Irish prime minister launches new Notre Dame program at Kylemore Abbey

by Michael O. Garvey

Ireland’s prime minister, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, officially marked the commencement of work Monday (Sept. 28) on the University of Notre Dame’s new academic programming initiatives in the iconic Kylemore Abbey, Connemara, County Galway. The Taoiseach unveiled a lintel stone over the center at the Abbey.

Kylemore Abbey commencement of work From left: Lisa Caulfield, Warren von Eschenbach, Enda Kenny, Nicholas Entrikin, Abbess Maire Hickey, Martin Naughton, Rev. Tim Scully and Kevin Whelan at the commencement of work at Kylemore Abbey

Hosted by the Benedictine community at Kylemore, guests included Irish businessman and Notre Dame trustee emeritus Martin Naughton and his family, as well as Nicholas Entrikin, vice president and associate provost for internationalization; Warren von Eschenbach, assistant provost for Europe; Rev. Timothy Scully, C.S.C., director of the Institute for Educational Initiatives; Lisa Caulfield, director of the Notre Dame at Kylemore program; and Kevin Whelan, director of the Keough-Naughton Notre Dame Centre in Dublin.

Programming at the Kylemore center, which will span an array of academic disciplines, will begin in May 2016. The arrangement will allow students from Notre Dame to use the Abbey, a former boarding school and the home of the Benedictine nuns, as a residential facility. The programs will combine the scholarly rigor of Notre Dame with the rich tradition of Benedictine spirituality. Courses will also be offered in partnership with Irish and European universities.

Speaking at the event, Kenny said, "Ireland is privileged to have a strong working relationship with America, and the opening of this fantastic new facility is a great testament to that. I am confident that this project in Ireland by Notre Dame, a leading American university, will be a huge success that will further strengthen the enduring bonds between our two great nations.”

Father Scully, co-founder of the Alliance for Catholic Education at Notre Dame, said, “We really could not have picked a better place than Kylemore to open our latest international center for education. Through our shared Catholic ethos, Notre Dame and the Benedictine community are committed to educational excellence. Notre Dame prides itself on its close relationship with Ireland. Kylemore Abbey is located in a breathtaking setting on the majestic Atlantic coast of Ireland, and we look forward to opening an exceptional educational facility there.”

Notre Dame also has an urban presence in Ireland on Merrion Square, Dublin, in the historic home of Daniel O’Connell, which every year enrolls Notre Dame students in a study abroad program. The new program at Kylemore will provide a rural setting located in the idyllic heart of Connnemara and will offer intensive short-term courses and modules with master class offerings and will bring world-renowned scholars to teach Notre Dame and Irish students alike, in a spirit of collaboration and partnership with Irish universities.

“Notre Dame is one of the world’s most esteemed universities,” Naughton said, "and since 1998 over two thousand students of the University have come to Ireland to study. We are pleased to be able to offer those students another option with the opening of Notre Dame’s programs at Kylemore Abbey, situated in the stunning heart of Connemara.”

Sister Maire Hickey, Abbess of the Benedictine Community at Kylemore Abbey, said: “The community of Kylemore is delighted and privileged to be drawn into this project, combining the wealth of Benedictine spirituality and culture with the rich resources and academic excellence of the University of Notre Dame, developing Kylemore Abbey into the future as a monastic center of spirituality and learning in the West of Ireland.”