St Peter's College Seminary by V Rev Seamas
S Canon de Val
As a result of the Penal Laws, Irish students for
the priesthood had to go to colleges on the continent of Europe for
their education. Relaxation of the repressive laws regarding
Catholic education began with the passing of Acts of Parliament in
1782, 1792 and 1793, and in that last-mentioned year St Patrick's
College in Carlow was established. St Kieran's College,
was opened about that time also. Two years later, St
Patrick's College, Maynooth, was founded, and a number of
followed, including St John's Waterford, in 1807.
Bishop Patrick Ryan established a school for boys, known as the "Roman
Catholic Seminary", at Michael Street, Wexford. In 1819, this
school was transferred to Summerhill and was renamed St Peter's College.
time went on, students intending to go for the priesthood did some of
their studies in St Peter's before going on to Maynooth or Carlow.
By 1835 it was stated that "should the wants of the diocese
require it, a course of theology is available to supersede the
necessity of students finishing their education at Maynooth".
appears, however, that theology was not studied in the college until Dr
Thomas Furlong, who had been professor of Moral Theology and other
disciplines in Maynooth, was appointed Bishop of Ferns in 1857 and came
to live in St Peter's but, even then, a full course was not catered
for. This did not come about until about 1895, and the first
class to have completed their full course of philosophy and
theology here were ordained in 1901.
students were accommodated in the rooms in St Aidan's building, built
in 1879, and when numbers increased the senior theologians occupied
Summerhill House (now the Bishop's residence). When Dr
Codd became bishop in 1918, he came to live in Summerhill House and the
house known as St Mary's, until then the bishop's house, was made
available for the students.
the early years, the number
of clerical students was not large. For instance, in 1903
were only twelve in the divinity classes and six in philosophy.
In the secondary school that same year there were thirty-four
boarders and thirty-seven day pupils. Over the next three
the numbers increased steadily and the necessity for extra
accommodation became pressing. The erection of a new seminary
building began in 1935. It was completed in 1938, during the
episcopacy of Bishop Codd. At the same time a new refectory,
catering for the whole student body, lay and clerical, was built on the
site of the old Physics Hall. The original refectory was
converted into the present Staff Room and adjoining classroom.
were ordained in St Peter's for the Diocese of Ferns, but also for
Irish Dioceses and for Dioceses in Britain, the United States,
and Australasia. With the outbreak of World War II in 1939,
students in France could not continue their studies there, and three
students belonging to the Diocese of Beauvais completed their course
and were ordained in St Peter's.
With the drastic fall in
the number of vocations, St Peter's Seminary was forced to close in
1999. Students for the priesthood are now educated at St
Patrick's College, Maynooth.
The lay school has continued to thrive and at
present has a student population of about seven hundred.