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Kavanagh, Stanislaus, 1876-1965, Capuchin priest

  • IE CA DB/24
  • Person
  • 12 June 1876-16 May 1965

John Kavanagh was born in Mountmellick in Queen’s County (later County Laois) on 12 June 1876. Having spent some years in the Capuchin College in Rochestown, County Cork, he was received into the Capuchin Order in March 1893. He was ordained a priest in Dublin on 23 February 1902. Soon after his ordination he was stationed in Kilkenny as a Professor of Philosophy, but most of his life as a priest was spent in Dublin and in Cork. An accomplished scholar, Kavanagh spent many years in libraries and archives in England, France, Italy, Spain and Belgium, transcribing thousands of documents in a very clear hand, recording everything relating to the Irish Capuchins which could be discovered overseas. His work in transcribing the seventeenth-century Latin text, the ‘Commentarius Rinuccinianus’, published by the Irish Manuscripts Commission in six volumes between 1932 and 1949, is well known. His extremely important corpus of manuscripts, surrogate copies and transcribed materials for early Capuchin history are now extant in the Irish Capuchin Archives. He served as Provincial Archivist for the Capuchin Order in Ireland from 1919 to 1958. In 1918 he was appointed to investigate the cause of two seventeenth century Irish Capuchin martyrs, Fr. Fiacre Tobin OSFC (d. 1856) and Fr. John Baptist Dowdall OSFC (d. 1710). Kavanagh also had a life-long interest in Fr. Theobald Mathew OSFC (1790-1856) and amassed a huge quantity of research and documentary material relating to his life and nineteenth-century temperance campaign. In recognition of his contribution to Irish historical scholarship, the National University of Ireland awarded him an honorary Doctor of Literature (D. Litt.) in 1947. Outside of academia, Kavanagh was a well-known preacher, missionary, and retreat-giver. In 1924 he was asked to travel to the United States where he spent several months assisting Irish Capuchin friars in missionary and preaching work. He was also a long-time incumbent of the position of Secretary of the Irish Capuchin Province (1922-31; 1937-55) and was elected Provincial Deifintor (Councillor) in 1931. His later years were blighted by dementia and he died on 16 May 1965 in the Bon Secours Hospital in Dublin. He was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Baptismal name: John Kavanagh
Religious name: Fr. Stanislaus Kavanagh OFM Cap.
Date of birth: 12 June 1876
Place of birth: Mountmellick, Queen’s County (County Laois), Diocese of Kildare & Leighlin
Name of father: Edward Kavanagh
Name of mother: Joanna Kavanagh (née Costello)
Date of reception into the Capuchin Order: 20 Mar. 1893
Date of first profession: 2 July 1894
Date of final profession: 25 Dec. 1897
Date of ordination (as priest): 23 Feb. 1902
Educational attainments: Doctor of Literature (D. Litt.), 1947
Leadership positions: Provincial Definitor, 1931-4; Provincial Secretary, 1922-31, 1937-55; Provincial Archivist, 1919-1958
Date of death: 16 May 1965
Place of death: Bon Secours Hospital, Glasnevin, Dublin
Place of burial: Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

Maher, Columbus, 1835-1894, Capuchin priest

  • Person
  • 9 June 1835-10 September 1894

Patrick J. Maher was born on North Brunswick Street, opposite, what was then, the Richmond Hospital in Dublin on 9 June 1835. His family’s property extended to North King Street and possibly included the site (No. 49) on which a former Capuchin House stood. He was baptized and made his first communion (8 September 1848) in the old Church Street chapel where he served Mass for Fr. Theobald Mathew OSFC from whom he took the total abstinence pledge. In 1851 he entered the Capuchin novitiate, taking the name Columbus, at Frascati near Rome, and made his solemn profession the following year. He then studied philosophy at Florence and theology at Sienna after which he was granted patents for preaching in 1855. The following year he received subdiaconate in Rome. Too young to be ordained, he spent some months with the Capuchin community in Pantasaph, Wales, until he returned briefly to Ireland to receive diaconate from Cardinal Paul Cullen at Maynooth on 5 June 1857. The following year, at the age of twenty-three, he was ordained a priest in Liverpool with a dispensation of thirteen months from the Holy See. At the time it was noted that he was the first Capuchin priest to be ordained in England since the Reformation. At the Provincial Chapter in 1859 he was appointed guardian in Kilkenny where he served two terms and was in demand as a confessor and preacher until he was sent to Rome as a novice master. While there he was asked to go to Ancona to minister to about 800 men of the Irish Brigade who were on their way to defend Pius IX.

