Persecution

During the times of persecution, when Catholic education was surrounded by enormous difficulties, the fathers tried to supply it as far as their means and opportunities allowed. Their efforts were naturally on a small scale and records are wanting. But in one place, Esker, near Athenry, their efforts were crowned with great success. In 1678 they opened a school in a wood adjoining their friary which became so famous in a short time that it drew students from every part of the Kingdom. Several of these afterwards became bishops or occupied various other ecclesiastical positions, and many made a mark in the professions of the law and of medicine. The students were scattered here and there in the wood and adjoining district, divided into small batches, each batch living under the direction of a tutor in little wooden or wattle huts constructed by themselves, their food and clothing being sent to them regularly by their friends. In the morning they all came together in an open space in the wood for lessons and dispersal again to their huts when the work of the day was over. The school was begun and ended with prayer, the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin being always recited before the students dispersed in the evening.

The school was broken up for a few years, during persecutions, but was resumed in 1683, the year in which the author of this account received the habit of the Order in this very place.

He tells us that there were at least a hundred of his name - Burke - in the school at the time, but it had to be closed in 1691, owing to the Jacobite war in Ireland and the eviction of the fathers from their place of refuge.


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