Monday, 28 February 2011


Mother M Bernard Kirwan
(Click on picture to enlarge it)

In a letter to a friend, Nano Nagle wrote: “If I could be of any service in saving souls in any part of the globe, I would willingly do all in my power”. Less than fifty years after Nano’s death her Sisters took up the challenge in a very different “part of the globe”.

Michael Anthony Fleming, Bishop of Newfoundland, had travelled to Ireland with the specific aim of acquiring the services of the Presentation Sisters. The good Bishop keenly desired to provide the children of the Catholic population with a solid education and religious instruction. To that end he approached Mother John Power, the Superior of the Presentation Convent in Galway. Bishop Fleming explained his mission to Mother John and the assembled Sisters and, touched by the plight of his charges and his concern for them, Sr Magdalen O’Shaughnessy immediately volunteered. She was promptly joined by Sr Xaverius Lynch, Sr Bernard Kirwan and Sr Xavier Maloney.

The Bishop of Galway gave his approval and appointed Sr Bernard Kirwan as Superior. Bishop Fleming promised to provide the Sisters with £100 a year as well as a suitable Convent and school. Mother John Power stipulated that the Galway Community would be empowered to recall the Sisters after six years should they wish to return. All was agreed. Nano Nagle’s missionary dream was about to become a reality as her four spiritual daughters set out to establish the first Presentation Convent outside Ireland.

On 28th August 1833, the Bishop and the four courageous women set sail from Waterford aboard the Ariel. Their journey was not an easy one. Storms, gales, seasickness, and quite possibly homesickness, made it a very perilous and unpleasant journey. Finally, on the Feast of St Matthew, 21st September 1833, the four intrepid Irish Sisters came ashore in St John’s. They received a tumultuous welcome from the citizens, Protestant and Catholic alike.

Sr Bernard Kirwan, Sr Magdalen O’Shaughnessy, Sr Xaverius Lynch and Sr Xavier Maloney were the first Presentation Sisters to set foot in North America. Soon more would come. The work was just beginning!

Links to this post:  THE LADY WITH THE LANTERN

Friday, 25 February 2011


Sr Theresa's Grade 5 Class, 1956/57
(Click on the picture to enlarge it)
Today's post jumps ahead a hundred years or so from yesterday's post.  However, I think this is a good one!  I hope you do too.  It is a picture of Sr Theresa's Grade Five Class and it was taken in June 1957.  I think it was taken by everyone's favourite, Sr Mary Immaculata!  Don't we all look innocent sitting there on the School steps?

Front Row:  Judy Comerford, Sheila Bulger
Row 2:  Beth Anne McAllister, Mary Elizabeth Kennedy, Mary Patricia Loftus, Lucy Power, Mary Glynn, Bernadette Mansfield, Diane Walsh, Eleanor Simms, Patricia Stafford, Margaret Power
Row 3:  Elizabeth Meaney, Patsy Whiffen, Jeanette Roy, Gloria Connors, Emma Doyle, Patsy Arsenault, Marie Furey, Mary Power, Florence Evans, Betty Gallivan, Patricia Murphy
Row 4:  Betty Simms, Elizabeth Flynn, Mary Johnson, Carmel Fitzgerald, Mary Whelan, Dorothy Noftall, Eileen Fowler, Bridie Colbert, Alice Prim, Margaret Hickey, Cynthia Reddy
Back Row:  Loretta Hansen, Madonna Ryan, Loretta Maher, Rosalie Brewer

I received my first slap from Sr Theresa!  I left out a decimal point in a long division sum!  I have to say that the slap did me no harm  at all - I never left a decimal point out again!

If you are on this photo and you wish to get in touch, please do so.  You can leave a message in the comments box below or send an e-mail.

I hope you enjoy the photo and I hope I got all the names and the year correct.


