Famous Irish Spiritual & Religious Leaders

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 1 Sister Nivedita

Sister Nivedita
5
Famous As: Teacher
Birthdate: October 28, 1867
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: County Tyrone, Northern Ireland
Died: October 13, 1911

Born in Ireland, schoolteacher Margaret Elizabeth Noble met Indian spiritual leader Swami Vivekananda in London and, inspired by his ideals, went to Calcutta, where she was renamed Sister Nivedita and began following Brahmacharya. She not only founded a girls’ school in Kolkata but also worked for social upliftment of Indians.

 2 Brigid of Kildare

Brigid of Kildare
3
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0451 AD
Birthplace: Site of Battle of Faughart - 1318, Ireland
Died: February 1, 0525

One of the 3 national saints of Ireland, Brigid of Kildare is regarded as the patron saint of children born to abusive and unwed parents, dairy and poultry farmers, and travelers. Some believe she wasn’t a real person and was rather another version of the Celtic goddess Brigid.

 3 Ian Paisley

Ian Paisley
5
Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: April 6, 1926
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Armagh
Died: September 12, 2014

Ian Paisley was a Northern Irish politician who served as Leader of the Democratic Unionist Party from 1971 to 2008. From 2007 to 2008, he served as the First Minister of Northern Ireland. Also a Protestant religious leader, Paisley is credited with co-founding the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, of which he was the leader until 2008.  

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 4 Aidan of Lindisfarne

Aidan of Lindisfarne
3
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0590 AD
Birthplace: Ireland
Died: August 31, 0651

Irish monk Saint Aidan was the first bishop of the island of Lindisfarne, also known as the Holy Island. He later established many churches and monasteries and was one of the most prominent missionaries in northern England. He has also been praised in the writings of Anglo Saxon historian Bede.

 5 Columbanus

Columbanus
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Famous As: Missionary
Birthdate: 0540 AD
Birthplace: Leinster, Ireland
Died: January 1, 0615

Christian missionary Columbanus is known as one of the most prominent figures of the Celtic church. He established the monasteries of Luxovium and Fontaines and was also one of the first Hiberno-Latin authors. Hounded out for his criticism of the Burgundian court, he went to places such as Italy and Switzerland.

 6 Edmund Ignatius Rice

Edmund Ignatius Rice
3
Famous As: Missionary
Birthdate: June 1, 1762
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Callan, County Kilkenny, Ireland
Died: August 29, 1844
Irish businessman Edmund Ignatius Rice was a successful trader of livestock and other supplies. After his wife’s death, he devoted himself to several charitable causes, especially those related to the education and health of the poor. He later founded the Congregation of the Brothers of the Christian Schools of Ireland.

 7 Clare Crockett

Clare Crockett
3
Famous As: Nun
Birthdate: November 14, 1982
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Died: April 16, 2016

Irish Catholic nun Clare Crockett initially aspired to be an actor and even appeared in the TV drama Sunday. She later ditched her reckless lifestyle and became Sister Clare Maria after a spiritual experience in Spain. She died in the 2016 Ecuador earthquake. The film All or Nothing speaks about her journey.

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 8 John Dominic Crossan

John Dominic Crossan
3
Famous As: Theologian
Birthdate: February 17, 1934
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nenagh, County Tipperary, Ireland

Irish-American theologian John Dominic Crossan, who has previously been a Roman Catholic priest, was also associated with the Jesus Seminar. It is believed, he had quit Catholic priesthood to marry Margaret, his professor wife, and had then focused on teaching and writing. His written works include Who Killed Jesus?

 9 Catherine McAuley

Catherine McAuley
2
Famous As: Nun
Birthdate: September 29, 1778
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: November 11, 1841

Catholic nun Catherine McAuley is best remembered as the founder of the Religious Sisters of Mercy. Orphaned as a child, she was raised by Protestant foster parents and later built The House of Mercy, catering to orphans and homeless women, with her inheritance. Her congregation focuses on education of the poor.

 10 Saint Piran

Saint Piran
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Famous As: Abbot
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Ireland
Died: 0480 AD

Born in Ireland, Saint Piran studied the scriptures in Rome and was then made a bishop. Known for his miracles such as surviving being flung into the sea. He later built a chapel in Perranporth. He is said to have discovered tin and is thus regarded as the patron saint of tinners.

 11 Saint Kilian

Saint Kilian
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Famous As: Bishop
Birthdate: 0640 AD
Birthplace: Mullagh, Ireland
Died: July 8, 0689

Irish bishop Saint Kilian was a dedicated missionary who worked for the Christianization of Thuringia and Franconia. He converted Duke Gozbert, but Gozbert’s brother’s widow, Geilana, who was then married to Gozbert, got Kilian and his colleagues, Saints Colman and Totnan, beheaded. He is a patron saint of rheumatism sufferers.

 12 Alexander Campbell

Alexander Campbell
2
Famous As: Minister
Birthdate: September 12, 1788
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Broughshane, County Antrim, Ireland
Died: March 4, 1866

Alexander Campbell was a Scots-Irish immigrant who went on to become an ordained minister in America. He then joined forces with his father and led a reform effort, which came to be known as the Restoration Movement. Also referred to as the Stone-Campbell Movement, it helped develop non-denominational Christian churches. 

 13 Isaac Halevi Herzog

Isaac Halevi Herzog
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Famous As: Chief Rabbi
Birthdate: December 3, 1888
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lomza, Poland
Died: July 25, 1959

The first Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Isaac Halevi Herzog had later also been the Chief Rabbi of Palestine and, later, of Israel. He is remembered for his efforts in merging the traditional Jewish beliefs with modern living requirements. He also made contributions to resolve the Arab–Jewish conflict of Palestine.

