Saturday, 19 December 2015


We have two nice festive pictures to post today. The photos come to us courtesy of Joan Reynolds Fogarty and Pat Hurley McDonald.

Joan Fogarty and her school friends really have something very special.  Their friendship! These ladies have been friends since their school days at St Patrick’s and they maintain that friendship by being there for one another in good times and not so good times.  They also meet up several times a year to share a meal, chat, laugh and just take pleasure in each other’s company.  Long may they continue to do so!
This photo was taken on 2nd December at The Sheraton Hotel where the friends held their Christmas Dinner and enjoyed a lovely evening.
BACK ROW: Rosemary Ashley Healy, Joan Connolly Alston, Kathleen Dobbin Benson, Judy Fitzgerald Squires, Mary Bulger Corcoran, Brenda Casey Grouchy, Joan Reynolds Fogarty
FRONT ROW: Madeline Adams Thomson, Catherine Corbett Stanley, Mary Fitzgerald, Betty Fitzgerald Pye, Eleanor Sears Vatcher.
Our second festive photo  comes from Pat Hurley McDonald.  Again we have a group of school friends who have become life-long friends.  Janet McGrath Crane is home from Florida to celebrate Christmas with her daughters and their families so, as always, the friends took advantage of the opportunity to meet up.  The celebratory meal took place on 16th December at Milestones Restaurant on Torbay Road.  From the looks of the ladies, we can see that it too was a happy and enjoyable event.
LEFT TO RIGHT: Kay Johnson, Cynthia Murphy, Maureen O’Brien, Pat Hurley, Carmel Hayes, Mary Johnson and Janet McGrath.
Many thanks to Joan and Pat for the photographs and thanks to both of you for all the help and support you give to this blog.  We wish you and all your friends a very Merry Christmas and a happy, healthy 2016.  We look forward to hearing about your future escapades.  May they be many and may they all be happy ones!

Wednesday, 16 December 2015


Norma PEDDLE Bulger is the youngest of seven sisters who all attended St Patrick’s Convent Schools.  Norma attended St Patrick’s from 1967 to 1976.  Norma’s mother, the late Nellie Sparrow, also attended St Patrick’s so the family’s St Patrick’s roots run deep.  Sadly, Norma’s dear Mom passed away this year on 17th January at the age of 84 years.

Norma's beautiful Mother,
the late Nellie (Sparrow) Peddle
Norma’s mother had prepared an album for each of her girls and, while going through hers, Norma came across a wonderful picture which was published in the Evening Telegram on 16th December 1975.  That is exactly 40 years ago today! Once again, St Patrick's girls had displayed their talents - this time by winning the  Roman Catholic Junior High School Basketball Championship for 1975!  Therefore, Norma & I thought it would be a good idea to post it on our St Patrick’s School Blog and facebook page today, the  FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY.  Where do the years go?  Anyway, here is the picture just as it appeared forty years ago today.

I have also cropped the picture so, hopefully, you will be able to see the champs more clearly.
It might be  a bit difficult to read the details that accompany the photo but here is what it said:
"St Patrick's Girls School captured the Roman Catholic Junior High School Basketball championship during the weekend by defeating St Francis of Assisi of Outer Cove 18-16 in the championship game.  Members of the winning team are, first row (l-r) Patrice Power, Vicki Walsh, Mary Hearn, Paula Noseworthy, Chris Howlett, Susan Hayes, Cathy Walsh, Marion Walsh.  Second row; manager Michelle Walsh, Michelle Brennan, Debbie Hanlon, Janet Flynn,  Debbie Pittman, Norma Peddle, Daphne Howard, coach Susan Poole"
Norma, thank you very much for sharing these wonderful photographs and memories.  If you or your sisters come across any other pictures of your school days, we hope you will share them with us also. 


