The Presentation Sisters’ story, like all spiritual quests, springs from a response to the Spirit, a transformation, a dream for justice, a perception of how this could be achieved and a life of prayer and action to make the dream a reality. The Presentation Sisters’ story begins with Nano Nagle (1718-1784), born in Ballygriffin, Ireland, during the persecution of Irish Catholics under the English Penal Laws.
Having received her education in France, she returned to Ireland only to be confronted by the squalor, ignorance and accompanying social ills which surrounded her, especially in the city of Cork. Grounded in her life of prayer, with indomitable courage and perseverance, she established schools and supported other works of charity for those who were poor and oppressed by unjust social structures. To ensure her work could continue she established a religious community in 1775.
The first name for her sisters was the Sisters of Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This community became known as the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in 1805. Growth of the Congregation was small but steady. The number of foundations in Ireland grew and foundations were also made in England, Newfoundland, the United States, Australia, New Zealand and India. On Friday, 20 July, 1866, a small group of Presentation Sisters left Ireland, their homeland and friends, to make a three month journey by boat to Tasmania.
When this group of four professed sisters and five postulants arrived at Hobart they opened the first Presentation convent and school in the Southern Hemisphere at Richmond. Today there are about 405 Presentation Sisters in Australia and Papua New Guinea and another 2000 in Ireland, England, Africa, India, Pakistan, Thailand, the Philippines, New Zealand and North and South America. Nano Nagle was declared Venerable by Pop Frances, in Rome on 31 October, 2013.
Mission and Ministry
A constant throughout the Presentation Sisters’ Story has been the recognition of human dignity and a determination to address the wrongs which oppress and deny the human spirit. Nano Nagle’s work in Ireland established a vision that education, in its many forms, is a means of empowering people for life. Her vision continues in the choice of Presentation sisters to work with and on behalf of the many individuals and families on the margins of society.
At this time when over-consumption and degradation threaten the earth itself Presentation Sisters are called to use the goods of creation in ways which promote the flourishing of life. Today many sisters live in small communities and emphasis is placed on both direct service to those in need to alleviate their suffering, and on working to change the social conditions that cause their impoverishment.