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Warrenmount Community Education Centre

Warrenmount Community Education Centre

Image courtesy of Warrenmount Education Centre


Warrenmount Community Education Centre aims to meet the needs of the local community by building confidence and developing skills. Learning in the Centre is person–centred and informal.

Our History

When Warrenmount Centre opened its doors in 1995 it was not possible to visualise or consider what it might look like twenty and more years later. From small beginnings it now holds its place in the local area, nationally and internationally, as a model of good practice in community education.  Today’s adult learners attending classes at the Centre have modern facilities in comfortable, warm rooms with up to date IT equipment.

Our Place

The Centre is located in the Liberties area of Dublin 8, close to Newmarket Square and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Just off Mill Street, the building we are in dates from the late 17th / early 18th century and was home to Nathaniel Warren who became High Sheriff of Dublin 1773-1774 and later Lord Mayor 1782-1783. He named his residence “Warrenmount”. In 1813 Warrenmount was acquired and the house transformed into a Carmelite convent, St. Teresa’s, and a school for girls was opened.

In 1889 the Carmelites asked the Pope for permission to return to full contemplative life which was agreed. Their wish, however, was that the school should not be abandoned but should be handed over to a community of Irish nuns. In 1892 the Carmelites said good-bye to their monastery of Saint Teresa at Warrenmount and the following day seven Sisters from Presentation Convent Clondalkin came to Warrenmount.

The Presentation Sisters moved into a new convent building on the grounds in 2008, and in 2011 the house, where Warrenmount Community Education Centre is located, was completely renovated. Today’s adult learners attending classes at the Centre have modern facilities in comfortable, warm rooms with up to date IT equipment.

“Nano Nagle recognised education and lifelong learning as a cornerstone of enabling transformation of all, especially those on the margins of society. Almost 250 years since she began her pioneering work in her schools, education and learning projects are still an intrinsic focus of Presentation Sisters’ ministry across the globe”.

The Mission Statement of the Centre:

“[…]…we aim to meet the needs of the local community by creating opportunities, building confidence and developing skills.  We do this through a learning style that is person-centred, participative and informal. Through this, we hope to give people a voice enabling them to create a better society.  Guided by the charism of the Presentation Congregation the Centre is committed to providing an open, friendly, welcoming atmosphere where people are respected and valued”.

Sr. Pauline McGaley (Director of the Centre) speaks about Warrenmount Community Education as being above all a community of learners, where staff, tutors, volunteers and students interact and are interdependent. They contribute equally to the life of the Centre and the local community.  The Centre’s holistic approach caters for a wide variety of student needs, acknowledging that there is no single route to learning and achieving. While responding to learners’ needs, the Centre continues to ensure the quality of its programmes and methods, through staff development and in-service training.

At each stage of its history it has been responsive and proactive in adapting and developing to address the educational needs of learners as reflected in the key challenges of society around them.  In the increasingly diverse society that is Ireland today, there is recognition that the problems encountered by those who come to our country under difficult political and economic circumstances, can be aggravated by the inability to communicate. But language is not the only barrier.  Lack of understanding, tolerance and respect for difference are serious concerns.

This diverse society is reflected in the student demographic of the Centre, where in 2018, there where people from 60 countries attending classes there.  The staff team is also reflective of the cultural diversity in society.

Delivering on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a reality at the Centre. They are seen as a way to invite people to ‘think global and act local’ to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change. The Centre recognises in its practice the enormous potential for communities to move this agenda forward at a local level.

“I think it’s the place where you can start to believe in yourself again.  An opportunity to get better… to do something new… make a change in your life.”


“Warrenmount will give you 100% support but you have to be willing to learn and put your heart into it. The Centre has given me a life that I enjoy. My children now have a good role model that they can be proud of”.

Sr. Pauline McGaley, (Director of the Centre) in their 2018 Annual Report says:

 ‘[…] we consistently evaluate our courses to ensure they meet the education and learning needs of our community. In these times of almost full employment on a national level there are still many people in need of upskilling in our local area and every effort is made to ensure our courses address this need. […] Reflecting on the Sustainable Development Goals as defined by the United Nations, we recognise our contribution and possibilities for ongoing development.  These goals can only be realised through the commitment and goodwill of the community here in Warrenmount Centre. We appreciate the involvement and enormous contribution of our staff, tutors and volunteers’.

The vibrancy of the Centre is testimony to this contribution.

Pauline ends by saying: “Together we can make a better world for our learners and the wider local community”.

The ‘open door’ to learning

Sr. Pauline McGaley, Director of Warrenmount Community Education Centre.

Sr. Pauline McGaley and the students and volunteers participating in the weekly Fáilte Isteach programme at Warrenmount Community Education Centre (see image) were interviewed for the RTE morning    Radio Programme broadcast with Sean O’Rourke.

In the programme Pauline (who is CEO of Warrenmount Education Centre) talks about the development of the Centre over the last 25 years, about its roots in Presentation life as well as the about the tremendous value of the Fáilte Isteach programme for the various students who attend. In fact, the sheer diversity of the nationalities of the students who avail of classes at the Centre, Pauline says, mean it often feels like the United Nations.

You can listen to the programme HERE

To find out more about all that goes on at Warrenmount Community Education Centre  on the website link below.

‘Heart-beat’ in the inner city

A sense of place …

Warrenmount Community Education Centre celebrated a landmark twenty-fifth birthday in 2020 having first opened its doors in 1995. Reaching the impressive and vibrant age of twenty-five is no mean achievement. Sr. Pauline McGaley, Director of the Centre has guided its responsive and developmental journey from the very start. It is true to say that Warrenmount Community Education Centre is exactly what it says: ‘a community education centre in the heart of the inner city’. However, it is also a vital ‘heart-beat’ for the inner-city community around it, as well as for the student community who engage with the range of educational services it provides. I was fortunate to be able to catch up with Pauline and to be able to share the evolving and responsive life of the Centre in these times. Pauline sheds light on this 25-year-old lifeline that is gearing up to reach a vibrant ‘old age’.  (The Centre is located in the Liberties area of Dublin 8, close to Newmarket Square and St. Patrick’s Cathedral).

Asking Pauline, how important is community to the life of the Centre she replied:

I believe that Community is the essence of ‘community education’. The reality of community is a bit like a Venn Diagram, where communities overlap each other – a community within a community, that is then linked with another community. Community and relationships go hand in hand. In real life, we relate to some people and groups better than others, and maybe relate to one or two people who actually understand and accept us when we find it hard to accept ourselves. That is a gift. Relationship and community are to me two sides of the one coin in terms of the variety of communities that we form part of, and who we are within those various settings. It is community that holds us together, and the generational mix supports dialogue and difference. Community Education supports generational difference and cultural diversity, which in turn expands our thinking and understanding of others. During the last year, when everything went online, the missing link of meeting with each other in a physical space was, without doubt, the aspect most missed by our student groups and individuals.

Asking how the team there keep that passion and creativity going for 25 years, Pauline replies:

Image: Pauline (right) with, Liz, Anne and Cathy. (Coffee Morning for Hospice).

The passion and creativity is kept alive through people. What kept Nano Nagle going? It was people. She did her praying in the middle of the night. She didn’t reduce her time going around the hovels of Cork because she knew she needed to pray. She just took it from sleep time. (Aside – I don’t do that. Everyone needs me to have 8 hours sleep!!)

“One of the highlights of the year is the ‘Cert Day’. The person that says “This is my first cert’ – I never got a cert before in my life”, that is the person that keeps alive our passion for education”. So, it is always about the person, it is always the one story . It is always, always, always about the people, and that is what it was for Nano. She took people in to teach them what they needed in order to get a job: basic sewing for women, and the ‘3 R’s’ for children to give them a start in life.

Life has become more sophisticated – but people and their needs have not changed hugely. One of the needs of today is a spirituality that people can relate to. Our Keep Well group includes a section on meditation each week. We use mindfulness techniques in our meditation, which is an invitation into something deeper. It is an opportunity to still the body, it’s an opportunity to know what’s going on in yourself. But where do you go from there? It is not the end point – but it is a great beginning.

We can offer the opportunity and possibilities for ‘beginnings’ for those who think they ‘may have thrown out the baby with the bath water’. Especially sometimes when it comes to confusing religion and spirituality – using their experience of church and being able to re-discover what is still important to them. We can only do our bit, offering ‘shafts of light’ into a deeper tomorrow. We never know what tomorrow brings. In January 2020 we had ‘Celebrating 25 years’ on our long term agenda. Little did we think that this would be a virtual experience, and it was!