If any other members of the championship team are reading this, please tell us  your memories of that happy event.  You can contact us on

Thursday, 10 December 2015


Today we have a photo from 1967.  It was sent to us by Paula Jackman who is on the extreme right in the front row.  It is Paula's Grade 7 class and the teacher is Miss Patricia Laidley.  Paula has given us most of the girls' names but there are a few missing.  Perhaps you can help us out with the missing ones.  If you can, please get in touch with us at
ROW 1, L-R: Janice McGrath, Marilyn Whalen, Brenda Carroll, Donna Aylward, Donna Power, Karen Ryan, Donna Martin, Paula Jackman, Miss Patricia Laidley

ROW 2:  Marilyn Skinner, Victoria Osborne, Elizabeth McDonald,?, Patricia Murphy, Barbara McAllister, Dianne Madden, Caroline Courish

ROW 3: ?, Maxine Miller, Susan Walsh, Carol Short, Diane Fagan, Mary McDonald, Denise ?, Alice ?,

ROW 4: Debbie Murphy, Judy Kane, Maureen Hamilton, Sharon Reddy, Regina Whelan, Reverna Griffin, ?, Teresita Healey, Cathy Emberly

Paula, we are very grateful to you for sharing this lovely class photograph.  Anything else you might like to share, photos or stories, would be very welcome.  We are always on the lookout for material for this blog so anyone who wishes to share memories of their days at St Patrick's can contact us at  Don't forget to check us out on facebook also!

Thursday, 3 December 2015


I expect you will probably be reading about this in the media too but I could not let it pass without adding our CONGRATULATIONS to one of our own St Patrick’s girls, MARIAN WALSH. Marian was born in St John’s to Betty and the late Leo Walsh.  Many of us will have been schoolmates and friends of Marian and her sisters, who all attended St Patrick’s Convent Schools.

At present Marian is the Associate CEO and Chief Transformation Officer with Sinai Health System.  She has recently been named a WXN 2015 CANADA’S MOST POWERFUL WOMEN: TOP 100 AWARD WINNER. 

In speaking of Marian’s award, Joseph Mapa, President and CEO of Sinai Health System, said; “I have been an admirer of her long-standing commitment to positively impacting the lives of patients and families. Possibly her most significant accomplishment to date has been the transformation of Riverdale Hospital into Bridgepoint Active Healthcare and, under her leadership, its evolution into a preeminent, high performing leader in healthcare for complex patients.”      He goes on to say; “The Top 100 Awards recognizes exceptional female leaders, role models and change agents.  In my view, Marian exemplifies every trait at the highest level.”
Associate CEO & Chief Transformation Officer, Sinai Health System
Identified as a futurist by Canadian Healthcare Manager magazine, Marian Walsh is a visionary and advocate for transforming the health-care system to meet the evolving needs of patients. She has built Canada’s leading health-care organization for research, education and care focused on complex health conditions.             
“When I became CEO there were virtually no other women CEOs, unless they came from religious orders. I initiated a network for hospital women CEOs in Toronto to support and promote more women in the C-Suite.”
“Engage team members individually and collectively on strategy and vision every quarter at least. Make time and space for thoughtful discussion. I deliberately surround myself with nice people who are smart, have different perspectives and are willing to challenge.”
Marian, our heartiest congratulations go to you.  You have done us all proud!
(My thanks to Doreen Walsh Noseworthy, Marian's understandably proud sister, for alerting us to this happy news.) 

Saturday, 21 November 2015


Today, 21st November, is Presentation Day.  It is a very meaningful day for all Presentation Sisters and for those who have been educated by them.  To mark this special day, I am posting some photographs taken during a most interesting visit to Presentation Archives, St John's.
In September, at the invitation of Assistant Archivist Wanita Bates, Betty Simms and I spent a most pleasant afternoon at the Archives.  We were warmly welcomed by Wanita and Archivist Sr Patricia Whittle PBVM.  To be quite honest, an afternoon was not nearly enough to peruse the wonderful material housed there.  (We are keeping our fingers crossed that another invitation will be forthcoming!)
Time and space does not permit an in depth account of our visit but suffice it to say that Sr Patricia and Wanita are worthy guardians of a long and impressive history.  A history that we, as Newfoundlanders and as beneficiaries of the Presentation ethos, should be extremely proud to own.
Our visit to Presentation Archives
The dolls in the display case are all in pre Vatican II attire.  From left to right they are Postulant, Novice and Professed Sister.  Some of us will remember the Sisters in just such Habits.  The cloak that the Professed Sister is wearing was not part of the everyday dress of the Sisters.  It was worn only on special occasions.
Captain William Staunton
(Photo Courtesy Presentation Archives, Newfoundland)
Captain William Staunton was  master of the brig Ariel. On 21st September 1833 the Ariel, under command of Captain Staunton, arrived in St John's Harbour.  With him were Bishop M A Fleming and four Presentations Sisters.  The four, Sisters Bernard Kirwan, Xaverius Lynch, Magdalen O'Shaughnessy and Xavier Molony founded the first Presentation Convent outside Ireland and therefore the first in North America.  Captain Staunton retired in St John's and died there in 1884, aged 84.
Three St Patrick's 'Girls'
Here we are with Presentation Archivist, Sr Patricia Whittle PBVM.  Sr Patricia, the pretty lady in the centre, is an alumna of St Patrick's Convent School.  In case you are too young to remember our Sisters in Habits, the mannequin behind us will give you a pretty good idea of how they looked.
Mother John's beautiful work
This beautiful piece of work was of special interest to us.  Mother John, as we knew her, was our Grade 4 teacher.  We have vivid memories of Mother John but Betty and I were not aware of the extent of her artistic talent.   
The description
This notice was attached to Mother John's work of art.  As well as a description of the work, it also gives a little information about the artist.
With Wanita, Lucky, and Sr Patricia
 Assistant Archivist, Wanita Bates, was kept busy taking our pictures but we were really delighted when she and Sr Patricia  agreed to another photo.  This time Betty was the photographer!  Sr Patricia is the Archivist, Wanita is the Assistant Archivist and I think Lucky must be the Assistant Assistant Archivist. 

