Crescentes in Illo Per Omnia
Growing in Him through all things
|Dooradoyle, County Limerick
Republic of Ireland
|School type||Jesuit Secondary school|
|Founded||Originally 1565, refounded 1859 and 1971|
|Slogan||Ad maiorem Dei gloriam|
Crescent College Comprehensive SJ is a secondary school located on a section of 40 acres (162,000 m²) of parkland at Dooradoyle, Limerick, Ireland. The college is one of a number of Jesuit schools in Ireland.
Crescent College SJ is a Catholic school under the trusteeship of the Irish Jesuit Provincial. The college acknowledges that the family is the primary educator and, through its commitment to the values of the school, shares the responsibility for the student’s education. The school is grant aided by the Department of Education and Science.
Crescent College Comprehensive S.J. has dedicated teachers who are committed to high academic standards. The college provides a rich and diverse curriculum catering for the needs of each individual student. It strives for excellence also in the areas of social concern and spiritual values, sport and culture, wherein students are encouraged and challenged to realise their full potential as human beings in the Ignatian tradition.
The school’s management structure consists of the Board of Management whose policies are implemented by the headmaster of the day. The headmaster is assisted by a deputy head, assistant principals and staff, academic and non-academic.
16th to 18th Centuries
The first Jesuit School in Ireland was established at Limerick in 1565 by the Apostolic Visitor of the Holy See, David Wolfe SJ, sent to Ireland in 1563 by Pope Pius IV, with the permission of the third Jesuit General, Diego Laynez. Woulfe, a Limerick man, was possibly Knighted for services to the Crown some years before, but subsequently entered Holy Orders in Spain. He subsequently joined the Jesuits at Rome in 1550, where he formed an association with Ignatius Loyola, Francisco Borgia and the early Jesuits. Recognised by Loyola as an young Irish man of some promise, he was recommended to Pope Paul IV as Nuncio in the late 1550s, which was accepted. Pope Paul's Apostolic Mission charged the Visitor to 'to absolve all manner of lapses from the church, and chiefly heresies and schismatical faults' and to set up Grammar schools if possible and persuade parents to send their children to them. However it took Woulfe two years to establish his visitation, though he was confirmed as Apostolic Visitor by Pope Paul's successor, Pius IV.
Wolfe finally arrived in Ireland with another Irish Jesuit called 'Dermot' in January 1561 and entered the Pale. Although his mission was supposed to be secret the Queen's Irish Government in Dublin had been kept well informed of his movements by a network of spies on the continent. In order to avoid the authorities he journeyed west to Limerick, leaving the Pale in the charge of priests of the Dublin Archdiocese. Wolfe was also closely related to the Old English merchant aristocracy of Limerick and it was probably for this reason that the city was chosen to be a base, both for the Irish Jesuit mission as well as the headquarters of the Counter Reformation in Ireland.
Wolfe's mission was not without peril in either Ireland or Rome, and the fourth Jesuit General, Everard Mercurian, had been reluctant to involve the Jesuits directly in the affairs of English possessions, and eventually ended Wolfe's activities. Nevertheless Woulfe's Mission was not the first Jesuit foray into Ireland: some years earlier Ignatius had sent two Jesuits, Paschase Broet and Alfonso Salmeron, to assess the needs and the prospects of a future Jesuit pastoral presence in Ireland. They were based in Donegal under the protection of Lord Tyrconnell. Little, however, was achieved and this early mission came to nothing.
Woulfe maintained a discrete presence in Limerick at first, living quietly for a time with his cousin, David Arthur, who was Dean of the Diocese of Limerick. Limerick city offered strategic possibilities as a wealthy and fortified trading port, where the Protestant Reformation had not yet taken hold, and was geographically proximate to the turbulent Geraldine Palatinate of Desmond, where it was well known that the Jesuit Order were corresponding with the 14th Earl's cousin, Lord James Fitzmaurice Fitzgerald, instigator of the first Desmond Rebellion. Wolfe became Fitzgerald's confessor and from this perspective the city was a secure base. The Visitor was also active in establishing control over the corrupted Irish Church, often with the enmity of the Bishops, and he conducted significant reforms of the Episcopal bench and recommended a number of priests of talent for key Sees of Importance. Wolfe also travelled extensively around the Western and Northern parts of the island, establishing alliances with the Gaelic and Anglo-Norman Lords, and generally assessed the conditions of the clergy and the country in general, and an his account of the situation of Ireland at the time still survives.