It is wonderful to be part of a dynamic group of people (our Board of Directors, staff, tutors, volunteers, and learners) that are open to shaping the future through our present reality.

Sr. Pauline McGaley, Director of Warrenmount Community Education Centre.

[The text used in this piece is an extract from an interview which first appeared in the Spring Issue of our Province Magazine ‘Words & Deeds’ in March 2021].

A Grassroots Contribution to Community Education recognised

Image: Sr. Pauline McGaley receives AONTAS CEN Award.

On Tuesday, 16th November, AONTAS held its final Community Education Network (CEN) meeting of 2021. The CEN brings together independent community education practitioners from across Ireland to collaborate, share knowledge and engage on key areas relating to community education. This particular CEN meeting was unique in the sense that it gave AONTAS the opportunity to recognise and celebrate the outstanding commitment of five women who were instrumental to the establishment of the CEN and, ‘unsung heroes of their local communities’ according to Dr Niamh O’Reilly, AONTAS CEO.

These five women* were also recently presented with AONTAS awards for their outstanding contribution to community education and the AONTAS CEN. The meeting provided an opportunity to showcase their remarkable achievements and grassroots work in shaping community education but also to acknowledge their special expertise and commitment they brought to the CEN, over many years. Niamh O’Reilly, AONTAS CEO acknowledged the significant contribution made by these women as leaders and innovators in community education. She spoke about succession and holding onto this sectoral knowledge when so much of it has been built by volunteers and largely by women. While there is a huge community of expertise there and within the CEN, clear professional career paths and sustainable multiannual funding are required to attract and retain community educators.

Warrenmount Community Education Centre would like to congratulate our Centre Director, Sr. Pauline McGaley, on receiving this award from AONTAS recognising her outstanding contribution to the community education sector and the AONTAS Community Education Network (CEN).

Note: The AONTAS Community Education Network (CEN) was established in 2007. It is a network of over 100 independently managed community education providers who work collaboratively, sharing information and resources, engaging in professional development and working to ensure that community education is valued and resourced.

See AONTAS CEN Meeting – 16th November 2021 | Aontas

*The five awardees: Bríd Connolly (Maynooth University), Catherine Aylmer (Limerick Community Education Network), Marian Donegan (Access 2000), Anne Flannery (The Larkin Centre) and Pauline McGaley (Warrenmount Community Education Centre).



Challenge 2 Change

Challenge 2 Change


Challenge to Change (C2C) is a development education project aimed at young people attending primary and post-primary  schools of Presentation ethos. It seeks to raise awareness, to bring about a greater understanding of global inequality and to allow young people see the impact of a changing global environment. It empowers students to explore ways in which their actions at local level can impinge for the better on issues such as injustice, human rights, fair trade, racism and exploitation.

The Vision of the project is driven by the Presentation charism and ethos.  Justice, human rights, sustainability and promoting right relationships are central to the Presentation mission.

Participation by  the students and the wider community in C2C projects brings about a heightened awareness, a social consciousness, a broader vision and an appreciation of development issues.

Challenge2Change ~ Are you ready?

A 2019 C2C Project on display.

It is that time of year again when schools are busily engaging with their Challenge2Change (C2C) projects for 2019/2010.

Thirty-seven schools have responded to this year’s invitation to make a difference and ensure no one is left behind.  These young people are not only challenging us to make changes in various aspects of life but they are also showing us how this might be done.  It is easy to talk about injustices but it is takes courage and perseverance to stand up and be counted, and take action to redress unjust situations.

Once again the primary and secondary schools have focused their projects on the Sustainable Development Goals.

Not surprisingly, Climate Action features prominently but goals 2, 3, 7, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16 are also addressed.  Students are joining in the world-wide action of    International Presentation Association (IPA)  and other development agencies to highlight what we can do to make a difference.

Our annual seminars planned for the 6th May 2020 in the Tullamore Court Hotel, and the 13th May 2020 in the Springhill Court Hotel in Kilkenny have now been cancelled due to the current circumstances, in line with Government & Health Service Executive (HSE) recommendations and the unfolding situation.

At this event students and teachers share their C2C experience present the  great work being done by the schools.

There is no charge for attending the seminars but booking in advance to facilitate the practical organisation of each seminar is required.

Please contact: Sr. Margaret Mary Healy preseduc@eircom.net or Sr. Evelyn Byrne evelynbyrnepl@gmail.com.

Sr. Margaret Mary Healy

Challenge2Change update March 2019

This year is the fifteenth successive year of C2C. Involvement in Challenge to Change is one practical way of making the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) real.

C2C are delighted to welcome 35 schools to the project this year. These projects represent hard work and engagement on the SDG’s and issues of justice, human rights and sustainability by students exploring how local actions can have a global impact.

Your projects this year are truly amazing in their variety and in the clever ways you have found to get your message out to the rest of us.  And what important messages they are!! You are not only learning, but you are also teaching the rest of us some very important facts.

The 2019 Seminars were on Wednesday 8th May and 15th May.  These seminars are always a great opportunity to see the work and to engage directly with students and teachers.

To get a flavour of the 2018-2019 projects see the Challenge to Change Update Magazine below:



Mount Saint Anne’s

Mount Saint Anne’s



Icon of Nano Nagle – Mount St. Anne’s (Image: Oonagh O’Brien)

Mount Saint Anne’s is a Retreat and Conference Centre founded by the Presentation Sisters in Ireland.

As Presentation Sisters, we are committed to a spirituality of being in communion that seeks God in the interconnectedness of all life and nurtures a longing to create a more compassionate, just and sustainable world.

Nano Nagle, our Foundress, led a deeply spiritual life. Her faith sustained her in her life of service.  Here at Mount Saint Anne’s we offer a range of opportunities for individuals and groups to take time out for reflection and to deepen their understanding of the movement of the Spirit in their lives; time to explore how they too can live life in all its fullness.

Faith has been described as ‘a love of truth, a personal dedication to truth, and a practical living out of life according to the truth’.  We strive to create the conditions where individuals and groups can be quiet and open their hearts to the silent presence of the spirit.

The life of faith, of Christian faith in particular, is as much about being able to ask the big questions of life and being able to live with the ambiguities as it is about having answers to the troubling questions of existence.” – Dermot Lane

At Mount Saint Anne’s, here in the heart of the midlands, you will discover a Treasure.

When you come through the early nineteenth-century doors you will experience a serenity that disperses all else. If you need to get away from the strains and stresses of everyday life, Mount Saint Anne’s offers a wonderful opportunity.

We all need time to ourselves, times of silence where we can get in touch with our deepest selves. The very special surroundings here at Mount Saint Anne’s help to bring about renewal. Take a walk through the trees and let your thoughts unfold in the silence. Or, if you feel the need, you will find a listening ear among us.

To book please email:  ceo@mountstannes.com

For further information visit the website: Mt St. Anne’s » Retreats & Courses (mountstannes.com)  Mt. St. Anne’s Retreat & Conference Centre Killenard, Portarlington, Co. Laois Tel: +353(57)8626153.

See also Mount St. Anne’s WebsitMount St. Anne’s Retreat & Conference Centre » Retreats and Courses (mountstannes.com)


Mount St. Anne’s
Retreat and Conference Centre, Killenard, Portarlington, Co. Laois.

Telephone: +353 (0)57 8626153
Email: secretary@mountstannes.com
Sat Nav: N53° 07.656’   W007° 08.772’


9.00 a.m. to 17.00 p.m. Monday to Friday.


Telephone enquiries should be made between 9.00 a.m. and 17.00 p.m. Monday to Friday only.



Nano Nagle Place

Nano Nagle Place

Photo: Nano Nagle Heritage Centre, Cork courtesy of Nano Nagle Place.


Seven years ago the buildings of the South Presentation Convent were in a perilous position. As the area around the convent changed, the need for the school complex the site housed declined and the school closed its doors in 2006. Most of the buildings, some over 200 years old, sat empty with just a few resident sisters to maintain them.

The Presentation Sisters had to plan for the future. With so many listed buildings housed upon it, the site was of little development value. What was to be done?

The Presentation Sisters decided to act, just as their foundress had done nearly two hundred and fifty years before. They set up a company, appointed a voluntary board, and put in place plans to redevelop ‘South Pres’ as a special place for the people of Cork City.

The heritage buildings have been lovingly regenerated, they now house educational charities and rooms are also available to let by community groups, charities and local businesses. The chapel has been turned into a heritage centre that engagingly tells the story of Nano Nagle and the city in which she worked to educate and care for the poor. It allows the visitor to explore the incredible spread of the Presentation Order, the changing lives of the sisters who have dedicated their lives to that order and the remarkable work they still carry out as educationalists and campaigners for social justice. Come and visit Nano Nagle Place, get involved and become part of our story.

