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Carlow – Bagenalstown

THE STORY OF OUR COMMUNITY

BAGENALSTOWN, CO. CARLOW

Presentation Convent, Bagenalstown, Carlow was founded on 4th August, 1838 from Carlow and Maryborough, at the request of Rev. Dr. Prendergast of Dunleckney. Its founding Sisters were Mother Magdalene Breen, Sr. John Harding and Sr. Austin Keogh. It was founded because of the need to educate the poor in religion and secular subjects while teaching all how to pray and to relate to people in a respectful way and to give a human and Christian education to young people.

Bagenalstown is best described as a small market town picturesquely situated on the River Barrow, where mills were established. The first Presentation Convent was beside the mills where most pupils worked; it was small and dark. It was on the River Barrow at the junction of Regent Street and Long Range.   Mass was said in the convent chapel for the first time on Christmas Day, 1846 by the first Chaplain, Rev. P. Higgins.

The initial benefactors were Mrs. Horan, Foundress and Sister, who donated £27 in 1845 and an annuity of £27.00. The first school dates back to 10th September, 1838. (Benefit school opened on 1st December, 1838) An annuity of £15.00 was paid for books. This was a new experience in education, coming only 10 years after Catholic Emancipation was achieved in 1829.

An Orange Lodge became the first convent on 4th August, 1838. A primary school opened on 10th September 1838 – benefit school girls paid £46.00. In the 1840s disease and death stalked the land as crops failed, so widespread poverty led to starvation and death. There were 11 burials of famine victims in one day in Bagenalstown. Two blood sisters died and were the first to be buried in the convent cemetery in 1847. As part of famine relief 1842, a small library was built and books were loaned out. Children were fed and clothed. In the school there were over-crowded classes in the yard.

In 1852 there was a new school and the convent was enlarged. This remained the primary school for the next 100 years until 1957 when a new primary school was built in Regent Street. In 2007, the new primary celebrated its Golden Jubilee. Bishop Moriarty said the open air Mass and pupils provided music. From 1967, free Education gave greater opportunities for poorer children. More children could avail of the Leaving Certificate examination which widened their choice of careers.

The Presentation Secondary school and De La Salle Boys school amalgamated in 1983. A new school, Presentation de la Salle College, was built on Royal Oak Road. The new school was a joint venture between three trustees (Parish, de la Salle Brothers and Presentation Sisters). There is a strong emphasis on a holistic approach to education, on the development of self esteem and conflict resolution skills. Fr. Damien, a de la Salle Brother, was appointed as Principal. Mr. Eddie O’Toole became the Vice Principal. In May 1986, the old Presentation Convent and primary school were demolished where B.E.A.M. now stands.

The development of other ministries include more Bible study, refresher courses, catechetical and Parish Ministry, visitation of nursing homes, prison marginalized, sick, elderly liturgy, ministry of the Word and Eucharist, Adult Education, helping immigrants, education in human development, enabling people to reach their full development and become confident, caring Christians. Retired sisters provide voluntary support to special needs children. Parenting programmes provide opportunities for acquiring literacy and numeracy. English as a second language and faith formation programmes allow Christ’s compassion to channel our energies in new directions which will lead all to Christ.

Currently (2008), four sisters help less able pupils, teach English to migrants and one does home school liaison. Other ministries include St. Joseph’s Y.P Society, Pioneers, Vincent de Paul, parish council, Eucharistic Ministers, Readers Elocution, Missionary Awareness project, Rainbows, musical appreciation and an adult group.

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