Cromwellian Aftermath

Ferns was without a resident bishop between 1651 and 1684. Bishop Nicholas French had left Ireland to seek the help of the Duke of Lorraine, but because of the enmity of the Duke of Ormonde he was refused permission to return even after the restoration of Charles II. In 1668 French invited his first cousin Luke Waddinge to return to Wexford to represent him as Vicar General of Ferns. He appointed him parish priest of New Ross.


In 1673 he was appointed Coadjutor to French with right of succession. It seems he was upset at being appointed. He pleaded poverty and claimed that he could not support a servant, but he intimated that he was willing to accept if French insisted. He asked to be sent a pectoral cross, a mitre, a crozier, some vestments and everything else necessary for a pontifical mass, 'for nothinge of the Sort can be had here". Astutely he decided, with French's approval, to defer his consecration as bishop during the latter's lifetime. This saved him from banishment during the persecutions that followed the Titus Oates plot of 1678, when archbishops, vicars general and all regular clergy were ordered to leave Ireland by 20 November. Though Waddinge seems to have been arrested and sentenced to exile, he was able to remain in Wexford by pleading that he was not yet a bishop and had ceased to be vicar general since the death of Bishop French the previous August. In the course of time the hysteria engendered by the plot died down. Waddinge resumed his duties as parish priest in Wexford town where, in 1674, he had built a public mass-house within the walls, a privilege that most certainly would not have been granted without the approval of the old Protestant families of the town, who respected him as a gentleman of the county.


The mass-house cost him 53 and he spent a further 40 on furnishings. He gives details of its glazing, ceiling, thatching, etc. in his account book, and mentions that he had to remove a great heap of dung from the site before he could lay the foundations of his little chapel. It is evident that he maintained as best he could the dignity of his office and he had a good quantity of chalices, ciboria, pixes, silver cruets, and silver and pewter oil-stocks. He had a plentiful supply of vestments.

In 1683 he seems to have been asked by the Congregation of Propaganda to explain why he still had not been consecrated bishop of his diocese. He explained that conditions of Wexford town were atrocious: he alone was responsible for ministering to a Catholic population reduced by Cromwell's army from 2000 to 400. Nevertheless, the Congregation directed him not to delay his consecration any longer and he was finally consecrated bishop in 1683 or early in 1684, the year he published his Smale Garland in Ghent. He was an old man by then, and near death.


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