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!