In the later years of the 16th century Thomas Strong was appointed bishop of Ossory after a vacancy of 17 years – due in part to the spread of Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Strong was ordained bishop in Rome on April 5, 1582. Due to the political upheaval, he slowly made his way home to Ireland; in the summer of 1583 he is in Lisbon and later in that year he succeeded in landing, in disguise, on the Munster coast. A year later he fled Ireland and spent the remaining years of his life in Compostela, where he ministered as an auxiliary bishop of the diocese. He continued to govern Ossory from Spain through his Vicars General. He is buried in the cathedral church dedicated to St James – a reason to go back to Compostela!
In Strong’s absence George Power was Vicar General. In 1598 Power was taken to Dublin as a prisoner and endured a lingering martyrdom in 1599. He has the merit of being the first martyr – at least the first on record – of the Church of Ossory since the Reformation. Power was succeeded by William Brennan.
William Brennan was Vicar General from 1599 until he resigned in 1609 when he joined the Franciscans. During Power’s years Elizabeth I died (24 March 1603) and news of her death reached Kilkenny on the 9th April. Succeeded by James, the son of the martyred Queen of Scots, the Irish Catholics reclaimed churches. Dr White, the Apostolic Administrator of Waterford, travelled to Kilkenny for the celebration of Corpus Christi “to celebrate that festival with all possible solemnity, because of the immense number of Catholic in that town, and the crowds that flocked thither from all parts of Ireland, to reverence the word of the Holy Cross on that day”. Rev Thomas Woodlock reconciled the church in Thomastown.
Brennan was succeeded by Laurence Reinaghan until his death in 1613. He appears to have been PP of St Mary’s – there is record of him celebrating baptisms in 1610 and 1611 for Nicholas Lanigan.
In 1613 Luke Archer, Abbot of Graiguenamagh, was appointed as Vicar General. He was also appointed VG in Leighlin in 1614. In September 1618 he became VG of the Cistercian Order in Ireland and on the 1st October David Rothe was appointed bishop of the See.
On the death of Bishop Rothe the diocese remained without a bishop for 19 years. It was governed by Vicars or Administrators. James Phelan was appointed in 1669 as bishop. Phelan was forced to leave Ossory two years later and lived in exile in France. He died in 1712 and is buried in the choir of the Abbey of Couture in the town of Le Mans.vPhelan was succeeded by William Dalton in 1696.