Nano Nagle Place ‘an exemplar urban renewal award’

RIAI Architect Award has been presented to JCA Architects for 2020 for the Urban Design and Master-planning for Nano Nagle Place.  The RIAI award is due recognition of the sensitive, imaginative and exemplary masterplan taken forward by JCA Architects and the wider design team.


About the award

On 22 October 2020 the winners of the 2020 Royal Institute of Architects (RIAI) Architecture Awards were announced. The awards celebrate work carried out by members of the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland (RIAI) members, both in Ireland and overseas, in 2019 and highlight the contribution that architects make to society for everyone’s benefit..

The prestigious RIAI architecture awards were first established in 1989 to celebrate excellence in the built environment and the work of RIAI-registered architects. This year, the RIAI announced 12 Award Winners across 11 categories, including Adaption & Re-Use, Conservation, International, Learning Environments, Living (Homes), Public Space, Well-Being and Workplace.

Nano Nagle Place (the transformation of the South Presentation Convent site in Cork) has been recognised as ‘an exemplar urban renewal project’ winner in the Urban Design category.

See 2020 Irish Architecture Awards celebrate Irish Design at Home and Abroad

Nano Nagle Place – ‘an exemplar urban project’

As the Awards video describes (see link HERE):

The architectural work that realised Nano Nagle Place today, demonstrates how large redundant building complexes can be sensitively transformed for a varied mix of uses, and creates an attractive destination that positively contributes to the surrounding area. The success of the completed project is on many levels.

  • The sustainable reuse of historic buildings retaining their character and significance
  • The transmission of the site’s values
  • The continuity of the memory of the original religious community
  • And, the reorganisation of the private space to make it more accessible and provide a contemporary meeting place.

“We’re over the moon that the JCA Architects have been awarded the RIAI Architect Award for 2020 for the Urban Design and Master-planning for Nano Nagle Place. Nano Nagle Place aims to be a shining light for sustainable heritage and community focused urban regeneration and development. JCA and the wider design team took forward the vision of the Presentation Sisters and have wrought a stunning but historically sensitive transformation of over three acres of convent architecture and landscaping dating back to the late 1700s. They have woven in the C21st modernist home for the UCC / CIT School of Architecture and their masterplan is helping drive regeneration in Cork’s historic South Parish neighbourhood. Working with our esteemed Chairman Jim Corr and under the direction of Development Director Michael O’Sullivan, the team at JCA can be justifiably proud at securing the award. Cork is culturally richer for such a restoration and evidence that heritage investment is investment in our shared history and in our living communities!” (Shane Clarke, CEO Nano Nagle Place).

(Note:  It is both beautiful and inspirational to see all the current award winners in each category alongside mention of the commended projects, demonstrating the inherent contribution of good architecture to every aspect of our lives including our well-being.  Nano Nagle Place – can be seen 13.32 minutes in).

See: https://presentationsistersne.ie/initiatives/

And also see:  Nano Nagle Place

Nano Nagle Place is a winner!

(Image: courtesy of Nano Nagle Place Website)

Nano Nagle Place (NNP) was always going to make its mark on the social, community and cultural life around it (true to its roots) as the birthplace of the Presentation Sisters Congregation, founded by Ireland’s global social pioneer and activist, Nano Nagle.

The heritage centre in NNP engagingly describes life in 18th century Cork before going on to explore the story of how Nano Nagle worked tirelessly to help and educate the poor of the city.  Visitors can also interactively discover how the Presentation Congregation she founded has travelled across the globe, her legacy continuing to the present day, locally and globally.

Work on the redevelopment of the historic 18th century site of the South Presentation Convent and School was completed and in 2017 opening its doors to the public for the first time.

The campus 

The wider campus of Nano Nagle Place now houses an impressive heritage centre, tranquil gardens and Nano Nagle’s tomb.

It also has a design shop, education spaces, the Lantern Project and Cork Migrants Centre inclusion projects, a small resident community of Presentation Sisters, and the regenerated 1779 convent building which now holds the archive of the Presentation Congregation.

The Good Deli located in the tranquil gardens is a Sustainable Foods Deli serving a mix of healthy, local, seasonal, organic and fair trade foods with a commitment to sustainability throughout the food chain, and of course offers   hospitality that is ‘second to none’!

Recognition for ‘what they do’ so well

The restoration and redevelopment of the South Pres convent, grounds and schools literally transformed the South Parish district of Cork city, and this was recognised at the outset when Nano Nagle Place received the Judges Choice Award as part Cork Business Association (CBA) Cork Better Buildings Awards in 2018 with  the complex of buildings (dating from the 1770’s to the present day) mentioned as having been conserved and reimagined to best conservation practice with some wonderful examples of Irish contemporary design.

2019 –What a year !

(Image: Courtesy of Nano Nagle Place media).

This year Cork City won the ‘friendliest place’ title at the Retail Excellence Ireland Awards for their work in developing a customers charter for the city.  As part of the Award process local authorities across the country nominated local retail businesses for the Retail Excellence Awards and the businesses were then independently assessed on their friendliness.  As result, Nano Nagle Place won the ‘Best Visitor Store’ in 2019.  The store comprises a bookshop, map room and print gallery.

Meanwhile, the Good Day Deli was crowned the overall winner at the Junior Chamber Ireland (JCI) Cork Friendliest Business Awards for Community Impact in 2019. They were the stand-out winner for the title when the nominees from across Cork were ‘mystery shopped’ and judged by a panel of judges earlier this summer.

In addition, Nano Nagle Place was also a finalist in the Junior Chamber Ireland (JCI) Family Friendly Ireland Awards.

Congratulations to Shane Clarke (CEO) and all the team at Nano Nagle Place—staff, volunteers, projects and services.


The Council of Europe 2022 Museum Prize goes to Nano Nagle Place


© Nano Nagle Place, Cork City.

The Council of Europe Museum Prize is awarded to a museum which puts particular emphasis on European perspectives and the interplay between local and European identities, on a commitment to and presentation of key values of democracy, human rights, inter-cultural dialogue, of bridging cultures and overcoming social and political borders.

Nano Nagle Place was selected to receive the ‘The Council of Europe 2022 Museum Prize’ by the Culture Committee, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) meeting on the 3rd December 2021.

Committee representative for the Museum Prize, Roberto Rampi (Italy, SOC), “despite being rooted in the specific religious tradition of Roman Catholicism, with nuns still living on the site, there is a strong sense of caring based on need, not on doctrine. Nano Nagle Place has a very strong and coherent mission which is in line with the Council of Europe’s human rights values and principles”.

“We are both moved and proud that the Culture Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe have recognised our twin missions of celebrating the daring endeavours of Nano Nagle in the past, while continuing her work to address new societal issues in the present”.  (Nano Nagle Place).

The 2022 winners in other categories will be announced on the last day of the EMYA2022 Annual Conference and Award Ceremony that will take place in Tartu, Estonia from 4 to 7 May 2022. More information on the EMYA2022

See Irish convent wins Council of Europe Museum Prize – Museums Association


EMYA TwentyTwo (europeanforum.museum)

A new CEO for Nano Nagle Place

We warmly welcome Mr. John Smith as he takes up his new role as CEO at Nano Nagle Place on 3rd January 2023..

John is a Cork native with over 25 years’ experience in the private and not for profit sectors, spent his early career working with EMC DELL in Ovens, Co. Cork. Having taken time out to study for an MA in Development Education and Community Development, he joined the Development Education Team in Trócaire, the Irish international aid agency. During his time there, John led teams responsible for delivery of the Development Education Programme, Advocacy Campaigns, Church Community Engagement, Digital and Traditional Communications and Policy and Advocacy and Volunteer Programmes. For the past 5 years, he has worked as part of Trócaire’s Executive Leadership Team, responsible for the delivery of their Strategic Framework.

John’s background in areas of social justice, education and community engagement make him ideally suited for Nano Nagle Place, who seek to build on the legacy of Nano Nagle. Nano Nagle founded schools for the Catholic poor in Cork at a time when Catholic education was illegal under the Penal Laws. Today, the site continues the same mission into the 21st Century, providing support and care for people in need. Opened by former President, Dr Mary McAleese, in 2017 Nano Nagle Place celebrates Nano Nagle’s vision of empowerment through education and social justice and it has become a hub for culture and community in Cork.