Having returned to Ireland, he spent some time in Cork and again in Kilkenny until he moved to Dublin. Here, in 1880, he identified himself with the Temperance League and from then on, his whole life and energy were devoted to a crusade against the abuses of intoxicating drink. He became Vice-President of the Father Mathew Total Abstinence Society of the Sacred Thirst founded by his fellow Capuchin Fr. Albert Mitchell OSFC (1831-1893). When Fr. Albert left for missionary work in Australia in 1883, Fr. Columbus became President and undertook the herculean task of resuscitating the total abstinence movement, which had been declining ever since Fr. Mathew’s death. Gradually, as a result of his untiring efforts, Fr. Columbus made total abstinence popular, honoured and respected in Dublin. He succeeded in constantly enlisting individuals rather than enrolling large numbers at a time. Eventually, the old Temperance Hall at 3 Halston Street proved inadequate to meet the demands upon its space. With the centenary of the birth of Fr. Mathew approaching (1890), Fr. Columbus decided to perpetuate his hero’s memory by building a Memorial Hall on Church Street and by erecting a statue in Dublin. All classes and creeds contributed to collections made throughout the city, the country, and abroad. A committee presided over by the Lord Mayor met regularly in the Oak Room of the Mansion House, Fr. Columbus being one of its most attentive members. A competition for a suitable design for a statue was won by Mary Redmond (1863-1930). It would be eight feet tall, sculptured in light grey Sicilian marble and standing on a pedestal of limestone fourteen feet high.

On 30 October 1890, a procession of 50,000 made its way from St. Stephen's Green to O’Connell Street for the laying of the top stone of the pedestal. All the city trades turned out with bands and banners; and the various temperance societies and sodalities, the League of the Cross and other bodies were fully represented. On the platform there was a representative group of clergy, merchants, and other citizens of all denominations. Among them were sixty-five total abstainers who had taken the pledge from Fr. Mathew himself in 1840. It was a proud moment for Fr. Columbus when he was given the silver trowel, now preserved in the Irish Capuchin Archives, used by the Lord Mayor to lay the top stone of the pedestal. Three years later the statue itself was put in place.

Although the Memorial Hall’s foundation stone was blessed and laid in the centenary year, it took twelve months to build. Then on 25 January 1891 it was opened by Archbishop William Walsh who had been a supporter of Fr. Columbus from the outset. Before extensions were added (1904) the main auditorium was 73 feet in length and 39 feet wide and there was a gallery on three sides. Altogether there was accommodation for between 800 and 900 people. In addition to the main hall there was a coffee bar, a billiard room and reading rooms. Among the large representative group attending the opening were the Lord Mayor, the Sheriff, William Conyngham Plunket, the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin, and the Irish nationalist politician John Redmond who regretted that Dublin was the worst city for drunkenness that he had ever visited. The Temperance League now moved from Halston Street to their new Memorial Hall on Church Street. A monthly meeting was also held in the nearby Church of St. Mary of the Angels, but after only two years it was necessary to hold two meetings – one for men and another for women. Indefatigably, Fr. Columbus presided over the thousands striving for sobriety.

