Pictured at the Presentation Sisters Bicentenary Celebration book launch and photography exhibition are Olivia O'Brien, Kathleen Lawless and Marie Collins
”Who will light the lantern and go once step beyond.”
The beautifully phrased lyrics performed so powerfully and with such meaning by the 'Presentation Singers' at the close of an historic evening, was the living proof, if ever it was needed, that the lantern carried with such care, love and understanding by Nano Nagle is still being shouldered with great dignity and purpose.
Yes, the spotlight was on 200 years of service in Thurles town and it's surrounds as the bicentennial celebrations kicked off with aplomb in the Secondary School hall with a photographic exhibition and the launch of a beautifully penned history book by retired primary school Principal, Anne Lanigan.
And, while the exhibition and the book launch were central to the evening of celebration, there will be a year of activities and events to appropriately mark such a magnificent milestone.
While 200 years might well have passed since the Presentation Sisters first arrived to a very different Thurles - as outlined so brilliantly by local historian Jimmy Duggan - the principle and necessary characteristics of honour, leadership, care, courage, dedication and faith are still the same to this day. The needs of the people may have changed, but need still remains although in different guises. To this day, the Presentation Sisters are tending to that need in whatever way they can - a fact which would surely make Nano Nagle so proud. They are carrying the lantern into a different type of darkness and illuminating the lives of so many children and students in the schools, and the greater community at large.
It has always been that way and as past pupil, former Government Minister and Chairperson of the Bicentennial Committee, Mary Hanafin told all those present at the launch, this year will be about paying tribute to the huge contribution of the Sisters who instilled so many values into so many over two centuries.
“This will be a salute to the contribution of those Sisters who made such an impact on us all as individuals,” she said.
Jimmy Duggan, a past pupil himself, spoke about Thurles 200 years ago, the conditions, the social realities and the role the Sisters played when they arrived in The Cathedral Town. He spoke about his own mother, who was educated in the Presentation, about the education she received and passed on to her children - the work ethic, the sense of pride and the respect she had for the nuns. “She was proud to send me to the Presentation and I remember being sent there in 1954 to the beautiful, kind face of Sr Ambrose - you only saw the face in those days. Her tuning fork gave me a love of music which survives to this day,” he said.
Jimmy, retired Prinicpal of Gaelscoil Bhride, added that he only came to appreciate the education he received in the Presentation when he 'got to the other end of the chalk' and became a teacher himself.
In launching the book, Jimmy said that it is everything that could be wished for and he described the process of producing it as a labour of love for his friend Anne Lanigan.
Sr Anne Codd, Presentation Provincial, described how the small mustard seed planted in Thurles so many years ago had grown into a magnificent story and she congratulated all involved in that story.
The author, Anne Lanigan, was thrilled to have been asked to write the book for two reasons - she loves history and she loves the Presentation, having spent her schooldays there, and then 31 years on staff in the primary school.
“I knew that the story would be a tremendous one because I was very very happy in school amongst so many remarkable women, many of whom were working so hard at a time when women were very disenfranchised,” she said as she referenced the many elements which existed in the Presentation including a boarding school for boys, the industrial school, technical school, preparatory school, a craft factory and of course the primary and secondary schools too. “Countless women of high intelligence rolled up their sleeves and got things done - the turnout tonight does them all great honour,” Anne said.
Sr Mairead of the Thurles house was lavish in her praise for the work Anne Lanigan and her team undertook with Josephine Molloy, Bridget Jones, Mary Anne Fogarty and Laura Ryan also congratulated.
The evening concluded with the school choir, 'The Presentation Singers' before chat and conversations overtook a very special occasion for entire community in Thurles. The photos will be on exhibit in The Source library for a few weeks - a must for any past pupil.