Staff and students from Kilkenny’s primary and secondary Presentation schools packed out St Mary’s Cathedral to celebrate the tercentenary of foundress Nano Nagle.
The cathedral was filled to capacity for the annual Presentation Day service as hundreds of children from Presentation Secondary School Loughboy and Scoil Mhuire Primary School joined together for the ceremony.
Venerable Nano Nagle was born into an elite family in Cork in 1718, but later sacrificed her life of privilege and dedicated herself to educating the poor of Cork despite the rigid Penal Laws.
She was known as “The Lady with the Lantern”, as she often travelled through Cork with her lantern, tending to the poor.
When she opened her first school in 1754, there were only 30 students. Today, there are Presentation orders in over 20 countries around the world.
The Presentation Sisters came to Kilkenny in 1800, and ever since, both Presentation Primary and Secondary Schools in Kilkenny have been inspired by Nano.
During the Mass, performed by Bishop Dermot Farrell, Fr Richard Scriven and Fr Dan Carroll. Nano was praised as a “forward thinking woman” who sowed the seeds of a legacy but did not live to see their blossom.
Three hundred years later, and what a blossom it has become, as the cathedral was filled with hundreds of people in her honour - just a fraction of the people she influenced. This included students and teachers both past and present, as well as the Kilkenny Sisters of the Presentation Order, including their Provincial Leader Sister Margarita Ryan.
There were many nods to Nano throughout the Mass, which opened with students carrying lanterns to the altar, and ended with a beautiful rendition of ‘Who will Light the Lantern?’ performed by the choir of Presentation Secondary School, under the direction of Patrice Davern.
A silk tapestry made by Presentation Sisters in Africa was brought to the altar, a testament to the global reach that Nano’s legacy has achieved.
Shane Hallahan, Principal of Presentation Secondary School, and Irene Deasy, Principal of Scoil Mhuire, congratulated everyone involved in this special ceremony, which marked the first time the two schools had celebrated Presentation Day together.
There was also a presentation of gifts to the Presentation Sisters in attendance.
Flowers were presented to Dr Marie Griffin, CEO of CEIST, the national trust for Irish Catholic Schools, and to retired former Deputy Principal Mary Ryan. A gift was also given to Edwina Aylward, the Presentation Kilkenny student who achieved eight A1s in her Leaving Cert last year.
A host of other activities took place for the occasion. A specially commissioned mural was made by students of Presentation Secondary School in Kilkenny under the guidance of art teacher Anna Walshe, in conjunction with Birr artist Caroline Conway.
The mural includes depictions of the suffragette movement, sport, the Presentation Sisters, landmarks of Kilkenny, music and human rights - all marks of the legacy left behind by Venerable Nano Nagle.
A basketball tournament was organised by Presentation basketball coaches Emma Brophy and Catherine Power, which brought together teams from the Presentation schools of Waterford, Ballingarry, Thurles and Clonmel.
Theresa Walsh, the President of Basketball Ireland, presented medals to all the teams who participated.