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Mathew, Theobald

Mathew, Theobald (1790–1856). Irish temperance apostle. Born in Tipperary, educated at Maynooth, he joined the Capuchins in Dublin. After ordination (1814) he took charge of the Little Friary among the destitute in Cork, where he opened free schools and founded a charitable society in St Vincent de Paul's tradition. Asked by Cork nonconformists to head their temperance movement (1838), he signed the pledge. Within nine months 250,000 followed him. As provincial of his order (1822–51), he addressed temperance meetings throughout Ireland. Travelling to London (1843), he held temperance meetings, met Peel, won public subscriptions, and warned the government of the incipient potato famine. His nomination by Cork clergy as their bishop was not ratified by the Vatican. He travelled in America preaching to catholic congregations and addressing temperance meetings (1849–51) despite ill-health, which caused him to refuse a bishopric on his return. He died at Queenstown.

Revd Dr William M. Marshall

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Mathew, Theobald

Theobald Mathew, 1790–1856, Irish social worker and temperance leader, a Capuchin priest. Father Mathew spent many years working for the welfare and education of the poor. In 1838 he took a pledge of total abstinence and thereafter devoted himself to the cause of temperance, campaigning in Ireland, England, and North America.

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Mathew, Theobald

MATHEW, THEOBALD

Known as the apostle of temperance; b. Thomaston, County Tipperary, Ireland, Oct. 10, 1790; d. Cobh, County Cork, Dec. 8, 1856. He was the fourth of the 12 children of James Mathew, of a distinguished Catholic family, and Anne Whyte. From childhood he had personal charm and a spirit of generosity. In 1807 he entered Maynooth College but left. In 1808 he was accepted by the Capuchins. Soon after ordination (1813) he was assigned to Cork. He became Cork's most beloved citizen. In 1822 he was made Capuchin provincial, an office he held for 29 years, when he resigned because of ill health. After continued urging, he became (1838) head of the Cork Total Abstinence Society. Within a short time he enrolled thousands of members. Although it was a time of political unrest, Mathew kept his mission nonpolitical and won support even of non-Catholics. He sought no honors and always tried to correct the popular notion that he had miraculous power. His remarkable preaching drew hundreds of thousands throughout Ireland. In 1842 to 1843 he went to Scotland and England, giving the pledge to more than 200,000. In spring 1848, after the famine years, his untiring zeal (nearly six million had joined the society) took its toll: he had a stroke. Recovering somewhat, Mathew came to America in 1849. Despite ill health, he visited 25 states and gave the pledge to 600,000. In December 1851 he returned to Cork, broken in health and saddened by the failure of many to keep the pledge. His continued patience in the face of suffering and disappointment manifested his personal sanctity. Although his apostolate failed, it became the inspiration of later and more successful movements.

Bibliography: j. f. maguire, Father Mathew: A Biography (New York 1864), basic source. p. rogers, Father Theobald Mathew, Apostle of Temperance (New York 1945), good refs. father augustine, Catholic Encyclopedia 10:4748. j. o'mahoney in The Irish Way, ed. f. j. sheed (New York 1932).

[p. j. kelly]

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