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Irish Institute for Catholic Studies


Situated within Mary Immaculate College, a third level Catholic College of Education and the Liberal Arts, the Irish Institute for Catholic Studies is a cross-faculty, interdisciplinary, research-oriented and community engaged network of scholars involved in the study of Catholicism and its contribution to culture and society in Ireland and beyond. 

Irish Institute for Catholic Studies (IICS) at MIC
Irish Institute for Catholic Studies (IICS) at MIC
The IICS is a network of scholars involved in the study of Catholicism & its contribution to society

Our Aims

Our Mission

The IICS is an interdisciplinary research centre inspired by and in critical dialogue with Catholic culture and thought. We explore the long and rich Catholic tradition in a spirit of scholarly rigor and academic freedom. We engage with the intellectual contribution of Catholicism to philosophical, theological, educational and social debates, past and present, as well as the expression and embodiment of a Catholic sensibility in fine arts, literature, architecture and music. We engage with contemporary global realities and are dedicated to research and dialogue in the following key areas:

  • Social & environmental justice
  • Catholic Theology
  • The Arts & Culture
  • Catholic Religious Education

Our Aims

  • Promote interdisciplinary, high-quality academic research related to Catholic Studies.
  • Contribute to historical, intellectual, philosophical and theological understandings of Catholicism as religion and social movement with a focus on the common good and human dignity.
  • Contribute to the academic understanding of Catholic identity through our focus on social justice and sustainability.
  • Disseminate knowledge of Catholics and Catholicism through publications, conferences, public lectures, symposia, and public dialogue.

The Irish Institute for Catholic Studies runs a popular Lunchtime Lecture Series and as well as evening Guest dLectures.  Stay updated with our 2019-2020 schedule of free public events at the IICS Twitter page.

If you wish to sign up for our mailing list, please email our Research Assistant at:

Connect with us on Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram. IICS Shortlink:

Director, Irish Institute for Catholic Studies
Dr Patricia Kieran
+353 61 204965
Research Assistant, Irish Institute for Catholic Studies
Carleigh Garcia
IICS Field Work in Rome
IICS Field Work in Rome


Involvement of people from around the world
Involvement of people from around the world

Director: Dr Patricia Kieran

IICS Research Assistant: Carleigh Garcia

IICS Post-doctoral Research Assistant: Dr Ian Hickey

IICS Visiting Professor (2021-2022): Professor Marc Hight, Hampden-Sydney College

    IICS Visiting Professor (2021-2022)
    IICS Visiting Professor (2021-2022)
    Professor Marc Hight

    Dr Patricia Kieran

    BRelSc (Mater Dei); MTh (Univ of London) & PhD (University of London)
    • Phone: +353 61 204965
    • Email:
    • Location: JHN 205
    2018-2021 IICS Visiting Professor
    2018-2021 IICS Visiting Professor
    Professor Liam Gearon, Oxford

    Research & Opportunities

    Research by a network of scholars
    Research by a network of scholars

    IICS’s Focused Areas of Interest

    The IICS is a network of scholars involved in the study of Catholicism & its contribution to society. We are focused on the following four areas:

    A) The IICS promotes interdisciplinary research related to Catholic Studies. Our guest lecture speakers includes expert speakers on fine arts, literature, theology, education, music, social justice etc.

    B) To further students’ understanding of Catholic Studies, we facilitate students guided tours of local (Hunt Museum), national (Chester Beatty) and international (Vatican Museum) Museums’ wonderful collections of religious art.

    A) The IICS explores Catholic social teaching and is concerned with the promotion of human rights, climate change and the dignity of the human person.

    B) To promote social justice, the IICS is involved in research focusing on inter-religious dialogue, the voice of the child in education as well as climate justice. It also promotes action for justice through engagement with a number of organisations concerned with homelessness, those in Direct Provision and socially and educationally disadvantaged groups.