Wolfe also encouraged young men to leave Ireland and train for the priesthood in the newly established Sememaries on the Continent, designed to spearhead the reforms of Trent into Ireland. However soon the authorities noticed this traffic from the Port of Limerick and gradually became aware of Wolfe's activities and his close relationship with Lord Desmond and his cousin.
Despite very significant progress in strengthening the Irish Church against the rising Protestant tide, Wolfe had yet to fulfil the Papal brief to establish Grammar Schools for the education of Catholic children. The delay was most likely occasioned by a derth of well educated clergy; however in 1565 he established the first Counter Reformation school at Limerick, which opened at Castle Lane in 1565, and was entrusted to the Society of Jesus. This establishment at Limerick was the first educational mission of the Society of Jesus, and pre-dated the Jesuit missions to South America by some ten years. Woulfe, in addition to his increasingly burdensome duties, probably taught for a while at the Limerick school but the demands of re-organising the Irish Catholic Church, and introducing the Tridentine reforms, meant that he could not stay long in any one place and he entrusted the foundation to another cousin and Jesuit Scholastic, Edmund Daniel.
Wolfe's wider activities were increasingly attracting scrutiny from the Queen's government, particularly as he became embroiled in the difficult politics of Ireland. The imminent excommunication of Elizabeth I in 1570 emboldened him and he travelled to see Shane O'Neill in Ulster, and was later directly involved in a doomed conspiracy with Lord Fitzmaurice and the 15th Earl of Desmond to land Spanish troops in County Kerry, resulting in terrible slaughter at Smerwick Harbour, Co. Kerry. Woulfe's political intrigue with the Spanish and Irish Lords of doubtful loyalty, his strengthening and renewal of the Roman Church and the establishment of Catholic schools under Jesuit management, firstly at Limerick, and later in other towns and cities, represented a significant challenge to the Irish Government of Elizabeth. It underlined the dangers of Papal and Spanish efforts to establish the reforms of the Council of Trent in the Tudor Realms and displace the authority of the Crown in England and Ireland. Clearly a decisive response was required. In 1567 the government gained an upper hand over the restive Lordships of Ulster and Munster and The O'Neill was killed and Lord Desmond imprisoned.
Late in 1565 Pius IV died and Wolfe's authority as Apostolic Visitor was suspended, pending confirmation by his successor. He was, by now, tired and weary and petitioned the Jesuit General to be recalled, but Borgia refused on the basis that he had not the authority to overrule the wishes of the Pope. However the new Pope, Pius V, did not confirm Wolfe in his role as Nuncio and effectively he existed in a sort of Limbo for the next three years, which dented his authority over the Bishops and Clergy. Another blow came in 1568 when Wolfe was finally captured and imprisoned at Dublin Castle. After a period of extreme hardship and torture in captivity, he was released by means a bribe offered through an influential English Catholic, Edmund Stuckley, to the Castle government. The inducement to the authorities was paid by a Limerick merchant on the understanding that it would be reimbursed by the Portuguese Jesuits, which was not subsequently fulfilled and led to the first cracks in the relationship between Fr Wolfe and his own Order.
Despite these external setbacks initially the Limerick school flourished and in 1565 the city Council decided that the masters should be paid an annual salary of ten pounds, but this money was not accepted as it was to be raised as a levy on ships entering and leaving the port. It was therefore decided that the education offered should be free, based only on voluntary contributions, and very much in the spirit of Ignatius's Roman College founded 14 years before, where no fee was requested from pupils. The future primate, Richard Creagh was probably involved in setting up this school as he had been a school master in Limerick. In 1564 Wolfe had inveigled him to accept the see of Armagh, though he quickly had to go into exile as he was pursued by both Shane O'Neill and the Dublin Castle Government and could not establish a presence in his Diocese. Whilst abroad he formed friendships with many Irish and English Jesuits on the continent and secured the services of William Good, an English Jesuit, to accompany him on his return to Ireland in 1567.