Fr. Columbus Maher OSFC died suddenly of a suspected heart attack on the morning of 10 September 1894 in the Capuchin Friary on Church Street, Dublin. He was 59 years old. At his funeral Mass Fr. Matthew O’Connor OSFC, Provincial Minister, stated that the Capuchin community had been deprived of an exemplary member, Church Street of a devoted confessor and preacher, the Temperance League of its protector and the City of Dublin of a public benefactor. The universal esteem in which he had been held was clear from the long file of mourning carriages and the estimated 6,000 people who attended his funeral in Glasnevin Cemetery.

Mathew, Theobald, 1790-1856, Capuchin priest

  • Person
  • 10 October 1790-8 December 1856

Theobald Mathew was born at Thomastown Castle near the village of Golden in County Tipperary on 10 October 1790. The Mathews were an old, landed family with both Catholic and Protestant branches. Francis Mathew (1738-1806) was the owner of Thomastown Castle. He was created Viscount Landaff in 1793, and then Earl Landaff in 1797 (the title derived from the place in Wales from which the family had come to Ireland in the seventeenth century). The title was sometimes referred to as the Earldom of Llandaff since that is the more common Welsh spelling, but it is Earl Landaff in the Peerage of Ireland. The Mathews of Thomastown held this title from 1797 to 1833. In the 1760s, Francis Mathew had adopted his orphaned cousin, James Mathew, Theobald’s father. On reaching adulthood, James was appointed the agent for the Mathew estate. Unlike many of the Mathews, James remained a Catholic throughout his life. His wife, Anne Whyte, was also a Catholic. They had twelve children, the fourth of whom was Theobald. The young Theobald Mathew had a privileged childhood, enjoying favoured treatment from his Protestant relation, Lady Elizabeth Mathew, the daughter of Francis Mathew. Lady Elizabeth knew and approved of Theobald’s priestly ambitions, and in 1800 she provided the money to pay for his education at St. Canice’s, a Catholic boarding school in Kilkenny. In September 1807, Theobald enrolled at St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth, for seminary training. However, his plans were upset when in his first year he was forced to leave Maynooth to avoid being expelled for holding what appears to have been a drunken party for his fellow students. He was subsequently accepted by the Capuchin Franciscan Order as a novice and he made his way to Church Street in Dublin to be trained. The Capuchins, in common with many of the religious orders in Ireland, were weak at this time and were thus extremely anxious for new recruits.

On 3 April 1813 Mathew was ordained a deacon. A year later he was ordained a priest by the Most Rev. Daniel Murray (1768-1852), later Archbishop of Dublin. After a brief sojourn in Kilkenny, Fr. Mathew moved back to Cork where he came under the influence of Fr. Daniel Donovan OSFC (d. 14 Jan. 1821) who was elected Provincial Minister of the Irish Capuchins in 1816. Fr. Mathew devoted a good deal of his time to practical charitable enterprises, establishing schools for poor and orphaned children. In these schools the children were taught household skills in addition to elementary subjects. In 1821, Fr. Donovan died, and Fr. Mathew was elected his successor as Provincial Minister. He would continue to hold this position until 1851. In 1832, he broke ground for an elaborate, Gothic-style Capuchin church in Cork (subsequently called The Church of the Most Holy Trinity), on Charlotte Quay (later renamed Father Mathew Quay). Due to a lack of funds the church would remain unfinished in Fr. Mathew’s lifetime. It was not until 1890 that the spire and façade were added. Nevertheless, Fr. Mathew gained an excellent reputation in the local community for his tireless endeavours in support of the poor of Cork. He was also noted for his exceptional spirit of ecumenism. He was on friendly terms with several leading Protestants and Quakers in the city. Fr. Mathew joined the total abstinence movement in Cork in April 1838. The Cork Total Abstinence Society was established with the avowed aim of encouraging people to make one enduring act of which would keep them sober for life. This act of will was enshrined in the pledge to abstain from the taking of intoxicating liquor.