 14 Adomnán

Adomnán
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Famous As: Hagiographer
Birthdate: 0628 AD
Birthplace: Donegal, Ireland
Died: September 23, 0704

Irish scholar Adomnán not just served as the abbot the Iona Abbey but also penned Life of Columba, a biography of Saint Columba, which serves as an important source of information about early-medieval Scotland. He also laid down the Law of Adamnan, improving the condition of women, children, and clerics.

 15 Daniel Mannix

Daniel Mannix
2
Famous As: Archbishop
Birthdate: March 4, 1864
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Charleville, Ireland
Died: November 6, 1963

Born to a farmer in Ireland, Daniel Mannix grew up to become a Catholic bishop and had a 46-year stint as the Archbishop of Melbourne, Australia. He made many controversial moves, such as demanding education for Catholics in exchange for their taxes. He was instrumental in establishing over 180 educational institutes.

 16 Cainnech of Aghaboe

Cainnech of Aghaboe
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Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0515 AD
Birthplace: County Londonderry, Northern Ireland
Died: 0600 AD

One of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland, Cainnech of Aghaboe, also known as Saint Canice, was an abbot and missionary who Christianized much of Ireland and Scotland. He finds mention in Adomnán’s Life of St. Columba. He is regarded as the patron saint of shipwrecked people.

 17 Ciarán of Clonmacnoise

Ciarán of Clonmacnoise
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Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0516 AD
Birthplace: Roscommon, Ireland
Died: 0549 AD

Irish abbot Ciarán of Clonmacnoise was born to a carpenter and spent his initial days as a cattle herder. He is remembered as one of the pioneers of monasticism in Ireland. He set up an abbey in Clonmacnoise, which he developed as a valuable center for scholars and monks.

 18 U Dhammaloka

U Dhammaloka
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Famous As: Buddhist Monk
Birthdate: 1856 AD
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: 1914 AD

U Dhammaloka went from being a Dublin-born alcoholic cabin boy who was often dragged into violence, to spreading peace as the first Western Buddhist monk in Burma. Initially a vagrant, he immigrated to the US and then to Japan, working at sea, and eventually to the Burmese port city of Rangoon.

 19 Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen
1
Famous As: Cardinal
Birthdate: April 29, 1803
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Narraghmore, County Kildare, Ireland
Died: October 24, 1878

Once the archbishop of Dublin, Paul Cullen was also the first Irish cardinal. Although he played a major role in the national movement of 1850–1852, he clashed with extreme nationalists and thus quit his clergy to step into politics. He supported papal infallibility at the First Vatican Council.

 20 Fridolin of Säckingen

Fridolin of Säckingen
1
Famous As: Saint
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Ireland
Died: 0538 AD

Born in Ireland, Fridolin of Säckingen later set up many churches among the Franks and Alamanni. Starting his missionary work in Ireland, he later traveled to France and all the way to the Rhine. He is the patron saint of many places in France, Germany, and Switzerland.

 21 Francis Makemie

Francis Makemie
1
Famous As: Clergyman
Birthdate: 1658 AD
Birthplace: Ramelton, Ireland
Died: 1708 AD

Francis Makemie is largely regarded as the pioneer of Presbyterianism in the US. He is also known for uniting several Protestant churches in areas such as Virginia, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and New Jersey. He spent his final years in a plantation he bought in Temperanceville, Virginia.

 22 Marianus Scotus

Marianus Scotus
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Famous As: Chronicler
Birthdate: 1028 AD
Birthplace: Ireland
Died: December 22, 1082

Irish monk Marianus Scotus is remembered as a chronicler who penned the history of the Earth from its inception to 1082. His German treatise Chronicon rejected the Paschal calendar, saying it had mentioned Christ’s birth to have taken place 22 years earlier than the actual date.

 23 Mary Frances Clarke

Mary Frances Clarke
0
Famous As: Nun
Birthdate: March 2, 1803
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: December 4, 1887

Best remembered for establishing the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Irish nun Mary Frances Clarke made significant contributions to the spread of education in America. While she initially worked for her father’s leather business, she changed her mind after nursing people during a cholera epidemic.

 24 Mother Marie Joseph Butler

Mother Marie Joseph Butler
0
Famous As: Nun
Birthdate: July 20, 1860
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Kilkenny, Ireland
Died: April 1, 1940

Irish nun Mother Marie Joseph Butler is best remembered for establishing the Marymount Schools in the US and Europe. Part of the Roman Catholic order Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, she later became a US citizen. Her writings were posthumously published as As An Eagle.

 25 Mother Teresa Lalor

Mother Teresa Lalor
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Famous As: Nun
Birthdate: 1769 AD
Birthplace: County Laois, Ireland
Died: September 9, 1846

Irish-born Mother Teresa Lalor co-founded the first monastery of the Visitation Order in the US, with Leonard Neale, the first Catholic bishop of the US. She had also assisted him in charitable activities during the 1797-98 yellow fever epidemic. She was also the first superior of the Visitation Order.

 26 Julia McGroarty

Julia McGroarty
0
Famous As: Religious leader
Birthdate: February 13, 1827
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Inver, Ireland
Died: November 12, 1901

Irish-born nun Julia McGroarty later moved to the US and became one of its leading educators. Part of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, she was the first American to be the superior of the order. She also established Washington’s Trinity College, which later became the Trinity Washington University.