Wolfe was impressed by Fr Good and it was proposed, with Primate Creagh's approval, that that he should become Rector of a Catholic University foundation in Ireland. He was admirably fitted for the position, having been a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Oxford and late Head Master of Wells Grammar School, under Queen Mary I. He had clearly abandoned a promising career in the English Church, having been lately a Canon at Wells Cathedral, but declined to keep communion with the Anglican Church, re-established after Elizabeth's accession in 1562. Given the political situation in Ireland Archibishop Creagh's plans for a Catholic university had to be delayed and instead Fr Good joined Edmund Daniel teaching at the Limerick Grammar school. A number of Good's reports survive in the Jesuit archives at Rome and he records the earliest example of a school play in Ireland, which was performed on the Feast of St. John in 1566. He also makes reference to the curriculum offered and students, who he described as being piously inclined, were first instructed to read, and progressed to read selected letters of Cicero and other classical texts in Latin. The students copied all the works, as there were no books, and they studied catechism either in English, or in Latin for the Irish speakers. There were no holidays at the school, but boys were withdrawn by their parents at harvest time. Classes took place in very confined space at Castle Lane in the City and demand meant that pupils could only attend class in rotation.
However the prevailing political climate made circumstances difficult. In 1570 Pope Pius V formally excommunicated Elizabeth I resulting in a new wave of repression of Catholicism in Britain and Ireland. This had implications for the Limerick school and it had to intermittently move out of the City into the Earl of Desmond's territory at Kilmallock for a short time. Shortly thereafter it moved back to the City, but further reverses came. In 1571 Daniel was captured at Youghal, and put into prison. Having refused to take the Act of Supremacy he was put to death at Cork, on the 25 October 1572, becoming the first Jesuit European Martyr. Reports of his execution caused a stir in the Catholic parts of the Continent, and recorded in a number of contemporary woodcuts printed at Prague. Good was certainly back in Rome by 1577 and in 1586 the seizure of Earl of Desmond's estates resulted in a new permanent Protestant plantation in Munster, making the continuation of the school impossible for a time.
It wasn't until the early 1600s that the school could again re-open in the city, though the Jesuits kept a low profile existence in lodgings here and there. By 1640 a residence could again been established in Castle Lane and the school was occupying a site near St. Mary’s Cathedral, though was again disrupted by the Cromwellian invasion and the Protectorate, and of the forty five active Jesuits throughout the country, only some eighteen managed to avoid capture.
At the restoration the school was again re-established, once more at Castle Lane, and remained opened until the surrender of the city to Williamite forces in 1692. The number of Jesuits in Ireland ebbed and flowed at this time and in 1649 they were 67 including 11 novices, but by 1700 they were only 6 0r 7, recovering to 25 by 1750. As well as Limerick Jesuit houses and schools existed at Athlone, Carrick-on-Suir, Cashel, Clonmel, Kilkenny, Waterford, New Ross, Wexford, Drogheda as well as Dublin, and Galway.
Despite the occasional and unwelcome attention of the authorities, particularly during these turbulent years, the Limerick school managed to survive the Protestant Reformation, the Cromwellian invasion and the Williamite Wars, and subsequent Penal Laws. It was finally forced to close not for religious or confessional reasons, but due to the political difficulties of the Jesuit Order elsewhere, and in 1773 the school and public oratory in Castle Lane, 208 afters after its foundation by Wolfe, closed its doors following the Papal suppression of the Society of Jesus, and would not open again for another 86 years.
Some commemorative inscription stones from Castle Lane, dating from the 16th and 17th Centuries, were built into the external walls of the old Georgian School buildings at the Crescent in Limerick city centre, and may be viewed there. Another stone from the Castle Lane site, inscribed with a cross and the motto IHS, dated 1576, was brought to Dooradoyle in 1973.
