Spiritual Leaders

    In times of Eireanne, unfortunately similar to that of today, two men of Mayo would stand firm. Patrick Morrisroe

the son of Mary Brennan and John Morrisroe was born in Charlestown, County Mayo 19th February 1867. 

His baptismal sponsors were Luke Brennan and Frances Kelly.  As seemed to follow family suit, he was educated

at the local N.S. Seminary, then on to Ballaghadareen and Maynooth College. Following his ordination at the Cathedral

at Ballaghadareen he served in the diocese of Achonry. In 1896 Patrick returned to Maynooth to become Junior Dean in the College.

L to R Michael O’Doherty Patrick Morrisroe

     Patrick was consecrated a Bishop at the age of 44 in the Cathedral, Ballaghadareen, along with his cousin Most Rev.

Bishop Michael J. O'Doherty, later to become bishop of Zamboagna, in the Philippines. Most Rev. Dr. Healy, Archbishop of Tuam

was the consecrating prelate, and was assisted by Rev. Dr. Clancy, Bishop of Elphin. 

The congregation which filled the Cathedral included Messrs. John Dillon M.P., J. McVeagh M.P., and John O'Dowd M.P. 

Rev. Dr. Beechler, Maynooth College, preached the sermon.

      A man of deep learning, Patrick was an authority on theological and liturgical matters.

The government censored his Lenten Pastoral of 1941, one of great controversy. In it he directs his final comments to a world in crisis. 

"As we pen these pages, beloved Brethren, we are face to face with a spectacle probably more appalling than any recorded in the

annals of history. Long ago it was predicted that nation would rise against nation and Kingdom against Kingdom."


At the age of 79 Patrick died at the Palace, Ballaghadareen. Priests and people from all parts of the Diocese of Achonry

attended the removal of the remains to St. Nathy's Cathedral.  The Archbishop of Tuam, Most Rev. Dr. Walsh officiated at the house. 

The members of the Diocesan Chapter and a large number of surpliced clergy of the diocese who chanted the Miserere

headed the funeral procession. Members of the St. Vincent de Paul and Gardai acted as pallbearers and marshals, and Gardai,

under the direction of Supt. J. Lyons provided a guard of honour. Members of all the Catholic organizations marched in the procession.

    Julia O'Kelly and Michael O'Doherty welcomed son Michael J. into this world July 30, 1874 in Charlestown, County Mayo.

Michael's brother Denis J. would later succeed him as rector of the College of Salamanca.  His Grace's early years were spent

between his birthplace and Kiltinagh; his early schooling, he received at St. Nathy's College, in Ballaghadareen. 

Finishing his course studies he proceeded to St. Patrick's College, Maynooth University for his philosophical and theological studies. 

He was ordained a priest 30 November 1897.  He was then only 24 years old.

      A brilliant scholar, his first appointment was to a professorship in his native diocesan college, where he taught for several years. 

It was largely through his efforts that St. Nathy's College was raised to a prominent place among the educational institutions of Ireland.

        Michael was appointed by the Council of Irish Bishops, Rector of the College in Salamanca, Spain, where he directed for seven years. 

He was successful in restoring the ancient glory of the college.  For it's support Bishop O'Doherty recovered a number of

legacies and endowments of which it had been deprived since the Napoleonic wars and subsequent upheavals in Spain. 

He became a close friend of King Alfonso of Spain and was honored by the letter with the order of knighthood of the Spanish household, a rare distinction.

       At thirty-seven he had established himself as an educator and administrator and became a notable figure in the Catholic hierarchy. 

When the diocese of Zamboagna was created in 1911, his Holiness, Pope Pius X appointed him the first bishop. After his consecration
Michael traveled to Rome to meet with the Holy Father.  He met also with Cardinal Merry del Val and Cardinal de Lai. 

He left  Cobh 22 February 1912 for America. Accompanied by his secretary Rev Stanislaus Hughes, PhD. he toured the country

from coast to coast visiting friends.  On 6th March he stopped in Baltimore to visit Cardinal Gibbons whom he wanted to meet since he was a child. 

On July 26th 1912 he turned his sights east to a new endeavor in a new world.

      Six months after arriving at his diocese, Michael's memories reflect his despair: "When I sit down to ponder (on the needs of my diocese),

I am not overwhelmed by the burden, for if God wishes every necessity supplied, so shall it be.  But I feel at a loss to know where to begin".

   There were 40,000 square miles to cover by seventy priests. Often times this resulted in a parish only being visited once a year for sacraments. 