John says he is “delighted to take up the role as CEO of Nano Nagle Place, South Presentation Centre. Nano Nagle Place is an oasis in the heart of Cork City. Visitors to the complex can enjoy a warm welcome to a museum, heritage rooms, beautiful gardens, the Good Day Deli Cafe, both a design and gift shop, and a Cork focussed book shop. Furthermore, the centre delivers thriving programmes through education, spiritual engagement, and community inclusion. I am looking forward to working with the talented and passionate Nano Nagle Place team, Board, and stakeholders as we look ahead to the future with ambition and optimism”.

Pat Ledwidge, Chair of South Presentation Centre’s Board says; “I’m delighted that John has commenced duty as CEO. As Nano Nagle Place enters its next phase of development, the Board looks forward to working closely with John and his team. Post Covid, Nano Nagle Place now operates in a changed environment. The challenge is to operate sustainably whilst continuing the legacy of Nano Nagle in the areas of education, community development, social justice, and spirituality.”

You can also listen to an introductory  interview with John by Pearse McCarthy, 96FM Arts House Radio below:


We wish John many wonderful and inspirational times ahead with the dynamic team at Nano Nagle Place!

See also  https://nanonagleplace.ie/nano-nagle-place-appoints-new-ceo-john-smith/

Learn more about John Smith: https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-smith-4648331b/





Churchfield Community Trust

Churchfield Community Trust

Churchfield Community Trust



The Churchfield Community Trust began life in September 1994 as a community project set up in Gurranabraher, Cork on behalf of young people at risk in their local area.

It was called ‘The Presentation Family Community Project’ a collaboration between Presentation Sisters and Brothers, and Christian Brothers in  response to need. Today Presentation Sisters and Brothers are no longer involved in the day to day running of the Churchfield project which is now entirely staffed by lay people. However, what has remained constant is the underlying caring philosophy, supported by the trustees of the three founding congregations.

If you look at the core objectives of today’s service you get some idea of the extent and breadth of support available to the those who use it. The work of the staff, volunteers and service users at the Trust is about contributing to the creation of safer communities through:

  • reduction in recidivism;
  • reintegration of offenders;
  • creation of sustainable employment opportunities;
  • provision of strategic addiction interventions
  • and development of pathways to adult education and training opportunities.

All of this made possible by collaboration with a wide range of key statutory and voluntary agencies.

The take up

In 2018 the Churchfield Community Trust engaged with 260 participants, providing 336 individual therapeutic interventions and managing 215 addiction counselling referrals and 138 group work sessions. Those who use the programmes and services provided by the Trust come with a wide range of complex needs in relation to homelessness, addiction, offending behaviour, mental health, unemployment and educational deficits, among other life challenges.

The underlying ethos of the Trust means that before anything else it recognises the importance of relationship building to initiate change in the lives of the people it works with.  Indeed, Positive Peer Support was highlighted as an important factor that emerged from a piece of research carried out by University College Cork’s Community Research Links (CARL) on the work of the Trust. A Peer Support Education Programme (with a specific emphasis on the mental health area of suicide prevention) was provided for participants by the Trust during 2018.

The supports

Personal development is a key component of everything the Trust provides, as many of the participants need to make changes in their attitudes, beliefs and behaviours, and this can only happen as a result of the allocation of space and time for reflection and development.  The focus is very much person-centred and individual programmes are put in place in partnership with each participant according to their needs.  Care is taken to make respectful interventions and to foster   personal responsibility, and are based on open and honest communication at all times.

The vital partnerships

The Churchfield Community Trust provides its effective service in partnership with a number of key statutory agencies: the Probation Service, The Irish Prison Service, Cork Education and Training Board and the Health Service Executive.

Today the Trust offers training, work and enterprise skills with a particular focus on Adult Education, Woodwork, Painting and Horticulture. It bridges gaps in formal   education through the provision of Computer Skills, Cookery and Literacy classes.  Sport and Leisure Activities are also included as they help in the development of ways of managing free in a healthy and enjoyable way.

Wonderful social initiatives

The Growing Initiative

A collaboration with Cork City Council   during 2018 as part of Atlantic Social Lab (a 30-month EU funded project) had the aim of developing and promoting social innovation as a way of addressing social challenges. This resulted in:

The Garden Café—a live café environment that provides mentoring and training for those interested in progressing employment in the catering industry.

Compass Crafts—who design and produce garden furniture, play park items and crèche furniture in a workshop environment focusing on pre-apprenticeship skills.

The Growing Initiative—supplies Cork  University Hospital, Elbow Lane Restaurant and The Garden Café with fresh produce such as salad leaves, seasonal vegetables and fresh herbs.

The Churchfield Community Trust has continued to establish a positive working relationship with education providers such as Cork Education and Training Board, Adult Basic Literacy Service and Social Innovation Fund Ireland in order to improve educational outcomes for those experiencing educational disadvantage.

During 2018 the Trust has supported a significant number of participants who have returned to continuing adult education at Third Level, in disciplines such as Addiction Studies, Community Development and Health Studies. (Thirty-three participants engaged in continuing education; 27 engaged in employment schemes and 7 progressed to full-time employment).

The governance and funding

A Board of Management has been in place since 1999 to guide and support the working of the project.  They in turn link in with CCT trustees through the Chairperson.  A company was formed with a Board of Directors and members rather than a Board of management and trustees.  Core funding is currently provided by The Probation Service, Cork ETB, Health Service Executive (CUH Initiative and Health Action Zone), as well as by the HSE Section 39 & Outreach grants.       Other costs are met principally by Cork City Council, Cork City Partnership, the Irish Prison Service, a North Side Community Enterprises (NCE) Grant, the Social      Innovation Fund (Ireland) and other miscellaneous donations. Income is also generated by the CCT Enterprises Property.

Development signposts

A Board of Management has been in place since 1999 to guide and support the working of the project. They in turn link in with our trustees through the Chairperson.

  • 1996 – Purchase of 109 Knockfree Ave.
  • October 2004 – Purchase of 107 Knockfree Ave.
  • 2004 – Renovation of 107 and 109 Knockfree Ave.
  • 2004 – Building of Work Shop.
  • 2007 – Official Opening of Extended premises by Right Honourable Lord Mayor of Cork Donal Counihan.
  • 2008 – Development of extensive Garden Project.
  • 2008 – Building of Glass house Garden Area.
  • 2008 – Opening of Garden Café Training Restaurant under licence from Cork City Council.
  • 2012 – Continous development of Garden Cafe Project.
  • 2016- Merger with Gratton project community based organisation.
  • 2016- Development of workshop premises at Ballyvolane Business Park.
  • 2016- Development of Outreach support programme in Conjunction with H.S.E.
  • 2017- Development of gender specific initiative for women as part of The Garden Café Initiative.
  • 2019 – Development of integrated Horticulture training area.
  • 2019 – Commercial Electricity Supply (ESB) installation at The Garden Café.
  • 2019 – Development of Furniture Display Area.



Tara Centre

Tara Centre

Tara CentreAbout

The Tara Centre, Omagh was founded in 1996 on the conviction that a radical new vision is needed for humanity and its relationship to the Cosmos.

Many people in Northern Ireland are seeking to build a society which encourages a sense of the sacred in all aspects of life, where diversity can be experienced as enrichment and pain as the raw material of deep personal transformation. They are wondering whether and how to invest their own lives in making a difference.

Inspired by a vision of global awareness, the Tara Centre provides a safe, nurturing environment in which:  

  • to heal and transcend pain and trauma;
  • to bring hope to those in despair;
  • to build an inclusive community of peace and reconciliation;
  • to support those who seek to free themselves from the poverty trap and its negative consequences
  • to educate beyond narrow, divisive, tribal loyalties
  • to educate towards a deep, active and enlightened awareness of this amazing universe of which humanity forms an integral part.

The holistic philosophy which informs the Tara Centre’s vision encourages intellectual enquiry and shapes a wide range of healing and life-enhancing initiatives. These are experienced in the caring environment of a healing community and a warm welcoming building where the entire ethos breathes respect.

At the Tara Centre, people often find a new direction for their lives. They come in touch with deep inner resources, and are reminded that there are others who share their values about life and its meaning, and find inspiration in a communal quest.



Clann Credo - a Social Bank

Clann Credo - a Social Bank

Social BankAbout

Clann Credo, is a social bank established by the Presentation Sisters  in 1996.   To date (2019) Clann Credo has provided €120 million in Community Loan Finance to more than 1000 projects over the past 23 years, creating and sustaining thousands of jobs and strengthening communities nationwide.

By its own description, Clan Credo is “the leading provider of social finance to community-based projects in Ireland”. It is a not-for-profit organisation that “provides repayable finance to community and voluntary organisations and charities that find it difficult to access funding from mainstream financial institutions. All projects are evaluated on their potential to make a social as well as a financial return.”

