Nugent, Francis

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Capuchin friar, agent of the Counter-Reformation, and founder of the Capuchins in Ireland and Germany; b. Ballebranagh, County Meath, Ireland, 1569; d. Charleville, France, May 18, 1635. Nugent's father was Sir Edward Nugent; his mother, Margaret O'Connor, was of the princely O'Connor Faly. At the age of 13, Nugent was sent to the Scots-Irish college at Pont-à-Mousson in Lorraine. From there he went to Louvain, secured his M.A., and in 1590 was appointed to lecture in philosophy in the University. He joined the Capuchins at Brussels on Oct. 4, 1591, the first Irishman to do so. While he was still a deacon, his preaching at Valenciennes (September 1594) brought him fame; as a result, a Capuchin friary was founded there. He became prominent in the pre-Quietist mystical movement in the Low Countries and was delated to Rome. Nugent, twice tried by the Inquisition in Rome, defended himself successfully and earned the commendation of Pope Clement VIII, who presided in August 1600 at the second trial. Nugent served in France for five years as guardian and professor of theology Friar Joseph of Paris (François le clerc du tremblay) was one of his pupils.

He returned to the Low Countries (1605), where he held office continuously as guardian and definitor of the Belgian province. When in Rome as delegate for a general chapter of his order, he secured a papal brief, on May 29, 1608, from Paul V, authorizing a Capuchin mission to "England, Scotland, and Ireland." Before he could realize this project, he was appointed commissary general of the Capuchin mission to the Rhineland, Aug. 28, 1610. Under his guidance the Capuchins became a powerful religious force in Germany, particularly through his Confraternity of Our Lord's Passion. Because of internal disputes among the Capuchins, he was dismissed from his post, and in March 1615 was given a foundation at Charleville as a center for the mission to Ireland. Nugent also directed the Capuchin missionaries in England and Scotland, but in a minor capacity.

During 1623 and 1624 he negotiated with James I of England for religious toleration for English and Irish Catholics. He visited England and Ireland secretly during 1624 and 1625 and went to Rome as agent for the Irish hierarchy. A long, drawn-out dispute with the Walloon Capuchins came to a head in 1631 when he opposed a Walloon visitator sent to Charleville by the Capuchin vicar-general. Nugent was deposed from office in January 1632 and lived in retirement at Charleville until his death. Though intellectually powerful, he was primarily a man of action, founding Capuchin houses at Valenciennes (1595), Courtrai (1610), Cologne (1611), Charleville (1615), and Dublin (1624). Courageous, tenacious, and resourceful, he was a leader of men, but often too demanding; he had the defects and virtues of the pioneer.

Bibliography: Most studies have been euglogistic and uncritical. Exceptions are: a. dasseville, "Francis Nugent," Round Table of Franciscan Research 15 (1950) 103117. p. hildebrand, "Franciscus Nugent," Franciscaansch Leven 11 (1928) 2128; 21 (1938) 301312, 339346; De Kapucijnen in de Nederlanden en het prinsbisdom Luik, 4 v. (Antwerp 194548) 1:146151, 274287; 3:1329. f. x. martin, "Sources for the History of the Irish Capuchins," Collectanea Franciscana 26 (1956) 6769; Friar Nugent (Rome 1962). a. teetaert, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, ed. a. vacant et al. (Paris 190350) 11.1:849850.

[f. x. martin]