St Mary’s Secondary School marked its centenary with a celebration that drew together all the strands of the Sisters of Mercy’s legacy in the town.
And the service of thanksgiving proved to be that little bit extra special with chief concelebrant Bishop Kieran O’Reilly being made Archibishop of Cashel and Emly just hours later.
The congregation, made up of students, teachers and many who have passed through the doors of St Mary’s, were welcomed to the celebration by principal Michael Dinneen.
School chaplain Sr Maureen told the gathering they were there to give thanks for the “harvest” of the sisters who started the school in the Round House in the former jail complex.
“We are here to stand on the shoulders of all who have gone before us,” she said.
The thanksgiving service began with a procession of 15 priests along with Bishop O’Reilly of Killaloe, and was followed by the bringing of the gifts to the altar.
Sr Peggy brought a centenary candle to symbolise hope, while Sr Regina brought up a picture of Sister of Mercy Order foundress Catherine McCauley. The gathering heard that just 14 years after their founding, the sisters from Birr came to Nenagh in 1854 to establish a convent. Sr Kathleen brought the original key to the Round House and people were reminded that a key that once locked people in was the key the later opened doors and gave students freedom to grow.
School librarian Elizabeth Devanney brought the bell that called the students 100 years ago; teacher Teresa Meagher brought a sculpted hand to symbolise how each child was cherished.
The school prospectus was carried by student president Sophie Hogan. Sr Angela brought the chalice given to the sisters by Fr Fleming, CC, in 1888.
In his homily, Bishop O’Reilly paid tribute to the Mercy sisters who established the school “with little resources but great courage”.
“There is nothing greater than the seed of education and we owe a great deal of gratitude to those who came here,” he said.
Bihop O’Reilly appealed to the students to “look to the past with gratitude, the present with enthusiasm and the future with confidence when the school bell stops calling you”.