From the very beginning Fr. Mathew’s endeavours in the cause of temperance gained striking success. Under his leadership, teetotalism drew many adherents in Cork and spread throughout Munster and eventually throughout Ireland. The Society’s ranks quickly grew, and within three months, Fr. Mathew had enrolled 25,000 new members in Cork alone. In five months, the number had increased to 130,000. He travelled across Ireland, convincing thousands more to pledge teetotalism. In August 1842, he began traveling internationally, first to Scotland, then England. At its height, just before the outbreak of the famine in 1845, Fr. Mathew’s temperance movement had enrolled three million people, or more than half of the adult population of Ireland. By the mid-1840s he was frequently travelling to Britain with equally dramatic results. The leading nationalist politician, Daniel O’Connell (1775-1847), described the temperance movement as Fr. Mathew’s ‘mighty moral crusade’. In 1847, the priests of the diocese of Cork selected him to be their bishop. However, there was strong opposition from members of the hierarchy. It was held against him that he had accepted a pension from the Government. One long-standing critic among the bishops described him as ‘the hired tool of a heretical government’. This reflected the long-standing determination of the Catholic Church in Ireland not to accept state funding and the interference that would come in its train. Fr. Mathew’s financial mismanagement (he was known to be bountiful and generous to the point of extravagance), liberal Catholicism and Protestant associations also told against him. The Pope acceded to the almost unanimous advice of the Irish hierarchy that Fr. Mathew should not be appointed to the bishopric. Nevertheless, his standing as a popular figure remained undiminished. In July 1849, he visited the United States where he was greeted with enthusiastic acclaim. In Washington, the Congress unanimously admitted to him to a seat on the floor of the House; he was the first non-American after the Marquis de Lafayette to be so honoured. Rallies and demonstrations were held across the country to honour Ireland’s renowned ‘Apostle of Temperance’.

Despite this personal adulation, it was clear that Fr. Mathew’s movement had reached its zenith. From the late 1840s the movement began to decline almost dramatically as it had risen. His health started to fail (he had suffered a stroke in 1848) and crippling debts began to accumulate, making it increasingly difficult to continue the temperance crusade. The onset of the famine, brought about by the failure of the potato crop in 1845, dealt a grievous blow to the movement; thousands of Fr. Mathew’s followers died or emigrated in those years. Many of those who remained in Ireland had to contend with more pressing concerns than the maintenance of their pledge to abstain from alcohol. In late 1853, despite declining health, Fr. Mathew ventured to Limerick where he administered the pledge in what was his last appearance at a public meeting. In October 1854, on medical advice, he travelled to Madeira, but his health continued to deteriorate. In the absence of its charismatic leader the temperance movement continued to weaken. He suffered a severe stroke in late 1856 and died in Queenstown, County Cork, on 8 December 1856. He was 66 years old. He was buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery in Cork, which he had established twenty-six years earlier.

McCann, Gerald, 1910-1958, Capuchin priest

  • IE CA DB/178
  • Person
  • 2 February 1910-16 August 1958

Joseph McCann was born in Belfast on 2 February 1910. After a period of schooling in his native city he entered the Seraphic College in Rochestown in County Cork to prepare for his entry into the Capuchin Order. He was preceded by his elder brother, Robert McCann, who had joined the Capuchins in 1925. His brother took Cuthbert as his religious name and was later a missionary in Africa before returning to Ireland in 1946. Having completed a course in humanities, Joseph McCann entered the Capuchin novitiate in Kilkenny in 1929. He took Gerald as his religious name upon joining the Order. For the following three years he was a member of the community at St. Bonaventure’s Hostel and studied philosophy in University College Cork. In 1933 he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts degree. He subsequently studied theology in Ard Mhuire Friary in County Donegal and was ordained a priest by the Most Reverend William McNeely, Bishop of Raphoe, in Letterkenny on 27 June 1937. Soon after his ordination he was transferred to Dublin and was appointed assistant editor in the Irish Capuchin publications office. Here he found scope for his considerable literary and artistic talents. His greatly admired and often amusing illustrations of Franciscan life were a noteworthy feature of ‘The Capuchin Annual’. He also contributed many literary and scholarly articles to both the ‘Annual’ and its sister publication ‘The Father Mathew Record’. Afflicted by ill-health from an early age, he was subsequently forced to relinquish his work in Dublin and was transferred to Rochestown Friary in County Cork. In August 1958 he travelled to Dublin to preach a novena, but he took ill and was admitted to the Bon Secours Hospital in Glasnevin. He died in the hospital on 16 August 1958 and was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin.

