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Culture Night: Nano Nagle, the Jesuits and Social Innovation

The Culture Night event on Friday, September 20th, will be an opportunity to discover Nano Nagle through the lecture Nano Nagle, the Jesuits and Social Innovation; New Perspectives by historian Victoria Ann Pearson. Visitors will be able to see some materials from the rich archive.


If Nano Nagle were alive today, she would be a so called “influencer”. Before her death in 1784, Nano had opened 7 schools for poor children across Cork city, founded an alms house for poor women, and most notably, founded her own religious congregation – the Presentation Sisters, who continue her education and social inclusion work today. Born to a wealthy Catholic family in 1718, Honoria Nagle was given the pet name Nano by her father. A series of life changing events inspired Nano to devote her life to the service of the poor. When Nano’s father died and she and her sister Ann returned to Dublin to be with their mother, Nano began visiting poor families and decided she would devote her life to helping the poor.

In Dublin, underground educational provision for Catholics during Penal Laws was led by Jesuits like John Austin who had entered the Society of Jesus in Nancy, France on 27 November 1735 and returned to Dublin in 1750. Since under the Penal Laws, operating a Catholic School could result in three months imprisonment, these school providers had to work in secret. Nano Nagle began by opening a school in Cork in the early c. 1750s. This girls’ school focused on reading, writing, Catechism and needlework.

Within ten years demand for the education which Nano provided was such that she was operating seven schools across the city of Cork, teaching both boys and girls. By day she visited each of her schools, and by night she visited the poor of the Cork city. Nano travelled by the light of the lantern she carried, and across the city of Cork she became known as ‘Miss. Nagle, the Lady of the Lantern’. The Jesuit, Patrick Doran assisted her in putting a plan in place to give a solid foundation to her work by bringing Ursuline Sisters to Cork. However, their enclosure made the work in the schools scattered across the city impossible

Thus, she founded her own order ‘The Institute of Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus’ in 1775. She and three companions did not take enclosure and continued to teach and care for the poverty-stricken in their own homes. For five years, the small cottage near Nano’s first school, on modern day Douglas Street, just south of Cork city centre, was their first convent.

Nano’s long days and constant walking across the city took a toll on her health. She died at the age of 66 in 1784. During her life full of such remarkable achievement, she had wondered if there could be any greater joy in heaven than she had gained from teaching the children of Cork. Her order, the Presentation Sisters, have continued her mission across the world into the present day.

Answering the calls of our times and helping people in need is among the core values for the Sisters today. Acorn Centre in Warrenmount, Dublin 8, is the home for the North East Ireland Province. The Presentation Sisters respond to the needs of our times and challenge unjust structures through a variety of works including education, pastoral work, health care, prison ministry, spirituality, faith development, human rights and ecology. Their daily work involves creating innovative responses to different needs and making a difference in many small ways to people, especially the poor and marginalised.


On the Culture Night evening, Friday 20th September, The Acorn Centre is opening at 5 pm. During the whole time the visitors will have a chance to see the exhibition and an opportunity to chat with the researchers from Nano Nagle Research Network. Refreshments served. No booking required. 

6 pm Talk  –   8 pm Talk    –  9 pm closing


More information about Culture Night: www.culturenight.ie


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