Item 70 - Letter from Fr Edmund O'Reilly SJ to Dr Charles Russell concerning the religious upbringing of the children of William Bliss

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IE IJA N/8/70


Letter from Fr Edmund O'Reilly SJ to Dr Charles Russell concerning the religious upbringing of the children of William Bliss


  • 12 December 1869 (Creation)

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(30 April 1811-10 November 1878)

Biographical history

Born: 30 April 1811, London, England
Entered: 24 July 1851, Naples, Italy - Neapolitanae Province (NAP)
Ordained: 1838 - pre Entry
Final vows: 15 August 1862
Died: 10 November 1878, Milltown Park, Dublin

by 1853 Teaching at St Beuno’s Wales (ANG)

Father Provincial of the Irish Province of the Society of Jesus : 08 December 1863-19 April 1870

Fr Edmund Hogan SJ “Catalogica Chronologica” :
Son of Thomas, a merchant, and Brigid née O’Callaghan (one of five daughters of Edmund, of Killegorey Co Clare). One of his aunts married the Third Earl of Kenmare.

Born in London, but the family returned to Ireland when he was six years old.

Early education was at Clongowes and Maynooth and then on to the Roman College - where he made a public defence of universal Theology with applause and graduated DD. He was ordained there 1838.
1838-1851 He returned to Ireland and was appointed to the Chair of Theology, a position he held for thirteen years, and then he joined HIB 1851, received at Rome aged 40, and did his Noviceship in Naples.

1853-1856 Appointed professor of Dogmatic Theology at St Beuno’s, endearing himself to all who came to know him during his short stay.
1856 Sent to Ireland.
1862 He received his Final Vows unusually early due to his impending appointment as Provincial.
1863-1870 Appointed Provincial, succeeding Father Lentaigne who was the First provincial of HIB. On several occasions he was chosen by Prelates as their Theologian at various Provincial Synods, including the one at Oscott, England.
1874 Appointed first Rector of Milltown, whilst teaching at University, and also being Socius to the Provincial, and continued in these roles until his death 10 November 1878 At Milltown aged 67. He was universally loved and lamented. His funeral was attended by a large number of Ecclesiastics, Secular and Religious.
When the Catholic University was opened, he was appointed to the Chair of Theology, and the mutual sentiments of affection and esteem which existed between Newman, its First Rector, and Edmund remained undiminished until his death.. He was regarded by Newman and other high authorities as one of the first Theologians of the day.
He was remarkable for his devotion to the Church and the Society, a deep a solid piety, with exactness and fidelity in everything pertaining to the duties of the Priesthood, combined with great cheerfulness. His love of the poor was proverbial.
A brief memoir appears in the “Irish Monthly” Vol vi, 1878

◆ HIB Menologies SJ :
One of his aunts married the Third Earl of Kenmare; Another entered the Visitation Convent Westbury; Another married Mr Bagot of Castle Bagot, and the last Married Mr Dease of Turbotstown. Their father - Edumnd’s grandfather - Edmund was mortally wounded in a duel, surviving for five days in time to repent and prepare for judgement.

He spent several years of his boyhood at Mount Catherine, near Limerick, and then in George’s (O’Connell) St Limerick. His very early education was by private tutor before going to Clongowes and Maynooth. While he was at the Roman College, the soon to be Cardinal Cullen was the President. When he became Cardinal at Armagh, he chose Edmund as his Theologian at the Synod of Thurles.

When Passaglia “broke off so miserably” in the middle of a brilliant career, Father General Beckx thought of summoning Edmund to Rome, to have him take the Chair of Theology at the Roman College. Although this did not happen, he was held in high regard as a Professor, and represented all the English speaking Provinces at a meeting held about Jesuit studies in Rome.

◆ Royal Irish Academy : Dictionary of Irish Biography, Cambridge University Press online :
O'Reilly, Edmund Joseph
by David Murphy

O'Reilly, Edmund Joseph (1811–78), Jesuit priest and theologian, was born 30 April 1811 in London, son of Thomas O'Reilly, merchant, and his wife Bridget, daughter of Edmund O'Callaghan and co-heiress to considerable estates in Co. Clare and Co. Limerick. He was brought to Ireland at the age of six and initially educated by a private tutor at the family estate at Mount Catherine, Co. Limerick, before attending Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare. In 1826 he entered St Patrick's College, Maynooth, to begin studies for the priesthood but left three years later, doubting his vocation. He went to Rome in 1830 to continue his studies, however, and distinguished himself at the Roman College. While in Rome he lived at the Irish College where Paul Cullen (qv) was president, and the two men became firm friends. In 1835 he graduated DD, and was ordained priest for the diocese of Limerick in 1838. Returning to Ireland, he was appointed to the chair of dogmatic theology at Maynooth (1838–51). Renowned for his theological knowledge, he was in constant demand with members of the Irish hierarchy, acting as a counsellor on theological matters and points of sacred learning generally. In 1850 he was appointed as theologian to Cullen at the synod of Thurles; he later served as theological advisor to Bishop Brown of Shrewsbury at the synod of Oscott and to Bishop Thomas Furlong (1802–75) of Ferns at the synod of Maynooth. At one time he was considered by the general of the Society of Jesus, Fr Beckx, for the chair of theology at the Roman College.

