Two hundred years ago today, on 4th March 1814, Fr Peter Kenney, SJ purchased the estate at Castle Browne for £16,000 (approx. €3 million today) with a view to establishing the school we now know as Clongowes Wood College. The monies came from funds, which had been carefully passed from one Irish Jesuit to another, over the decades since the suppression of the society in 1773. By a neat coincidence the last of these stalwarts was Fr Thomas Betagh, SJ, a sometime teacher in Dublin amongst whose pupils was Fr Peter Kenney.
Clongowes was (unsurprisingly) somewhat ahead of the curve in 1814, as the Society of Jesus was not formally restored until August of that year, by which time the first pupil, James McLorinan (who had arrived in May), had been joined by many of the first intake of 42 pupils. The school was on its way and has grown from strength to strength for almost two hundred years, during which it has seen many changes.
Today there are more than ten times as many pupils; they are no longer taught logic, metaphysics, philosophy, dancing and fencing and they are not required to bring six pocket handkerchiefs with them at the start of the year. The school buildings continue to expand and improve and the facilities available are as far removed from those of 1814 as the school of that year must have seemed to James McLorinan to be from his home in Dublin.
But Clongowes is more than bricks and mortar and would be set at naught were it not pursuing its prime educational objective of forming men-for-others; men who will live not for themselves but for God. In addition to the bread and butter of classes and exams the school is rightly proud of the many initiatives that have been introduced over the years designed to foster a faith that does justice. Thus is the physical development of the school mirrored in the spiritual development of its pupils and past pupils so that (in the words of the Headmaster, Fr Leonard Moloney, SJ) they ‘will leave the world a better place for having lived amongst us.’
Clongowes has changed much over two centuries and will continue to do so and thereby to grow and prosper, but it is the continuity and fidelity to Christian teaching and the visions of St Ignatius for the Jesuit mission and of Fr Peter Kenney for the school he founded in 1814 that will stand to us in the straitened times we live in and the challenges, which lie ahead.
Mr Declan O’Keeffe, Head of Communications