19th & Early 20th Centuries
Following the restoration the Jesuits gradually re-established many of their schools throughout the country, and returned to Limerick at the invitation of the Bishop of Limerick, Dr George Butler. Negotiations between the Order and the Diocese of Limerick were conducted at Rome rather than Ireland, and at the beginning of the 1859 school year the Bishop's school was entrusted to Jesuit Management. This Diocescan College operated initially at premises in Hartstone St, which had until recently been occupied by the Sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus, before they purchased Laurel Hill House and established a school for girls there. Paul Connolly, the son of an old and much respected Limerick City family, was the first pupil enrolled, as was the future Bishop of Limerick, Edward O'Dwyer.
The Curriculum included Ancient Classics, Mathematics, modern languages - English and French. German was added later and the school prospectus advertised that boys were to be prepared for the 'University and the Ecclesiastical Colleges; for the Learned Professions; for the Public Service - Civil and Military; and for the department of Mercantile and Commercial Life'.
In 1862 the Jesuits acquired Crescent House and three neighbouring Tontine buildings towards the southern end of the Georgian Crescent. Crescent House was a large city residence recently vacated by a local banking family, the Russells. By tradition Mrs Richard Russell, while in residence, had ordered all the blinds of the house closed so she wouldn't have to look upon John Hogan's statute of Daniel O'Connell, recently erected in the middle of the Crescent. The Georgian house on the Crescent House had a large garden and a number of vacant neighbouring sites, offering great possibilities for expansion. However the Order had paid a large sum for Crescent House and they initially postponed plans for a neighbouring Church until this debt was lessened. It wasn't until 1864 that the execution of plans for the Church commenced and although the garden of Crescent House was large, it wasn't sufficient to house the new Church so the additional properties had to be purchased.
At this time the school suffered a serious setback when the Jesuits quarreled with Dr Butler's successor and the new Bishop removed the Diocescan College from their care, moving it back to Hartstone Street. The Jesuits, however, continued their own School at the newly acquired buildings at the Crescent, which became independent of the Diocese
The school at the Crescent, and the attached Chapel, were dedicated first to St Aloysius Gonzaga, but rededicated to the Sacred Heart in 1868, after the school chapel was enlarged and opened for public worship. This was the first church and school in Ireland dedicated to the Cult of the Sacred Heart, popularised centuries before in France by Claude de la Colombiere SJ. However despite this the Sacred Heart College, like Belvedere College in Dublin, became better recognised by the name of its premises, and was popularly known as Crescent College, or 'the Crescent'. Crescent was a fee paying school catering in the main for the city's growing Catholic middle class, and received no government support. In its early years Sacred Heart College struggled to survive in competition with the Bishop's school, and many students enrolled in the preparatory school were lost to boarding schools as the children became older. However the arrival of a new generation of Jesuit teachers, notably Tom and Peter Finlay ( the latter recorded in Joyce's Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man) brought a new vigour and prestige in the 1870′s. In 1879 when the results of the first nation-wide Intermediate Examinations were published a Crescent boy, Charles Doyle (later a Judge of the King's Bench), obtained first place in Ireland. This was seen as a triumph for the school, and for all schools that received no subsidy from the government.
Further innovations came in 1874 when the Rector, Fr William Ronan, invited a French Jesuit Colleague, Fr Jean Baptiste René, to establish an Apostolic College at the Crescent House as a seminary for men of little means. This proved a success but overcrowding with the day pupils necessitated that the Apostolic school should relocate to a Boarding School at Mungret with funds provided by a local Catholic nobleman, the Earl of Emly. These schools were again to be joined together when Mungret College SJ was merged again with the Crescent in 1974.
The political controversies of Irish independence came to the Crescent in the early 1920s, and Fr William Hackett established and publically drilled the 'Crescent Volunteers' in 1918 in defiance of the authorities, which was closely observed by the local Constablary. Following the Treaty Fr Hackett was sympathetic to the Republican forces during the civil war, and for his political views he was discretely transferred to Australia in 1922 at the request of the Provisional Government.
