The Jesuit Community in Clongowes – guardian of and witness to the Ignatian Vision
When a Jesuit is sent to a Community he is given a mission. He thus shares in the worldwide mission of the Society of Jesus, as expressed in the 32nd General Congregation: Our Community is the entire body of the Society itself, no matter how widely dispersed over the face of the earth. The particular local Community to which one may belong at any given moment is, for him simply a concrete expression of this worldwide brotherhood. Thus the College is an integral part of the Society of Jesus throughout the world, and the presence of the Community here is the link and reminder of service given to the Church in the specific apostolate of education.
When Fr Peter Kenney took possession of Castle Browne on 4th March 1814, he was continuing a teaching mission, which even the suppression of the Society in 1773 had been unable to hinder. Very many of the pre-Suppression Jesuits simply opened their own schools and continued what Jesuits had been doing ever since their Founder, St Ignatius Loyola, opened the Society’s first college in 1538. Much has changed since then, not least the staff, which has moved from a corps, which at one time was almost 100% Jesuit, to to-day’s collaboration with devoted and dedicated Lay Colleagues – almost 50 in number.
Until a generation ago all those involved in the work of the College were Jesuits: Priests, Brothers and Scholastics. The Rector, appointed by Fr General in Rome for a period of six years had overall responsibility for the whole enterprise. The Brothers looked after the material side of things, running the Farm (at one stage it counted 600+ acres and provided almost all of the catering requirements), doing the cooking, operating the laundry, looking after transport and providing medical services. The Scholastics were those still in formation and who were being tested for future suitability to work in education. They did some teaching and prefecting (i.e. housemasters]. The Priests were mainly involved in administration, in the classrooms, organizing the curriculum and looking after all the other aspects of boarding school life as Line Prefects, Minister or Spiritual Father. The Community also helped out in the local parish and the neighborhood.
The spiritual core of the mission
In the persona of the Community was the spiritual core of the mission inspired by the Ignatian vision of God-at-work-in-the-world. Ignatius sought to find-God-in-all-things and wanted his followers (his Companions of Jesus – as the first Jesuits called themselves) to share this vision and goal with the students of his Colleges. Up until about the middle of the 20th century the Clongowes Community counted about 30 Jesuits but today there are only 10. The Rector is the Superior of the Community and is a member of the College Staff and the former Prefect of Studies is the Jesuit Headmaster, who has overall responsibility for the running of the College.
As Clongowes celebrates its Bicentenary – and thanks to the sharing in the Ignatian ethos by our committed and generous Lay Colleagues – the Irish Jesuits have faith in the future of the educational mission, which Fr Kenney undertook in such difficult conditions 200 years ago. At that time Catholics were struggling to be given equal rights as citizens and he set out to provide an education to enable them to take their rightful place in the life of their country. It can be truly said that, in conjunction with other Religious Orders, this has been successfully achieved. But to-day’s challenges are no less daunting than those, which faced Fr Kenney and his Students.
The present generation of Clongownians is called to develop a Faith-that-does-justice in a world which still suffers from social inequality, where the Church struggles to recover from its recent scandals. It is not easy to stand-and-be-counted as a Catholic in to-day’s secular society but the example of Fr Kenney, and the inspiration of St Ignatius stand as a challenge to the current students, and to all Old Clongownians, to take advantage of the privilege of the education which is theirs to become men-for-others, who make a real difference in the world. The College motto encapsulates the values with which Clongowes hopes to imbue all of its Alumni both now and later: Aeterna non Caduca – the eternal lasting things not those which are passing and perish – and, in the motto of the Society of Jesus itself, everything is done ad maiorem Dei gloriam – for the greater glory of God.