Fethard Historical Society made a presentation of a especially commissioned lantern for each of the six last Presentation Sisters to leave Fethard on July 20, 2020. L to R: Sr Maria Fletcher, Sr Ros
In the summer 2020, in the midst of ongoing Covid-19 restrictions, the last six Presentation Sisters of the Fethard Convent departed quietly bringing to a close 158 years of dedicated service to the local townspeople.
It was fitting that those six sisters, Sr Maureen Power, Sr Juliana Purcell, Sr Rosarii Treacy, Sr Maria Fletcher, Sr Kathleen Dooley and Sr Mary Martin, accompanied by sisters who previously served in Fethard and other convents, should return last month to be publicly acclaimed by a grateful Fethard community.
The celebration began with mass in the parish church concelebrated by Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly with Fr Liam Everard, PP, Canon Tom Breen, AP, Fr Pat O’Gorman AP and Fr David Fitzgerald, OSA representing the Augustinian Abbey.
The combined parish and Abbey choirs, Fethard Choral Group, supplemented by children of Holy Trinity National School, directed by organists Ann Barry and Denise O’Sullivan, provided the wonderful music throughout the mass.
Margaret Prendergast, a former past pupil/teacher in the Patrician Presentation Secondary School, delivered the opening address welcoming the Presentation Sisters back to Fethard.
She commended their dedicated service throughout the years in the primary and secondary schools, in the Group Homes and in the wider community.
In conclusion, Margaret read a poem entitled Generosity by Helen Laurie Marshall.
Mass then commenced with the processional entrance of Archbishop O’Reilly and the attendant clergy. The various aspects of the Presentation Sisters’ contribution to life in Fethard were reflected in those chosen to do the readings and the prayers of the faithful.
Past pupil Mark Hayde read the first reading and Mary Hanrahan, former teacher Nano Nagle NS, read the second reading.
The prayers of the faithful were read by Patricia Treacy, former principal at Holy Trinity NS.
Billy Walsh, principal, Patrician Presentation Secondary School, Liam Hayes, Fethard & District Day Care Centre CLG; Tríona Morrisson, principal, Holy Trinity NS; Michelle Walsh, past pupil; and Dermot O’Donnell, Fethard Parish Church Committee.
In his homily the Archbishop said:
“We have come to look back and to look forward, to give thanks and to acknowledge all that has passed in that time here in Fethard. I would like to stress that when the sisters did come here in the 1860s, it was a very challenging time for local communities, not least because they were only twenty years after the famine times, the memory was still very, very vivid in people’s minds and in family memories.
“It was a time of great poverty and deprivation and coming from Thurles to Fethard was probably quite a journey into the unknown for the sisters of that time. So much depended on their own resources, and their own talents and their own gifts.
“It is summed up, by the simplest of symbols that Nano Nagle had, a lamp, and that lamp she needed to find her way through the hovels and the side streets where she was based in Cork.
“And that was the lamp that she raised up, the lamp of faith, the lamp of hope, the lamp of light. Let us give thanks for the sisters, and the people of Fethard and Killusty who welcomed them and were part of their lives for many generations.”
The Archbishop also commended everyone involved in the compilation of the commemorative booklet, Presentation Sisters Fethard 1862-2020 which was given out at the end of mass.
Sr Maureen Power, former principal Nano Nagle NS and Mrs Marie O’Sullivan representing the Fethard community, brought up the offertory gifts of bread and wine.
An especially poignant hymn was the rendition of the traditional Irish blessing, May the Road Rise to Meet You, a most apposite farewell to the sisters.
Before the end of Mass, Fr Liam Everard invited Sr Mary Hanrahan, Provincial of the Presentation Order, to say a few words. Having thanked everyone involved she said:
“Today isn’t just about remembering the past, it’s a special day to also remember the present. I think it’s very fitting that we are celebrating on Pentecost Sunday, the day on which we welcome the gift of the spirit into our lives. And that same spirit which led the first sisters here from Thurles to Fethard continues to inspire all of us today.
The second part of the commemoration event was the unveiling of a plaque on the pier of the entrance to the Presentation Convent on Lower Main Street.
The plaque, which will serve as a permanent acknowledgement of the sisters’ one hundred and fifty-eight years’ work in Fethard, was unveiled by Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly in a simple ceremony in the presence of the congregation who had walked down from the church.
The celebration continued in the Fethard Ballroom where the Fethard Historical Society made a presentation to the six sisters who left on July 20, 2020.
Michael Mallon, Chairperson, welcomed the sisters on stage and then said the society had commissioned well-known local artist, Dóirín Saurus, to make unique presentation pieces for the individual six sisters, inspired by the Lady of the Lantern, Nano Nagle.
The sisters were then each given the presentation pieces by members of the society. Each piece, a votive candle holder in the shape of a lantern, painted in Presentation blue, was inscribed with the name of the sister for whom it was intended.
Then it was time for all present to sit down and enjoy the lovely hot meal prepared by Liam Sweeney and his staff. The Ballroom committee had pulled out all the stops and the tables were beautifully laid out in celebratory style.
A large crowd had come along to meet the sisters, celebrate with them and to reminisce about the past. The Fethard community had indeed paid a worthy tribute to the Presentation Sisters on their special day.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.