Daniel Delany was born in Paddock, a small village in central Ireland, in 1747. His parents were relatively well-to-do but when his father died Mrs Elizabeth Delany agreed to have young Daniel spend the rest of his childhood with his two aunts in the nearby village of Mountrath. It was here that Daniel received his elementary education. It was here too that the parish priest, Father Denis Lawlor, influenced Daniel's decision to enter the priesthood.
The public practice of the Catholic Faith in Ireland was outlawed by British Law during these times. Therefore, Daniel was smuggled out of Ireland to France in order to receive his priestly education. After excelling in his studies, Daniel was ordained a priest in 1770. He then spent some six years as a lecturer at St. Omer, France, until his return to Ireland in 1776.
On his returned to his native land he found that the condition of the Catholics had worsened considerably during his absence. Poverty and hunger had turned the country into a land of misery and lawlessness. Drunkeness, fighting, and the lack of religious observance in a Catholic country helped him to decide to return to France. Only the pleas of his mother kept him in his native Ireland.
Father Delany took up his duties as assistant priest in the parish of Tullow. A small village 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Dublin. His work with the people of Tullow made him realise that the cause of much of the evil of the day was the lack of education among the people. Determined that the Irish Catholics deserved better, he started Sunday schools for the children of his parish. In these classes, Father Delany taught the children Catholic doctrine.
Naturally Father Delany needed help to get his catechetical program properly established. Therefore he gathered around him the better educated adults of nearby townships to be catechists. However, he could never rely on having the necessary number of teachers for this task. This was a problem that he solved only in the latter years of his life.
In 1783, at the young age of thirty-six, Father Delany was consecrated a Bishop, and three years later he became the Bishop of the Diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. As Bishop, Daniel Delany did much to better the conditions under which the people of his diocese lived.
After organising many public religious functions which were still illegal under British law. Bishop Delany finally took steps to secure for his Sunday schools a reliable source of catechists: he founded two religious congregations. On February 1st, 1807, he received the first women to start the Sisters of Saint Brigid (Brigidines). A year later on February 2nd, he received four men to start the Brothers of Saint Patrick (Patricians).
For the remaining six years of his life, Bishop Delany helped the Sisters and Brothers in the education of the young of his diocese. He helped them to live the religious life, frequently said Mass for them, and spent many hours in conversation with them. Bishop Delany died in 1814. His remains were buried in the Tullow church.
The Delany Museum, Tullow - A joint venture by the Brigidines and Patricians