
Greatly may you rejoice in the extraordinary changes brought about in this comparatively short period. Justly may you feel proud of the many labours and triumphs of that time, and especially those wrought by pioneers of Catholicity in your land.
As a mother participating in the triumphs of her children, we unite with you wholeheartedly in your rejoicings; for truly can it be said that the Church in New Zealand was begotten and nurtured by Irish faith and Irish missionary zeal. Our ancestors carried the faith first given them by St. Patrick to many parts of Europe, to England, Scotland, North America, Australia and New Zealand.
There are many epic tales of their self-sacrifice, their labours, their sufferings and their achievements in the cause of Christ; but we do not know any story that is more appealing or which better illustrates the marvelous fidelity and virtue of the Irish Catholic laity than that of Thomas Poynton and his heroic wife.
As your Excellency is aware, we in Ireland, quite recently celebrated a Centenary — the fifteenth Centenary — of the Catholic Church in Ireland. The success of our celebrations, in point of external manifestation, is a matter of world-wide knowledge. Less widely known, though more important, are the wonderful changes which these celebrations have wrought in the lives of many individuals and the lasting increase in knowledge and love of the Sacrament and Sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist which they have effected amongst our people. That your celebrations may be similarly successful is our ardent wish and prayer.
His Grace of Tuam, Most Rev. Dr. Gilmartin, has consented to act as our representative and to take part with you personally in the celebration. Those of us who cannot be present in person will be with you in spirit during those great days, and we will invite our people to join with yours in imploring God to grant still more abundant graces to the Church in New Zealand.
With respectful good wishes to your Excellency and to the Archbishop and other Bishops, we remain, on behalf of the Irish Bishops,
Yours very sincerely in Christ,
+JOSEPH CARDINAL MACRORY,
The following reply on behalf of the Bishops of New Zealand was sent to Cardinal Joseph MacRory, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland:
The gracious letter that you have sent to the Archbishops and Bishops of New Zealand for our Centenary in the name of the Hierarchy of Ireland touches us deeply, and when it is made known to our people we are sure it will go straight to their hearts. We unite in offering this expression of our gratitude ex imo corde to Your Eminence and to the Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland for your letter, your sharing in our joy, and the gift of your prayers.
In a very special way do we thank you all for the signal honour you are showing in asking His Grace the Archbishop of Tuam to be personal representative of our Mother Church. That favour and his presence will crown our joy.
With profound respect to Your Eminence, and cordial greetings to the Archbishops and Bishops, I am,
Yours sincerely in Christ,
+JAMES M. LISTON,
Bishop of Auckland.
The Irish hierarchy issued the following statement in 1960 at their October meeting in St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth:
The Hierarchy propose to celebrate in 1961 the fifteenth centenary of the death of Saint Patrick, the most commonly accepted date for the death of the Saint being 461 A.D. The opening ceremony is planned for St. Patrick’s Day in the Primatial City of Armagh, so closely associated in Irish tradition with the life and work of our National Apostle. The ceremony will be followed, it is hoped, by other celebrations arranged by direction of the local Ordinaries, in places particularly associated with St. Patrick, such as the holy mount of Croagh Patrick, or noted as centres of especial devotion to the Saint, such as St. Patrick’s Purgatory, Lough Derg.
Eminent dignitaries from abroad, especially from dioceses or institutions under the patronage of St. Patrick, will be invited to participate in the national celebrations. Invitations will be extended also to representatives of continental centres of Patrician devotion, and to representatives of countries evangelised by Irish missionaries.
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Donald J. Thorman: “It seems to me that if labels are useful, the one I’d have to pin on today’s laity: The Uncertain Catholic. The characteristic note of today’s American Catholic is confusion, indecision; we are treading water, waiting, wondering what is going to happen next. This is the age of the question mark. We no longer feel certain we have all the answers to all of men’s problems. We are no longer certain if we know all the right questions.” (America, Jan. 14, 1967, p.39)
Celledoor Miscellany has reposted these historic articles from back issues of Life magazine, which I highly commend to your attention. They give a vivid insight into the collapse of the ecclesiastical ancien régime following the Second Vatican Council and the internal turmoil facing the Church in the United States. Overall they make for very depressing reading.
I recently happened upon a succinct but comprehensive little booklet, concerning the same theme, entitled Keeping Your Balance in the Modern Church by Fr. Hugh J. O’Connell, C.SS.R., PhD. It was published in 1968 by Liguorian Pamphlets and bears the imprimatur of the Archbishop of St Louis, John J. Carberry. (Interestingly my pamphlet is also signed in pen by the conservative Archbishop John Charles McQuaid of Dublin.) It is a must read for any Catholic who has ever asked himself: ‘How did everything that was so good get so bad?’ While Fr. O’Connell’s pamphlet is largely specific to the American situation, it seems to me that strong parallels existed between all the churches of the English-speaking countries. All these local churches were dominated by Irish immigrants or their descendants in countries which had remained unconquered by Nazi Germany during the Second World War, and where there existed no serious prospect of a communist takeover. None of these characteristics hold true for the countries of the Rhine basin, whose prelates led the push for change in the Church at the Second Vatican Council. Furthermore all the English-speaking local churches were known to have exhibited comparatively less enthusiasm for the pre-conciliar ressourcement and liturgical movements while (or perhaps because) they were still able to boast of high levels of Mass attendance, vocations, popular catechetical knowledge and devotional practice.