    A) Located in a third-level higher education institution, Mary Immaculate College, the IICS is interested in promoting the education of Catholic Studies scholars and establishing an interdisciplinary ‘Catholic studies’ stream in the postgraduate taught programmes of the College, and postgraduate research. We conduct seminars for researchers interested in exploring the Catholic element of their diverse research interests.

    B) We foster interdisciplinary scholarly research among scholars. Our expanding database encourages networking and research collaboration. We focus on making such research accessible through seminars, public lectures and on-line resources.

    A) The IICS recognizes the importance of the environment and its protection. Conscious of our effect on the environment, the IICS attempts to promote and educate people about climate justice.

    B) We take Third Level students on a voluntary Soul Safari, on a day retreat to the sea, to relax and meditate in nature, with an optional Catholic element of spending time with a trained Spiritual Director.

    The Irish Institute for Catholic Studies is compiling a database of interdisciplinary research to disseminate academic research on Catholic culture and thought. Please contact IICS directly if you wish to contribute to this database.

    • Hickey, I. Haunted Heaney: Spectres and the Poetry, Routledge. (Forthcoming June 2021).
    • Hickey, I. ‘Challenging Societal Norms Through the Spoken Word: Benjamin Zephaniah’s City Psalms’ in The Routledge Companion to Spoken Word Poetry in the UK, Routledge. [Forthcoming March 2021]
    • Hickey, I. ‘Virgilian Hauntings in the Later Poetry of Seamus Heaney’ (2018) in Estudios Irlandeses, Issue 13. pp. 27-40. 
    • Hickey, I. ‘The Haunted Bog and the Poetry of Seamus Heaney’ (2018) in Nordic Irish Studies, Volume 17, Number 2.  pp. 35-54.
    • Hickey, I. ‘Elegising the Past and Future: Seamus Heaney’s “Route 110” Sequence’ (2019) in Irish University Review, Volume 49, Number 2. pp. 340-355.
    • Hickey, I. ‘“The old cause is never dead”:  Hauntology and Brendan Behan’s The Hostage’ (2020) in Irish Studies Review, DOI: 10.1080/09670882.2020.1742461.
    • Hickey, I. ‘“Dublin You Are”: Representations of Dublin in Twenty-First Century Irish Poetry’. (2020) in C21 Literature: Journal of Twenty-First Century Writings. DOI:….
    • Hickey, I. ‘Derrida, Heaney and the Translation of Virgil’s Aeneid Book VI’ in Études Irlandaises. [Accepted and Forthcoming].
    • Patricia Kieran & John Mc Donagh (2020) British Journal of Religious Education Vol. 40 No. 4. The centre cannot hold: decolonising the RE curriculum in the Republic of Ireland
    • Patricia Kieran & Aiveen Mullally (2020) Covid-19 A Watershed for the Catholic Church, Doctrine & Life, Vol. 70 No. 7, pp. 2-10.
    • Patricia Kieran, Marie Parker-Jenkins & Anne Ryan (2020) Religions and beliefs in changing times: perspectives of student stakeholders in third-level educational contexts in the republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, British Journal of Religious Education Religions and beliefs in changing times: perspectives of student stakeholders in third-level educational contexts in the republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland
    • Kieran, P  & Mullally, A.  (2020) ‘The new ‘nones’: the implications of ticking the ‘No Religon’ census box for educators in Ireland’ in The Furrow , July/August , pp. 387-395.
    • Kieran. P. (ed.) (2019) Connecting LivesInter-belief Dialogue in Contemporary Ireland. Dublin: Veritas. pp. 309 ISBN 9781847307613
    • O’Donnell, A., Kieran, P., DCherouvis, S., Bergdahl, L., with Langmann, E. (2019) The Enquiring Classroom: Values, Identity, Exploratiion. Erasmus +


    There are many Catholic Universities, centres and organisations around the world where Catholic scholarly research, education and pastoral initiatives are being undertaken. See A-Z list of countries followed by other useful links.

