The spirit of Fr Peter Kenney SJ, founder of Clongowes Wood College (1814), beamed down on the 650+ guests who attended the old school on Saturday, 21st June to mark the outstanding achievement of the college being at the forefront of education in Ireland for 200 years. They came in their droves from home and abroad, by car and by ‘bus to enjoy a day of celebrations on the sun drenched campus deep in the heart of the Kildare countryside on the feast of the college patron, St Aloysius Gonzaga.
This gathering for Old Clongownians (OCs), which was organised by the Clongowes Foundation and Clongowes Union, has become a much anticipated and well attended annual event and is a delightful opportunity for the college to connect with past pupils and to reminisce about days gone by while embracing the wonderful current developments at the school.
The attendees, ranging from Derek Flood (OC 1938) to newly minted graduates, by way of the Golden Jubilee Class of 1964, availed of a selection of entertainments including tours of the school and castle led by Mr Martin Nugent, Mr Brendan Cullen and Mr Declan O’Keeffe. In the James Joyce Library Fr Bruce Bradley gave a talk on the author’s time in Clongowes while our archivist Ms Margaret Doyle spoke about various aspects of the school’s history and the Rector Fr Michael Sheil gave a tour of the Boys’ Chapel and its many features.
Bishop Denis Nulty joined the Jesuit Community in concelebrating Mass in the packed New Sports Hall, which was converted (as on every Sunday in term time) for the purpose. The celebration was added to by the involvement of college’s ‘Schola’ choir under the baton of Cyril Murphy (OC 1980) with a solo by Aaron Doyle (OC 2014).
Following the Mass the President of the Clongowes Union, John Bruton (OC 1965) gave a thought provoking social, economic, political and educational critique of Ireland in 1814, 1914 and 2014. Mr Bruton spoke of the challenge posed in each of the three centuries from Fr Kenney’s foundation of the school to its place in a secular society today. He paid particular attention to the role of the Jesuits and their lay colleagues in educating future generations of Clongownians as ‘men for others’ in the challenging times that lie ahead.
The day ended as it had begun, in glorious sunshine with a lovely buffet meal complete with strawberries! Our guests mingled happily both in the school refectory and outside at picnic tables on a seemingly endless Midsummer’s evening before reluctantly departing with even fonder memories than when they had arrived.
Mr Declan O’Keeffe