By Ann Marie Foley - 11 January, 2018
"The Presentation family landscape is changing but the Sisters would be the first to acknowledge the song must not stop with the Sisters; a dance must evolve out of a wake.” - Bishop Denis Nulty
Bishop Denis Nulty marked the closing of the Presentation Convent in Kildare at Mass on the Feast of the Holy Family. The convent which opened in the year of Catholic Emancipation, and hosted Daniel O Connell for breakfast, has now come to the end of its days.
Speaking in St Brigid’s Church, Kildare, Bishop Denis Nulty said, “After 188 years the Presentation presence will be no more here in Kildare parish. The many generations of families who have been educated over the years by the Presentation Sisters have great reason to say thanks and show appreciation today.”
When Bishop Nulty arrived in the Kildare and Leighlin Diocese in 2013 there were 12 communities, convents or houses and that has been reduced to nine today.
“The Presentation family landscape is changing but the sisters would be the first to acknowledge the song must not stop with the Sisters; a dance must evolve out of a wake,” he said.
“We are in a different place, there is no going back. The friends of Presentation; the associates; the co-journers; the Presentation past pupils must continue to kindle Nano’s lantern and sing Nano’s song. That’s what family do when the chips are down.”
He recalled the founder of the Presentation Sisters, Nano Nagle, who set up the sisters in Cork in 1775, and said in his homily that she knew that in penal times, education of the people was the way out of poverty.
The Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin added that the Presentation Sisters have been very much at home in Kildare Town since Catholic Emancipation in 1829, and four years later Daniel O’Connell breakfasted in their convent.
The Sisters set up in Kildare thanks to the generosity of three Suncroft farmers who suggested and supported the establishment of the convent. Originally, the sisters lived in a house on the farm and they taught their earliest pupils in the stables. Two sisters from Carlow and one from Portlaoise formed that first community, 184 years ago.
“While the Bishop might sanction the establishment of a convent; it was you the local people who made the Sisters welcome and will miss them most as they leave,” he said.
The history of the Sisters presence in Kildare was detailed in a book, “Acorn to Oak – Presentation Convent and Schools 1830-2010″ compiled by Joe Connelly, of Nurney, who began his education with the Sisters at the age of three. Three generations of many families in the town have been educated by Presentation Sisters.
The Presentation leadership team continues to be based at the Congregation Administration Centre in nearby Monasterevin, Co Kildare. In the next county Laois the Presentation Sisters run the Mount St. Anne’s Retreat and Conference Centre, Killenard, Portarlington.