Newman Society of Ireland – An Early History

1996 – 2002

The Newman Trust Ireland was established in 1992 by Father Patrick Bastable.
The main purpose of the Trust is the promotion of education and religion in Ireland, by fostering the study and the scholarship of the life, works, philosophical and religious principles of Blessed John Henry Newman.

At a meeting of the Trust in June 1996 two of the trustees Dr. Teresa Iglesias and John Cogavin committed to start within the year a ‘Newman Society of Ireland’. They proposed to gather a group of persons who would be interested in the promotion of an understanding and love for the person, writings and philosophy of John Henry Newman.

All methods of communication were used: written invitations, word of mouth and special notifications brought a very positive response resulting in a general membership of over fifty persons, seventeen individuals with particular Newman scholarship becoming Honorary Patrons and a five person Directing Committee: Teresa Iglesias, as Hon. Secretary, John Cogavin as President, Brendan Hughes, Philip Griffin and Noreen O’Carroll.

October 1996

On the 21st October 1996 the first meeting of the Newman Society of Ireland took place in University Church. The attendance included Fathers Gregory Winterton and Paul Chavasse from the Birmingham Oratory and Sister Brigitte Hoegeman of The Newman Centre at Littlemore, Oxford. (See attached copy of the first invitation to members – One)

The Society has held regular monthly meetings in the Bishop’s room Newman House on the third Wednesday of every month except the Summer months since that date. A feature of those meetings was the participation in a study of a specific Newman topic which has seen great development over the years.

The first year embarked on the study of selected sermons of J H Newman. The first five being: Watching; The Greatness and Littleness of Human Life; Moral Effects of Communion with God; The Indwelling Spirit; and Sincerity and Hypocrisy.

Each year saw the members select different Newman writings as study topics; study of more sermons and his Apologia Pro Vita Sua followed. In 98/99 the format changed slightly when individual members agreed to give a paper on a specific aspect on Newman and his contribution to society. These included: Newman, his Contribution to Education; Newman, his Philosophical Thinking; Newman, his Position on Politics and Newman, Theology Then and Now ( These may have inspired the content of the Milltown Conference in 2001). 1999/2000 saw a return to more familiar territory with the study of: The Idea of a University.

As the next year was to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Newman’s birthday special talks were arranged in particular on the Dream of Gerontius on which Fr Gregory Winterton addressed the Society in October 2000. Work on the promoting of this great Poem/Musical piece was both inspired and executed by the Societies member Dick Dunne who is both a Newman and Elgar scholar. That year also saw the introduction to each meeting of a ‘Personal Choice’ by a different member for each meeting.

2001 saw the Society open up Newman as a novelist with the study of his beautiful romantic novel Callista described by Alfred Duggan as:

“In my time I must have read some hundreds of historical romances, and Callista does not remind me of any of them. It is unique, like the mind that composed it: unique, astringent, remorseless, unforgettable.”

Occasional Events

During this period many additional events took place to further the aims of the Society and in particular to: Promote understanding and love for the person, writings and philosophy of John Henry Newman.

Some of the more notable were:

Some members travelled to Oxford, Littlemore and The Birmingham Oratory in 1998 and that same year another member attended a Newman study weekend in Killala.

21st February 1999 the society members came together to celebrate Newman’s birthday with Mass followed by a festive meal. This has become a feature of the Societies calendar ever since.

In October of that same year a Triduum in Newman Church took place, with a Eucharistic celebration each day, a Newman Sermon was preached by Father Winterton and an exhibition of books and other literature was presented throughout.

The great Jubilee year saw renewed activity with the 200th anniversary of Newman’s Birthday due in February 2001. A special invitation was sent to all members and a particular invitation to our Patrons, thanking them for their support. (See attachment – Two)

In April Fr. Moloney SJ of the Milltown Institute held an evening of lectures on Newman and Lonergan given by members of the Newman Society and the Lonergan Society.

On Sunday the 13th May a performance of The Dream of Gerontius took place at the National Concert Hall to a capacity audience.(See programme introduction and also insert of profile of Newman Society – Three). RTE invited members of the Society to give an introduction to the performance. Over 200 people came one hour early to listen to an introduction and background. (See Dream of Gerontius attachment – Four).
November the Society collaborated with UCD and the Milltown Institute to present a weekend Conference J.H. Newman: A Resource For Today. Father Tom Norris, Teresa Iglesias, Niall Tierney, Dick Dunne and John Cogavin contributed to this conference from the Society. (See attachment – Five).

The Directing Committee

From its foundation the Newman Society has been guided by a small directing committee which renews itself on a regular basis and to whom the work of the society is entrusted.

1996 the founding committee was Teresa Iglesias, Hon Secretary; John Cogavin, President; Noreen O’Carroll; Brendan Hughes, Treasurer and Philip Griffin.

1999 the committee had transitioned to Teresa Iglesias, John Cogavin, Brian Garvey, Ruth Kenny and Sean Petit.

2001 Dick Dunne had taken over responsibility from Sean Petit.

2002 After six years John Cogavin stepped down as President and the responsibility passed to Niall Tierney.