    Opportunities around the world
    Opportunities around the world

    Current IICS Lecture Series & Events

    All are welcome to join our lecture series
    All are welcome to join our lecture series

    To promote interdisciplinary research and contribute to historical, intellectual, philosophical and theological understandings of Catholicism as religion, social movement, body of thought, and material culture, we have established a lunchtime and evening lecture series.

    For the foreseeable future, our lecture series will be held on Microsoft Teams. Please email if you would like links to a particular/all meetings. All are welcome to attend.


    Spring 2020 Lecture Series
    Spring 2020 Lecture Series

    Lectures to take place on Wednesday afternoons from 3-4 pm Dublin

    2021-2022 Lecture Series TBA

    Please visit our YouTube channel to access an archive of previous lectures. 

    • Welcome by Dr. Patricia Kieran, Director of the IICS
    • Introduction by Prof. Eugene Wall, President of MIC
    • Speaker: IICS Visiting Professor, Professor Liam Gearon, Oxford University
    • Respondent: Prof. Anthony Towey, St. Mary’s University

    Please click here to watch event on our YouTube channel.

    The Mid-West Sikh Community, in collaboration with Limerick City & County Council and Mary Immaculate College, has planned a number of events to commemorate the life of Limerick native Max Arthur MacAuliffe. Postponed until future notice.

    Sikh Symposium
    Sikh Symposium


    IICS Fieldwork in Rome, February 2020
    IICS Fieldwork in Rome, February 2020
    Lylian Fotabong
    Lylian Fotabong

    Religiosity of Black Lives Matter Movement

    More than 150 people across Ireland, last Saturday, attended an online candlelight vigil to honour the memory of murdered African Irish man, George Nkencho. He was shot and killed by armed gardai in an incident that involved a kitchen knife. His killing, outside his family home in Dublin on December 30th, led to anger and outrage by many, especially the black community in Ireland. Following this, protesters gathered for several days outside the Blanchardstown Garda station to demand for justice.  

    Mr Nkencho had no previous conviction, and his killing was a bitter recall of the armed gardai shooting of John Carthy, outside his family home in Abbeylara, Co. Longford, in April 2000. In Also, both Nkencho and Carthy were 27 years old and suffered from psychiatric illnesses at the time of their killings. It was, however, another recent murder that held an eerie aura of the death of Nkencho.   

    In May 2020, unarmed African American man, George Floyd, was killed under the knee of a white American police officer in Minneapolis, America, because he allegedly used a $20 counterfeit bill. Just like one could scarcely miss the first-name similarity of the two murdered men and their killers, one could only just ignore the outcomes of their killings.

    The murder of Floyd resulted in an avalanche of global condemnation and brought a new chapter of attention to racism. Similarly, the killing of Nkencho brought back to centre stage, the voices of Black Lives Matter (BLM) in Ireland. This movement started in America as a hashtag on social media in 2012 and has now grown worldwide and takes different dimensions in different countries. In Ireland, for example, many activists use it to condemn racism, but, also, Direct Provision - a system that accommodates asylum seekers in the Republic of Ireland.

    In the case of the death of Nkencho, protesters and BLM activists again raised many concerns, including racial bias and profiling of black people by gardai, and systemic racism in Ireland in general. They wept, knelt, and marched in protests, but also importantly, they prayed in protests. Prayer and fasting initiatives for the healing of the family of Mr Nkencho were organised among black communities across Ireland and one could be forgiven for thinking this was the first-time prayers were pivotal at protests organised by BLM. Just recently, prayers were a regular feature throughout the Floyd protests in America, United Kingdom, Ireland and many parts of the world, and few people will disagree that this is integral to BLM.

