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Order of the Presentation

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An Order founded at Cork, Ireland, by Nano (Honoria) Nagle (see below). In 1775 she entered with some companions on a novitiate for the religious life. With them she received the habit 29 June, 1776, taking the name of Mother Mary of St. John of God. They made their first annual vows 24 June, 1777. The foundress had begun the erection of a convent close to that which she had built for the Ursulines, and it was opened on Christmas Day, 1777. They adopted as their title "Sisters of the Sacred Heart", which was changed in 1791 to that of "Presentation Sisters". Their habit was similar to that of the Ursulines. The second superioress was Mother Mary Angela Collins. Soon after her succession a set of rules, adapted from that of St. Augustine, was drawn up by Bishop Moylan, and approved by Pius VI in Sept., 1791. This congregation of teaching sisters was raised to the status of a religious order by Pius VII in 1800.

Communities from Cork were founded at Killarney in 1793; Dublin in 1794; and at Waterford in 1798. A second convent at Cork was established in 1799, by Sister M. Patrick Fitzgerald; and a convent at Kilkenny in 1800, by Sister M. Joseph McLoughlan. At the present day, there are 62 convents, and about 1500 sisters. Each community is independent of the mother-house, and subject only to its own superioress and the bishop of its respective diocese. The schools, under the British Government Board, have for their first object the Catholic and moral training of the young, which is not interfered with by the Government. The secular system followed is the "National", superseded, in many cases, by the "Intermediate", both of which ensure a sound English education; to which are added domestic economy, Latin, Irish, French, and German. The average attendance of children in each of the city convents of Dublin, Cork, and Limerick is over 1200; that in the country convents between 300 and 400, making a total of 22,200 who receive an excellent education gratis. For girls who are obliged to earn a living, work-rooms have been established at Cork, Youghal, and other places, where Limerick lace, Irish points and crochet are taught. The first foreign country to receive a Presentation Convent was Newfoundland in 1829, when Sisters Josephine French and M. de Sales Lovelock went from Galway. There are now fourteen houses of the order on the island and about twenty in the United States the first of which was founded at San Francisco by Mother Xavier Cronin from Kilkenny in 1854.

In 1833 a house was founded by Mother Josephine Sargeant from Clonmel at Manchester, England, from which sprang two more, one at Buxton and one at Glossop. Their schools are well attended; the number of children, including those of an orphanage, being about 1400. India received its first foundation in 1841, when Mother Xavier Kearney and some sisters from Rahan and Mullingar established themselves at Madras. Soon four more convents in the presidency were founded from this, and in 1891 one at Rawal Pindi. Their schools are flourishing, comprising orphanages, and day and boarding-schools, both for Europeans and natives. At Rawal Pindi the sisters do much good work among the Irish soldiers, who go to them for religious instruction. In 1866 Mother Xavier Murphy and some sisters left Fermoy for a first foundation at Hobart Town, Tasmania, under the auspices of its first archbishop, Dr. Murphy. There is a branch of this house at Launceston. St. Kilda, Melbourne, received sisters from Kildare in 1873, and Wagga Wagga a year later, with Mother M. John Byrne at their head. From these two houses numerous others branched forth to all parts of Australia; today there are over twenty convents, about 500 nuns, and thousands of children attending their schools.

Presentation Order in America

About half a century after its establishment, the Presentation Order sent four sisters from the Galway convent to Newfoundland, at the request of Dr. Fleming, Vicar Apostolic of the island. The mother-house is at St. John's; there are now (1911) thirteen convents, 120 nuns, and over 2000 pupils. In November, 1854, some Presentation Nuns arrived at San Francisco from Ireland. Mother M. Teresa Comerford and her sisters had great initial difficulties; but Archbishop Alemany succeeded in interesting prominent Catholics of the city in their work, and in course of time two fine convents were built within the city limits, besides convents at Sonoma and Berkeley. The earthquake of 1906 destroyed both of their convents in the city, with practically their entire contents; but the sisters have courageously begun their work afresh, and bid fair to accomplish as much good work as in the past.

The Presentation Convent, St. Michael's, New York City, was founded 8 Sept., 1874, by Mother Joseph Hickey, of the Presentation Convent, Terenure, Co. Dublin, with two sisters from that convent, two from Clondalkin, and seven postulants. Rev. Arthur J. Donnelly, pastor of St. Michael's Church, on completing his school building, went to Ireland in 1873 to invite the Presentation Nuns to take charge of the girls' department. The consent of the nuns having been obtained, Cardinal Cullen applied to the Holy See for the necessary Brief authorizing the nuns to leave Ireland and proceed to New York, which was accorded by Pius IX. The work of the nuns at St. Michael's has been eminently successful. From 1874 to 1910 there have been entered on the school register 16,781 names. In 1884 the sisters took charge of St. Michael's Home, Green Ridge, Staten Island, where over two hundred destitute children are cared for.

