Monday, 13 March 2017

The See Elphin in the Early Modern Period (1499-1704)

From Walsh, Thomas; History of the Irish Hierarchy, cap. xxix, p. 303 ff.

George Bran, Bishop of Dromore, was translated by the Pope to the see of Elphin on the 18th of April, 1499. George died in 1523.
Christopher Fisher is said to have been bishop of Elphin and to have died in 1511. George Brann must have resigned.
John, bishop of Elphin, sat in 1535 and died the next year.
Conatus Ó Siagail, a canon regular abbot of Assadara and chaplain to Manus O'Donnell, was advanced to the see by Henry VIII in 1544.
Bernard O'Higgin, a Dominican friar provided by the Pope presided in 1552.
Andreas Xerea, a Dominican friar was bishop of Elphin A.D. 1562 in the pontificate of Pius IV. Boetius MacEgan was bishop of Elphin in 1646.

Dominick Burke, a Dominican friar of Athenry, was promoted to the see of Elphin by Pope Clement X A.D. 1671, was born in Ireland about the year 1629 of parents steadfastly attached to the ancient faith and illustrious by their birth.

Sighing after spiritual perfection he joined the order of preachers and having embarked for Spain he was arrested by the English heretics who imprisoned him in Kinsale having robbed him of his garments and his traveling expenses. Through the mercy of Christ he effected his escape by leaping from the window of his cell into the slime which was left by the receding tide. He was concealed two days in a neighboring wood without being washed as he was afraid to approach the river. All this time he had neither food nor drink until with difficulty he reached the mansion of Roche, a nobleman, by whom he was humanely treated while recruiting his strength and by whom he was dismissed with becoming apparel and a suitable viatic. He was now enabled to reach his paternal roof to the great surprise of his mother who earnestly entreated him not to expose himself to the danger of a second voyage but his piety prevailed and having obtained from her another viatic he embarked at Galway and safely landed in a Spanish port.

Having entered a convent of the Dominicans, he devoted six years to the completion of his studies but the persecution of Cromwell still raging in Ireland. He set out for Italy where he spent sixteen years esteemed by all who had the happiness of enjoying his conversation. He became master of novices at Venice in the convent of St. Dominic at Milan in the magnificent and ducal convent of St. Mary of thanksgiving and finally in the city of Boschum, distinguished by the birth of Saint Pius V, he performed this office for ten years with credit and advantage. In the general chapter of the order held at Rome in the year 1670 he represented his province and the college of Louvain.

In 1671, he was promoted to the see of Elphin by Clement X unexpectedly and without solicitation on his part. Being forty one years of age when consecrated, he set out for Ireland and for thirty three years continued the good and vigilant pastor. His sufferings are indescribable while the persecution of 1680 raged against the Catholics of England and Ireland. For four months he was concealed in a solitary house and, on the approach of Easter week, in order to have an opportunity of consecrating the oils, he was obliged to travel forty miles at night. When Oliver Plunket, primate of all Ireland, was arrested and confined in Dublin, the bishop of Elphin received from him timely information by which he was enabled to baffle his pursuers. Though poor and without revenues except the voluntary oblations of the faithful he had an aversion towards receiving gifts or presents from any particularly from ecclesiastics and, in order that he might not be a burden to the clergy, he obtained a large and extensive tract of land which he farmed from the most illustrious William de Burgo, earl of Clanrickard, who was his cousin, on which he built a suitable dwelling, exercising that sort of hospitality peculiar to the primitive ages of the church, as soon as the fury of the persecution abated.

At the time of the war of the rebellious heretics of England against James II, the bishop of Elphin was obliged to dwell at Galway, where the citizens respected and revered him and placed at his disposal means sufficiently ample for his episcopal dignity. Besides his devotion to the Blessed Virgin and the canonical office, he made it a rule to repeat daily the entire rosary in her honor. King James II and his queen were much attached to the bishop of Elphin.

Obliged to become an exile, he repaired to Louvain and there dwelt in the college of the Holy Cross. From his retreat in 1695 by frequent letters addressed to the supreme Pontiff, the orthodox princes of Europe and their ambassadors assembled to deliberate on the peace of Ryswick, he informed them of the deplorable state of the Irish Catholics and of the intention on the part of the English people to extirpate the Catholic religion. By his interference with Innocent XII two briefs were issued breathing piety and sympathy with the Irish and recommending the Catholics to subscribe for the support of the exiles from Ireland then thrown destitute all over the Continent. The bishop of Elphin solicited for the entire kingdom of Ireland absolution from the presumed excommunication pronounced by the nuncio Rinuccini and, though others applied they met with repulse, not so with the bishop of Elphin. In the year 1656, John Nolan of Kilkenny, rector of the Minerva, and Richard O'Kelly of Rathbran in Killala, then at Rome to attend the general chapter of the order, strenuously urged the apostolic see to remove this censure. This favor Dominick de Burgo at last obtained and on this occasion thirty three apostolic briefs were addressed to the dioceses of Ireland. At last, full of labor for God and the church and of years, for they numbered seventy five, fortified by the holy rites of religion, in the enjoyment of his mental faculties, he calmly resigned his soul on the 1st of January, 1704, at Louvain and was buried there in the church of the convent near the great altar.

Ambrose MacDermott was appointed bishop in 1707, died 1717.
Patrick French was consecrated in 1718.
John Brett, penitentiary apostolic consecrated at Rome and a Dominican of Sligo abbey, was translated from Killala in 1748 and died in 1756.
James Fallon was bishop of Elphin in the years 1759 and 1775.
Edmond French was bishop of Elphin in 1800 and died in 1810.
George Thomas Plunkett consecrated in 1815 died in 1827.
Patrick Burke appointed coadjutor in 1819 succeeded in 1827 departed in 1844. In life respected and beloved and in death regretted
George Joseph Plunkett Browne consecrated bishop of Galway in October 1831 was translated to Elphin in March 1844, revered as the dove of the Irish church.