Eminent contributor to life and learning at Maynooth
PATRICK J CORISH: Patrick J (Paddy) Corish from Ballycullane, Co Wexford, entered Maynooth College in 1938. He remained a resident for a record 72 years, making a distinguished contribution to life and learning at Maynooth over that period, and becoming a major influence in its evolution as an educational institution.
The BA programme of the NUI (he took Greek and Latin) was followed by theology in the Pontifical University and the conferring of the BD in 1944.
After his ordination in 1945, he entered the doctoral programme in theology and in 1947 was awarded the DD for a thesis on the early Christian fathers. The same year he was appointed professor of ecclesiastical history in the faculty of theology. In 1952 he completed an MA thesis on 17th-century Irish history under the supervision of R Dudley Edwards of UCD.
Corish was one of those mesmerising lecturers that students never forget.
Ecclesiastical history as he presented it was an intellectually challenging and engaging exploration of how the message of Jesus Christ had taken form over the centuries in the world of the good, the bad and the indifferent.
Christology and the early councils were always particular preoccupations. His ecclesiastical history was emphatically not an exercise in inter-confessional polemics, much less an attempt to justify the excesses of churchly power at any period.
His tenure of the chair was interrupted in 1967-68 when he briefly held office as president of the college before returning to the class hall.
In 1975 he took the chair of modern history in the NUI sector of the college, which with expansion from the late 1960s onwards had already taken giant steps towards the independent status eventually achieved in 1997.
He set the department (with the collaboration of Mary Cullen) on a steep upward trajectory, especially in terms of research. Hosting the first meeting at Maynooth of the biennial Irish Conference of Historians in 1983 was a landmark.
From 1980 to 1983 he served as dean of the faculty of arts, a post then in the gift of the faculty members. It may have been the distinction that pleased him most.
The collaborative, multi-part History of Irish Catholicism that he laboured much upon in the 1960s helped to bring many aspects of the history of religion in Ireland into the realm of modern scholarship.
In 1986 he published his own overview, much influenced by his reading of newer approaches to the history of religion, as The Irish Catholic Experience.
In 1995 his history of the college, Maynooth College, 1795- 1995, was published. The task had required the sorting out of the college archives, an achievement that accorded him much satisfaction.
Endowed with what a former student characterised as a Rolls-Royce mind, to the end he never seemed to lose recall of anything, recent or long past, and was au fait with all current concerns from the Higgs boson to cyberbullying.
He died peacefully in his sleep. He is survived by his brothers Michael and Vincent and an extended family.