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The Crescent at 150

crescent_01.jpgCrescent College Comprehensive S.J.  first opened its doors on 10th March, 1859, one hundred and fifty yeras ago. Early Jesuit schools existed in Limerick between 1565 and 1773. David Woulfe S.J., a native of Limerick, who came as the Pope’s envoy to Ireland in 1561, set up the first such school. His cousin, a Jesuit scholastic, Edmund Daniel (alias O’Donnell) aided him in running the school. William Goode, an English Jesuit also worked there, and we know about the school from letters written by Goode, which still exist.  The major celebrations of the jubilee will culminate with a visit to CCC by Fr. General on Sept 11th.  For a picture of the past, and of the planned jubilee events, read more:Jubilee events:

March 28th and 29th: Under-14 rugby tournament
April 26th Solemn  Thanksgiving Mass for 150 years of Jesuit Education in Limerick in St John’s Cathedral (3 pm)
Sept. 11th Fr. General visits. We hope you can all join us that day.

In November we will host a symposium on the subject of teaching and the evolving role of the teacher in society. Any ideas? More details to follow.

The Crescent: In 1859, at the request of Bishop John Ryan of Limerick, the Jesuits agreed to run the diocesan seminary school of St. Munchin at Hartstonge Street. This was a secondary school from which it was hoped boys would go on to become priests.  The name of the school was changed to the Sacred Heart College.  In the early years the Crescent catered for around 100 pupils drawn from the professional classes, from the ranks of business people, city officials and strong farmers. Even by 1939 the school population remained under 130, and the Jesuit community was identified almost entirely with the upper and middle class population. In the 1940s the school population grew to 300 boys.

In the 1960’s the Crescent entered the free-education system introduced by former pupil and Minister for Education, Donagh O’Malley. Land was purchased at Dooradoyle, in the suburbs, for a new school, and Minister O’Malley proposed that the new school should become a comprehensive school. The Provincial, Fr. Cecil McGarry agreed, as the Jesuits were attracted by the possibility of returning to the early Jesuit method of funding education, where a sponsor would provide funding, and where the Order could involve itself in assisting children from all backgrounds, including those from disadvantaged areas.

The new Headmaster, Fr. Tom Morrissey S.J. entered into lengthy negotiations with the Department of Education to have a Central Concourse, which would promote community, and to have extensive playing fields at the new site. A stone inscribed ‘IHS 1642’, done in the style of the Jesuit seal, was transferred from the possible site of an early Jesuit school, and incorporated into the foundation stone of the new school in 1973, to signify continuity with an old and notable tradition.

The opening of the comprehensive was a seminal departure for the Jesuits, traditionally associated with educating the elite. While not abandoning that philosophy, the Order realised that the future lay in educating all abilities and all social backgrounds together. This was not without its challenges, but with committed constituent groups, parents, pupils and teachers, working together, the challenges continue to be met.

At the start of the Comprehensive, the Department of Education did not permit entry of girls because the need in Limerick at the time was for boys’ places. The Board of Management decided to become co-educational in 1974, though the intake of girls would be limited because of the still greater need for boys’ places. The aspects of education such as sporting activities, drama, debating, choirs, school outings and societies, which were part of the tradition of Crescent and other Jesuit schools, were taken on as part of the Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. from the start.

Crescent has always been an integral part of Limerick life. The Jesuit commitment to excellence in education has been a dominant feature of the college and, despite the demands on the order, this commitment is steadfast. Alumni have graced the playing fields of many codes and notable past pupils have contributed to the Arts, politics, law, medicine both locally and nationally.

Obviously, such a landmark in the history of Crescent has attracted much attention, and the proposed visit of the Jesuit Father General to the college in September will be a highlight. A mass of celebration and thanksgiving will be held on 26th April, 2009 in St. John’s Cathedral and events will conclude with an educational forum and a gala ball in the autumn.

Current Headmaster, Mr. Nicholas Cuddihy and Chairman of the Board, Mr. Richard Leonard commented: “We are proudly celebrating 150 years of continuous Jesuit Education in Limerick. We are very grateful to our pioneering Jesuit Fathers who from very humble origins established a wonderful school at The Crescent and then had the foresight and courage to radically change education in Ireland by creating the first Comprehensive School in Ireland. We are proud of our Jesuit ethos and of our contribution to an inclusive education. Our staff and students have contributed greatly to the Social, Civic, Sporting and Cultural fabric of society in the greater Limerick area. We are confidently looking forward to the future and will shortly launch our new Ten Year Plan.”