THE STORY OF OUR COMMUNITY
KILDARE (ST. BRIGID’S ) PRESENTATION CONVENT
Presentation Convent, Kildare town was founded on 4th April, 1830 from Carlow and Portlaoise, the year after Catholic Emancipation.. Its founding Sisters were Sr. Angela Mooney, Sr. Augustine Maher from Presentation Convent, Carlow and Sr. Clare Dillon from Portlaoise. Three brothers, Patrick, Thomas & William Maher of Kilrush, parish of Suncroft, had observed the wants and needs of poor children of Kildare town and its vicinities. After consulting with Rev. B. Brennan, P.P., they agreed to found a convent of Presentation Sisters for the gratuitous education of poor, female children. At this time, the site on which the Convent and parish church now stand was being sold and Fr. Brennan bought it for £100 – a house, a garden and later, a school were provided for the Sisters.
The Convent Annals give the following account of the foundation.
At this auspicious time, the site on which the convent and parish church stand was being disposed of. Fr. Brennan bought it for the princely sum of £100. House, garden and later school were provided for the religious who were to be assigned by the bishop, Dr. Doyle. Srs. Angela Mooney and Augustine Maher came from Presentation Convent, Carlow. Sr. Clare Dillon came from Maryboro (now Portlaoise). They were the chosen foundresses. The official date of this foundation is April 4th 1830. Sr. Angela Mooney was appointed Superioress by the bishop. The school was opened on April 22nd, 1830, being the Monday after Low Sunday. Such is the origin of one of the autonomous convents in the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin.
So the first school dates back to 1830. Over 100years later, in 1937, a new extension was built to the primary school. This was a very welcome addition as members were increasing. In 1970, a new primary school, on the Athy Road was built.
All of the Presentation Convents in the Kildare and Leighlin diocese were amalgamated in 1934. Bishop Mathew Cullen spearheaded this amalgamation. There were 10 autonomous houses in the diocese. Mount St. Anne’s was purchased to be the Motherhouse. Here the superior General, her Assistant, Secretary, Novice Mistress and General Bursar would reside.
In 1939 a Secondary Top was established and functioned up to 1969, when a full secondary school began. Sisters with Primary Training were eligible to teach in these schools. “Free Education” for secondary students was introduced in Ireland in 1967. Although it was still possible to accommodate both Primary and Secondary pupils in the school considerable difficulties were encountered during these years for staff and students. In spite of the hardships, the results were always very good at exam time. Perhaps the biggest impact of Free Education was that it signaled the end of the need for Boarding Schools. In 1970 there was great rejoicing when the new Primary school on the Athy Road was opened, thus leaving the entire original primary school for use as a Secondary school.
However, as numbers grew it was found that accommodation and facilities for Secondary pupils was inadequate. A major fund-raising campaign was undertaken in the 1980’s. This resulted in the building of a large extension in 1993, at a local cost of £300,000 plus grants from the Department of Education. The pre-fabs could be abandoned at last! In April 1993, Sr. Teresa McCormack, a past pupil of happy memory, was guest speaker at the opening of the longed awaited extension.
In 2000 and 2004 the tradition of sisters holding the office of Principal in both Primary and Secondary Schools was broken. Very fitting tributes were paid to the Sisters on the occasion of retirement from these posts. The seed has been sown. It is with confidence and trust we face a challenging future when our lay staffs continue our work of evangelisation and education.
The development of other ministries include K.C.E.P. (Kildare Community Education Partnership). This initiative was begun in 2003. Its aim is to focus on the needs of youth who found mainstream education to be a challenge. Just to cite one example – 1st Yr students in Presentation Secondary School, availed of the free service of a volunteer to help them with their homework, Monday – Thursday. This was extended to St. Joseph’s Academy (the de la Salle Brothers Boys Secondary school) in 2004. Other ministries include St. Vincent de Paul, K.A.R.E. (an organisation for handicapped in County Kildare), the Parish Choir, the Day Care Centre and Home School Liaison in the primary and secondary schools.
There were no foundations in Ireland from Kildare. However in 1874, four sisters volunteered for the new mission in WAGGA WAGGA, New South Wales, Australia at the request of the Bishop of Goulebourne. These Sisters were Sr. John Byrne, Sr. Paul Fay, Sr. Evangelist Kelly and Sr. Stanislaus Dunne. In 1973, Sr. Rita O’Doherty went to Zambia to teach with Holy Rosary Sisters in Kasiyia.
Wagga Wagga 1874
With ever increasing numbers of pupils, happily vocations too increased. So it was, in response to a request for sisters by the bishop in the diocese of Goulebourne, New South Wales, Australia four sisters from this community volunteered for that mission. They were Srs John Byrne, Paul Fay, Evangelist Kelly and Stanislaus Dunne. They were joined by Sr Xavier Byrne, a sister of Sr. John, from Presentation Convent, Mountmellick. Wagga Wagga N.S.W. was their destination. Wagga means crow. And Wagga Wagga means plenty of crows!
The journey was long and hazardous. They sailed in a steamship called The Northumberland. Five beech trees were planted to their memory in the grounds of the Convent, Kildare. Two of these still stand.
Sr. Rita O’ Doherty from Kildare volunteered to teach in the Secretarial College, Kasiya, Zambia. She was joined by Sr. Catherine Campion, Presentation Convent, Carlow, who still works there. Initially both sisters worked with the Holy Rosary Sisters who later withdrew from that mission. Sr. Rita went to her eternal reward in 1989, having spent her final years in George’s Hill community.