Celebrating a woman of faith
November 21st is a special day of celebration for the Presentation Sisters. The Feast Day of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary is celebrated in their schools and convents throughout the world. The Sisters have had a continuous presence in Lucan for over one hundred and fifty years and have educated generations of Lucanian children. They are now present in many parts of the world where they have established schools and provided education for children of many backgrounds, as well as many other varied ministries. The leadership team is based in Monasterevan Co. Kildare and from here the work of co-ordination of some 1,200 sisters worldwide - some 50% of whom are in Ireland - takes place.
The story of the Sisters began with one woman, a Corkonian by birth, Nano Nagle. Since Nano came from a wealthy family she was sent to Paris for her education and it was while here living the good life, that her first stirrings of vocation seem to have emerged. An incident is recorded about the handsome 22-year-old Nano, returning by carriage from an all-night grand ball when the carriage passed a parish church with many poor working people gathered outside waiting for it to open for Mass. This incident seemed to highlight for her the sharp contrast between their useful lives and her empty one devoted to pleasure. On her return to Ireland her simple desire to help the poor she saw around her in Cork began to take shape. Determined to help to educate them, both to improve their lives and to deepen their faith, in spite of the dangers she faced because of the Penal Laws, she opened her first school in 1754 with an enrolment of thirty-five girls in a two-room cabin.
Nano taught the children during the day and visited and nursed the sick by night. As a result, she became known in Cork as the 'Lady with the Lantern'.
Believing that this work must be continued after her death, Nano founded the congregation now known as the Presentation Sisters in 1775. One of her biographers Sr. Rose Forest PBVM wrote the following 'On her deathbed Mother Nagle gave to her daughters the following injunction: 'Love one another as you have hitherto done.' As her legacy she bequeathed to them the treasure which she prized above all the wealth of the earth - the love of the poor of Jesus Christ. She bade her Sisters 'Spend yourself for the poor.'
Lucan, like many other places, has benefitted greatly from the legacy of this woman of faith and we join in celebrating her wonderful legacy which is still unfolding.
Philip Curran - St. Mary's, Lucan