The Presentation of Our Lady
This painting depicts the Presentation of Mary in the temple.  It was painted by a Sister at the Motherhouse.  It is not in the Archives but it is on display in one of the parlours for all to see and admire.
We are deeply grateful to Sr Patricia Whittle and Wanita Bates for an unforgettable experience. Our afternoon with you was informative, interesting and enjoyable and we thank you most sincerely.  We wish you both a very Happy Presentation Day.  We know you will keep the lamp burning brightly.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015


The two World Wars, and all the wars and conflicts that have followed, have claimed the lives of many parishioners of St Patrick’s Parish.  The deaths of these brave young people have shattered the lives of their loved ones at home.  Through all this misery and heartbreak, it was very often the job of the Pastor to try to comfort and bring what little solace he could to the bereaved families and friends.

In this post, we will take a brief look at some of those Pastors.

Msgr J J McDermott

When WWI broke out in 1914, the Parish Priest of St Patrick’s was an Irishman, Msgr J J McDermott.  Msgr McDermott was born in Roscommon in 1872 and was Pastor of St Patrick’s from 1909 – 1915.  He died in 1947.

Bishop Henry T Renouf

For the duration of the First World War, Father Henry T Renouf tended to the spiritual needs of the good people of St Patrick’s Parish.  Father Renouf, like Msgr McDermott, was born in 1872, but Fr Renouf was born in St John’s.  Fr Renouf was Pastor of St Patrick’s from 1915 – 1920.   In 1920, Fr Renouf was consecrated Bishop of St George’s.  Bishop Henry Renouf died in 1941.
Padre Thomas Nangle
The most well know of former priests of St Patrick’s Parish is probably Fr Thomas Nangle.  In 1914, Msgr McDermott was joined by the young Fr Nangle.  When WWI broke out, Fr Nangle was assistant priest to the Pastor, Fr Renouf.  It is commonly, but erroneously, believed that the massacre of the Newfoundlanders at Beaumont Hamel on 1st July 1916 inspired Fr Nangle to enlist as Chaplain to the Newfoundland Regiment.  There is documented proof that Fr Nangle long desired to join his fellow countrymen in the fray.  We know that Fr Nangle actually enlisted in October 1915 but much correspondence between London and St John’s and much red tape had to be gotten through before the priest was given the go-ahead.  It was in July 1916 that Archbishop Roche provided Fr Nangle with his celebret and a letter giving him permission to leave the diocese and serve as a Chaplain.  Fr Nangle proved to be an exemplary Chaplain, brave, compassionate and kind.  He was well loved and respected by all with whom he came in contact.
Archbishop Thomas J Flynn
For the years spanning WWII, Fr Thomas John Flynn was Pastor of St Patrick’s.  Fr Flynn was born in Placentia in 1892 and ordained in 1919.  He came to St Patrick’s in 1932 and served its people until 1945.  In 1945 Fr Flynn was created Coadjutor to Archbishop E P Roche of St John’s with the right of succession.  However, Archbishop Flynn predeceased Archbishop Roche.  He died on 1st September 1949.

