Catholic University School

Catholic University School

essay = May 2008
self-published = May 2008
unencyclopedic = y
unreferenced = May 2008
Infobox Irish school
name = Catholic University School SM
irish_name = Scoil na hOllscoile Caitleacai
motto = Sub Mariae Nomine
established = 1867
location = 89 Lwr Leeson Street, Dublin 2,
Republic of Ireland
students = 600
keyprole = Principal
keypname = Fr. Martin Daly
free_label = Religious order
free = Marists
homepage =

Catholic University School (CUS) is a Roman Catholic secondary school for boys located on the southside of central Dublin. It is run under the patronage of the Marist Fathers.


To fully understand how and why CUS came to being, you have to understand Ireland in 1850. Daniel O’Connell, "the Liberator" a Member of Parliament and Barrister, helped to achieve Catholic Emancipation in 1829 through legislation passed by the Parliament at Westminster. However, Catholics continued to be discriminted against in many areas of society although were further eroded when the Catholic Church was re-established in the United Kingdom (of which Ireland was then a part) in 1850. One area of discrimination was in education although by 1850 this was more to do lack of funding rather than direct discrimination against Catholics. By 1850 many Catholics received some degree of primary education but few received secondary education and very few received a University education. The only university in Ireland at the time was Trinity College, Dublin, the sole constituent college of the University of Dublin. However, although the University of Dublin (unlike the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge) had been opened to Catholics in 1793 only a few wealthy Catholics attended and they were mainly young men (woman were not admitted until 1904) who had either been educated privately before going up to the university or at schools such as Stonyhurst College in England. In 1850, Queen Victoria granted a Royal Charter founding The Queen's University of Ireland with constituent colleges in Belfast, Galway and Cork. These colleges were known as Queen's College, Belfast (now The Queen's University of Belfast), Queen's College, Galway (now National University of Ireland, Galway and a constituent college of the National University of Ireland) and Queen's College, Cork (now University College Cork a constituent college of the National University of Ireland) and were all non-denominational.

At the Synod of Thurles in 1850, the Catholic Church officially condemned the Queens' Colleges as so-called ‘Godless Colleges.’ The Synod decided that there was an overwhelming necessity for a comprehensive Catholic University. As a result, they declared there to be a new ambitious objective: The Catholic University of Ireland. Enthusiasm for the project was high particularly as John Henry, Cardinal Newman of Westminster consented to be the first Rector.

The Catholic University of Ireland was founded in 1851 but was not fully established until the 18th of May 1854. However, the University was faced with many problems in its opening years. These were largely due to lack of money,public and political support which in turn lead to a low number of students. Dr Daniel Murray, the Archbishop of Dublin established a school at 16-17 Harcourt Street to ensure larger numbers of students for the new university and named the school after the patron Saint of Dublin, St. Laurence O’Toole. St. Laurence’s Academy, founded in 1850, was accompanied by Belvedere College established by the Jesuits on the northside of the city.

The first administrators in the school were mostly young Dublin priests who had studied at the Irish College in Rome. Among them was Dr. James Quinn. Dr. Quinn immediately set about enrolling students and providing education. Within a year the school had an enrolment of 130 students. The subjects taught were classical rather than practical and included Greek, Latin, French, German, Italian and the Arts. The situation with the school at that time could not have been better. Dr. Quinn was subject to endless praise from many different quarters, including Cardinal Newman, for his efficiency and the greatness of the school he created. It is claimed by some that St. Laurence’s Academy was seen then as the principal Catholic school in Dublin. Dr. Quinn’s role in setting up this school went well recognised. So much so that Pope Pius XI chose him as the first Catholic Archbishop of Brisbane, Australia, much to the detriment of all those connected with the school.

