Woodlock, Bartholomew (1819–1902), catholic bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise and rector of the Catholic University of Ireland, was born 30 March 1819 in Dublin, the eighth of ten children of William Paul Woodlock and his wife Mary (née Cleary), who were natives of Roscrea, Co. Tipperary. They settled in Dublin in 1798, where his father ran a successful hardware business at 13 New Row West, off Thomas Street. After some private tuition, Woodlock was educated by the Jesuit fathers at the St Francis Xavier seminary, Hardwicke Street, from January to September 1833; he then went to Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare, where he remained until 1836. He studied for the priesthood at the Roman seminary (which was at that time in the palace of S. Apollinare) and was ordained priest for the diocese of Dublin at the basilica of St John Lateran, Rome, on 18 December 1841. He was awarded a doctorate of divinity in April 1842.
In 1842 Woodlock and Father John Hand (qv) founded the missionary college of All Hallows, Drumcondra, Dublin, for the education of priests for the foreign and colonial English-speaking missions; Woodlock maintained a lifelong commitment to this institution. The college was opened on the feast of All Saints, 1 November 1842, with one student and small funds, in a dilapidated Georgian mansion, Drumcondra House. Within two years it had a body of students that numbered more than fifty, a deposit of £2,000 in the bank, and a community of six priests. This community included Dr David Moriarty (qv), former vice-rector of the Irish college in Paris, who was elected president of All Hallows College in succession to Hand after the latter's death from tuberculosis on 20 May 1846. On 24 June 1854 Woodlock was elected the third president of the college when Moriarty was appointed co-adjutor bishop of Kerry. Under his seven-year presidency, the number of students doubled to more than two hundred for more than fifty missions. Woodlock continued Moriarty's expansionist policies of building and fund-raising, as well as establishing in 1857 a preparatory school at Belmont House, Stillorgan, Dublin, to supply All Hallows with students. However, during Woodlock's presidency the stability of the college remained under threat because it lacked a proper relation to an external authority and had no permanent financial support.
Woodlock was made a canon of the diocese of Dublin in 1853 and a monsignor in 1855. Fluent in Italian, Latin, and French, he had many interests, especially in liturgy and religious life. He was a founder member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in Ireland in 1844 and was spiritual director of the society's council of Ireland until 1879. He was appointed rector of the Catholic University of Ireland by the bishops on 25 April 1861; the university's college had opened in 1854 in St Stephen's Green, Dublin, with John Henry Newman (qv) as its first rector (1851–8). In his new role Woodlock struggled to assert the right of catholics in Ireland, without hindrance or obstruction, to educate their children in accordance with the principles approved by the Roman catholic church. For Woodlock, the most important of these principles were that all education should be based on religion, that catholic education should be presided over by the bishops, and that there should be perfect freedom and equality in education. By ‘freedom and equality’ he meant that catholic education ought to be totally free from any influence, interference, or control on the part of the state or of protestants, and that it ought to enjoy perfect equality, including equality in endowment, with education provided by other religious denominations.
Woodlock envisaged the Catholic University, catholic colleges including St Patrick's College, Maynooth, and the superior catholic schools being integrated into a single system of catholic education for Ireland with the university at its head. His plan to establish a system of Catholic University schools in every large town throughout Ireland never came to fruition: only three opened – in Waterford, Ennis, and Dublin – and they were short-lived. Furthermore, his scheme of affiliating existing schools and colleges to the university became ineffective by the late 1860s and irrelevant with the passing of the Intermediate Education (Ireland) Act in 1878. The zenith of Woodlock's rectorship was marked by the ceremony to lay the foundation stone of the new Catholic University buildings on the site at Clonliffe West, Drumcondra, on 20 July 1862. However, the Dublin Trunk Connection Railway Company secured part of the university's land by an act of parliament in June 1864 in order to construct a new railway line, which rendered the site useless for university purposes. Woodlock continued to acquire property in St Stephen's Green for the university and built the Aula Maxima there in 1876. His ambitious plans for expansion were restrained by financial problems. Woodlock also failed to achieve his two aims in relation to the government of the university, which he considered necessary to its progress: these were to secure from the bishops the admission of laymen onto the university's governing body and to gain the unanimous active support for the institution from the episcopate body.
By 1873 the university college in St Stephen's Green had reached its nadir. It had only a handful of students and a few professors, with limited finance and little public or episcopal support, and small hope of securing legal recognition for its degrees after the failure that year of Gladstone's university bill. However, Woodlock persevered in keeping the question of the university's future alive and secured support from the bishops for maintaining it by advocating that it was as necessary in 1873 as it had been when it was opened in 1854. The school of medicine in Cecilia Street was more successful than the university college, largely because of the high calibre of the professors and the recognition of the school by several incorporated bodies in Ireland, including the RCSI, which were empowered by charter to grant medical and surgical qualifications. The end of Woodlock's term as rector coincided with the passing of the University Education (Ireland) Act (1879), which was accepted by Woodlock as an instalment of justice and a basis for the continued struggle for university education in Ireland. He was a member of the senate of the RUI, which was established under the act, from June 1880 until 29 June 1890.
Woodlock left the rectorship when he was made bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, being consecrated by Pope Leo XIII in the Sistine Chapel in Rome on 1 June 1879. He moved to his residence at Newtownforbes, outside Longford, to begin his episcopacy, which was to last sixteen years. His period in office was remarkable for the frequency and regularity with which Woodlock visited the parishes and institutions of his diocese. He established and promoted educational and religious institutions. He completed the foundation of the Sisters of Mercy convents at Ballymahon and Mohill, enlarged the convent of the teaching order of La Sainte Union des Sacrés Coeurs at Banagher, and introduced the order into Athlone along with the Marist Brothers to provide for the intermediate education of boys and girls. He initiated restoration work at the ancient site of Clonmacnoise and spent all his private savings on the completion of St Mel's cathedral at Longford.
As a consequence of a fall in May 1894 in London, in which he broke his right arm, Woodlock was afflicted by a prolonged and serious illness. In September 1894 he petitioned the pope to accept his resignation, giving as reasons his advanced age of seventy-five and ill health. He was then named titular bishop of Trapezopolis and granted his expressed desire to retire to All Hallows College, which had been committed by the Irish bishops in October 1891 to the care of the Congregation of the Mission, the Irish Vincentians. Woodlock died 13 December 1902 at All Hallows College and his remains were buried in the grounds of St Mel's cathedral, Longford. A portrait of Woodlock survives at St Mel's College, Longford.