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All Hallows College, Ireland (1842)

All Hallows College, Ireland (1842) October 31, 2010

During the nineteenth century, Ireland experienced what historian Emmett Larkin calls a “devotional revolution.” Beginning in the 1840’s (and continuing for over a hundred years), Ireland witnessed a flourishing of Catholic life as vocations rose dramatically, and schools and churches were built in increasing numbers. Religiously speaking, the Irish oversaw a “spiritual empire” that extended throughout the English-speaking world. In 1876, one Irish priest wrote that “the whole country may be regarded as a vast recruiting field for sustaining the distant missions.”

One of the major sources for missionaries was the seminary founded in 1842 by Father John Hand (1807-1846), the College of All Hallows. Reading accounts of Irish priests in the missions aroused Hand’s interest, and he determined to establish a seminary to train Irish priests who would serve overseas. With help from the Irish hierarchy, he started the school in November 1842 and soon had a sizeable student body. An early catalogue for the school stated that its purpose was “the Education of Ecclesiastics for the Foreign Missions.”

More than four thousand priests have been ordained from All Hallows for service in the United States, Canada, South America, South Africa, the West Indies, India, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. The English Catholic poet Aubrey De Vere wrote of the school:

Hope of my country! House of God!
All Hallows! Blessed feet are those
By which their shadowy courts are trod,
Ere yet the breeze of morning blows!
Blessed are the winds that waft them forth
To victory over the rough sea-foam—
Can God forget the race at home?

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