Maynooth, Kildare, Ireland

SVD House Maynooth

Divine Word Missionaries,
Moyglare Road,
Maynooth Co. Kildare IRELAND
Fax +353 (1) 6289184; Telp. +353 (1) 6286391; Email:

With the increasing number of students in the sixties it was more than likely that someone would conceive the idea of them doing all their studies in Ireland instead of going abroad for theology as had been the practice till then. This change of plan was first mooted during a visit of the then superior general, Fr John Schuette, to Ireland in early November 1963. The brethren in Ireland were agreed that the most suitable place for theological studies would be the national seminary in Maynooth, if this could be arranged.

Four basic steps would have to be taken to implement the idea: 1. The agreement of the seminary itself; 2. The approval of the Irish hierarchy; 3. The permission of the Archbishop of Dublin to build a hostel in his archdiocese; 4. The acquisition of land for such a building.

1. Fr Lynch in a letter to Fr Schuette of 13 November 1963 wrote: I contacted the President of Maynooth several times. He has also discussed it with his colleagues. Mgr Mitchell granted that, provided the students went through our philosophy course satisfactorily, they would be accepted at Maynooth. They have two courses, academic and ordinary. Those attending the academic course could qualify for a liceniate. The Monsignor says that they could take 15-20 students each year.

2. Approval of the Hierarchy: Fr Lynch continued the above letter: According to Mgr Mitchell we should approach Archbishop Conway, the Primate of All Ireland first. He would then put it before the bishops … Seeing that all the bishops are together in Rome [attending the second session of Vatican II]. Archbishop Conway might consider it opportune to put it before them before they return home. Here at Donamon all the brethren would prefer if I could go to Rome so that the two of us together could meet Archbishop Conway. It would probably be best if we contacted the Bishop of Elphin first and get him to introduce us to Archbishop Conway.

On receipt of this letter on 19 November, Fr Schuette at once sent a telegram to Fr Lynch: ‘Lynch leave for Rome – Schuette’. It is pretty obvious from this – and many other such decisions – that neither of the two men concerned was wont to let the grass grow under his feet! Things moved fast: our two men met Archbishop Conway, and were asked by him to put their petition in writing. Thus on 25 November – just nine days before the Irish bishops left Rome – we find Fr Schuette writing to the Archbishop at the Irish College giving our reasons for wishing to send the students to Maynooth and asking him to put this matter before the Irish hierarchy.

3. He had apparently been told at his meeting with the Archbishop that it would be a good idea to approach the Archbishop of Dublin at once for permission to build a hostel in Maynooth for he mentions in the above letter that he was doing so. Archbishop Conway in his friendly reply says that he will lay the matter before the Trustees of the College i.e. the bishops: I would imagine they would not wish to consider the proposal until the question of building permission had been definitely settled. He concluded on a pally note: ‘It was a great pleasure to meet you and Father Lynch’.

Archbishop McQuaid, too, in one of his famous handwritten letters, penned just before the bishops left Rome, said he would put the proposal to his Council on his return to Ireland. This was in reply to a request for permission to build a hostel to house about eighty students in or near Maynooth.

After his return to Ireland Dr McQuaid put the matter to his Council and wrote to Fr lynch on 7 February 1964: I have put to my Council your proposal to have a hostel for your own students of theology near St Patrick’s College, Maynooth.  … May I say how sorry I am to learn of the very grave illness of your Superior General. Would you kindly assure him of my remembrance. I remain, Yours sincerely in Chris: John C  McQuaid. The approval of the bishop , could have to wait, it seemed, until the following June when their e.x. General meeting was due.

But while an individual bishop can make a speedy decision, it seems that a body of bishops moves more slowly. It was only in June 1966, three years later, that their Lordships gave a positive decision. It became clear that they had been pondering not only on the idea 0f admitting SVD men to Maynooth but of opening its gates to all and in a letter to the superior general written on 25 June 1966, Fr Lynch, writes: As its annual June meeting we Irish Hierarchy announced that it was opening up Maynooth t0 all, including laity at arts level and at theology level … it is wonderful news – as far as we are concerned. That the bishops were moving in to direction had been conveyed to Fr Lynch, so that, anticipating such an aerial opening of the College’ doors to all and sundry, we were able, with the College’ approval, to begin sending our men there for theology already in October 1965 (d next chapter).

4. With the approval of the superior general, Fr Lynch had anticipated such a decision by purchasing eleven acres of land beside Maynooth’s parish church already in December 1964. He let the President of the College know he was doing so, and the latter ‘was most surprised that we could buy this land especially as it was owned by a Protestant! All that remained then after the Hierarchy’s June ’66 decision was to decide on what accommodation we would be needing, to find an architect and then get a contractor to do the job. The financial side of it was to prove a lot simpler than funding the Donamon building.

As the students at Maynooth would be attending a university, the superior general suggested that a colleague in Chicago, Fr Ralph Thyken, who was responsible for financing SVD universities in Taiwan, Japan and the Philippines, could also take a building at Maynooth under his wing. This Fr Ralph agreed to it and insisted that his own architect, Mr Antonin Raymond of Tokyo (with an office also in New York) draw up the plans. We agreed to this for, as Fr Lynch reminded us: ‘The man who pays the fiddler calls the tunnel! This fact is commemorated on a small plaque inside the hostel’s main entrance: Our Community in Maynooth would like to express our sincere thanks and everlasting appreciation to our American Donors who contributed to the erection of this house.

January 1st 1969. Antonin Raymond, who had celebrated his 78th birthday in January 1966, had drawn up the plans for the SVD universities in Nagoya, Japan and Taipeh, Taiwan. It was agreed that he would work in conjunction with Mr H. D. Devane of Robinson, Keefe & Devane, chartered architects and town planning consultants, who were based at 59 Northumberland Rd., Dublin. Boyd and Creed were the quantity surveyors.

The original plans drawn up by Mr Raymond were far too grandiose; they included one hundred single rooms for the students, ten priests’ rooms (bedroom, study, shower), three big reception rooms, two small reception rooms, ten parlours, a language lab, library with 25,000 volumes, six piano practice rooms, a swimming pool, boiler house, and chapel to seat 182 people with sanctuary for 30 concelebrants, etc, etc. When it was pointed out that all this was on a far grander scale than anything we had envisaged, he very humbly cut it down to something nearer to size. There were consultations with Mr Devane, accounts of which show a lot of mutual respect between two men of quite different backgrounds.

Raymond was all in favour of adapting the building to Irish conditions – rain, indifferent sunlight, Irish building materials etc. He gladly followed Devane’s suggestions on these and other aspects of the plan. Throughout the rest of 1966, there was much correspondence between them, ourselves and the generalate. There was a full discussion of Irish confreres with Fr Schuette at Donamon on 2 October 1966 re. the Maynooth plans as well as those for the sanctuary of Donamon’s own new chapel. The estimated cost was high – £ 650,000, and the quantity surveyor’s view was that ‘the approximate estimate cannot be reduced by any worthwhile amount except by reducing the amount of building work’. Tradesmen’s wages played a large role in the expenses; they had increased by 34% since 1964! In the heel of the hunt the total sum paid for building the Maynooth hostel amounted to £ 413,000, of which the contractor’s share was £ 377,822.

Included in this, by the way, was the small adjoining convent of the Holy Spirit Sisters, a female missionary foundation of St Arnold Janssen. The contractors for the building were Murphy Bros., Dublin Ltd. Building commenced in May 1968. The first students came to live there on 16 January 1969, and the job was completely finished two months later.

But where had our theology students been living in the meantime? That is an adventure in itself and demands a new chapter.