Catholic Free Press

Catholic Free Press Digital Edition

  • Nov
  • 4

Local Sisters joyful at news of founder

Posted By November 4, 2013 | 3:11 pm | Local
11-8 Nano Nagle 157WEB

By Patricia O’Connell
CFP Correspondent

LEOMINSTER – The Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a teaching order that originated in Ireland, were expecting to hear good news by Christmas.
But it came a bit earlier, when they learned Oct. 31  their founder, Sister Honora “Nano” Nagle, was declared venerable by Pope Francis.
This is the first step on the road to canonization, when the Catholic Church formally declares someone to be a saint. A miracle attributed to her intercession still is needed before she can be beatified.
Sister Julie Ciccolini, PBVM, administrator of Presentation Convent, a healthcare facility for retired sisters on Church Street, said the women who live there were thrilled to hear the foundress of their order is on the track for sainthood.
“They were so excited, they were clapping,” she said.
Sister Nano lived in Ireland, but some of the sisters who joined the order she founded in 1775 came to Fitchburg, Leominster and Clinton to teach the children of Irish immigrants. They staffed St. Bernard and St. Leo elementary schools, as well as Saint Bernard Central Catholic High School.
Many of the sisters living at Presentation Convent once taught in these schools. Several Religious Venerini Sisters also live at the Church Street facility. Sister Julie said they shared in the joy, of hearing Nano Nagle had been declared venerable.
Their own founder, Saint Rosa Venerini, was canonized in 2006. “They’ve been on that journey,” she said of the Venerini sisters. “It was a good thing for us to be able to share that with them.”
Nano Nagle was born in Ballygriffin in 1718, into a wealthy family which lived in Cork County. However, her heart belonged to the poor. At the age of 36, she opened a school in order to teach reading, writing and the Catholic faith. She died in 1784.
Her mission to educate the poor caught on and Presentation Sisters would eventually teach children in hundreds of schools around the world.
The local Presentation Sisters maintained a Motherhouse on South Street in Fitchburg until 1997, when their order merged with a community of sisters in New York State, and the combined congregation is based in New Windsor, N.Y. There are 118 sisters in this new province.
Sister Patricia Anastasio, PBVM, is president of the New York Congregation, which covers the New England, New York and New Jersey regions.
“By proclaiming Nano Nagle venerable the Catholic Church has recognized her as a woman of faith, hope and heroic virtue, whose vision and work transformed the lives of very many,” she said. “She continues to be a source of inspiration and challenge for Presentation Sisters and associates around the world.”
Sister Brian Barnicle, PBVM, who lives at Presentation Convent on Church Street, said everyone had been waiting a long time for Nano’s cause to advance.
She said Nano’s example has inspired her throughout the years she’s been a Presentation sister, as she was very much aware of her founder’s work to educate the poor of Ireland.
Sister Julie, who was president of the local community before it merged, said she greatly admired Nano’s determination and willingness to step outside the conventional boundaries.
“You need to take the risk of moving that one step beyond,” she said. “If it’s God’s will, it will happen.”