The Presentation Congregation was founded in Cork in 1775 by Nano Nagle, a daughter of one of the oldest families in the country. The aim was to help downtrodden citizens by the only means in her power – to provide them with schools and education. The story of Presentation, Wexford, started in October 1818, when two sisters came from the already established convent in Kilkenny.
The Presentation order was established in Wexford town in October 1818, being the first religious order to come to the town after the Penal Laws. In the 1820s, the Presentation Sisters established a school, which has, over time, developed into the Presentation Secondary School. We will mark 200 years of providing education to the town of Wexford in 2018.
The school currently operates under the trusteeship of C. E. I. S. T. (Catholic Education an Irish Schools Trust). As such, it supports the Religious and Educational Philosophy of its Founder, Nano Nagle. Religious Education takes a central place in the life and curriculum of the school. We are an all-girl, voluntary secondary school and are situated in a primarily residential area of Wexford town.
Presentation School Wexford aims, with the resources available, to provide the best possible environment in which to facilitate the cultural, educational, moral, physical, religious, social, linguistic and spiritual values and traditions of all students.
Presentation Secondary School, Wexford provides for a wide range of artistic, cultural, social and sporting activities to develop the talents of all students and to provide them with the confidence to be involved in various activities in later life. The school also places great emphasis on the development of competitive games for all its students.
Working together as a school community, the Board of Management, parents, staff and students aim to provide an environment that will allow each student to develop intellectually, physically, morally, socially and spiritually so that she will be able to fulfil her role in society.
The current student cohort of 803 reflects a wide variety of socio-economic backgrounds and includes students from the locality and a considerably large rural hinterland. There is a strong culture of C. P. D. for the teaching staff within the school. The school offers the Junior Certificate, an optional and well-established Transition Year (T. Y.) programme, the established Leaving Certificate and L.C.V.P. We have approximately 26 schools in our catchment area.
Our Foundress – Venerable Nano Nagle
Presentation, Wexford, is a Catholic Secondary School for girls only, guided by the ideals of Nano Nagle, foundress of the Presentation Congregation.
Nano (full name Honora) Nagle was born in Ballygriffin, County Cork, Ireland in 1718. This was the period in Irish history when the English had imposed the oppressive Penal Laws, which severely limited the Irish people. The Irish were denied access economically, politically, socially, and educationally to the rights and means that would have raised them from the imposed poverty and oppression. It was a crime of treason (punishable by death) to educate the Irish and it was forbidden to practice the Roman Catholic faith.
Because of her family’s position and wealth, Nano was sent to be educated in the Irish community then living in Paris. According to Sister Rose Forest, PBVM, one biographer of Nano, her “stay in the midst of Irish Parisian society was brief, but during this time an incident took place which has become a classic episode in the Presentation story. One morning the charming, wealthy, and beautiful Miss Nagle…was returning from an all-night ball. As her carriage rattled over the cobblestones of a silent street, she saw a small group of poor working people waiting in front a church…for the door to open for early Mass. The contrast between their useful lives and her own empty one devoted to pleasure made a lasting impression on the girl of twenty-two”.
Returning to Ireland, other events lead Nano to consider a way that she could help the poor she saw every day in Cork and on the family estate. Distressed by the ignorance of the Irish in both faith and academics, she opened her first school in 1754 with an enrolment of thirty-five girls in a two-room cabin. These began her great work of education and as some historians have noted her important work in saving the Irish culture.
Without regard for her own safety, she selflessly educated the children during the day and visited and nursed the sick by night. As a result, she became known in Cork as the Lady with the Lantern, the symbol of the Sisters of the Presentation worldwide. Today the people of Ireland, especially in Cork, who attribute their freedom to her, revere her.
Eventually, realizing the need for a group to continue her work after her death, Nano founded the Sisters of the Presentation on December 24, 1775.
Nano died from tuberculosis, Monday, April 26, 1784. According to Sister Rose’s account, “On her deathbed Mother Nagle gave to her daughters the following injunction: ‘Love one another as you have hitherto done.’ As her legacy she bequeathed to them the treasure which she prized above all the wealth of the earth – the love of the poor of Jesus Christ. She bade her Sisters ‘Spend yourself for the poor.’”
In the years since Nano’s death, the Sisters of the Presentation have carried her spirit around the world in a variety of ministries
Since the Congregation’s founding in 1775, Sisters have worked to secure the breadth of Nano’s vision — crossing geographical, political, religious and social frontiers, bringing her vision to life with deeds, embodying her dream through a variety of ministries, especially education, faith and spirituality, social and pastoral, health care and healing. Her vision is captured the words that she wrote, “If I could be of any service in saving souls in any part of the globe I would willingly do all in my power.”
The world has changed radically since Nano circumvented the Penal Laws by providing schools for the education of poor Catholic girls and boys in Cork city. Yet her lantern light lives on through the world-wide network of Presentation Sisters, Presentation Associates and Friends of Nano (who form part of an international lay movement for mission), co-workers and colleagues in Presentation schools and centres, and wherever those inspired by her are seeking to make the world a better place. Of the Presentation family it may truly be said there are, “Many lamps, [but] one flame” . . . the flame of the Divine (Rumi).
In 2013, Nano was declared Venerable by Pope Francis – fitting recognition of her role as a woman of heroic virtue