Baptismal name: Joseph McCann
Religious name: Fr. Gerald McCann OFM Cap.
Date of birth: 2 February 1910
Place of birth: North Queen Street, Belfast, County Antrim (Diocese of Down and Connor)
Name of father: John McCann (Cabinet Maker)
Name of mother: Mary Jane McCann (née Riddel)
Date of parents’ marriage: 10 July 1899
Date of reception into the Capuchin Order: 3 Oct. 1929
Date of first profession: 4 Oct. 1930
Date of final profession: 4 Oct. 1933
Date of ordination (as priest): 27 June 1937
Educational attainments: BA (1933)
Date of death: 16 Aug. 1958
Place of death: Bon Secours Hospital, Dublin
Place of burial: Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin

McNamara CM, Thomas, 1809-1892, Provincial of Irish Vincentian Province

  • Person
  • 1809-1892

Thomas McNamara was Provincial of the Irish Vincentian Province 1864-1867. He was President of Castleknock College for the same three years.
Here is an article which was published by Gary Culliton in the Irish Medical Times about Father McNamara's being 'solely or partly responsible for the founding of a large number of Dublin medical institutions':

Moynihan, Senan, 1900-1970, Capuchin priest

  • IE CA DB/130
  • Person
  • 24 November 1900-26 July 1970

John Moynihan, the son of Thomas and Mary Moynihan, was born on 24 November 1900 in Castlegregory, County Kerry. He was educated at Aughacasla National School (eight years) and at St. Brendan’s Seminary, Killarney (four years) and he matriculated in June 1918. He studied at All Hallows College in Dublin from October 1918 to March 1919. He joined the Irish Capuchin Franciscans in September 1920 taking the religious name of Senan. He took his final vows in 1925 and he was ordained a priest in 1928. Shortly after his ordination in 1928 he was appointed editor of ‘The Father Mathew Record’, a popular monthly publication of the Irish Capuchins which promoted the Order’s overseas’ missions (particularly in Africa) and carried articles supporting the cause of total abstinence. Fr. Senan strove to create a higher grade, more literary publication. He was acquainted with many well-known Irish writers and artists and he secured permission from the Order’s leadership to publish an ‘Annual’ in 1930. ‘The Capuchin Annual’ was published from 1930 to 1977. The publication was very much the work of Fr. Senan and he remained its editor until 1954. In 1955 a decision was made at the Capuchin Provincial Chapter to remove Fr. Senan from the editorship of the ‘Annual’. Soon afterwards he travelled to Perth at the invitation of Archbishop Redmond Prendiville (1900-1968), a fellow Kerry man. Fr. Francis Moynihan, a brother of Fr. Senan, had also been resident in Australia and was parish priest of St. John’s, Clifton Hill, in Melbourne. Fr. Francis was also the editor of ‘The Advocate’, a leading Catholic newspaper in Australia. Fr. Senan arrived in Perth in 1959. He was incardinated into the Perth Archdiocese on 1 April 1959 (as a diocesan priest having left the Capuchin Order). On arrival he took up a position as chaplain to religious sisters at St Anne’s Hospital, Mt Lawley (now Mercy Hospital). He did not, however, act as a chaplain to the patients. Archbishop Redmond Prendiville appointed him the first archivist of the Archdiocese of Perth in July 1962. Fr. Senan died in Perth on 26 July 1970. He is buried in Karrakatta Cemetery, Perth.

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