Late 20th and early 21st Centuries
By 1939 the school population remained under 130, but by the 1940s it had grown to 300 boys, rising to over 500 by the 1960s. The Jesuit community was identified almost entirely with the upper and middle class population in the city and beyond, which following the changing emphasis of the post-Conciliar period, troubled many in the Order. A recent biography of Fr William Hackett has been published and the author records a rather cranky priest who made no secret of his belief that parents who sent their children to Jesuit schools were 'making their way into the upper middle class on the back of the Jesuit vow of poverty'. Fr Hackett was not unique in this view and the Generalship of Pedro Arrupe challenged the Jesuits to return to the original Ignation vision and the spirit of the early Jesuit schools and as part of this reflection many Jesuit schools began to re-evaluate their role. In Britain four Jesuit Schools became Comprehensive in the 1960s and in contemporary Ireland it was proposed that the Crescent in Limerick, and Gonzaga College in Dublin should adopt a comprehensive curriculum in a new relationship with the Minister for Education, and cease to be fee paying schools. Negotiations opened in the late 1960s at the invitation of the then Minister and former pupil Donagh O'Malley, who had been a class mate with the Jesuit Provincial, Cecil McGarry SJ. The comprehensive scheme proceeded in Limerick only and this ushered in a period of significant reform and expansion under Fr Thomas Morrissey: the name Sacred Heart College was dropped and redesignated Crescent College Comprehensive SJ, in recognition of the popular name of the school. In 1971 the Georgian school buildings at Crescent House were found to be structurally unsound, overcrowded and inadaptable to expansion. Some thought was given to a relocation to Mungret College, however after consideration the Mungret site was deemed to be too far outside the city catchment area. Instead land was purchased at Dooradoyle in 1973, resulting in the demolition of the McMahon historical seat (a family closely related to the French Dukes of Magenta). Shortly afterwards a new shopping centre opened beside the school which was named 'the Crescent' after its neighbour.
In 1978 Crescent became the first Irish Jesuit school to become partially co-educational, with a ratio of 3 boys to 1 girl, and Coláiste Iognáid Galway followed a few years later. The preparatory School, which had remained at Crescent House, was closed in 1978 as the Department of Education declined to allow boys an automatic right of entry to the secondary school as demand for places was particularly strong. At Dooradoyle many innovations and developments in curriculum were undertaken and Crescent, and Gonzaga in Dublin, became the first schools in Ireland to offer a transition year. Other novel experiments such as Classical Studies in the 1970s and a special 'Irish Studies' programe for first years were later phased out and not adopted in other schools. In the 1980s, in collaboration with then National Institute for Higher Education in Limerick (subsequently UL), students from Crescent were able to study computer and technology courses at Leaving Certificate level which were awarded points for entry into third level courses.
Crescent continues a tradition of excellence in the fields of drama, debating, music and sport which are important dimensions of any Jesuit School. Girl's Hockey and boy's rugby are the main sports, though many other contact and non contact activities are offered. Rugby at Crescent blossomed from the late 1940s under the care of Fr Gerry Guinane, and in that time Crescent has had considerable success in the Munster Schools Senior Cup, constituting one of the big five rugby schools in Munster, and winning many senior titles since the cups inception in 1909, and many Provincial and local titles at junior level. The School is represented nationally at club level by Old Crescent RFC, which is now an open club, but an important component of the Crescent tradition. Girls hockey has exclusively dominated Irish and Provincial championships for many years and boys and girls have represented Munster and Ireland in Rugby and Hockey at all levels over the years. The school maintains an award winning orchestra and an annual musical is produced, involving students and staff, and an annual public concert at Christmas.
Crescent now sits in 40 acres of mature grounds and gardens landscaped by Fr William Troddyn and the late school gardener, P.J. Brennan. Fr Troddyn was introduced to professional gardening whilst a scholastic at Emo Park, and some of his hard work there still survives. Amongst the many trees he planted at Crescent is a mature avenue of copper beeches, and thousands of daffofils, that spring forth annually in May: a fitting tribute to the memory of both men who contributed to the modern Crescent environment. In this tradition the school also maintains a nature garden to attract wildlife to the campus and make students environmentally aware.