Sister Magdalen Fogarty has been a real visionary, Paul O’Sullivan CEO of Clann Credo said. He added that she had worldwide responsibility for the finances of the Presentation order. “In that role, she started wondering how can we make sure that finance is working for justice and equity so she set up Clann Credo to do it directly herself,” he told KCLR News.

“Twenty three years ago a radical new concept began to percolate through Ireland’s community and voluntary sector, one that has challenged the conventional way of thinking ever since. Like all great ideas it was deceptively simple, and worked by pressing finance into service as an agent of social justice and social transformation,” the Presentation sisters stated.

Waterford-born Sr Magdalen Fogarty and the Presentation Order grasped this potential. With their support, ‘Clann Credo, Community Loan Finance’ was established and since then other religious congregations have joined Clann Credo as social investors. Clann Credo is now the leading provider of social finance in Ireland.

The finance provided has helped all aspects of community life throughout the country. It has also enhanced the lives of thousands of people and communities through projects that deliver important services like childcare and elder care, as well as social infrastructure like community halls, sports centres and other community centres vital to local life.

“A key focus of Clann Credo’s work is supporting and nurturing community and voluntary activity. It recognises that in every one of these often marginalised communities there are local heroes whose only goal is to improve the lives of those around them. These financially supported initiatives have sustained thousands of jobs and strengthened communities nationwide over the past 20 plus years,” the Presentation sisters stated.

Presentation sister who founded Clann Credo honoured by Kilkenny County Council

At a civic reception was held to honour Sr. Magdalen Fogarty, pbvm, as Founding President of Clann Credo – Kilkenny County Council for helping to set up finance of more than €120 million to help build and sustain struggling community groups throughout Ireland through the  creation of  Clann Credo – Community Loan Finance, .

The reception was hosted by the Mayor of Kilkenny, Cllr Martin Brett, in conjunction with Kilkenny County Council on Friday 27 September at City Hall, where the pioneering sister was presented with the Founding President Award.

They congratulated Sr Magdalen Fogarty on what they called this “wonderful occasion for celebration” and recognition of her considerable contribution, and wished her continued blessings in all that she continues to do.


See link to full article by Ann Marie Foley (Catholic Ireland)  HERE

The 2019 Charity Impact Awards

Sr. Magdalen Fogarty

Presented by The Wheel (the national   association of charities, community and voluntary organisations and social enterprises) the Charity Impact Awards celebrate the  positive impact these organisations, and the individuals behind them, make in the lives of millions of people in Ireland and beyond.

At the Award Ceremony on 10th December 2019, Sr. Magdalen Fogarty received the Trustee of the Year Award in recognition of her work as founding President of Clann Credo Community Loan Finance, Ireland’s first social finance provider.

Sr. Magdalen understood the power that finance bestows on those who enjoy economic wealth and in parallel she understood the powerlessness of ‘those kept poor’ by unjust systems in a world where there should be enough for everyone. Like Nano Nagle she believed she had a duty to make change possible.

Her concept was simple – use finance as a tool for social transformation.  She saw finance as a resource for development that if managed and invested could have a very real and practical social impact on local communities the length and breadth of the country.  It was out of this mindset that Clann Credo came to life in 1996 .

The progress of Clann Credo is well known. The projects that they have enabled include social  enterprises, charities, amateur sports clubs and many more.  All projects that would not have been able to get off the ground were it not for the existence and support of Clann Credo.

Our warmest congratulations and heartfelt thanks.  “ Thank you for shining [Nano’s] lantern for those kept poor”  




Faith Development Project (MDCCE)

Faith Development Project (MDCCE)


L-R: At the launch of the project in June 2018, Sr. Anne Codd, pbvm,  Dr. Gareth Byrne, Director of MDCCE, Dr. Anne Looney Dean of DCU Institute of Education and Natalie Walker, CEO, DCU Educational Trust.

The North East Province has entered into a partnership with DCU’s Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education (MDCCE) to enable research into community-based adult religious education and faith development in Ireland today.

As researcher for the project, Dr. Bernadette Sweetman, began work in October 2018.  It is intended that the first the research will provide a broad picture of current provision in adult religious education, accompanied by quantitative and qualitative research into the educational needs of local faith communities.  This research would then inform the development and delivery of pilot projects to test new approaches to faith development, working with a cross section of local faith communities in Ireland (see News Update below).

In the third phase, the learning that has been drawn from the research will be published widely.  It is intended that this learning will include models of planning, enabling, and reflecting on the practice of adult faith development.

It was most encouraging to learn that the Institute of Education will fund fees for a doctoral student for a period of four years at the MDCCE, researching an area of adult religious education and supporting the pilot projects. This is intended “to give greater sustainability to the research programme while at the same time recognising the tercentenary of Nano Nagle’s birth (2018)”.

Religion and Education  – a new publication

Religion & Education – The Voices of Young People in Ireland

A new book, Religion and Education: The Voices of Young People in Ireland, exploring attitudes of teenagers on the island of Ireland to religion and diversity was launched in early December in DCU’s St. Patrick’s Campus.

Published by Veritas Publications, it is edited by Dr. Gareth Byrne, Director of the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education, Dublin City University, and Prof. Leslie J. Francis, Warwick Religions and Education Research Centre, University of Warwick.

Prof. Francis spoke at the launch on the theme of ‘Listening to young people: The benefits of empirical research on religion and education’.

In the publication, the authors provide a comparative analysis of what young people in Ireland have to say about religion over a period of fifty years.  Their most recent material comes from the Religious Diversity and Young People survey administered among three thousand thirteen to fifteen-year-old students between 2013 and 2015.

Among some of its key research themes and topics are:

  • Comparing the religiosity of young men and women and their differing attitudes to the Catholic church.
  • The denominational differences in religious and moral values between students attending Catholic and Protestant schools.
  • Inter-sectionality in gender and nationality for those growing up Catholic in Ireland
  • The Catholic identities, religious faith and moral values of 16 – 19 year old males, indicating that religiously unaffiliated young men retain some of the vestiges of religious heritage in Ireland.

The book is available from Veritas here.

(Note: Text and image used courtesy of Mater Dei Catholic Centre for Education (MDCCE website page).

MDCCE Faith Development Project – News Update

In May / June 2019, a team of researchers at the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education at Dublin City University launched a nationwide survey on Adult Religious Education and Faith Development. This survey was very successful and gathered insights from adults of all ages, from all counties and a variety of faith traditions, belief systems and worldviews.

In the months since, the team have been meeting with people already established in the provision of opportunities in adult religious education and faith development. These range from small groups to Centres; formal and informal gatherings; practical projects and courses of study and much more. From these people, the research team are learning rich insights that they wish to share with other groups and communities who may be seeking ways to create new opportunities and might benefit from some assistance.

In this regard, the research team are inviting groups and communities who may be planning to try something new in adult religious education and faith development in the near future to get in touch. It may be that there is a particular need to be addressed in a community; a certain project that requires attention or a fledging idea that needs some nourishment. Ideally, the research team wish to work alongside a small number of such initiatives during 2020, while also identifying possibilities for future engagement.

Expressions of interest are invited from any parties who feel this opportunity suits them. See full details and expression of interest form in website link below.

The closing date for submission is Friday 20th March 2020.

Note: Researchers at the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education (MDCCE) at Dublin City University are working on an exciting three-year project which explores the nature, scope and potential of religious education and faith development for adults in Ireland. Funded by the Presentation Sisters North East Province, it is hoped that the project is enhancing public awareness of the great work already happening in communities, parishes and groups. Giving affirmation and recognition to those already actively engaged in adult religious education and faith development, the research team will work with many different groups across Ireland in setting up new opportunities for adults to explore. All queries in relation to this project please email bernadette.sweetman@dcu.ie

The (AREFD) Research Project—Phase 2

Dr. Bernadette Sweetman, DCU MDCCE

Wendy Grace from Spirit Radio spoke recently to Dr. Bernadette Sweetman, from Dublin City University (DCU MDCCE) Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education about their initial research survey which took place in May 2020 on church closures and the impact of the pandemic on those who practice their faith.

This 3-year Adult Religious Education and Faith Devel-opment (AREFD) research project (started 2018) explores the nature, scope and potential of religious education and faith development for adults in Ireland. Funded by the Presentation Sisters North East Province, the project is already enhancing public awareness of the great work already happening in communities, parishes and groups. (See HERE).

Phase 1 of the project measured the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on adult churchgoers in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, and took place in collaboration with York St. John University who were investigating the impact for churchgoers in England, Scotland and Wales.

