'The Leader of the Virgin Choirs of Erin': St Brigid's Missionary College, 1883-1914

Colin Barr, Rose Luminiello

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the first years of the twentieth century, on the feast day of St Francis, a ‘grand’ stuffed beaver arrived at the Convent of Mercy in Callan, Co. Kilkenny. It was not a particularly unusual gift: like many others, the sender had been an ‘aspirant’ at St Brigid’s Missionary College, which was attached to the convent. Now a Sister of Mercy in St John’s, Newfoundland, no doubt she wanted to show off her new home to her old school. So many such gifts had arrived, the mother superior told her uncle, Cardinal Patrick Francis Moran of Sydney, Australia, that they would have to ‘enlarge the museum cases’.1 ‘Far and wide’, another former aspirant wrote in 1898, ‘are St. Brigid’s children scattered in widely different latitudes, in far-away settlements at the goldfields, across the prairies, and under Indian suns, members of more than a dozen Religious Orders, each with its own special work of corporal or spiritual Mercy’.2 This was not an exaggeration: although not all persevered in their vocation, and not all who did left Ireland, between 1883 and its closure in the mid-1950s, some 2000 women entered St Brigid’s Missionary College with a view to service in Ireland’s spiritual empire.3
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIreland in an Imperial World
Subtitle of host publicationCitizenship, Opportunism, and Subversion
EditorsTimothy G. McMahon, Michael de Nie, Paul Townend
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-137-59637-6
ISBN (Print)978-1-137-59636-9
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2017

Publication series

NameCambridge Imperial & Post-Colonial Studies
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan


  • Irish History
  • Catholic Church
  • Irish diaspora
  • History of Religion
  • Religious Women
  • Imperial History
  • Australia


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