Trained in philosophy and theology in the Augustinian Province of Andalusia in Spain, John Facundus Skerret O.S.A. first remained in Spain to teach theology at Cadiz, and then returned to Ireland.
He was the Augustinian Prior (religious superior) at Galway for at least the years 1662-1664.
He then ministered in what is now the U.S. state of Virginia. He was forced to leave there in 1680 during the animosity generated against Catholics because of the Gunpowder plot in England.
With his facility with the Spanish language, Skerret then moved to Puerto Rico, and later served at the Canary Islands.
In the meantime, Augustinians in Ireland were living under any guise that allowed them to escape detection.
An address to parliament in 1703 reported that "regulars (i.e., members of religious orders) concealed themselves under the guise of physicians and other professions. They easily obtain leave to reach as schoolmen."
One ingenious Augustinian was the colourful character, Edmund Byrne. By day he was disguised as a soldier and known as the swashbuckling 'Colonel Byrne,' and by night he was a priest offering Mass and the sacraments.
It was he who first rented the John's Lane Mass site in 1700 (not the present Augustinian property, but near it). He was in exile in France in 1705, but back in his homeland as the Irish Augustinian Provincial from 1717 to 1724.
A Provincial Chapter was held in Ireland (probably in Dublin) in 1703, and documented that there were eighty Augustinians in Ireland.
A list in 1722 nominated that there were at least seventy-eight Irish Augustinians then on the Continent for study or for other reasons.
It is an extraordinary fact that this period of persecution produced more vocations (applications) to the Order than any other time.
The Provincial in 1725 wrote that, because of lack of any more space in Augustinian seminaries on the Continent, he had to decline accepting "sixteen who offered themselves" to the Order in Ireland.
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Photos (at right):
Picture 1: The ruin of the medieval Augustinian Red Abbey, Cork.
Picture 2: Holy water fount from the Augustinian Red Abbey, Cork.
Picture 3: Tower of Red Abbey, Cork. Photographed in 1940. (The Red Abbey tower is the only medieval building in Cork that is still standing today. The earliest documentary references to the Abbey are early fourteenth century. The tower dates to the later medieval period and was originally the tower part of an Augustinian church, built over the junction of its nave and chancel.)