    During the January 30th vigil to remember George Nkencho, members of the Network of African Irish Leaders in Ireland, singers and audiences paid loving tributes to him, but the prayer portion of the event stood out. There were several languages, including tongues spoken in a prayer by Pastor Tosin Poopola of the Redeem Church. The prayers were so powerful they palpitated in the galaxy, and as the Bible states: “for anyone who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God” (1 Corinthians 14), in that moment, a prophecy of healing was declared on the Nkencho’s, and the black community in general.

    I argue that this aspect of the struggle – prayers – makes BLM a unique liberation movement, and it is easy to see why. Most of the recent BLM protests address the theme of death. One may argue that most people tend to seek the face of God during crisis, sad, traumatic, and violent end to life.  That is true. There is, however, a distinctive way black people pray, and in America, as well as most parts of the world where Africans are present, their struggle for equality and justice is also fought through prayers that very often include chants, and weeping. Their practical testimonies are cemented in the hope that alongside protests, “God will make a way where there seems to be no way” (Isaiah 43:19). Even for some non-believers, this belief can uplift and elevate one’s faith in the omnibenevolent. 

    This grip of prayers in the African struggle for liberation is not new. This is present in African traditional religions where there is profound trust in the protective powers of gods and ancestors; present in the era of colonisation that brought about a new God and a new way of worship to Africans; and, the transatlantic enslavement of Africans when the sufferings, and stench of death of mainly black slaves smelled everywhere. 

    Back then, slave masters used Christianity to make blacks better - “obedient and docile” (Cone 2008, pp 34-35) and to exert and solidify their control. On the other hand, slaves used the new way of worshipping to also learn how to break their chains of bondage. Take for example, Dr Martin Lurther King – one way in which he became so impactful was “his relationship with God in Christ” (Scruggs 2012). Till this day, this powerful history inspires many black people to assert religion and prayers as formidable tools when seeking protection, liberation, justice, and freedom. 

    Though one does not have to be religious to pray, many activists of the BLM movement believe that they must be faithfully devoted to the cause and robustly prayerful for a future of inclusion, justice, and equality of all black lives. 


    Cone, J. (2008) ‘Theological and Ethical Aspects’ in Fahlbusch, E. et al, The Encyclopedia of Christianity, (Volume 5), Michigan: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company and Leiden: Koninklijke Brill. 

    Scruggs, J. (2012) ‘Foreword’ in King (Jr), M., "Thou, Dear God": Prayers that Open Hearts and Spirits, Massachusetts: Beacon Press, ix-x. 


    Lylian Fotabong
    PhD student in Applied Linguistics
    Mary Immaculate College, Limerick


    Find our archive of events online now
    Find our archive of events online now

    The IICS Archive is a place to find information on past events and lectures held by the IICS, now recorded on our YouTube channel and summarized in our Fall 2020 Newsletter.

    IICS YouTube Channel

    To promote interdisciplinary research and contribute to historical, intellectual, philosophical and theological understandings of Catholicism as religion, social movement, body of thought, and material culture, we have established a lunchtime and evening lecture series featuring a wide range of speakers, which we have now archived on our YouTube channel. 

    We hope our YouTube channel will not only be seen as an archive of past events, but as a tool for homeschooling children during Covid-19 using the Grow in Love RE programme, and a resource for living with lockdown, by creating a vlog series to encourage positive thinking during a time of change and uncertainty.

    You can access our YouTube channel here.

    IICS Newsletter

    We are now creating a biannual newsletter on the activities of the IICS.

    MIC Online Retreat at Glenstal Abbey

    On June 20th, 2020, the Feast of Immaculate Heart of Mary and World Refuge Day, MIC held an on-line retreat at Glenstal Abbey and Mary Immaculate College. This retreat welcomed participants from a variety of faith and belief traditions.

    You can access a recording of the retreat here

    I Love Limerick article on IICS
    I Love Limerick article on IICS

    IICS Feature in I Love Limerick Publication

    The 2019 article by Limerick publication, I Love Limerick written about the IICS can be accessed here.

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