History of  Cross and Passion College

The following is a brief history of the Cross and Passion Order and of Cross and Passion College Kilcullen

The Cross and Passion order was founded in Manchester in 1851 by a convert from Protestantism, Elizabeth Prout (pictured above in a stained glass window in Manchester), and an Italian Passionist priest, Fr. Gaudentuis Rossi. The Passionist Fathers had arrived in England from the continent in 1841 on missionary work. Religious attitudes then towards Catholics were very intolerant and it was typical that after Elizabeth Prout’s conversion she never saw her parents again.

The new order was at first constituted under the name of the “Institute of the Sisters of the Holy Family” and the work consisted of instructing the ignorant, opening and operating schools, visiting the sick and “recalling the wayward to the path of duty”. Operating among the poor in the squalid living condi­tions of Lancashire cotton towns the Sisters’ task was an arduous but very necessary one.

From small humble beginnings the new order grew quite rapidly. Its birth indeed coincided with a pronounced Catholic revival which produced such emi­nent converts as Cardinals Newman and Vaughan dur­ing the next 25 years.

Founded in 1851, the new Order had close ties with the Passionist Fathers from the start. In 1876 its full affiliation to the Passionist Order was sanctioned by Rome under the name of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Most Holy Cross & Passion. The next fifty years brought rapid growth and further houses were opened in England, Ireland, Scotland, Europe and America – North and South.  Houses in Ireland include Kilcullen (1878), Belfast, Larne, Ballycastle, Hollywood, Co. Down & Dublin (1945).

In 1868 Cardinal Cullen appointed Fr. Langan to Kilcullen to assist the aging Fr. Murtagh, whom he succeeded as PP. in 1872.  He ministered in Kilcullen for 35 years. The magnificent parish church stands as a lasting monument to his memory. The presbytery, too, was the result of his efforts.

Equally lasting, one trusts, were his efforts in bringing the good Sisters into our midst. It was his second attempt in getting a religious order established here. In 1874 the Sisters of the Holy Faith established a Community in Liffeybank, However, their tenancy was precarious. The landlord, it would appear, felt that Kilcullen at that time needed a doctor more than teachers and accordingly the Sisters of the Holy Faith departed in 1877 to make way for the new occupant – a Doctor Barker.

Canon Langan, however, was determined. He invited the Sisters of the Cross & Passion and succeeded in obtaining for them a suitable house – donated by one Thomas Quinn – who later gave enough land for a new Convent and a loan of money for building By September 1878 the house was ready for the Sisters and their arrival was to be a big event. Canon Langan let it be known in good time that all work was to cease as he wanted a full attendance in Church. There was a full congregation and a jubilant Mass. After it the Sisters were conducted in procession by the enthusiastic Parish Priest and his entire congregation through the little town and up to their new Convent home.

The initial community consisted of only three Sisters but these were accompanied at the opening by the Passionist Fathers from Mount Argus and the Mother General of the Order – Mother Mary Margaret (Chambers) from Co. Clare.

Work started immediately in the National School. They also began visitations to the poor. This in itself was a formidable task since conditions at that time were very bad. Housing was poor and there was a population of 900 (more than to-days) centred in a much smaller area. The exact location of where the sisters first started in Kilcullen is not clear.

From the beginning, in 1878, the Sisters taught in the girls’ National School which had been built some 20 years previously. Prior to the Sisters’ arrival, boys and girls were taught together under Mr. Thompson, Principal, and a lay staff, The Sisters also opened a pri­vate boarding school for girls in their temporary con­vent – the original number of pupils being three. Numbers grew pretty rapidly, especially after the trans­fer to the new convent on the present site. The origi­nal building included the chapel and much of the present three story build­ing. The curriculum in those days is of some interest It offered an unusually wide “choice from Irish, English, French, German, Italian, Hungarian, Dancing, Embroidery, and Music; lessons were given in pianoforte, the harmonium, the harp, and the violin.” The absence of Mathematics and Science is rather typ­ical of the times.

The blessing of the convent chapel on September 5th 1893 was a big day for the Kilcullen Sisters. Mass was celebrated by the Rector of Mount Argus in the pres­ence of a large community, Sisters, parents, boarders and friends, after which a reception was given by the community.
In those days Mother General was a regular visitor, travelling from Newbridge to Kilcullen in the convent trap, drawn by “Patience” the convent donkey and piloted by William, the Sisters’ majordomo!

By 1910 Porter’s Post Office guide for Co. Kildare has the following entry under Kilcullen. “Convent (Passionist Order) with which is connected a high-class ladies’ Boarding and Day School, where pupils are pre­pared for examination in the higher studies.” In 1924 the school became recognised as a Secondary School under the new Department of Education and continues as such In 1928 a novitiate was opened in the Kilcullen Convent. The existing accommodation for boarders was transformed for the purpose and a new wing built. The novitiate operated here until 1953 when it was transferred to Maryfield, Dublin. In 1958 a new refectory, with some ancillary buildings, were erected, and in the summer of 1971 ten classrooms, including two science rooms and an art room were added.

Recent History

1986 saw the next major change for the school. Boys, who previously had to travel outside Kilcullen to avail of secondary education, were admitted and the boarders were phased out. A major new extension was constructed.  In 2004, with the retirement from teaching of Sr. Maire O’Sullivan, the last of the Cross and Passion Sisters left the school.
Today there are 730 boys and girls in the school. In 2011 Sr Anne Harnett was the last of the Cross and Passion sisters to be involved in the Board of Management and the school is now under the trusteeship of Le Cheile.

In 1996 Paul Tyrrell took over from Sr. Joan Smith as Principal of the school.  In 2012 Catherine Moynihan became Principal as the school celebrated its 125th Anniversary.