Spiritans in Ireland elect new ProvincialMonday, February 13th, 2012
The Spiritan Congregation in Ireland has elected a new provincial to head up the order from September 2012.
Forty-nine-year Fr Marc Whelan, CSSp, is from Dublin and was ordained in Kimmage Manor in 1990.
The new provincial brings substantial pastoral experience from his missionary work in West Africa, which includes four years in Ghana where he worked with the Spiritans' West African Foundation immediately after ordination.
In 1996 he was appointed to the Indian Ocean Foundation as director of formation. He also worked in Reunion Island and Mauritius where he was rector of the Inter-Island Seminary of the Indian Ocean. In 2008, Fr Marc returned to Ireland to undertake renewal work for the Spiritan Province here.
He has since been involved in supporting the education work of Spiritan schools in Ireland as well as working at SPIRASI, the Spiritan project that supports asylum-seekers, refugees and survivors of torture. His work also included the role of Director of Formation at the Office for Spiritan Life.
Fr Whelan will take up the role of Provincial when Fr Brian Starken, CSSp, completes his six-year mandate in September.
The Congregation’s Irish Province was founded in 1859 and its focus from the beginning was the provision of education, which it saw as essential to address the shortfall of schools for Catholics and to provide the order with vocations.
Blackrock College in Dublin opened in 1860, Rockwell College in Tipperary followed four years later and St Mary’s College in Rathmines in 1890. St Michael’s College and Templeogue College in Dublin opened in 1944 and 1966, respectively.
The Spiritans are joint patrons of the Holy Family Community School, Rathcoole that opened in 1981.
The Congregation of the Holy Spirit was founded in Paris by Claude Poullart des Places in 1703. Born into a rich family from Brittany, he gave up a potential career as a lawyer in order to involve himself in helping the poor. He felt he could best respond to their needs through priesthood.
While studying to become a priest, he founded a house for destitute seminarians. However, worn out by his efforts, he died in 1709 at the age of 30.
Francis Libermann was born in 1802, the son of a rabbi in Alsace. After a period of agnosticism, he converted to Catholicism. He spent time, prolonged by his epilepsy, in various theological institutes studying to be a priest and was keen to establish a society for the care and education of freed slaves.
He was ordained in 1841 and the same year opened the novitiate of the new foundation, “The Society of the Holy Heart of Mary.” In 1848, all its members joined what was now called the “Congregation of the Holy Spirit under the Protection of the Immaculate Heart of Mary” with Libermann as Superior General.
The most recent survey of the Spiritan Congregation indicated that there are 304 members still involved in 22 schools educating 141,000 students and employing 7,000 teachers. The education ethos of the Spiritans incorporates openness to the spirit, a sense of community, concern for the poor, global vision, commitment to service, high educational standards and personal development.
by Sarah Mad Donald