The Pontifical Irish College celebrates its 375th anniversary on 6 November. The college is one of a handful of survivors of what in the 16th and 17th centuries was a thriving network of Irish seminaries across Europe, training priests for parishes in Ireland and missions abroad. The college's most famous graduate is St Oliver Plunkett, who was martyred by the English in 1681 and canonised in 1975.
In recent decades, the number of priestly vocations in Ireland has been on the decline. This has affected the Irish College in Rome too, leading to a change in the balance between seminarians and postgraduates. Whereas in the 1970s and 1980s at least two-thirds of the colleges residents would have been training for the priesthood, in 2003 only 18 of the 64 are seminarians.
But the college has adapted in other ways as well. Aside from taking on students of different nationalities and denominations, the college also holds Irish weddings, and hosts groups of pilgrims in the summer months. Since 2001 it has accommodated the Lay Centre and the Vincent Pallotti Institute in an independent annex, where religious courses for lay people are held.
The Irish College also has a place in Romes Irish community, which is estimated to be about 1,000 strong. In addition to regular Sunday services and catechism classes, the college also hosts functions of the Irish Club.
For information contact the Pontifical Irish College, Via dei SS. Quattro Coronati 1, tel. 06772631, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.