In 1886 Mother Magdalen Keating, with a few sisters, left New York at the invitation of Rev. P. J. Garrigan, afterwards Bishop of Sioux City, and took charge of the schools of St. Bernard's Parish, Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The mission proved most flourishing, and has branch houses in West Fitchburg and Clinton, Massachusetts; Central Falls, Rhode Island; and Berlin, New Hampshire. The order was introduced into the Diocese of Dubuque by Mother M. Vincent Hennessey in 1874. There are now branch-houses at Calmar, Elkader, Farley, Key West, Lawler, Waukon, Clare, Danbury, Whittemore, and Madison, Nebraska. The order came to Fargo, North Dakota, in 1880 under Mother Mary John Hughes, and possesses a free school, home, and academy. St. Colman's, Watervliet, New York, was opened in 1881, the sisters having charge of the flourishing orphanage. In 1886 some sisters from Fargo went to Aberdeen, South Dakota, and since then, under the guidance of Mother M. Joseph Butler, they have taken charge of schools at Bridgewater, Bristol, Chamberlain, Elkton, Jefferson, Mitchell, Milbank, and Woonsocket, besides two hospitals. There are in the United States 438 members of the order, who conduct 32 parochial schools, attended by 6909 pupils; 5 academies, with 416 pupils; 3 orphanages, with 519 inmates; 2 hospitals.

Nano Nagle (Honoria)

The foundress of the Presentation Order, born at Ballygriffin, Cork, Ireland, 1728; died at Cork, 20 April, 1784. After an elementary education in Ireland, where Catholic schools were then proscribed, she went to France for further studies, where some of her kinsmen were living in the suite of the exiled King James, and entered on a brilliant social life in the court circles of the capital. One morning, when returning from a ball, she was struck by the sight of crowds of working-men and women waiting for a church to be opened for early Mass. A few weeks later she returned to Ireland, and only the stringent laws then in force against Catholic educational activity prevented her from consecrating herself at once to the Christian training of Irish children, who were growing up in ignorance of their Faith. A short time spent as a postulant at a convent in France confirmed her belief that her mission lay rather in Ireland, a conviction strengthened by the advice of her directors. Her first step on returning to Ireland was to familiarize herself with the work of some ladies who had privately organized a school in Dublin, and, on the death of her mother and sister, she went to Cork, where in the face of the most adverse conditions she began her crusade against the ignorance and vice there prevalent. Her first pupils were gathered secretly, and her part in the undertaking having been discovered, it was only after a period of opposition that she secured the support of her relatives. In less than a year, however, she had established two schools for boys and five for girls, with a capacity for about two hundred. The foundress herself conducted the classes in Christian doctrine and instructed those preparing for First Communion, searching the most abandoned parts of the city for those in need of spiritual and temporal help. Her charity extended also to aged and infirm women, for whom she established an asylum at Cork, and especially to working-women, whose perseverance in faith and virtue was a source of solicitude to her. The demands of her numerous charitable undertakings proving excessive for her resources, she solicited contributions from house to house, at the cost of much humiliation.

For the purpose of perpetuating her work she decided to found a convent; and a community of Ursulines, young Irishwomen trained especially for the purpose, was sent to Cork in 1771, although they did not venture to assume their religious garb for eight years. As the Ursuline Rule, with which Nano had not thoroughly acquainted herself, did not permit entire consecration to the visitation of the sick and the education of poor children, she resolved to form a community more peculiarly adapted to the duties she had taken up, while remaining a devoted friend of the Ursulines. In 1775 she founded the Presentation Order (see above). She set an example of charity and self-abnegation to her community, giving seven hours daily to the class-room and four to prayer, in addition to the demands of her duties as superior and her work of visitation. It was said there was not a single garret in Cork that she did not know. Her austerities and the persistence with which she continued her labours in the most inclement weather brought on a fatal illness; she died exhorting her community to spend themselves for the poor. Her remains were interred in the cemetery of the Ursuline convent she had built.

About this page

APA citation. McGahan, F., Whyte, M., & Stanislaus, M. (1911). Order of the Presentation. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. McGahan, Florence, Mother Mary de Sales Whyte, and Mother Mary Stanislaus. "Order of the Presentation." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Douglas J. Potter. Dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. June 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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