Honora Nagle (known as Nano) was born in 1718 in Ballygriffin, near Mallow, County Cork. She was descended from a Norman Baron who founded an Irish Augustinian priory. Her father, Garret, was a wealthy landowner. Her mother, Ann, was from a prominent Tipperary family and a relative of the famous parliamentarian, Edmund Burke. In Ireland at that time, Penal Laws, designed to keep Catholics poor, uneducated, and oppressed, made it unlawful to open a Catholic School or to travel abroad for an education. Despite the Penal Laws, the Nagles had managed to keep most of their wealth and, through family connections, were able to send, discretely, Nano and her sister Ann to Paris. Here they received a thorough Catholic education. They also enjoyed the gaiety of life in Parisian Society! Early one morning Nano and Ann were in a cab, returning from a Ball in that great city. They came upon a group of poor people huddled outside a church door, waiting to attend early Mass before going to their work. Nano compared her own privileged lifestyle to these poor people. The scene so disturbed her that she decided to do something to help the poor.

In 1746, Garret Nagle died and Nano and Ann returned to Ireland to live with their mother in Dublin, where there was widespread poverty. One day Nano was looking for a piece of valuable Parisian silk, which Ann told her she had sold and given the money to the poor. Nano was profoundly touched by this and years later, said that it was this that had decided her vocation. She returned to Paris with the intention of consecrating her life to God in a cloistered order where she could pray for the poor. However, her very perceptive Jesuit Confessor advised her to return to Ireland and work for the poor and deprived in her homeland.

She went back to Cork and lived with her brother, Joseph. In Cork, she rented a mud cabin in Cove Lane and, in secret, set up her first school for the poor. Her aim was to provide these poorest of the poor with a sound religious education as well as an all round education that would help them to make their way in life. Nano had received a substantial inheritance from her Uncle Joseph and she used this to finance her charitable work. When her money ran out, she became a beggar for her beloved poor. Her charitable work did not stop at providing schools for the poor. She went out to them in the hovels and alleyways of Cork bringing them as much help and succour as she could. After her long days in the schoolroom, night would often overtake her as, with her lantern, she made her way home through the dark.

To give her schools more permanency, Nano brought some Irish Ursulines from France to teach in Cork. For various reasons, this was not a success and, though Nano never lost her love for the Ursulines and continued to help them financially, she began to think of setting up her own congregation of religious sisters. This congregation came into being on 24th December 1775. Nano’s preferred title was ‘The Sisters of Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus’. After Nano’s death, and with Papal approval, the name was changed to the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, (P B V M), by which they are still known today. Although Nano and her little group received the religious habit on 24th June 1776, it was not until 1800 that the Sisters first wore religious dress in public. Nano, the congregation’s first superior, chose the name of Sister Saint John of God but, under prevailing Penal Laws, she was known officially as Miss Nagle.

The Latin words on the Nagle Coat of Arms roughly translated as ‘Deeds Not Words’ and Nano certainly lived by this motto! As well as long hours in prayer, Nano engaged in every work that would alleviate the misery of the poor. However, regarding the work, she told her Sisters “We must prefer the schools to all others”. So it was that Nano Nagle blazed the trail and inspired great educators such as Edmund Ignatius Rice and Catherine McAuley who followed in her footsteps. In 1782, a Relief Bill allowed Catholics, for the first time since 1695, to open their own schools. Of course, this had conditions but it did go some way to realizing Nano’s dream when her secret schools could at last operate openly.

In 1769, Nano had written to a friend, “If I could be of any service in saving souls in any part of the globe, I would willingly do all in my power”. True to her missionary vision, the Presentation Sisters, beginning in 1833, spread to every continent. Nano Nagle died, aged 65, on 26th April 1784. Today, all over the world, her spiritual daughters, the Presentation Sisters, continue the work of their holy foundress. Nor is she forgotten in her native Ireland! In 2005, an Irish newspaper poll voted Nano Nagle the greatest Irish woman of all time. In 2002, in a similar poll, she had been voted greatest Irish person of all time.