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Walter J. Meagher, SJ papers

Collection BC-1999-129: Walter J. Meagher, SJ papers


  • Creation: 1844-1994
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1965-1967

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of correspondence, manuscripts, research notes, newspaper clippings, articles, bookplates, and photographs. Most of the material relates to Walter J. Meagher's work on A Proper Bostonian, Priest, Jesuit: the diary of Joseph Coolidge Shaw. Included are photostat copies of the diary, letters, and Last Will and Testament of Joseph Coolidge Shaw, SJ. The collection also includes Meagher's own diary from 1965, which covers his time as a faculty member at Boston College, and documents the details of his personal life, as well as updates from Boston College and its alumni. Also included are photographs from Meagher's life, primarily from his ordination at Weston College in 1928.


Restrictions on Access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note: Walter J. Meagher, SJ

Walter J. Meagher, SJ was born in Watertown, Massachusetts in 1895, graduated from Boston College High School, and joined the Jesuits in 1915. Meagher studied for four years at St. Andrew-on-Hudson, the Jesuits' preparatory seminary in Poughkeepsie, New York, and made his religious vows there in 1917. He studied philosophy at Woodstock College in Maryland, and then taught at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines for three years. Meagher was ordained a priest in 1928 at Weston College, and earned a Ph.D. in history in 1944 from Fordham University. He taught history at College of the Holy Cross from 1929 to 1954, and joined the School of Nursing faculty at Boston College to teach history in 1954 until his retirement in 1967.

Meagher was also an author, and in 1965 completed A Proper Bostonian, Priest, Jesuit: the diary of Joseph Coolidge Shaw, an annotated diary collected from the memoirs of Shaw, the first benefactor of Boston College. A year later, Meagher published The Spires of Fenwick, his history of Holy Cross since founding in 1843.

After retiring from teaching, Meagher was appointed spiritual counselor to the Boston College community. He died on November 26, 1989.


"Senior New England Jesuit dies, age 94." The Heights, Vol. LXX, No. 12, December 4, 1989.

Biographical note: Joseph Coolidge Shaw, SJ

Joseph Coolidge Shaw, SJ was born in Boston, Massachusetts on January 22, 1821, to Robert G. Shaw, a Boston merchant, and his wife Elizabeth (Parkman) Shaw. Raised a Unitarian, he entered Harvard College in 1836 and studied languages, before graduating in the class of 1840. Following graduation, Shaw spent time furthering his education in Europe and, on a trip to Rome, met Frederick William Faber. Faber was part of the Oxford movement which sought to renew the Church of England through a revival of Catholic doctrine and practice. After meeting Faber, Shaw was introduced to Thomas Glover, SJ, a Jesuit residing in Rome, and soon after converted to Catholicism in 1843. After returning to Boston, Shaw decided to leave Harvard Law School, and returned to Rome to study for the priesthood. After three years of study, Shaw came back to Boston in 1847, and was ordained a Catholic priest by Bishop Fitzpatrick at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

In 1850, Shaw entered the Novitiate of the Jesuits in Frederick, Maryland, but contracted tuberculosis and died March 10, 1851. Prior to his death, he was able to take his vows and joined the Society of Jesus on March 4. In his will, Shaw left a significant portion of his life insurance for a college to be established in Boston by the Jesuits, and donated his nearly 2,000-volume library to the same school, as deemed appropriate. The school, which was not yet established, would be Boston College, which opened in the South End of the city in September 1864. About 350 volumes from Shaw's library formed a significant portion of the original Boston College library. Additionally, the Shaw House on the Chestnut Hill campus, dedicated in 1962, houses 20 freshmen who take part in the Shaw Leadership Program.


Lester, Thomas. "The conversion of Father Joseph Coolidge Shaw." The Pilot, April 8, 2022.


2.25 Linear Feet (5 containers)

Language of Materials



These papers document the scholarly work and personal life of Jesuit, historian, and author, Walter J. Meagher, SJ. The collection is composed of correspondence, manuscripts, research notes, newspaper clippings, articles, bookplates, and photographs. The bulk of the material relates to the diary of Joseph Coolidge Shaw, SJ, a 19th century Boston convert to Catholicism, whose donation of books and funds largely contributed to the founding of Boston College. The collection also includes Meagher's diary during his time as a faculty member of Boston College.


Organized into two series: I. Joseph Coolidge Shaw, SJ research materials; II. Biographical materials.


Walter J. Meagher's diary was a gift of Mary Ellen Doona in 1999. The remainder of the materials were acquired prior to 1986, and because the current accessioning system was not used until January 1986, it is not possible to know exactly the dates of acquisition of materials received before that time.

Existence and Location of Originals

The original Joseph Coolidge Shaw diary is housed in the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository.

Related Materials

Shaw, Joseph Coolidge, 1844 - 1851, 119_8_6, Box: 178, Folder: 10. Archives of the Maryland Province of the Society of Jesus, GTM-000119. Georgetown University Manuscripts.

Boston College artifacts collection, BC.1989.059, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Separated Materials

Published works associated with this collection have been transferred within the Burns Library and can be found in the Boston College Library catalog.

Walter J. Meagher, SJ Papers
Molly Aleshire
March 2023
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States