The foundress of the Presentation Sisters was known as “the Lady of the Lantern” in 18th century Cork, Ireland. At great personal risk, she opened several schools in Cork and after her work in her schools, she walked the streets of Cork visiting the homes of the poor. She carried a lantern to light her way.
Nano Nagle was born Honora Nagle in Ballygriffin in Cork in 1718, a turbulent time in Irish history due to the Penal Laws. The Nagle family was a wealthy Catholic family and Nano had the benefit of a European education and privileged lifestyle. She devoted her life to God and to working with people on the margins of society.
Her mission of educating the poor began in a ‘little school’ in Cove Lane in Cork in 1754. In setting up schools in defiance of the established colonial order she sided with those made poor and challenged the institutional injustice that perpetuated marginalisation and poverty. Nano responded to the needs of her time and developed an educational curriculum suitable to the individual capabilities of her students. Hers was a global vision as in 1769 she wrote to a friend, “For I can assure you my schools are beginning to be of service in a great many parts of the world.”
Nano’s famous words are, “If I could be of service in saving souls, in any part of the globe, I would be willing to do all in my power.”
In 1775, she gathered a small group of women around her and founded the Presentation Sisters on Christmas Eve 1775, the culmination of twenty years of a life of devotion to the cause of improving the circumstances of others. She died in Cork in 1784 and is buried in the grounds of South Presentation Convent in Cork city, in a location which has become a place of prayer and pilgrimage in her honour.
The Presentation Sisters can be found in the five continents working with those made poor and enabling them to secure a better standard of living for themselves, their families and their communities. The Sisters teach, nurse, engage in development work, visit the sick, comfort those who are struggling, work at the United Nations for a better deal for those made poor.
To this day Presentation Sisters and Friends of Nano remain committed to working with those most in need through a broad range of ministries. Those ministries include spirituality, faith development, chaplaincies, lifelong learning and innovation, social finance, social inclusion, outreach, human rights and justice, ecology and sustainable living and healthcare projects.
On 31 October, 2013, Pope Francis proclaimed Nano Nagle, Venerable, “The Universal Church has recognised Nano, as a woman of faith, hope and heroic virtue, whose vision and work transformed the lives of so many. For our Sisters, Associates and Friends of Nano throughout the world, Nano has been and continues to be a source of inspiration and challenge, as we respond to the needs of today, in fidelity to the Gospel and in the spirit of Nano.”
The Presentation Sisters came to Manchester in 1836, from Clonmel, County Tipperary, Ireland.
To-day we minister all over England. In the Diocese of Hallam, we can be found in Holy Family Parish, Sheffield and ministering in St Mary’s Catholic Primary School and St Mary’s Catholic High School in Chesterfield.
For more information, visit www.presentationsistersunion.org.