Former seminarians have fond memories

Sat, Jun 16, 2012, 01:00

IRISH COLLEGE:CRITICISM LEVELLED at the Irish College in Rome by a Vatican report does not reflect the experience of some former seminarians.

Among these is Fr Brendan Cooney who said the report, as detailed in The Irish Times, made for “painful” reading.

He found it “almost laughable” that the staff could be accused of not being devoted to Rome.

Fr Cooney, of the Kiltegan Fathers, had “very happy” years at the college as a student in the 1960s. More recently he had a “close relationship” with and “great admiration” for the college.

He spent several years in Rome for his order, until 2010. During this time he regularly concelebrated Mass and attended functions at the college and had gone on pilgrimages with the students.

He had not come across disrespect or anger towards the Vatican at the college at any stage, he said.

“Any time I have been to functions we toasted the Holy Father,” he added.

Fr Cooney had not seen evidence of any of the main negative points in the report. However, Fr Cooney said some young students from countries where there were a lot of vocations could be “very conservative and uptight” and wanted “the security of knowing they were right”.

He was “annoyed” at the idea in the report that the college was gay friendly as there was no such culture there, he said.

“I never knew of any in my own time there and I never once heard accusations as such.”

Fr John-Paul Sheridan, a priest in Blackwater, Co Wexford, said that criticism of his alma mater was “unfortunate and regretful”.

Fr Sheridan was a student at the college during the 1980s when it was under different leadership, including John Fleming and Irish primate Seán Brady,

Fr Sheridan “couldn’t be more in praise” of the training and grounding he received which was a “model priesthood”.

Visiting in recent years he had found it “always pleasant and very welcoming” with warm staff and students, he said. However, he was not familiar with the current training methods for seminarians.

He knew the staff and always found they had “the good of the college at heart”. It was “unfortunate the way it all ended”, he said.

Former seminarian at the college Joe Sheehy said things had “come full circle” since he was there from 1966 to 1968. He left before he was ordained.

During his time the seminarians were “badly let down as regards the theology” by the staff because it was “ as if Vatican II had not happened”, he said.

“Now we have . . . staff committed to Vatican II” accused of short-changing a church “rooted in Vatican I”, he said.