Michael writes: "Our great need is Priests . . . and we have no Seminary, not one Catholic hospital in this diocese. 

There is no high school for boys and girls, no orphan asylum or other asylum of any kind, no training schools for teachers no

Cathedral worthy of the name, no bishop's residence."  Narrowly escaping the hurricane of October 15th, where the roof

was torn off the pastor's house where he was staying, and two days later surviving a near drowning at sea in a 40 ton steam launch,
he would change these missing foundations of Catholic belief.

  Having assessed the needs of the flock, Bishop O'Doherty began working to establish a general hospital in Zamboagna.
Concurrently he began the establishment of Catholic schools.  With great energy, wisdom and courage he set about laying the
foundations of an enduring progressive diocese. It was at this time that Michael crossed swords with General John J. (Black Jack) Pershing, US Army. 

It was not a duel fought in the wee hours between two adversaries rather a war of the pen between a prince of the church,
in defense of his faith, and the enemies and the attacks that are forever aimed at the Catholic religion.  Christianity and Catholic
education were the objects of offense and defense. The battleground was the Mindanao Herald, the paper of Zamboagna. 
Changes were being made with the enlargement of the "Moro Province".  The opening headline read; with the enlargement of
Moro Province to include the vast area and population of the pagan tribes of Agusan and Bukidnon there accrue increased responsibility
for our new Governor".  In this was a distinct implication that the majority of the inhabitants of Agusan and Bukidnon were pagans,
an insinuation belied by the majority of Christian Filipinos in those areas.  The article piled up more assertions; this geographical
change is an appropriate one as it places the bulk of the non-Christians of the southern archipelago under one government." 
A Challenge - a provocation - an attack that had to be answered.

    Without delay, his Lordship advanced readily to the engagement. In a letter dated 11 December 1913 to the editor,

he undertook to express the general resentment of the Catholics in having been unceremoniously grouped with the "bulk of the

non-Christians of the southern archipelago..."  As the Bishop pointed out the phrase used "either ignores the existence of the

Christian Filipinos who are in the majority, or insults excellent Catholics, by including them among the pagans, which they and

I as their Bishop resent most heartily."  General Pershing filed a report, which read in part "The Public Schools maintained

throughout this province are well in advance of the sectarian schools in every particular."  If there was a way to raise the dander of

he Irish born Michael this was it. He could not let this provocation go unanswered. t

      In his second letter to the editor he showed, based on current data how the parochial school of Dipolog was the finest materially,

and on the question of intelligence he revealed that the "parochial schools of Dipitan, Caraga, and the girls' school of Tetuam,

even in the matter of English, can stand side by side with the best of the public schools; and in the moral line the less that is

said the better for the public schools".

     The Mindano Herald became the forum for these great powers. Numerous erroneous statements were made against the

Catholic Church, and the people of the province.  In this duel of great powers, Michael was to win. The final lunge by

Bishop O'Doherty was both direct and fatal to Gen. Pershing and Supt. of schools Mr. Charles R. Cameroon.  T

his lunge delivered with such swift and vigorous ease, sounded the finale in this unique duel. For the adversary's reply

was neither parry nor feint, it was an apology: "I apologize for having made these erroneous assertions and beg to withdraw the entire statement, 

Respectfully, Charles R. Cameroon".  

       To his credit Archbishop O'Doherty was the catalyst in building such notable landmarks in Zamboagna as the

Malate Catholic School, the De La Salle College, the Cathedral at Zamboagna, and of course the Hospital blessed by

Michael at 9:00am, Sunday 6th February 1916. To his credit Archbishop O'Doherty is credited with founding the National

Catholic Education Council, as he was a staunch defender of Catholic education.

       Much is written about Michael's life in Zamboagna, and his service to mother church. To date I have been unable to ascertain

information regarding his death.  It is unclear if he was returned to Eireann for internment, or remained in Zamboagna. 

Perhaps it may be more fitting that he remained there as this man of Mayo had grown roots deep into the soil of Manila and the Philippines.

       "It is needless to point out the achievements of the Catholic Church in the Philippines, as they speak for themselves.

However, it is not amiss to state that Catholicism has taken a deeper significance in the lives of the Filipino people  and

has played a greater role in their conduct.  This, undoubtedly, is due to the influence of the man at the head of Catholicism

in the Philippines - Archbishop O'Doherty". Manuel L. Quezon President of the Philippines 24 August 1936.

Sr. Mary Patrick Sullivan SND