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Remembering Maynooth across four centuries

Over 160 people attended the book launch of We Remember Maynooth: A College Across Four Centuries (Messenger Publications) on Zoom video conference at 7.30pm on 17 November, 2020. Guest speakers were Professor Chris Morash, Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity College Dublin, and Bishop Dermot Farrell, Former President of Maynooth College. The 500-page book, edited by Salvador Ryan and John-Paul Sheridan, is an illustrated collection of essays that paints Maynooth College as a unique institution that has held a singular place in modern church history. It marks the 225th anniversary since the foundation of the college which was once the largest seminary in the world.

Click here for the video recording of the book launch ».

Fr Donal Neary SJ, editor of Messenger Publications, said:

“This large volume of Maynooth memories is full of interesting anecdotes, impressions and the history of the contribution of Maynooth both to Irish life and the universal church. It is well written and edited, and lavishly illustrated and designed. It’s not just a trip down memory lane but like all good memorials it is encouraging of contemporary attempts to do what Maynooth always did: to form good priests, and to play a big role in Irish university life, which is well documented in many articles.”

Guest speaker Professor Chris Morash spoke from personal experience:

“The university that I arrived in in 1990 was certainly a place characterised by those close, personal face to face relationships. In the years since, Maynooth has put in place the full administrative apparatus of a twenty-first century university.”

Professor Morash continued:

“So for me the kind of remembering that this book encapsulates and captures for us is more than simply enjoyable, although it is enjoyable. It has real value. For in allowing us to remember the best of what we were in the past, we can sometimes glimpse the best of what we can be in the future.”

From modest beginnings in 1795 as a small seminary of thirty students and ten professors, Maynooth expanded rapidly, becoming a Pontifical University, a constituent college of the National University of Ireland (NUI) and, at one time, the largest seminary in world. It has educated many thousands of students and led the way in many branches of the arts and sciences. And for its alumni it is also a tapestry of rich memories.

Speaking of the varied contributors to the book, Fr Neary said:

“Items from Mary O Rourke, Liam Lawton, Archbishop Eamon Martin, Niall Ahern, Tommy O Connor, to name a few give a varied, often humorous, account of both university and seminary, particularly about the big issues when the seminary expanded into NUI. Other articles bring some ‘characters’ of Maynooth alive like Fr Ronan Drury and Mgr Cremins.”

Guest speaker Bishop Dermot Farrell commented on the book’s unique historical perspective:

“We Remember Maynooth: A College Across Four Centuries is history as seen through the eyes of ordinary people. Sometimes ordinary people are written out of history by professional historians. This volume situates itself in the experience of people who worked in Maynooth, students who studied in Maynooth, visitors who came to Maynooth.

And it recognises that the interaction between the strictly personal and social and community relations is an essential part of any attempt to understand all of the entities that now occupy the Maynooth campus.”

Bishop Farrell continued:

“Maynooth has brought a message of hope to so many people down through the centuries. It has brought a message of hope to students and staff and visitors alike… We Remember Maynooth is a visual delight. It’s a very fitting celebration of the 225th anniversary… There are 500 pages of very enjoyable and thoroughly engaging articles. Enjoy every one of them.”

Regarding the Jesuit connections with Maynooth, Fr Neary said:

“Micheál McGréil SJ is well documented by his former student and then colleague, Mary Corcoran; Fr Peter Kenney was Vice President for one year in 1811/12; retreats were given by Jesuits from the 1970s on; and Frs Laurence Murphy and Willie Reynolds were recent spiritual directors. At present Fr Tom Casey SJ, Rector of Milltown Park, is the Dean of Philosophy in the seminary.”

Co-editor Salvador Ryan is Professor of Ecclesiastical History at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth and has published widely on popular religious culture from the Middle ages to the twentieth century. Co-editor John-Paul Sheridan is a priest of the Diocese of Ferns. He joined the staff at St Patrick’s College, Maynooth as Education Programmes Coordinator and currently lectures in Religious Education and Catechesis, Liturgy and Children and Systematic Theology.

We Remember Maynooth: A College Across Four Centuries » is published in Ireland and the UK by Messenger Publications. Priced at €50/£40. Messenger Publications are offering a 10% discount of the book from their website www.messenger.ie for a limited time. Apply the coupon code, ‘maynooth225’ as you complete the purchase online or quote it on an email order to: [email protected]