1859 was a bad year for the school. Not only had Dr. Quinn taken up his appintment in Brisbane but the reaction to a report by the Royal Commission on Endowed Schools in 1858 was coming to a head. The report suggested that all intermediate schools be run on a "mixed basis" or as a multi-denominational system, which was opposed by the Catholic Church. The report also suggested that intermediate schools be under the management of the "Board of Endowed Schools". The Catholic Bishops and Synods around the country came out one by one in opposition to these recommendations. The Catholic hierarchy as a whole eventually decided that they would not, under any circumstances, agree to the proposed recommendations.

By 1862, many changes had taken place regarding the situation. Paul Cardinal Cullen had succeeded Daniel Murray as Archbishop of Dublin in 1852. Cardinal Newman did not possess the great organisation skills expected of him. As a result, Dr. Bartholomew Woodlock replaced him as rector of the Catholic University. Dr. Woodlock suggested that the Catholic University should ignore the recommendations of the report and proceed with the foundation of Catholic secondary schools on its own. He decided to set up two new secondary schools: Catholic University High School, in Waterford, of which there seems to be no record and St. Flannan’s College in Ennis, County Clare, which still exists. These two schools along with St. Laurence’s Academy were the Catholic University's primary projects with regard to feeder schools. Over time, St. Laurence’s Academy developed an integral relationship with the University. Dr. Woodlock was President of the school and professors from the University also thought in the School. Dr. Woodlock did have one more idea. Instead of calling Dr. Quinn’s school ‘St. Laurence’s Academy,’ he decided to call it a name, which more accurately describes its function, Catholic University School.

Another aspect of the integral relationship between CUS and the Catholic University was that their finances were also intertwined. The rent for the Harcourt Street premises was an astronomical £260 per annum. Neither the school nor the University were able to cope with this huge financial burden. The other two schools were not succeeding either and Dr. Woodlock was not pleased with their progress. He was anxious to relieve himself of the burden of all three schools.

Catholic University School got into deeper and deeper financial trouble. As it did the future for the school became bleaker and bleaker. Cardinal Cullen was adamant that it was not possible for CUS to close down even for a year, because it would be possible that the school would never open again. He also knew that it was impossible for the school to continue in its current financial situation.

In the 1860s, a pattern had begun to emerge regarding education in conjunction with religious orders. Cardinal Cullen had observed intensively as religious orders began to set up schools in other areas of the country. Orders like the Holy Ghost Fathers, Carmelites and Dominicans all came to Ireland in and around the 1860s.

In February 1867 the future for CUS was bleak. Nevertheless, both Cardinal Cullen and Dr. Woodlock travelled to Dundalk to be present at the consecration of Michael Kiernan as Archbishop of Armagh. While they were there, they visited the Marist College in Dundalk and were very impressed at the structure and quality of schooling that had been put in place. Subsequently, Cardinal Cullen and Dr. Conroy, his secretary, wrote to Fr. John Letterrier, superior of Dundalk, and offered him and the Marists St. Laurence’s Academy to take over. Fr. Letterrier took this offer very seriously. He brought it to the General Council of the Marists in Lyons. His persistent two-day persuasion finally convinced the Council of the benefit of taking on the Dublin school.

After Fr. John Letterrier returned from Lyons in July 1867, Dr. Woodlock informed him of the crippling financial burden the Harcourt St. premises had been. He advised the Marists to locate nearby Harcourt St. and if possible to purchase the new premises. Fr. Letterrier worked hard at finding new premises for the school. When 89 Lower Leeson St. became available, the Marists immediately purchased it. The Harcourt St. site remained on as the premises for the school for a short while. Some necessary work was needed to prepare the Leeson St. building so it could be used as a school. This did not take long and so, on the 29th of September 1867, Catholic University School, 89 Lower Leeson St. opened for business.

Although the premises and the Marist Order had been secured for the school, a lot of stabilising work was necessary to make sure CUS would remain on as a stalwart Catholic Dublin school. Fr. Letterrier rose to the challenge and in his 15-year term made CUS flourish. He made certain that CUS would remain on as the school it is today.

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