22 September 1900

22 September 2020

Foundation Day

St Mary’s Training College (now entitled St Mary’s University College) located at Falls Road in Belfast was officially opened by the Bishop of Down and Connor, Most Rev Dr Henry, on 22 September 1900.

The event was reported in The Irish News two days later.

The following is an extract from the report:

Blessing of the Institution

Important Address by Most Rev Dr Henry

A GREAT work, a work of permanent interest to the Catholic people of Belfast and the North of Ireland, was solemnly blessed by his Lordship, Most Rev Dr Henry. We refer of course to St Mary’s Training College, Falls Road.

His Lordship has manifested his appreciation of the success of the Dominican Nuns as teachers of the young by placing the College under their care. Already one hundred female teachers, from all parts of Ireland, are being prepared for the very important work of education.

In his Address Dr Henry said: “I am pleased to meet here this morning so many intelligent, earnest young ladies from different parts of the country anxious to do all in their power to qualify themselves thoroughly for the noble profession of teaching the young, not only in secular, but also in religious knowledge. I hope you will take full advantage of the opportunities afforded you, and you will work assiduously during the session in preparation for your examinations, and I trust that at the end of the academic year you will all score high marks in all the subjects of your programme.”

St Mary’s Training College will form an abiding memorial of his Lordship’s profound and practical interest in the training and culture of Irish youth. St Mary’s College will prove a blessing to Belfast and Ulster.

It is now about two years ago since the first sod was turned, and today there stands on the site in Broadway a building which, in appearance and design is most ornate and imposing. The situation has been so chosen that the extensive front, containing the principal rooms, has a southern aspect, commanding for the upper storeys a magnificent view of the valley of the Lagan and surrounding hills.

Today the official title of the College is St Mary’s University College: A College of the Queen’s University of Belfast. St Mary’s is an independent institution which has a partnership agreement for collaborative academic provision with Queen’s University. It is however a recognised provider of higher education in the United Kingdom in its own right.

The mission of St Mary’s is to make a distinctive contribution of service and excellence, in the Catholic tradition, to higher education in Northern Ireland.

Most Reverend Dr Noel Treanor DD, Bishop of Down and Connor, is the Senior Trustee and Chairperson of the Governing Body. Speaking about Foundation Day, he said:

“St Mary’s Mission Statement is emphatic in its fidelity to its founding tradition. The distinctive contribution lies in the Christian, explicitly faith-inspired world view or anthropology, which undergirds the pedagogical approach to each student and the contributions they make, through both professional and volunteering service, to many communities. St Mary’s with numerous other third level Catholic academic institutions across the globe continues the great adventure of conjugating reason and religious faith, knowledge and the probing of the ultimate mystery of existence, life and hope”.

The College Principal, Professor Peter Finn said:

“Unfortunately, as a result of the public health emergency, St Mary’s will not be able to celebrate the 120th anniversary of its foundation at this time, in a way that would properly befit the occasion. Today we mark Foundation Day with an acknowledgement of the great work that was started by the Most Rev Dr Henry and the Dominican Sisters in 1900. At a suitable time we will celebrate the rich history and traditions of the institution as well as the people who have made the College what it is today. Our rich past provides the platform for continued service and excellence in the twenty-first century.”

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