Sad to say, the years since the ending of World War II have been anything but peaceful.  The world is still plagued with wars and conflicts and men and women are still dying in the service of their country.  The priests of St Patrick’s, like clergymen everywhere, are always available to offer what help and sympathy they can to the bereaved families of the fallen.
On this 11th November 2015, we remember in heart and prayer all who have made the supreme sacrifice. May they rest in the peace that the world cannot give, the peace of Christ.
Laurence Binyon
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”
(Robert Laurence Binyon)


Let us also remember the priests who have played their sad role in all wars and conflicts, those whose work is done and those who are still striving to bring comfort where often there is none.
Perhaps it is appropriate to end this post with the words of a valiant lady, Edith Stein.  Edith, or Sr Teresia Benedicta as she  became,  knew firsthand the horrors of war and died because she was Jewish.

Edith Stein (Sr Teresia Benedicta)

“The nation doesn’t simply need what we have.  It needs what we are.”
(St Teresia Benedicta)

Tuesday, 27 October 2015


What a group of little cuties we have here!  This gorgeous picture, kindly submitted by Audrey Dawe-Sheppard, is from 1967.  It is Miss Morgan's Afternoon Kindergarten Class and Audrey is in the second row, fourth from the left.  Audrey has very helpfully supplied us with most of the names. Hopefully, someone will be kind enough to help us out with the names that Audrey missed.

****We recently had an email from Diane Evans Fulford. Diane informed us that she is the little blond girl in the front row, seventh left, sitting between Donna Dinn and Cathy Parrell. Thank you so much Diane and if you can help with any other names, I would be pleased and grateful.
Miss Morgan's Kindergarten Class,
St Patrick's Convent, 1967

ROW 1, L-R:  Margaret (Margie) O'Brien, Daphne Howard, Karen Gough, Jackie Kavanagh, Yvonne Evans, Donna Dinn, Diane Evans, Cathy Parrell, Joanne Ryan

ROW 2, L-R: Paulette Dillon, Sandy Ryan, Gloria Thomas, Audrey Dawe, Imelda Bruce, Jackie Turner, Patricia Hollahan, Marie Ford, Cathy Evans, Miss Rosemarie Morgan

ROW 3, L-R: ?, Colleen Murphy, Norma Peddle, Heather McDonald, ?, Helen Oates, Kathy McCarthy, Sandy Kavanagh

ROW 4, L-R: Cathy Sloane, ?, Mary Power, ?, Toni Coady, Sandra Dower, Marie Lundrigan, Michelle Brennan, Heather Baird

****Two more little girls have been named.  I am very pleased to say that Miss Morgan, who taught this class, has been in touch and identified Colleen Murphy Row 3, 2 left and Sandra Dower Row 4, 6 left.  So, many thanks, Miss Morgan, for taking the time to contact us.  We are delighted to hear from you.

Well done, Audrey, for remembering so many names!  Thank you very much for sharing your photo and memory.  As always, we would be delighted to receive more of your photographs or stories to share here on St Patrick’s Convent School Blog and on its facebook page.  Anyone who has anything to submit can send it along to and we will be happy to share it.

Monday, 19 October 2015


Today's picture comes to us from Ellie Ryall and it  could be a collector's item.  The photo was taken in 1967, a year that was very special for Canada and Canadians as it was Canada's Centennial year. 
Ellie's Class Photo, 1967
 EXPO 67, as it was called, was a World's Fair held in Montreal from 27th April -  29th October 1967 to celebrate Canada's 100th Birthday.  It was said to be the most successful World's Fair of the 20th century.  The list of names that Ellie has sent us clearly shows the Expo Logo that adorned souvenir mugs, tee shirts and other memorabilia of that celebration.  It also has the pictures of Canada's Prime Ministers from 1867 -  1967.  Ellie, I think you have here something very special and worth keeping safe.
The List of Ellie's Grade 5 Classmates,  1967
For those of you who are too young to remember 1967, I am adding a picture of a mug from Expo 67.  As you can see, there are cracks in the glaze.  I am not sure if that tells us that the mug is "old" or that it was "cheap".  Perhaps both!
An Expo 67 Souvenir
Ellie Ryall, I am very grateful to you for sharing your picture and your memories with us.  If you have any other pictures or stories that you would like to share, please send them along to us at and, as always, we will be more than happy to post them here on the St Patrick's Convent School Blog and on its facebook page. 

