By Ann Marie Foley - 20 December, 2017
At the official launch of Nano Nagle Place, Cork, Dr Mary McAleese said “Ireland should be justifiably proud of the founder of the Presentation Sisters, Nano Nagle whose pioneering work in setting up schools all over Ireland and beyond had left a lasting legacy.”
The former Irish president said, “This is a place that exudes an ethos of care for over 200 years.”
She spoke of current projects which find their home at Nano Nagle Place such as the Lantern and work with migrants who she said are in “a world that creates them so quickly through violence and conflict and godawful politics, and then turns its back on them so easily. And I think of all those people who have had to pack up and leave their homes and yet here in this place a welcome for them.”
Nano Nagle Place was blessed by the three Bishops of Cork. Catholic Bishops John Buckley and William Crean, and Church of Ireland Bishop William Paul Colton.
Bishop Buckley said that the newly refurbished premises would be an appropriate monument to Nano Nagle. “She too was constantly reaching out to other people with her famous lantern,” he said. “She was interested in people, and from cradle to the grave people were valued and taken seriously.”
He said that her spirit animates her sisters at home and abroad. Speaking of a recent visit to Rome with Bishop Crean, he said that they were glad to see that Nano Nagle’s name was “very prominent on the list for beatification”.
Also present were Lord Mayor of Cork Cllr Tony Fitzgerald, Congregational Leader of the Presentation Sisters Union Sr Mary Deane, and Chairman of the Nano Nagle Place Board Jim Corr.
Sr Mary Deane said that the timing of this celebration of the transformation of Nano Nagle Place was apt, as next year the Congregation will celebrate the tercentenary of the birth of Nano Nagle.
“These are challenging times for us religious, especially in this part of the world where we are faced with much letting go, but the transformation that is happening gives us a new hope and confidence in our future as Presentation,” she said.
She explained that the redevelopment finds a resonance in the invitation that Pope Francis gave in 2014 for the Year of Consecrated Life – to give gratitude for the past, live the present with passion, and embrace the future with hope.
“I believe that the vision, the dream of Nano Nagle Place honours the past, is an expression of our living heritage, it is a prophetic witness of the power of Nano’s story and our story in finding new ways to respond to the needs of our world today in order to be a sign of hope for the future,” she said.
It has been a long journey because after the schools closed, in what was known as the “South Pres”, part of the site became almost derelict. It was hard to both maintain it and see new possibilities. Were it not the fact that it was so significant a place for Presentation sisters globally and the “heart and soul”, it might have closed but that really that was not an option, she explained.
Collaborating and partnering with many people had helped the sisters to see “with new eyes” what might be possible and how it could be done. The Presentation congregations in Ireland and around the world made a financial investment in the project which was to cost €10million and is not without risk. It demanded a lot of faith, courage and trust according to Sr Mary Deane.
Nano Nagle Place is a 3.75 acre site in Cork city where Nano Nagle founded the Presentation Sisters. The convent buildings date back to 1771 and there is a walled garden, graveyard and the tomb of Nano Nagle which attracts visitors from all over the world.
The refurbishment helps preserve the ministry, heritage, ethos and philosophy of Nano Nagle, and the convent of Nano Nagle has been developed into a social services, heritage, archive and visitor centre.