Rockwell College marked the 150th Anniversary of the Spiritan presence in the Tipperary school on Sunday amid glorious sunshine.
The attendance of several hundred people included current and former students of the school and their parents, Spiritans attached to the Congregation’s communities in Rockwell and elsewhere, as well as staff and members of the public.
The Mass was concelebrated by Archbishop Dermot Clifford, who praised the College’s educational ethos, the Spiritan Provincial Marc Whelan C.S.Sp. Spiritan Community Leader in Rockwell Matthew Knight C.S.Sp. and school chaplain Samuel Udogbo C.S.Sp. with a large number of other Spiritan and diocesan clergy, while the music was led by the Tipperary Gospel Choir. The story of Rockwell goes back to the years soon after Catholic Emancipation and the Great Famine when, on 20th July 1864, three Spiritans were given possession of the former estate house and lands. The College’s early years as the senior Irish seminary of the Spiritans coincided with the beginning of the great missionary movement from Ireland when “as many as 1,000 labourers went into the vineyard of overseas mission from Rockwell, the most celebrated being Joseph Shanahan C.S.Sp. In his book “Rockwell College 1864-2014”, Dr. Seán O’Donnell – formerly deputy principal and later chair of the board of management – states that: “Few Irish schools can claim to have so many persons of distinction within their walls as Rockwell College had in the years between 1890 and 1905” when its then students included President Éamon de Valera, the patriot Thomas McDonagh and poets Monsignor Pádraig de Brún and Pádraic Ó Conaire. Fr. Brendan Carr C.S.Sp., a member of the current leadership team of the Spiritans and also a past pupil, noted that the youthful vigour of what had been a large Spiritan community attached to the school in the past has now “matured to grey-haired wisdom.” Principal, Ms. Audrey O’Byrne, said Rockwell “is its people.”