Now, in January 2021, MDCCE are launching a follow-up study (Phase 2) called COVID-19 & Church-21. The research team aims to get a sense of how clergy and lay people are coping after many months of varying restrictions.

The survey was designed to be taken by people from any Christian denomination in the UK and Republic of Ireland. and could be completed on your mobile phone, though it was more quickly completed on devices with larger screens such as tablets or computers.

See Podcast Link to Spirit Radio Interview with Dr. Bernadette Sweetman Thurs 11 Mar feat’ Susan Adams, Anna Basquez and Dr Bernadette Sweetman – Spirit Radio

Two recent publications from the AREFD project

Adult Religious Education and Faith Development project (AREFD) in now in its third year at the DCU Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education (MDCCE).  Recently, Dr. Bernadette Sweetman published two articles in peer-reviewed journals.

Firstly, in the Journal of Religious Education she discussed some areas in which the AREFD project can contribute to the initial teacher education of religious educators.  The article is available via open access at this link.  The abstract is provided below to give a flavour of its contents.

Secondly, in a special issue of Religions, she outlines how adult religious education and faith development can be reimagined in a detraditionalised Ireland.  The article is also available via open access at this link and the abstract is provided below.

For more updates on the AREFD project, please see the dedicated AREFD page on the MDCCE website.

‘Learnings from the AREFD project for the initial teacher education of Learnings from the AREFD project for the Initial Teacher Education of Religious Educators, Journal of Religious Education.  DOI 10.1007/s40839-021-00152-8


Since October 2018, researchers at the Mater Dei Centre for Catholic Education (MDCCE) at Dublin City University have been engaged in the Adult Religious Education and Faith Development (AREFD) project.  The overarching aim of the project was to facilitate a re-energising of adult religious education and faith development in Ireland.  Working amongst local faith communities with an academic research focus, an area of interest that has emerged is how the insights gained from AREFD project can contribute to initial teacher education, particularly involving students preparing for employment as post-primary religious educators.

This paper will outline some of the key themes that emerged from the data gathered in phase two of the AREFD project as it pertains to the initial teacher education (ITE) of religious educators.

In phase 2, a total of fourteen semi-structured interviews / focus groups were conducted between December 2019 and April 2021, featuring twenty-two people from across the Republic of Ireland who have a wealth of experience in AREFD across diverse contexts.  The purpose of these interviews was to gather together the rich insights from the rich experience of the interviewees on practicalities and possibilities central to adult religious education.  The contexts in which they have worked are all pertinent to both the post-primary Religious Education curriculum in the Republic of Ireland and wider related learning experiences, in Ireland and beyond.

Four key findings from this phase of the AREFD project are reported upon in this paper: the specific realm of AREFD as distinct from school-based religious education and catechesis; need for intentional investment in AREFD; physicality of religion; collaboration, communication and connection.  These findings may contribute to the reflections of and course development by initial teacher education providers as they seek to offer the highest quality opportunities to their students, in the understanding that their students are adults themselves and that education is a lifelong endeavour.

“Reimagining Adult Religious Education and Faith Development in a Detraditionalised Ireland” Religions 12, no. 11: 963. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12110963


The culture of provision of adult religious education and faith development, whereby talks or courses are made available at parish level and/or in formal educational settings, has undoubtedly dominated the Irish scene for many years. The low level of uptake of such opportunities or long-term engagement, however, coupled with the recognised decrease in regular church attendance would suggest that this culture of provision does not meet the needs of the adult population. This mismatch was a key driving force behind the inception of the Adult Religious Education and Faith Development (AREFD) project. Cognisant of cultural and societal changes, a core aim of the project was to assess this traditional culture of provision within a detraditionalised context. The present study is based on data gathered in phase two of the AREFD project consisting of fourteen semi-structured interviews and focus groups conducted between December 2019 and April 2021. The participants were involved for a number of years in adult religious education and faith development in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and across a variety of settings. The purpose of these interviews was to gather together the rich insights from the wealth of experience of the interviewees on the practicalities and possibilities central to adult religious education. The findings affirm dissatisfaction amongst participants with the current state of AREFD in Ireland, but indicate that there is hope for the future. Fresh and innovative engagement with adults is called for. This paper outlines key themes emerging from the data which contribute to the conversation of how innovative engagement with adults can revitalise church culture in Ireland.

See Two recent publications from the AREFD project | Dublin City University (dcu.ie) for source text reproduced here.


DCU MDCCE Research Project


The PiNNacle Project

The PiNNacle Project

About the launch of the PiNNacle Project in 2018

Photo: The North East Province Leadership Team with Professors Deirdre Raftery (2nd Left) & Dr. Margaret Liddy (2nd Right).  Sr. Margarita Ryan, Provincial Leader (is 3rd Right)

The PiNNacle Project is an innovative research project which was launched in University College Dublin (UCD), School of Education at the end of 2018. The project aims to build teaching capacity in the developing world, and will be led by Professors Deirdre Raftery and Marie Clarke. It will offer Masters scholarships for women teachers from pilot schools in India and Pakistan to study at UCD.

The Presentation Sisters, are generous sponsors of this wonderful project in collaboration with the UCD Foundation and the School of Education.  At the project launch, Sr. Margarita Ryan (Provincial Leader) spoke about the:

 ‘explicit mission to work for the transformation of unjust systems, the Integrity of Creation, and the flourishing of humanity and earth’, and she also spoke about the Presentation Sisters’ commitment in ‘supporting important projects that strive to eliminate human trafficking, eradicate rape as a weapon of war, resist gender-based violence and violence against women, defend indigenous peoples and migrants, and support the education of girls and women’.  

The first PiNNacle scholar sponsored by the Province is Sr. Zabaria Peter who has just arrived on 29th of June 2019 to Ireland to take up this opportunity. We extend a warm welcome to Zabaria and wish her all the very best with her studies here.

The PiNNacle Project ~ a thank you

 “As Professor Marie Clarke and I reflect on the past year, I am struck by how collaborative our partnership has been. It has been an honour to be part of this innovative research project to build teaching capacity in India and Pakistan, and I am delighted to report on our initial achievements.

Our thanks goes to the Presentation Sisters (NEP) for their commitment and hard work to advance research and leadership skills in UCD School of Education and bring together complementary expertise to identify and promote what is best in teacher education for women teachers in developing contexts”.

~ (An extract from the PiNNacle Project Report 2019 by Prof. Deirdre Raftery)

The way ahead: participating in the PiNNacle Project

As Sr. Zabaria Peter, pbvm prepares to return to Pakistan after spending a year of study in Ireland as one of the first PiNNacle scholars participating in the UCD Masters Programme in Educational Leadership, it seemed a fitting time to catch up with her to share her experience of this year of study.

At the time of the online interview Sr. Zabaria Peter was living with the Sisters of Jesus and Mary (Goatstown, Co. Dublin) for convenience of access to UCD, however, her base Presentation community has been Maynooth with Sisters Annette O’Brien, Dominica Murphy, Pius Madden, Martha Clarke, Eithne Cunniffe and Mary McDermott.

Zabaria shared that from the outset of her arrival in Ireland she never  felt homesick – testimony to having been cared for and supported so well. There has also been many opportunities to speak to the Sisters in her community in Pakistan. In terms of her own personal growth she says she has learned a great deal from this journey.

The PiNNacle adventure

Zabaria with Ruth Ferris (UCD Project Manager)

Zabaria speaks about receiving this opportunity alongside the many other blessings she recognises in her life, against the backdrop of her village childhood in Pakistan.

She admits it was very challenging in the beginning when she arrived in Ireland for the pre-sessional course of the PiNNacle Programme at UCD (7 initial weeks in advance of the main course) in the summer of 2019. Zabaria was at lengths to acknowledge the tremendous support received during this time and onwards for the duration of the course programme, from Ruth Ferris UCD’s Project Manager and Sr. Bernadette Flanagan (NEP PLT).

She explained that being present at The Pre-Sessional Course  really helped her familiarise and acclimatise herself to returning to an  academic environment and a diverse cultural experience. (Zabaria already holds an MA in Educational Planning and Management (EPM).

She explains that returning to full-time education “There is a lot to read and comprehend as well as getting used to academic writing again. I also made new friends and it has been a really good experience”.

Speaking about her experience of participating as a pioneer in the first PiNNacle Programme – Zabaria said:

“This project will help not just Presentation Sisters but will enable all female leaders in developing countries to get the same quality of education”.

