The flame within the Macarthur NILS lantern logo reminds us of Nano Nagle (the foundress of the Presentation Sisters) who lived in Cork, Ireland during the 1700’s. Nano Nagle lived in a period in Irish history when the English had imposed the Penal Laws. This led the Irish people to be denied access economically, politically, socially and educationally to the rights and means that would have raised them from poverty and oppression. Although Nano’s family were financially okay they still had to live under these restrictive laws.
After her father's death in 1746, Nano returned to Ireland from living a good life in Paris. She went to live with her mother in Dublin where she found widespread poverty. No longer could Nano ignore the hardships of so many of her own people – it was time for her to do something about it. After some time Nano was advised to take up the education of deprived children, so she did. In 1754 Nano set up her first school for the poor (about 30 children), in a rented mud cabin in Cork, in defiance of the law, and in complete secrecy, even from her family.
Within nine months she was educating 200 girls. By 1757 she had opened seven schools, five for girls and two for boys. These provided pupils with a basic education and religious instruction. At first alone, and later with the support of her family, she established a network of schools in Cork. Not everybody in Cork welcomed her work, she was insulted in the street on occasion, and her pupils were dismissed as “beggars' brats”.
Nano also began to visit the sick and the elderly after school, bringing them food, medicine and comfort. She opened homes for aged women, and began conducting adult classes. She went from hovel to hovel each day to gather the most needy people to teach. As Nano moved through the streets at night to help the elderly, the poor, and the sick she gained the nickname The Lady with the Lantern. The lantern later became the symbol of the Presentation Sisters worldwide1 and Macarthur NILS has embraced the lantern in respect for the work that Nano, and all of her religious sisters have continued to do in service to their communities throughout the years.
The beauty of Ballygriffen, Cork, Ireland
The birth place of Nano Nagle...
Original tombstone which lay on the grave of Nano Nagle from 1784-1877. Now located at the South Presentation Convent, Cork.
The Icon - a reflection on Nano Nagle's work in her community and how it has spread throughout the world.
A statue of Nano, walking the streets with her lantern, Ballygriffen.
The Blackwater, flows through Nano's ancestral home.
Photos courtesy of our Macarthur NILS volunteer Kevin.