Sunday, 28th November 2021

New Opportunities at the Irish College

Posted on 12. Jun, 2020 in Carousel

Archbishop Jorge Patron Wong – Secretary for Seminaries at the Congregation for the Clergy – First Visitor to the Irish College post COVID-19 lockdown, 10th June 2020. Included in the photo are the College Formation Team, from L-R: Fr John Coughlan, Vice-Rector; Fr Aidan Ryan, Spiritual Director; and Fr Paul Finnerty, Acting-Rector, as well as postgraduate priests in ongoing formation at the College.

New Opportunities in Formation Open up at the Irish College, Rome

“The Irish College is an almost four-hundred year old resource for the Church in Ireland that is ready to play a key role in the renewal and revitalisation of the Irish mission.” – Fr Paul Finnerty

Speaking at the Pontifical Irish College in Rome today, the Acting Rector, Fr Paul Finnerty, welcomed decisions taken by the Irish Bishops at their summer meeting this week.

He said, “The formation of priests for mission in Ireland is one of the keys to the renewal and revitalisation of the Irish Church. I believe that the decisions taken by the Trustees today have this goal in mind.”

As part of the overall renewal of priestly formation for the Irish mission, the Trustees of the Pontifical Irish College have decided that the College will not receive seminarians for the year 2020-21, and to review the question of initial formation for the priesthood in the future.

The Bishops also decided to continue their support for the ongoing formation programme for priests at the College. There have been over thirty priests in residence from across the globe, including Ireland, throughout this academic year. As in previous years, a sabbatical programme for Irish priests has been offered. It was also decided to continue supporting the very successful semester-abroad programme for American seminarians, hosted at the Irish College since 2016.

Fr Paul noted, “Of course, formation in the Christian life is not the preserve of the seminary, nor indeed of any house of formation. Rather, formation begins in the family, it is sustained in the community of faith, and our prayer is that Christian discipleship will be renewed and revitalised using all of the resources available. The Irish College is an almost four-hundred year old resource for the Church in Ireland that is ready to play a key role in the renewal and revitalisation of the Irish mission.”

The College also continues to provide a place of hospitality and welcome for Irish pilgrims to the eternal city, as well being a dynamic link between the Church in Ireland and the Universal Church, centred in Rome.

As the model of formation for priests in Ireland continues to be inspired by the Ratio for Seminary Formation, Fr Paul and his staff offer their prayerful support to the President, Rector and staff of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth. Collaboration in the formation of priests for the Irish mission has always been a hallmark of the relationship between the two Colleges. Fr Paul looks forward to enhancing and developing this collaboration into the future. He said of this, “For several years now, we have had a highly successful semester abroad programme for seminarians from the USA. We look forward to being able to provide similar formation experiences for the Irish Church.”

Over the last decades, throughout Ireland, new forms of ministry have emerged – the permanent diaconate, parish catechists, and parish pastoral workers, to name but a few. Fr Paul continued, “I look forward to supporting these new ministries by offering opportunities for nourishment in the faith-filled, historical, and cultural environment of the eternal city. The broad, global and universal viewpoint offered by a Roman experience has been enriching for many priests and people down through the centuries. This remains true today, and into the future, for leaders of the Church in Ireland.”



Notes to Editors:
The Irish College in Rome was founded in 1628 by Cardinal Ludovico Ludovisi and a Franciscan priest from Waterford, Fr Luke Wadding. Since that time it has had five homes.  The latest of these is on the Coelian hill near the Basilica of St John Lateran. In 1926, the then Rector, Msgr John Hagan, purchased the site and built a handsome building for the College which, for over 90 years now, has served the Church in Ireland as one of our two national seminaries.

Over its four-century history, hundreds of seminarians have discerned their vocations at the College as they prepared to answer God’s call to the priesthood. Among their number were St Oliver Plunkett, 1625-1681; Blessed Columba Marmion, 1858-1923; and, Venerable Ragheed Ganni, 1972-2007. Over the centuries successive Rectors and staff of the College have responded to the changing circumstances of the world around them.

Msgr Denis McDaid led the College through the very difficult years of World War II, when student numbers were reduced to single figures. The College hosted most of the Irish bishops during the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s. Since then, as seminarian numbers have gradually reduced in Ireland, the College became a home to an increasing number of postgraduate priests from all five continents. Since 2016, each semester, successive groups of seminarians from the USA have had the experience of formation in Rome at the Irish College.

The College has adapted in many ways to the recent crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The community undertook a twelve-week lockdown, successfully preserving all members from the virus. Postgraduate students continued to reside in the College, completing their studies online. Seminarians relocated to their home dioceses in Ireland, and continued their formation programme online, completing exams in recent weeks.