She goes on to explain:

“The Presentation Sisters had already set up their own In-Service Training in Pakistan thanks to the commitment and passion of Sr. Julie Watson (current Congregational Leader) for all that she had done to provide In-Service Training for Presentation Staff in the neighbourhood schools over many years – with an open invitation extended to schools to participate”.  “Training of In-Service Trainers is vital as once you take this opportunity then it means others can benefit”.

Experiencing the internationality of my course, I came to realise that amidst the incredible diversity of culture – we held a lot of observations in common. To be able to mix and discuss education across diverse cultures and backgrounds was invaluable (e.g. students came from Spain, US, Nigeria, Palestine, Vietnam, China etc.”. (Zabaria Peter)

Zabaria acknowledged that she had also benefited greatly from the generous opportunities offered to her by Marie Therese Kilmartin (Principal, Coláiste Bríde) when she was on placement E.g. the opportunity to observe the practical use of IT/Technology in a school setting and being enabled  to attend the CEIST Trust Conference in Hodson Bay Hotel with other staff members as part of the Deputy Principals Network Meetings 2020 (Athlone). 

In conclusion

Zabaria shares:

“I have learned so much from this Project. This year I have gained an insight into how to apply the techniques studied into  our education system. I have also understood the deeper meaning of leadership and mentoring in a school environment. I will be able to empower women with their leadership qualities, and how they can learn in a positive atmosphere. I also gained an understanding of the more effective ways of teaching in a classroom environment with the little resources we have and with huge number of students. I will be able to introduce new ways of teaching and learning, various activities that can build up the confidence of the students and which will motivate them to learn and apply that learning in their daily lives”.

Zabaria will finish her thesis in August and she will then be able to return to Pakistan. In conclusion she says:

“I am very grateful to the North East Province, the Leadership Team and all the Sisters who have helped me a lot in so many ways. Special thanks to Sr. Bernadette Flanagan for accompanying me along the way,, as well as to the Project Manager Ruth Ferris from UCD. It was lovely to study in UCD and gain experience internationally with fellow students. PiNNacle is a very good initiative that has been developed and I would hope and pray that this will continue, and that more and more people will be able to benefit”. 

Note:  This article first appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Bachloga – the seasonal magazine of the Presentation Sisters – North East Province (Ireland).

A PiNNacle Journey


Image: PiNNacle Scholars with (L-R Back Row) Srs. Concepta O’Brien, Rose Gargan, Mary Hanrahan and Frances Murphy at a welcome event held in the Acorn Centre (Summer 2022).

Why would you leave your family and your home place taking only what you need for a ‘journey’ that will last a lifetime?  Where does a passion and belief in education for all, as a means to changing lives, come from? What is the impact of educational development on cultural change?  These and many other questions came to mind as I spent some time with the new intake of PiNNacle Scholars during the early summer of 2022, on their final week of a seven-week programme designed to prepare them for academic study and independent research, that will be a vital part of their three-year MA (Ed) in Mentoring, Leading and Global Learning (2022 to 2025). These twelve scholars (8 Sisters and 4 Lay Teachers) came from the Provinces of India North, India South and Pakistan. We had a number of conversations over a two-day period that gave a wonderful insight into the dynamism of the project, and the inspiration for this ‘daring initiative’.

The Project

The PiNNacle Project was created from discussions with the Presentation Leadership Team in the NE Province, and the School of Education UCD in December 2018.  It was the result of a strong commitment to ‘support the development of a robust form of capacity building through higher education and CPD for staff in Presentation Schools in the Developing World’, and in particular, to support the education and training of women teachers in India and Pakistan. This was to ensure that the schools survive and thrive, and that teachers experienced the kind of world-class education and training that would have a major impact on education standards, student well-being and human flourishing. The goal of this pilot phase was also to determine the kind of leadership development and higher education that would best benefit women teachers working in these countries.

From the outset the project was also framed with reference to the UN Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4) – Quality  Education, in the student’s own professional environment, but also a response to SDG5 – ‘the need for quality educational opportunities for women and girls, and their equal participation in learning and in work’.  

The creation of such an educational leadership programme called for caution and respect as to the transferability and implementation of educational policies that originate in ‘Western’ nations, into developing countries,  and the need to include local indigenous knowledge in any such programme. Contextual issues were also recognised as important informants of the content and style of the programme. As a result the UCD research team worked closely from the very start with those Sisters in Ireland who have spent time in India and Pakistan, to gain their insights into their experiences and their knowledge of the contexts in which the schools operated, as a vital source of programme development information.

Masters students commenced their studies in UCD in September 2019. The first Masters PiNNacle graduation ceremony took place in 2020, and a total of seven students graduated in Phase 1 of the project.

PiNNacle Phase 2

Phase 2 is specifically aimed at supporting teachers who aspire to mentoring or leadership roles within their schools. Twelve PiNNacle Scholars (4 from Pakistan, 4 from India North and 4 from India South) commenced the new Masters Programme together in 2022, with the intention of graduating with Masters degrees in 2025.

These students benefitted from a 7-week pre-sessional programme at UCD with onsite  seminars and workshops. Prior to this they had completed an induction and placement preparation programme online before their arrival in Ireland.  The final week of this first ever PiNNacle Summer Programme took place in Mount St. Anne’s Retreat and Conference Centre in July 2022 culminating in a PiNNacle Awards Ceremony at Mount St. Anne’s for those scholars who had completed the PiNNacle programme from 2020 to 2022 – four sisters and 2 lay teachers, five of whom were able to travel to Ireland for this period.

These graduates will now provide a vital part of the mentoring and support community on the ground, for the new scholars, as they interact with their students and colleagues in their school communities, completing their MA through teaching provided online. This current intake of PiNNacle Scholars will also have  access to expert-led seminars, study groups and student-led initiatives.

The MA (ED) in Mentoring, Leadership and Global Learning introduces students to a range of perspectives and approaches to mentoring school staff and to leading schools.

The existence of PiNNacle provides crucial new knowledge on what approaches work best for participants and for schools in the developing world. PiNNacle will also give to the world a hugely important new body of  research related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

January 2023

A research field trip took place in the month of January to visit the PiNNacle scholars in schools in Delhi in India north and to Chennai in India South. Some of the Staff team from the UCD School of Education were delighted to meet the students again and to see them working in their Communities of Practice. By creating Communities of   Practice in their home countries, these teachers are sharing ideas and acting as role models to highlight the powerful impact of education.

A PiNNacle Symposium also took place in Presentation Convent Senior Secondary School, Delhi during this visit. The importance of encouraging ‘Student Voice’ was the theme which prompted general participation from the audience of educators who attended the event.

Award for PiNNacle Project The project received a 2022 UCD Research Impact Case Study Award recognising how their work has made a positive difference, making the world a better place. It was commended for empowering women teachers in India & Pakistan, working to achieve progress through the Sustainable Development Goals.

In conversation

The following are some quotes from our wonderful conversations with some of the  scholars attending the PiNNacle Summer  Programme in Mt. St. Anne’s in July 2022. They need no further introduction or explanation, as they present both the gift and value of this programme and the lived experience of the scholars as they began their PiNNacle Journey.

“One of the ‘Calls’ of Our Congregational  Gathering; what we are aiming at, is empowering the women and leadership, with a high   educational standard. This call of our congregation was very clear. So, to implement our leadership role in a better way, to a      professional standard, this is what our expectation is.  This is the opportunity for our people (Sisters) it is a call for us in the congregation and in our province. This is why some of us were called for this (project) and we were     selected. It is a congregational call now to uplift and empower, and to understand it within the  education system. We are challenged to understand how as Presentation, we are meant to fulfil our education ministry among the poorer children.  I am doing this because I am going to help others, that is what my motivation is, and I am keeping that flame within me”.


“When we got the opportunity to visit Ballygriffin (Nano’s birthplace) it was another thing. I felt that maybe God has brought me to this place to feel more, to touch this holy ground where my founder Nano Nagle was born. That was another enlightening experience.  I feel more connected now to the Presentation family and I could imagine, when I sat in the chapel and saw the view of that mountain that Nano was climbing and jumping and playing. Such a great woman. That I am being part of her – this legacy”. 


“If we know how to run the school, then we need to know how to bring changes. [ … ] I am hoping that this programme will help me in some way to bring change within my person, to bring a shift, and I hope it will help the school – to collaborate along with the teachers and students to bring about some changes”.


“It was really a blessing for me to get this  international platform because I know, being a teacher, that things are changing.  It is really challenging nowadays […] So I am happy that I am updating myself and that I will return with more knowledge that I can impart to my      students – the youth who are waiting for me.  I am enlightened with so many ideas, so many ways of learning which are very new, and which I am acquiring from UCD, and that will remain with me and that I will try to apply to my teaching in the future years”.