Monday, 12 October 2015


I have received a very interesting photo from Pamela (Brown) Hartman.  Pamela graduated from St Patrick's in 1976.  Pamela's mother, WINNIFRED SULLIVAN, is in this picture, front row, fifth from right. 
Winnifred Sullivan Brown is in the very centre of
the front row, 5th right.
The photo, taken in the 1950s, is of Sr Imelda's Commercial Class.  After graduation, many girls went on to do a Business Course, known in those days as "Commercial Class".  Sr Imelda taught Commercial at St Patrick's for many, many years before eventually being transferred to the new High School, Holy Heart of Mary.  Sr Imelda's Commercial graduates were always well instructed and in great demand in offices in St John's.  So highly were they thought of that company bosses and directors would contact the school looking for graduates to fill vacancies in their offices.  Hence, most of the girls would have jobs waiting for them upon completion of their Commercial course.

I am posting a cropped version and the original version of the photo.  The cropped version is to give you a closer look at the girls so that, hopefully, you can identify some of them for us.  I do have someone working on that at the moment but if any of you can help, it would be much appreciated.  (If you click on the pictures they will enlarge!) You can send us any information at and we will add it to the post.

Sr Imelda's "Commercial Class", 1950s. 
The Deanery Avenue School is in the beacground.
I love the original version of this photo.  The old Deanery Avenue School is in the background.  This School, which opened in 1921, was built as a memorial to the men and boys of St Patrick's Parish who gave their lives in WWI.  Sadly, this School is no more and where it once stood there is now just a vacant lot.  There is nothing, neither plaque nor word nor picture, to remind the populace of the dedicated teachers, the generations of children nor of the brave young men for whom it was meant as a lasting tribute.

Pamela, thank you very much for sharing this beautiful photo with us.  I hope someone will be able to come up with a bit of information for you.

Saturday, 3 October 2015


I really wish that this photo was one of those scratch & sniff cards that were so common around here a couple of years ago.  Why do I wish that?  Well because research shows that odours are especially effective as memory triggers.  More so even than cues from our other senses, such as sights, songs, music or other sounds.  This, I have read, is known as  "odour evoked autobiographical memory".  It is also known as the "Proust phenomenon", after the French writer, Marcel Proust.  OK, now that we have all that brainy stuff out of the way, let's get on with the important things, i.e. this picture!

The picture, submitted by Jackie ENGLISH Guzzwell, was taken in June 1958.  It is a picture of Sr Immaculata's wonderful  Cooking Class. Can you remember how, every Friday afternoon, we all put on those funny little caps & trudged off to the Domestic Science Room which, I must say, was very well appointed & equipped.  We would then spend the next hour or so whipping up something from the inspired and inspiring culinary repertoire of Sr Immaculata.  Sit back, close your eyes and savour once more those tantalising aromas!

In between scoldings for whoever had sneaked into the store cupboard and eaten all the chocolate chips, burnt the sauce or broken the serving dish, we also had lessons on how to  set a table properly.  All those spoons, forks and knives!  Would we ever remember which came first?  Sure we would.  Sister told us it was easy - you just started from the outside and worked in.

What about all that fudge?  We made pounds and pounds of it for the Annual Sale of Work.  Good grief, who bought it?  Did they actually EAT it? 

Sr Immaculata's Cooking Class, June 1958

It is difficult to see the girls at the back but going from the front left and working around the counter to the front right, we can identify some of the girls.  They are:
Anne Whelan, Carol Brothers, Elizabeth Flynn, Mary Glynn, Sheila Glynn, Beth Anne McAllister, Jackie English, Dianne Richards, Marina Grace, Alice Hennessey,  Judy Comerford, Sheila Bulger, Alice Prim, Elizabeth Meaney, (?), Marie Kennedy, Margaret Morrissey,  Geraldine Hearn, Betty Simms, Loretta Maher, (?), Patsy Walsh, Eileen Maher, (?)
Standing behind are (?), (?), Patsy Stafford, Bernice Rose, Brenda Tracey, (?), Cynthia Reddy, (?), Catherine Howell, Barbara Sharpe, Eleanor Simms, Alana Graham, Elizabeth Healey, (?), Anne Frizzell

If you can help with names, send them to  us at  and we will be very happy to add or correct a name.  We would also love to hear your reminiscences of cooking with Sr Immaculata.

Thanks Jackie for bringing back some wonderful memories.  Who needs scratch and sniff cards anyway?

