An tUachtarán i láthair ag Ócáid d’fhonn aitheantas a thabhairt do Shiúracha na Toirbhearta

hAo 27th Már, 2015 | 11:30
suíomh: (Gaillimh) Bóthar an Chaisleáin Nua

Speech at the Bi-Centenary of the Presentation Sisters in Galway

Presentation Convent, Galway, 27th March 2015

Thank you for that kind welcome.  I would like to commend Elaine Moylan on her talented dancing and wish her well as she travels to Montreal tomorrow to compete in this year's Irish Dancing World Championship. May I also commend the choir for that beautiful rendition of Who Will Light the Lantern, reminding us of the selfless life of Nano Nagle.

Tá áthas orm a bheith anseo inniu agus muid ag ceiliúradh cothrom 200 bliain ó cuireadh an chéad clochar de chuid Siúracha na Toirbhearta ar bun i nGaillimh. Bhí an clochar sin lonnaithe ar Lána Uí Chiarabháin agus is ansin a chur na Siúracha tús lena gcéad misean i nGaillim chun oideachas a chur ar fáil do pháistí bhochta.

[I am delighted to be here today as we mark the 200th anniversary of the establishment of the first Presentation convent in Galway.  That convent was, of course, in Kirwan’s Lane and it was there that the Sisters began their original mission in Galway which was to provide education for poor children.]

Galway is today home to three Presentation Schools which are part of a large family of Presentation communities and sisters located in over twenty countries across the world. 

The Order here  has witnessed, and played a part in, the many important events which have shaped and formed modern day Galway; and has worked tirelessly and consistently to develop and improve educational opportunities for the young people of this City despite the many obstacles it has encountered since its foundation in 1815.

The birthplace of that first convent in Kirwan’s Lane was at a time when Ireland was a very bleak country indeed, an Ireland of slums and with the regular danger of the rapid spread of disease, an Ireland where life expectancy was low and many women died in childbirth, and an Ireland where people went hungry amidst bitter and unrelenting poverty.

It was in such harsh conditions that the Presentation Sisters set up their first school in this city, not only educating the pupils that came their way, but immersing themselves in the care and needs of the children; in particular through – so far ahead of its time - the founding of the Breakfast Institute in order to provide meals for those who could not afford to feed themselves.

It is in such a spirit of concern and compassion that the Presentation Sisters have continued to play a significant role in the life of Galway City, making an immeasurable difference to the lives of generations of Galwegians and continuing to support and uphold that vision of an honourable and just society which drove and inspired the life of their founder Nano Nagle.

There can be no doubt that Galway owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the Presentation Sisters, who have educated so many of its young citizens , including two of Ireland’s foremost writers, Walter Macken and Pádraig Ó Conaire, and ten of the city’s Lord Mayors.

And of course, it is not only the names that make the headlines or enter the history books which stand as testament to the ethos of Presentation Schools, but the many other students across the centuries who have benefitted from the education they received from the Sisters, going on in turn to use their skills and talents to benefit their society and their communities.

Generations of Galwegians grew up owing their education and their life ethos to their early days in Presentation Schools, of which there are now three in Galway; Scoil Íosa, Scoil Bhríde, and the Presentation Secondary School.  Many former pupils continue to send their children to those schools; watching them learning and growing up in the environment they remember so well from their own schooldays, and enjoying the fact that the schools have become an important part of their family life, a place of shared inter-generational memory.

Today, pupils at Presentation schools benefit from the many excellent teachers who understand the importance of expending effort and commitment in the service of students’ holistic educational needs.

Here in Ireland community and its related values are a very important part of our culture.  It defines us, gives us a sense of identity, of unity, of kinship and of belonging.  However, keeping a sense of community at the heart of our societal values needs constant reaffirmation. That is something Presentation Schools obviously understand and seek to instill in its students and I commend them for that.

Of course, like all schools that have their roots in a past Ireland, the Presentation Sisters have had to constantly evolve and adapt to a changing and increasingly complex world. I have no doubt it has been an enormous challenge for the Sisters to continuously find new, innovative and creative means of responding to their important mission of educating the young citizens of Galway. However the Sisters have ensured that their schools remain faithful to the spirit of their foundress Nano Nagle and to the traditions which connect them to their past, whilst also responding to the changing needs of the 21st century.

Here, today, we have the opportunity to view a most interesting exhibition; one which reminds us of the very different Ireland in which the Presentation Sisters came to Galway, and of the long and diverse journey which has brought them to where they are today. Through pictures, writings and personal stories we are poignantly reminded of the many lives that have been touched by the Presentation sisters and the Presentation schools here in Galway, a story that spans three different centuries and has witnessed the Great Irish Famine, two world wars, Ireland’s long and difficult struggle for independence, and our growth and development as part of a united Europe.

It is, of course, a continuing story with many more pages to be written, and the exhibition concludes with the Sisters hopes for the future as part of a worldwide union of Presentation Sisters.

Nano Nagle is today regarded as one of the great pioneers of Catholic education. Her charisma is shared by Presentation Sisters working in communities across the globe, bringing education and medical care to some of the world’s most marginalised and oppressed people, and working tirelessly to break down barriers of prejudice and injustice.

Just as the Sisters in Galway chose, in a different Ireland, to live among the poor in a spirit of compassion and community, Sisters around the world continue that tradition as they build their critical work on foundations of trust and friendship.

Is mór an pribhléid dom é a bheith anseo inniu agus féachaint ar an chuí go maireann fís Nano Nagle trí saothar saoil na Siúracha ar fad anseo agus ar fud na cruinne. Déanaim comhghairdeas libh ar fad ar an comóradh suntasach seo agus guím gach rath agus beannacht don todhchaí ar an uile duine a bhfuil ina mbaill de Phobal na Toirbhearta.

[It is a great privilege to be here today and to witness how the vision of Nano Nagle lives on through the lived work of so many of you here and around the world. I congratulate you all on this significant anniversary and I wish all those who are part of the Presentation Community story every happiness and success for the future.]

Go raibh míle maith agaibh go léir.