In July 1851 he asked to be admitted to the Society of Jesus and completed his noviciate at Naples. After first profession, he was appointed as professor of theology at the Jesuit college of St Beuno's, north Wales, and in 1855 was appointed professor of theology at the Catholic University in Dublin, where he became a close associate of John Henry Newman (qv). In 1859 he founded the Jesuit house of studies at Milltown Park, Dublin, and was appointed its first rector, an appointment he held until his death. He took his final vows in August 1862 and was later appointed provincial of the Irish province of the Society of Jesus (1863–70). He died 10 November 1878 at Milltown Park, and was buried in the Jesuit plot in Glasnevin cemetery, Dublin.

O'Reilly published numerous theological articles. Several appeared in the Irish Monthly in 1873–4; from 1875 he assisted Matthew Russell (qv) in editing this journal. In 1875 Newman quoted from some of his writings on temporal papal power in his response to Gladstone's Vaticanism: an answer to reproofs and replies. Newman also referred to O'Reilly in his Letter to the duke of Norfolk (London, 1875). A collection of O'Reilly's writings, edited by Russell, was published in 1892 as The relations of the church to society. A large collection of his papers in the Irish Jesuit archives, Dublin, includes correspondence and manuscript drafts of his theological and devotional writings.

Fr Edmund Joseph O'Reilly, SJ, files in Irish Jesuit archives, Dublin; Irish Monthly, Dec. 1878, 695–700: Boase; Matthew Russell (ed.), The relations of the church to society (1892); Crone; Burke, IFR (1976) 889; Patrick J. Corish, Maynooth College, 1795–1995 (1995); ODNB

◆ James B Stephenson SJ Menologies 1973

Father Edmund O’Reilly SJ 1811-1878
On November 19th 1878, aged 67, died Fr Edmund Joseph O’Reilly, who in the words of Cardinal Newman was “a great authority” and “one of the first Theologians of his day”.

He was born in London, of Irish parents, on April 10th 1811, and returned to Ireland with his parents when he was six years old, residing first at Mount Catherine, a few miles from Limerick, and then in the city, in the house in O’Connell Street opposite the present Provincial Bank. His maternal grandfather, Mr Edmund O’Sullivan of Killegory, was mortally wounded in a duel, but survived five days to repent and die a Christian death.

Young Edmund was educated at Clongowes and then went to Maynooth, and from there to Rome in 1830 where he crowned a brilliant theological course with the “public act de universa theologica”, and the doctors cap in Divinity. On his return in 1838, he was appointed to the chair of Theology in Maynooth, a post he discharged with great distinction for thirteen years.

In 1851 he joined the Society when already 40 years of age. After his novitiate, he was appointed to the chair of Theology at St Beuno’s, Wales.

He became Rector of Milltown Park and held the arduous office of Provincial from 1863-1870. When the Catholic University was established at Dublin, Fr O’Reilly was invited by Newman to take the chair of Theology. This began an affection and esteem between these two great men, which ended only at death.

It is difficult in such a short notice to convey the excellence of Fr O’Reilly’s character. In the words of a very close friend of his, we may say “I have never known a more perfect character or a more blameless life”.

He had a special devotion to the Office, and it was related of him that while a Professor at Maynooth, he used to recite it daily with Dr Dixon, later the saintly Primate of Armagh. His kindness to the poor was known to all.

He retained his faculties right to up the end. Three minutes before he died he raised the crucifix to his lips and kissed it twice with great fervour. His last breath was a prayer. “He has gone to his reward” wrote Cardinal Newman “and all who knew him must have followed on his journey with thoughts full of thanksgiving and gladness for what God made him”.

◆ The Clongownian, 1899

Four Jesuits among our Past

The last number of “The Clongownian” contained some account of our Past in the Army, an account which, though extended, has proved by no means exhaustive. It is now proposed to give a similar record of four members of another societas militans, though their warfare is not of this world.