Monday, 28 September 2015


I believe it was that true blue Newfoundlander, Al Clouston, who told us that, in heaven, St Peter has to chain all the Newfoundlanders to the Pearly Gates because otherwise they’ll all go home.  Well, I think Al was probably right because, no matter where we are, our hearts and footsteps always seem to take us back to Newfoundland.  What Al didn’t tell us, perhaps because he didn’t know, was that if you are a Newfoundlander AND a St Patrick’s girl you have to get home and then you have to meet up with some more St Patrick’s girls!  Today’s post is about just such a meeting and it comes to us courtesy of Pat Hurley McDonald.

Recently Pat’s cousin, Sheelah Hurley Martin-McArthur, was home on holiday from Florida and a group of school friends got together to enjoy a visit with her.  On 23rd September, the ladies met for luncheon at Press and Bean Restaurant on Torbay Road.  The friends who attended were Cathy Tobin Healey, Maureen O’Brien Roche, Sheelah Hurley Martin-McArthur, Lila Mercer Young, Nancy Stanley Cook, Cynthia Murphy Downey, Judy Comerford Newton, Sheila Moyst O’Neill and Pat Hurley McDonald.

Pat has sent us some photographs of the gathering.

Cathy, Maureen, Sheelah & Lila
Nancy, Cynthia, Judy & Sheila
Seated, L-R: Cathy, Maureen, Sheelah, Lila
Standing, L-R:  Nancy, Cynthia, Judy, Sheila & Pat
Pat said that everyone had a very enjoyable time.  They had so much fun reminiscing about the “good old days” and the Nuns that nobody wanted to leave.  I agree with Pat 100% when she says, “Hopefully we will continue this tradition”. 

Thanks Pat for sharing and for all the support you give to this blog.

Friday, 25 September 2015


Recently I had the very great privilege of spending a month at home in St John's where I still enjoy the wonderful blessing of devoted family and loyal friends.  On Tuesday, 8th September I was fortunate to get together with a group of school friends for lunch at 'Swiss Chalet'.  (My special thanks go to Doreen and Mary Elizabeth who organised the meeting on very short notice and with the added problem of many friends out of town for the Labour Day Holiday.)
I think it accurate to say that everyone had a great time.  I know that for me personally it was just wonderful.  Some of the ladies I am in touch with on a regular basis but it was as much as fifty years since I had seen some of my other school friends.  One of the group, Bernadette, shocked and delighted us all by counting up the years we have been friends - 64 beautiful years!  Isn't that amazing?
Here are a few of the photographs I took on that lovely afternoon.  It is evident from the photos that I am not a great photographer so if anyone else took pictures that day, I would be delighted if you would share them with us here on the blog.  Just send them to us at & I will post them here and on the facebook page.

Maureen Sullivan, Mary Johnson, Doreen Walsh,
Sheila Bulger & Betty Simms
Maureen Sullivan, Mary Johnson, Doreen Walsh & Alice Prim
Beth Anne McAllister, Mary Elizabeth Kennedy
& Edwena Kavanagh
Bernadette Grouchy, Cynthia Murphy
& Kathleen Johnson

Betty Simms, Mary Elizabeth Kennedy & Edwena Kavanagh
Carol Cromwell, Lila Mercer & Jackie English

It seems that St Patrick's girls have a special knack for maintaining the valuable friendships made in school days and long may it continue to flourish.  However, lest it be thought that she is denying her old school, I must point out that Edwena is a former pupil of Mercy Convent.  She got hooked up with this crazy bunch of St Patrick's girls at Holy Heart of Mary and became a well loved member of the group.  We are all very glad that she did! 
Thanks for everything, ladies, and I hope it won't be too long before we can all get together again.

Monday, 21 September 2015


St Matthew
Today, 21st September, is the feast of St Matthew and a very special day in the history of Newfoundland.  On this day 182 years ago, the brig ‘Ariel’ entered St John’s Harbour.  Commanded by Captain William Staunton, the ship was carrying the Bishop of Newfoundland, Michael Anthony Fleming, and four heroic Irish women.  The brave and selfless ladies were four Presentation Sisters; Sr Mary Bernard Kirwan, Sr Mary Xaverius Lynch, Sr Mary Xavier Molony and Sr Mary Magdalen O’Shaughnessy.