“I wish to empower myself and others in the field of education, through participation in this programme, by providing a quality education and a different outlook, as a result of broadening my own education, so that change can   happen for the coming generations of these children I work with. I feel privileged to discover this academic style of doing. Carrying Nano’s flame.

The students I work with in my ministry are children at the railway stations – they work as professional beggars; others gather plastic from the rubbish piles and sell it for a living.  Presentation has been ministering with these children for 25 years now through education, in order to provide them with some form of a dignified life. This has had some impact but more needs to happen to make change happen”.


“I would really like to thank the Sisters from the North East Province –I feel that this is a daring step they have taken, this is selfless service I see here. Like uplifting the people of other countries – that is something – going the extra mile” … At Nano’s grave, I just talked to her, though she is up in the Heaven – I said to her what a marvellous woman you are, so many throughout the globe – we can see the Presentation Sisters and Friends of Nano and the  other people who are with us.  So I said, we all can do, if she was able to do – I can also do it.  The spark is still there”. 

(Thank you to all who so generously sharing their time and experience through these brief conversations, and for the inspiration that they are).


UCD School of Education – PiNNacle Project – News & Events





New iScoil Logo

iScoil is an inclusive on-line learning community offering a pathway to education and employment for young people aged 13-16 years who are out of mainstream education. iScoil was developed by Presentation Ireland and funded by the Presentation Sisters to meet the needs of these young people by using digital technology to re-engage them in learning.  iScoil is now a registered charity and limited company.

What We Do

iScoil is a non-profit online learning service that offers young people an alternative path to learning, accreditation and progression.  We provide a safe learning environment where young people can re-engage with education, achieve recognised QQI certification and access further education, training and employment opportunities.

iScoil aims to:
  • Engage young people in learning
  • Build confidence, self-esteem and social development
  • Offer accreditation opportunities
  • Support progression to further education and employment.


How We Work

We provide a personalised learning programme based on a student’s unique needs, interests and abilities.

Our approach combines instructional content with individual mentoring and tutoring support to guide each student along their journey, building up an assessable portfolio of work, leading to their QQI accreditation.

iScoil is flexible and adaptable, allowing students to work at their own pace, from home or from a local blended learning centre.

1. Referral

Our referrals are made by TUSLA Education Welfare Officers for early school leavers aged between 13-16 years. Each referral is reviewed carefully to ensure that iScoil is in the best interests of the young person referred.

2. Getting Started

When accepted, each student receives an iScoil pack that provides all information required to log in to our learning platform. Students start with some basic learning activities and exercises designed to allow us assess learning styles and interests. Students are assigned an individual online mentor and introduced to our online course tutors.

3. Personal Learning Plan

A mentor builds a personalised learning plan that is designed to bring out the best of the student’s abilities and is reflective of their interests. Each day the student completes work which online tutors and mentors review, provide feedback and adapt the next day’s learning plan as required.

4. Support

Mentors regularly host live video calls with learners and have years of experience guiding students through unique learning paths. Our online tutors provide help and daily feedback, while our central team are always available to contact online and by phone.

5. Achieving Certificates

As students work through the tasks in their learning plan, they complete various learning outcomes. These outcomes eventually build into a full portfolio of evidence. This forms the basis of their continuous assessment. Students can achieve certification for each course they complete.

6. Progression

When students are ready to move on from iScoil, we can provide help and advice on the next stage in their learning journey. Some of our students have chosen to return to school and others have progressed to further education, training courses or employment.



“The only limit to your achievements is the reach of your dreams and your willingness to work hard for them” these are the words of Michelle Obama, who also said that her educational journey went hand in hand with her development of self-confidence. This strikes at the heart of why iScoil is so impactful”. (Brian Fitzsimons, CEO iScoil—2019 Annual Report).

iScoil – an innovative online learning service for young people

Brian Fitzsimons (CEO iScoil) with Dr. Eemer Eivers (ctr) & Ms. Margaret O’Donoghue (iScoil Office Manager)

The story of the seeding and growing of the iScoil project that is realised and recognised today as providing an innovative response to the clearly identified needs of young people, is none other than a familiar echo of Nano Nagle’s legacy articulated for current times.

The iScoil service from its formal foundation in 2009 to the present time (after an initial two year pilot phase as NotSchool.NetIreland) continues to provide inclusive and practical interventions in response to educational disadvantage experienced by young people today.

Brian Fitzsimons heads up the current iScoil team as CEO. He describes iScoil today in one word – as ‘thriving’!

From vision to reality 

The non-profit online learning service that is iScoil, has been the recipient of two very significant funding awards in recent months. In the first instance they teamed up with senior management from Tusla’s School Completion Programmes (SCP), and submitted a successful funding   application to the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.  The funding they received is allowing them to scale their blended learning model with nine new School Completion Programmes (SCPs) in communities around Ireland.

Independent researcher, Dr Eemer Eivers, has been charged with researching the impact of this partnership. As Brian says:

“We’re hopeful the findings will support our plans to grow our service. A number of Youth Services are now paying for iScoil places, and this strategy is allowing us to grow our service and work with more young people, who, without iScoil, would have no access to education”.

iScoil has also secured funding from Social Innovation Fund (now Rethink Ireland), which enables them to top up all philanthropic donations with an additional fifty percent of funding. This includes donations from the Presentation Sisters.

Alongside this, iScoil has nurtured a very positive collaboration with the Department of Education and Skills (DES). During the Covid-19 lockdown the iScoil team delivered a training to Home Tuition teachers to support them move their teaching online. Since then iScoil has secured additional DES funding to deliver double the number of @home student places in 2020/21.

How does iScoil work?

The iScoil model is student-centred and is underpinned by technology-enabled learning. Each student has an individual education plan which is designed based on their interests, needs, and abilities. Our teaching teams work together to set individual goals which are aimed at challenging each student on a daily basis. Students log on every day and complete work on their learning plans. Mentors are on-hand to support students, families and centre-based Support Workers, while tutors work directly with students, to guide them through their courses.

Partnership is a key element to success and iScoil works closely with individual families, blended centre partners, Tusla Educational Welfare Offices, and local services and agencies to put in place the best possible education provision for young people.

Brian is very clear.  “Leading iScoil is a privilege”.  He shares that every few days they hear stories and receive feedback from students, families or centre partners about iScoil’s   positive impact.  This, he says is invigorating for everyone involved.

“At the heart of our success is our talented and committed team, who go far beyond the normal course of duty to deliver the best possible service to our students”.

The founding message of iScoil is one of respect, innovation, and inclusivity, and the Board of Directors and team is proud to carry on the vision of Nano Nagle in providing much needed support for society’s most vulnerable and at-risk young people.

“We see so many students join us with low confidence and little or no self-belief. When students engage and learn about things they’re interested in, and when they see positive feedback and receive meaningful accreditation and certificates of achievement, the results are amazing. Our students are proof that all young people want to learn. Each year we see so many students with a renewed mind set; a belief that they can learn and a desire to further themselves and progress in education. They are the real heroes in the face of adversity”. ~ Brian Fitzsimons

What does it mean for the students?

Before students start on iScoil, they have been out of mainstream education for at least six months, and in some cases, it’s been years.    Students are aged between 13 and 16 years old, and many have had a negative experience in education. Getting a place on iScoil is often transformational for these young people. When students are given the time and space to learn in a supportive environment, the results are astounding.

Challenges today

Brian Fitzsimons (CEO) iScoil with Sr. Anne Codd (North East Province Leadership Team) at the Social Innovation Fund (Ireland) (SIFI) Award Ceremony in Feb 2020.

Brian shares that iScoil’s greatest challenge in current times is sustainability and securing the resources they need to respond to the demand for the service. During 2019/20, despite working with more young people than ever before, iScoil turned down more Tusla referrals than ever before.

Many of these young people have no access to education and this can have a detrimental impact, during their formative years and beyond. iScoil will be launching an ambitious strategic plan this year and the goal is to significantly increase the number of young people we work with.

Educational policy in Ireland is very clear; stating that vulnerable young people should be taken care of.  The challenge for the system is to follow through on commitments to promote equity of educational opportunity for all young people. This requires the allocation and appropriate investment of sufficient resources, especially for those whose participation in mainstream education is not viable.

PRESENTATION SISTERS: Without the Presentation Sisters, iScoil would never have happened. They continue to provide generous financial support to the programme. The contribution of the Sisters however goes well beyond finance and can be seen in the work of the Board and ongoing advice and individual support.

Note:  This article first appeared in the Summer 2020 issue of Bachloga – the seasonal magazine of the Presentation Sisters – North East Province (Ireland).

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