First on this confined list of Old Clongownians who have · filled responsible offices in the Society of Jesus is the name of Edmund Joseph O'Reilly. In the records of the house at our disposal we find him mentioned among the scholars leaving in the summer of 1830. He was born in London in 1811, and came to the College in 1825, being a school-fellow of Father Frank Murphy SJ, whose death in Australia we recorded eighteen months ago. They were in the Philosophy class of 1829-30, and Father B Esmonde, then Rector, records in his diary, under date of June 29 in the latter year, that “of the four philosophers at present in the house, two (Fr Murphy and Edmd, O'Reilly) have expressed their desire to enter the Society, and are both registered. Both are excellent, virtuous, and talented youths”. The word registered has in this context a curious significance, linking our own days with penal times. The Emancipation Act, passed in the previous year, was not wholly “for the relief of His Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects”. Of its eighteen penal clauses, one provides that “Whereas Jesuits are resident within this kingdom, and it is expedient to make provision for the gradual suppression and final prohibition of the same therein, it is enacted that every Jesuit. . . shall within six months deliver to the Clerk of the Peace notice of his name, age, place of birth, the name of the Order, and of the immediate Superior of the Order, ... and in case he offend in the premnisses, he shall forfeit to His Majesty for every month he shall remain in the United Kingdom, the sum of fifty pounds”. And so the Rector of that day sent in, early in the autumn of 1829, the list of the community and of those likely to join, to Mr Medlicott, then Clerk of the County of Kildare. The subject of this notice. however, did not enter the Society for many years after the registration. He left Ireland for Rome in company with Francis Murphy and John Curtis on September 8, 1830, and joined the Irish College, then presided over by Dr Cullen, the future Cardinal. After a brilliant course in the Roman College of the Society he gained the degree of DD, by examination, and returned to Ireland, where soon he became Professor of Tbeology in Maynooth. There his reputation for holiness and piety rivalled his great name as a scholar and professor. After thirteen years in Maynooth, he entered the Society in 1851, and went through the noviceship, a trial of no ordinary difficulty for a man of his years, whose character and habits were already fully formed. After the period of probation, he professed theology at the Jesuit House of Studies at St Buenos, near St Asaph, and afterwards became Superior of Milltown Park. There he died on November 10, 1878, having been Provincial of Ireland from 1863 to 1870.

◆ The Crescent : Limerick Jesuit Centenary Record 1859-1959

Bonum Certamen ... A Biographical Index of Former Members of the Limerick Jesuit Community

Father Edmund O’Reilly (1811-1878)

In the foregoing pages, only Jesuits who have been members of the Limerick community have been noticed in the biographical index. Yet, this centenary publication would not be complete if it did not assign a notice to two Irish Jesuits who were never members of the community. Father Edmund O'Reilly undoubtedly had much to do with the restoration of the Society in Limerick, while Father John Hannon, an Old Crescent boy, became the second Irish Father Assistant at Rome in the four centuries history of the Society.

Father Edmund O'Reilly (1811-1878), was born in London on 30 April, 1811. Edmund was a child of six when his father decided to return to Ireland and settle down at Mount Catherine House, Clonlara. As Mr. Power died shortly after he returned to the country, the upbringing of the boy devolved upon a mother who was deeply religious in spite of the social class from which she came. She was a daughter of Edmund O’Callaghan of Kilgorey, Co. Clare. Her father was mortally wounded in a duel but survived long enough to repent and die at peace with God. All the O'Callaghan daughters made enviable matches from a social point of view: Lord Kenmare, Bagot of Castle Bagot and Dease of Turbotstown.

Young Edmund was brought for his early education into the city and mother and son occupied a house in George Street opposite the Provincial Bank in the then George Street. His early lessons he learned from a private tutor but later he entered Clongowes. He was accepted for the diocese of Limerick by Bishop Ryan and sent first to Maynooth and later to Rome for his higher studies. At Rome, he resided at the Irish College but took his lectures at the Roman College (Gregorian University) where he graduated Doctor of Divinity after a public act in all theology. He had been ordained priest in 1838. On his return to Ireland, his bishop recommended him to enter the concursus for the chair of theology at Maynooth College and young Dr O'Reilly was successful not only in obtaining the chair but in holding it with distinction for the next thirteen years.

Dr O'Reilly was chosen by Cardinal Cullen to be his theologian at the first National Synod of Thurles in 1850. He acted in the same capacity at the Synods of Oscott and Maynooth. To the surprise of many, Dr. O'Reilly in 1851 asked to be admitted to the Society. He was sent to Naples for his noviceship and the first news he received from Ireland after his arrival there was the sad message of his good mother's death. Father O'Reilly (as he became known amongst his religious brethren who do not use titles even when well earned) fitted in immediately with his new surroundings, in spite of the fact that he was now in his forty-first year. His formation in the Society was limited to the essentials: his noviceship and tertianship.

On his return from Italy, Father O'Reilly was loaned as professor of theology to the English Province of the Society. Later in Ireland, he became the first rector of Milltown Park and in 1863 was appointed Provincial. This latter post he occupied for seven years. Father O'Reilly has always been regarded as one of the greatest Jesuits of the last century not only in Ireland but throughout the Society. His ability as a theologian was known to the General of the Society who had already taken steps to appoint him to the chair of dogmatic theology at the Gregorian University. Fortunately he was allowed to remain in Ireland. Father O'Reilly was acquainted with Cardinal (then Dr.) Newman before his entrance into the Society. The great oratoriau regarded highly the fine intellectual gifts and noble character of the future Jesuit, and the friend ship of both remained constant to the end.

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Letter from Fr Edmund O'Reilly SJ, Clongowes Wood College, County Kildare to Dr Charles Russell concerning the religious upbringing of the children of William Bliss. Offers his opinion on the case. Remarks 'Something depends on the age of the children. The eldest girl, being fit for school is probably old enough to be in danger of becoming a thorough Protestant under the mother's care.' Continues 'He (William Bliss) ought without delay to appoint a testamentary guardian and to take care the document is all right in it's form and execution....'.

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