Captain William Staunton
(Courtesy of Presentation Archives)

Bishop Fleming, ever zealous for the welfare of those in his care, had personally appealed to the Presentation Convent in Galway. His fervent hope was that volunteers from the Order would come with him to Newfoundland to instruct the poor children of his flock.  The good man was not disappointed for almost immediately the four Sisters agreed to join him.

Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming

On 11th August 1833 the Sisters left their Convent in Galway and travelled some 250 miles by coach to Waterford.  Then, on 28th August, they embarked on the ‘Ariel’, accompanied by Bishop Fleming. 

Presentation Convent, Galway

The ocean voyage was a perilous one.  At one point, their situation was so desperate that the Captain was forced to let the vessel drift helplessly before the wind.  For almost a month they endured the misery and the worry of this journey.  It would surely have been a wonderful relief to the Sisters when, on 21st September, they reached the safe haven of St John’s Harbour.  They must have been very pleased also with the warm and enthusiastic welcome they received from the population of St John’s. 
The Bishop had procured a residence for them in a former tavern called ‘The Rising Sun’.  It is said that this was regarded as a good omen by the townsfolk as it symbolised the light of faith and education which the Sisters came to spread throughout the country.  Indeed, within a few weeks of their arrival the Sisters had attracted approximately 450 pupils.  They began teaching in a room in their home in the old tavern.  The Sisters were well educated, cultured ladies and they taught literature, arithmetic, French, needlework, Christian doctrine and music.  In fact, the Presentation Sisters were the first teachers in Newfoundland to introduce music into schools on a daily basis.
Back in Galway, there was much sadness as no word of the arrival of the Sisters in St John’s had reached the Galway community.  The letters containing news of their safe passage had been mislaid in Liverpool and it was several months before the Galway Convent received them.  By then, the four intrepid pioneers were given up for lost and a general mourning took place.  We can only imagine the great happiness and rejoicing that took place when the letters finally reached their intended destination!
The Four Founding sisters spent their lives and their talents for the children of Newfoundland and never saw their beloved homeland again. 

Sr Bernard Kirwan left the Motherhouse in 1853 to help establish a new foundation at Admiral’s Cove, (renamed Port Kirwan) Fermeuse.  She is buried in Port Kirwan where she died in February 1857.

Mother Mary Bernard Kirwan
(Courtesy of Presentation Archives)

Sr Magdalen O’Shaughnessy, upon the departure of Sr Bernard Kirwan, became Superior of the Presentation Convent in St John’s.  She was instrumental in sending out Sisters to found new houses of the Order.  Sr Magdalene died at Presentation Convent, St John’s, in 1889 and is buried in the cemetery there.


Sr Mary Magdalen O'Shaughnessy
(Courtesy of Presentation Archives)

Sr Xaverius Lynch founded the Convent in Harbour Grace in 1851 and was its Superior until her death in November 1882.  She is buried in the Presentation Cemetery in Harbour Grace. 

Sr Mary Xaverius Lynch
(Courtesy of Presentation Archives)

Sr Xavier Molony, the oldest of the four foundresses, helped establish the new foundation at Harbour Main in 1853.  She was its Superior until she became ill three years later and returned to the Motherhouse in St John’s.  She died there in 1865 and was laid to rest in the Convent Cemetery.

Sr Mary Xavier Molony
(Courtesy of Presentation Archives)

The arrival of the four Sisters in Newfoundland in September 1833 was certainly a history making event.  They founded the first Presentation Convent outside Ireland and, consequently, the first Presentation House in North America.  They were the first English speaking Sisters in Canada.  Sister Mary Bernard Kirwan, who had been appointed Superior of the new foundation, was therefore the founder of the Presentation Congregation in North America.

We have much to be grateful for on this Feast of St Matthew, 21st September 2015:  The dedication and determination of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming is the first thing for which we should be grateful.  He did much for his adopted homeland and its Catholic population.  Sisters Bernard Kirwan, Magdalen O’Shaughnessy, Xaverius Lynch and Xavier Molony gave their all in the education and betterment of the poor children of Newfoundland.  As products of Presentation Schools, we are particularly indebted to these valiant ladies and to the many fine Presentation Sisters who have been our teachers.  Lastly, we should remember Master Mariner, Captain William Staunton.  Captain Staunton agreed to take responsibility for conveying the Sisters to the New World when others had refused.            

The Three St Patrick's Convent Schools

Yes, today is an important day in Newfoundland History.  Let’s take pride in our amazing heritage!