Fr. O’Connell contends that the American Catholic Church was caught off guard by the Second Vatican Council:
The Church in North America — laity, priests, nuns and even bishops — was almost completely unprepared for the way things turned out at Vatican Council II. This was the result of a number of factors.
1) Americans had remained relatively untouched by World War II. They experienced little of the ferment and unrest, the need to reassert the value of the individual person, which in Europe flowed from the struggle against Nazism and Fascism.
2) Americans, including theologians and bishops, had little or no acquaintance with the new personalist and existentialist philosophy. This had been developed in Europe, chiefly outside the church. Introduced by certain European theologians, this philosophy exerted a powerful influence on the deliberations of Vatican II and on Catholic life and teaching since the Council.
3) American Catholics were for the most part unaware of the writings of Protestant theologians, both orthodox and liberal. The ecumenical temper of the times brought these ideas to the attention of Catholic theologians, particularly in Germany, France and Holland.
Fr. O’Connell believes that the breakdown of theological censorship has facilitated doctrinal dissent and spread confusion among ordinary lay Catholics:
A good many of the religious problems of the average Catholic laymen, priests and nuns, who make no claim to be specialists or scholars, stem from the new air of freedom of theological thought and discussion resulting from Vatican II.
[...] The great danger, as every reasonable man must recognize, is that freedom brings with it the possibility that it will be abused. In the days before Vatican II, there was actually a very considerable amount of theological speculation and innovation; there were battles quite as heated as those going on today. The only difference was that such ideas were quietly presented in theological journals, and were subjected by experts to analysis and investigation, to weighing of reasons pro and con, to a more or less general acceptance or rejection by qualified theologians before they ever came to public attention.
Moreover, among Catholics the shock of new religious ideas on the minds of those who were not experts was cushioned by the censorship of books and articles and by the index of prohibited books. Before a book treating on religion could be published by a Catholic, it had to be submitted for censorship in order to obtain an imprimatur. If the book was considered to contain opinions contrary to Catholic doctrine, to the decrees of the Holy See, or even too wild and revolutionary, permission to print would be denied. To the liberal, who claimed the right to make up his own mind about religious truth, such censorship was intolerable. To the person who felt no competence to judge between truth and error in complex religious questions, it was a comfort.
Fr. O’Connell is convinced that the actual documents of the Second Vatican Council are capable of an orthodox interpretation, though a tinge of regret for their formulation is easily discernible. He likens the conciliar Fathers’ critical adoption of personalism to St. Augustine’s critical use of Plato or St. Thomas Aquinas’ blending of Aristotelian philosophy with Christian revelation.
Then came Vatican II. We have described how the North European group of bishops, headed by Germany and France, exerted a dominant influence in the Council. Moreover, their theologians wrote the revised versions of the more important schemas which served as basis of discussion in the Council. As a result, these schemas reflected a strong tone of personalism.
Of course, as was mentioned before, these documents were debated by bishops of every caste of mind. Some of the schemas were sent back for correction four or five times. The final version blended both the new personalism and the traditional acceptance of objective truth.
The following is an editorial from Church and State magazine (the organ of the old Campaign to Seperate Church and State), January, 2010:
“The Age Of My Craven Deference Is Finally Over.” That was the headline on Professor Ronan Fanning’s article on the Murphy Report (Sun. Independent, 6 Dec.). Well, it was almost the headline. Fanning used the collective “our” rather than the personal “my”. But in the case of the Professor of Modern History at the chief College of the National University the personal and the collective merge. The Professor (singular) determines in great part what characterised the plurality of those who went through the educational system to its highest level.
It became well known to us long ago that the paid intelligentsia of the state were craven in their attitude towards the Church. They were sceptics in private but were cynically respectful in public, because they were craven.
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To Our Beloved Son
John Cardinal D’Alton
Archbishop of Armagh
And to Our Venerable Brothers
The Archbishops and Bishops of Ireland
Beloved Son and Venerable Brothers, Health and Apostolic Benediction.
Holy Church, founded by Christ Jesus to free mankind from death, shines throughout the world by her sanctity, is nourished by grace, lives by truth and, in the words of Saint Irenaeus, “as the sun, God’s creature, is one and the same in the whole world, so the light, which the preaching of truth is, shines forth in every place and enlightens all men” (Adv. Haer. 1, 10, 2; MG f. 552). This preaching of truth, Beloved Son and Venerable Brothers, is a special glory of your country — for through the centuries its distinguishing mark has always been: “peregrinari pro Christo”. Irish priests and religious, as is well known, from the coming of the Gospel message to their land, spurred on by the splendid example of Saint Patrick, your illustrious Father and Apostle, went forth and made their way through many European lands to bring them the flame of faith and an unconquerable zeal in winning souls for Christ.
