St. John's College, Waterford

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St. John's College, Waterford
AffiliationRoman Catholic
AffiliationsDiocese of Waterford and Lismore

St. John's College (or St. John's Seminary) was a Catholic seminary founded in 1807 for the diocese of Waterford and Lismore, founded by Bishop John Power DD. It was one of many seminaries founded in Ireland following the reliefs of the penal laws by the Catholic Relief Bill. The college was formed out of two schools one a classical school of Rev. Thomas Flynn DD, the other an Academy of Dr. Geoffrey Keating and the new college was located in Manor Hill in Waterford, originally a mansion of the Wyse family. In 1868 a new building for the college was built at John's Hill, the building was designed by the architect Mr. George Goldie from the London firm of Goldie and Child, the foundation stone was laid by the Rev. Dr. O'Brien Bishop of Waterford and a former president of St. John's.[1]

From its formation until 1873[2] when it became exclusively a seminary the college educated lay as well as clerical students, it maintains some lay teaching staff until 1878. Students would study, theology, philosophy,and humanities such as mathematics, Latin, Greek, and English.

In the 1830s the college established a mission to Newfoundland in Canada, over the years the a number of priests trained would have served dioceses around the world, with about 250 serving in the United States.[2]

The college closed in 1999.

People Associated with St. John's[edit]

Presidents of the College[edit]

The first president of the college was Rev. Thomas Murphy; others who served as president (or rector) of the college include

  • Rev. Garrett Connolly V.G.,
  • Rev. Dr. Nicholas Foran (1814–1818)
  • Rev. Dr. William Abraham (1824–1830), appointed Bishop of Waterford.
  • Rev. James Patrick Cooke DD (1830–1834 and again briefly from 1853–1854 when he died),[1]
  • Rev. Dominick O'Brien DD (1834–1853),
  • Rev. Michael Wall (1854–1855),
  • Rev. Patrick Cleary DD (1856–1858) a brother of a former president,
  • Rev. Patrick Delaney DD (1858–1873),
  • Rev. James Vincent Cleary DD (1873–1876), he became Archbishop of Kingston, Ontario.
  • Rev. Pierse Power (1876–1881),
  • Rev. Joseph Austin Phelan (1881–1888),
  • Rev. Roger O'Riordan (1888–1889),
  • Rev. Canon William Sheehy DD (1889–1902),
  • Very Rev. Canon William Walsh DD (1902–1910),
  • Rev. Denis Whelan DD OSA (1910–1919),
  • Very Rev. Canon William Byrne, STL DD (1919–1930),
  • Very Rev. Canon John Kelleher, STL BCL (1930–1936),
  • Rev. William Coffey (1936-19??),
  • Very Rev. Canon Thomas Cassidy,
  • Right Rev. Monsignor John Dean Shine (1974-1980)
  • Very Rev Canon Martin Slattery (1980-1985)
  • Very Rev Michael N. O'Connor (1985-1994)
  • Very Rev. Dr. Michael Mullins PP, BD, STL, LSS, STD (1994-1998),
  • Very Rev. Paul Murphy PP

Students of St. John's College[edit]

The Archbishop of Halifax William Walsh attended St John's, as did the Historian of Dr. Patrick C. Power.[3] The Irish language activist Professor Michael O'Hickey dismissed from Maynooth over his stance on the language, studied at St. John's, as did the author, language activist and musician Fr. Risteard De Hindeberg. Dr. Tobias Kirby studied at St. John's before going to Rome, where he went on to become rector of the Pontifical Irish College and an archbishop. Patrick Joseph McGrath[4] who became Bishop of San Jose in California.[2] John Vaughan trained as a priest in St. John's, he transferred to the Episcopal Church and was elected a suffragan bishop in 2012 for the Diocese of the Eastern United States.[5] Bishop Edwin Regan of Wrexham also trained at St. John's. Another bishop who commenced his priestly education in St. John's (prior to going to Maynooth) was Bishop Michael Sheehan, he returned to St. Johns's as a professor for two years. Bishop William Lee MBE of Clifton in England, was a student in St. John's before continuing his training in Oscott. Bishop Séamus Cunningham of Newcastle and Hexham also trained in St. John's. The former bishop of Southwark, the Waterford-born Charles Henderson, studied at St. John's. The lawyer John Hearne SC, who helped draft the Irish Constitution, studied in St. John's before transferring to Maynooth.

Dr. Edward Barron, who served as bishop of Liberia, studied at St. Johns, before going to Rome; he returned to St. John's serving as a professor before becoming a bishop.

The controversial Bishop Pat Buckley studied there from 1973 to 1976 and was ordained from there on June 6, 1976, by the Bishop of Waterford and Lismore Dr. Michael Russell.


St. John's closed as a seminary in June 1999[6] due to the decline in vocations, with the 13 students transferred to other seminaries.[7] A number of church and community groups used its lands and buildings, instead such as diocesan offices, Accord and Cura. The local Scouts have a purpose built facility on the grounds of the college.

In 2007 the college building and some of the land was sold to the Respond! Housing association,[8] with a new pastoral centre being built for the diocese and opened in 2005[9]


  1. ^ a b Waterford & Lismore – A Compendious History of the United Dioceses by Patrick Power, M.R.I.A., D.Litt., Emeritus Professor of Archaeology, UCC, Cork University Press (1937)
  2. ^ a b c St. John's College, Waterford, Irish priests in the United States: a vanishing subculture By William L. Smith.
  3. ^ Canon Patrick Power A Talk by Msg. Michael G. Olden presented at Canon Patrick Power Seminar, WIT, 8 March 2012
  4. ^ Bishop Patrick J. McGrath Diocese of San Jose website.
  5. ^ Anglican Church in America (TAC) Elects Suffragan Bishop
  6. ^ My Work Fr. Tommy Lane.
  7. ^ Waterford seminary to close due to falling vocations, Sunday, 28 March 1999.
  8. ^ St John's College sold to Respond By Jamie O'Keeffe Munster Express, Published on Friday, 20 April 2007 at 12:00 pm
  9. ^ St Johns Pastoral Centre Archived 23 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine Diocese of Waterford and Lismore website