Today the school operates under the joint trusteeship of the Society of Jesus and the Minister for Education. Unlike other Irish Comprehensive schools with a faith based sponsor the Jesuit Provincial enjoys a perpetual majority on the Board of Management, a privilege shared only with Protestant schools at Cork and Donegal redesignated as Comprehensives in the 1960s and 70s. The ethos is Jesuit and Catholic though most of the current teaching staff are lay-persons, with five Jesuit priests currently on the staff, living on campus at the residence, Della Strada. In 2001 the School appointed its first lay headmaster. The current headmaster, Nicholas Cuddihy, was appointed in 2008.
Crescent offers a six-year curriculum, and classes are divided into 5 lines, each named after a Jesuit patron. Demand for places in the school continues to be heavily oversubscribed.
In June 2006 the Sacred Heart Church closed ending the connection of 150 years with Crescent House, from which the school took its name. A House of Prayer and Spirituality has located to the Jesuit Residence in Doooradoyle. The old school church, the Church of the Sacred Heart, after a long vacancy is now owned by a Traditionalist Order, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.
Crescent has a long tradition of national and international touring. Every year students depart to Delphi, Co. Galway. Recess, Co.Galway and Achill, Co.Mayo for personal development and team building. Paris, France and Barcelona, Spain are some of the more recent international tours, and trips were made in the 1980s to what were then somewhat exotic capitals like Havana, East Berlin and Moscow. An annual pilgrimage also takes place to the inter-denomational monastery at Taize in France, and walking retreats around Ireland are undertaken by pupils in their final year of study. Skiing and snowboarding tours are held annually at various skiing resorts throughout Europe. Sporting teams also regularly tour and represent the school at international level: Crescent rugby, soccer and hockey teams have represented the school in the Czech Republic, Holland, Japan, Australia, Spain, South Africa and many other locations. The schools surfing club now entering its fifth year has several annual outings to Lahinch, Co.Clare.
Academically Crescent is within the top 40 secondary schools in Ireland.
Amongst the past pupils of Crescent are:
- Joseph O'Mara, 19th century opera singer
- Mr. Justice John L. Murray, Former Attorney General of Ireland and current Chief Justice of the Irish Supreme Court
- Mr. Justice Joseph Finnegan, President of the High Court
- Mr. Justice Philip O'Sullivan, Judge of the High Court
- Mr. Justice Kevin O'Higgins, Judge of the High Court
- His Honour Judge Tom O'Donnell, Judge of the Circuit Court
- Bill Whelan, Riverdance composer
- Tom O'Donnell, Fine Gael TD and former government minister
- Richard Harris, actor
- Terry Wogan, BBC TV presenter
- Paul Canty, rugby player
- Peter Clohessy, rugby union international
- David Wallace, rugby union international
- Donogh O'Malley, Fianna Fáil TD and government minister
- Desmond O'Malley, founder of the Progressive Democrats political party and government minister
- Dermot Whelan, Comedian
- Tim O'Malley, Progressive Democrats TD and Minister of State
- Simon Carswell, Irish Times Finance Editor
- Richard Oakley, Journalist
- Andrew Dillon, Dean, School of Information, University of Texas at Austin
- George Clancy, Mayor of Limerick 1921
- Canon John Hayes, Founder of Muintir na Tíre
- Eoin Reddan, rugby union international
- Bryan Walsh, Director of Peter Pan 1960
- John Hayes, chaplain in World War I killed in action
- Gordon Wood (rugby player)
- Matthew Potter writer and historian
- Eamon O'Flaherty writer and historian
- Conor Niland, tennis player
- Brian O'Connell, jockey
Crescent College in popular culture
- Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt's memoir of growing up in Limerick in the 1930s and '40s, references the school.
- Crescent College SJ Web site
- Image of Fr William Hackett and the Crescent Volunteers, 1918
- Crescent College SJ Nature Garden
- Old Crescent Rugby Football Club
- Crescent College Hockey Web site