The genius of your nation has won for the Church in Ireland imperishable renown and admiration among the many peoples who owe their Christian origin and development to the burning love of Irish Apostles and to their active priestly ministry. These Catholic people in themselves are a manifest and an eloquent testimony to Catholic Ireland’s missionary character; they show it forth to the whole world and add splendour to its titles to glory.
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The following letter was addressed to Cardinal John D’Alton, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, on the occassion of the opening of the Patrician Year celebrations, 17th March, 1961.
The fifteenth centenary of the death of Saint Patrick, the Apostle of the Irish, is about to be celebrated with fitting solemnity throughout Ireland, particularly in his own episcopal city.
As soon as We learned of this forthcoming celebration, We desired to extend Our warm congratulations to you, Beloved Son, and to your zealous colleagues in the hierarchy, on your intelligent foresight and on your zeal for religion. Because one result of this commemoration will be — as We confidently hope and believe — that greater attention will be focused on recording events of the saint’s life and the sterling Irish people will be moved, as they see more clearly the incomparable benefits which Saint Patrick brought them, to imitate his example and to follow his footsteps in leading their Christian lives.
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The above video features clips of the opening of the Patrician Year celebrations, 17th March, 1961, marked by Pontifical High Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Armagh. The celebrant was the papal legate, Cardinal James Francis McIntyre, Archbishop of Los Angelus.
Irish state dignitaries were very prominent in attendance, not least President Éamonn de Valera and the Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Séan Lemass. Church prelates and state leaders, escorted by prominent local clergy, walked in solemn procession towards the Cathedral, walking past vast, cheering crowds. President De Valera was seated in a special blue and gold draped prie-dieu, affixed with the national emblem of a golden harp, while Mr. Lemass was also accorded a special prie-dieu. As Cardinal McIntyre entered through the massive oak doors, the cathedral organ thundered out the papal hymn Tu es Petrus, and His Eminence proceeded through the highly colourful and lavishly decorated cathedral to the marble-canopied throne on the Gospel side of the high altar, where he occupied a seat upholstered by white silk, affixed with the papal coat of arms on the reverse. Prelates attending included multitudes of abbots and bishops from all over the world, 50 archbishops and 4 Cardinals: Cardinal McIntyre, Cardinal John D’Alton, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All-Ireland, Cardinal William Godfrey, Archbishop of Westminster, and Cardinal Richard Cushing, Archbishop of Boston.
Cardinal Cushing, Archbishop of Boston, gave the following sermon:
“Their sound has gone forth unto all the earth: and their words unto the ends of the world.” (Psalm 18, Verse 5)
The theme of Ireland’s holy and historic celebration this year has been taken from the text by which the liturgy proclaims the glory and the triumph of all the Apostles. No more appropriate text could have been chosen to commemorate the incomparable Apostle to Ireland and to pay tribute to the apostolic spirit that St. Patrick inspired in the Irish people.
The text proper to the Apostles is deservedly applied to him, for St. Patrick takes his place beside the greatest and most glorious of the Apostles.
Addressing a congregation of 500 in the Consistorial Hall of the Vatican after Mass on the 17th March 1961, the Holy Father gave the following address:
Dia is Muire dhibh is Pádraig.
On this day, the faithful people of Ireland, in their own beloved country and in every part of the world, are celebrating the liturgical feast of Saint Patrick, the fearless apostle and father of their faith, in the fifteenth centenary of his holy death.
You, beloved children of the Irish colony in Rome, have wished to gather in prayer at the altar of the Divine Sacrifice, around the humble successor of Saint Peter. With great pleasure did We accede to your filial desire: not only in order to render this occasion memorable, but especially in order to bear open witness to the esteem and affection which We cherish in Our heart for your glorious nation.
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From the Irish Ecclesiastical Record, May, 1920:
SIXTEEN PRIESTS LEAVE FOR CHINA IN MARCH:
APPEAL FOR IRELAND’S HELP
It is now a little over three years since it was first announced in the Press of this country that the Irish Bishops, at their general meeting at Maynooth, had given their blessing and approval to a scheme which was laid before them of founding an Irish National Mission to China.
At that time the promoters of the project were five priests in Ireland and two in China. The first year and a half was spent in preaching throughout the country the needs of the Missions in China, and putting before the people of Ireland from the pulpit and through the press the appalling lack of priests in that vast region. In February 1918, the founders of the Mission were enabled to open the National Missionary College at St. Columban’s, Dalgan Park, Galway. In April of the same year the first priests of the Mission were ordained at Maynooth College, and in June of last year St. Columban’s celebrated the first Ordinations within its own walls.
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