Presentation Sisters

The Presentation Sisters, also known as the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVM for short) are an order of Roman Catholic women founded in Cork, Ireland by Nano (Honoria) Nagle in 1775.

The Presentation Sisters are located in 23 countries including Antigua, Australia, Bolivia, Canada, Chile, Commonwealth of Dominica, Ecuador, England, Guatemala, India, Ireland, Israel, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Philippines, Slovakia, Thailand, United States of America, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Presentation Sisters have helped people all over the world, mainly the poor and needy.

In the past, the Sisters dedicated their time to creating schools that would help to educate young people, especially young ladies. Most of these schools are still in operation and can be found all over the world.



Communities of Presentation Sisters exist throughout the world. However, historical and legal factors caused these communities to develop and operate as autonomous groups. A large proportion of these communities are today more closely united within the Union of the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, created by Papal decree on July 19, 1976.[1] Today, more than 1,600 sisters pursue work in education and relief of the poor on every continent.


In 1775, Nano Nagle entered with some companions on a novitiate for the religious life. With them, she received the habit on 29 June 1776, taking the name of Mother Mary of St. John of God. They made their first annual vows 24 June 1777. The foundress had begun the erection of a convent close to that which she had built for the Ursulines, and it was opened on Christmas Day, 1777. They adopted as their title "Sisters of the Sacred Heart", which was changed in 1791 to that of "Presentation Sisters". Their habit was similar to that of the Ursulines. As the schools of the Presentation Sisters developed, Nano Nagle is quoted as having said of them:

I can assure you my schools are beginning to be of service to a great many parts of the world... I often think they will not bring me to heaven as I only take delight and pleasure in them.

History to 1910

The second superioress was Mother Mary Angela Collins. Soon after her succession a set of rules, adapted from that of St. Augustine, was drawn up by Bishop Moylan, and approved by Pope Pius VI in September, 1791. This congregation of teaching sisters itself was given formal approval by Pope Pius VII in 1800.

Communities from Cork were founded at Killarney in 1793; Dublin in 1794; and at Waterford in 1798. A second convent at Cork was established in 1799, by Sister M. Patrick Fitzgerald; and a convent at Kilkenny in 1800, by Sister M. Joseph McLoughlan. At the present day, there are 62 convents, and about 1500 sisters. Each community is independent of the mother-house, and subject only to its own superioress and the bishop of its respective diocese. The schools, regulated at the time by a United Kingdom Government board, had for their first object the Catholic and moral training of the young, which was not interfered with by the government. The secular system followed was the "National", superseded, in many cases, by the "Intermediate", both of which ensured a sound education in English; to these were added domestic economy, Latin, Irish, French, and German. The average attendance of children in each of the city convents of Dublin, Cork, and Limerick was over 1200; that in the country convents between 300 and 400, making a total of 22,200 who received an excellent education without charge. For girls who needed to support themselves by earning a living, work-rooms were been established at Cork, Youghal, and other places, where Limerick lace, Irish points and crochet are taught. The first Presentation Convent established abroad was founded in Newfoundland in 1829, when Sisters Josephine French and M. de Sales Lovelock went from Galway. There are now fourteen houses of the congregation on the island and about twenty in the United States, where the first was founded at San Francisco by Mother Xavier Cronin from Kilkenny in 1854.

In 1833 a house was founded by Mother Josephine Sargeant from Clonmel at Manchester, England, from which sprang two more, one at Buxton and one at Glossop. The schools were well attended; the number of children, including those of an orphanage, being about 1400. India received its first foundation in 1841, when Mother Xavier Kearney and some sisters from Rahan and Mullingar established themselves at Madras. Soon four more convents in the Madras presidency were founded from this, and in 1891 one at Rawal Pindi. Theese schools comprised orphanages, and day and boarding-schools, both for Europeans and local children. In 1866 Mother Xavier Murphy and some sisters left Fermoy for a first foundation at Hobart Town, Tasmania, under the auspices of its first archbishop, Dr. Daniel Murphy. From there a further foundation was made at Launceston. St. Kilda, Melbourne, received sisters from Kildare in 1873, and Wagga Wagga a year later, with Mother M. John Byrne at their head. From these two houses numerous others branched forth to various parts of Australia; there were over twenty convents by 1910, about 500 sisters, and thousands of children attending their schools.

The Presentation Sisters in North America

In 1833, the congregation sent four sisters from the Galway convent to Newfoundland, at the request of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming, Vicar Apostolic of the island. The mother-house was established located at St. John's adjacent to the Basilica of St. John the Baptist; by 1911 there were thirteen convents, 120 sisters, and over 2000 pupils.

In November, 1854, five Presentation sisters arrived in San Francisco from Ireland at the invitation of Archbishop Sadoc Alemany. Mother M. Joseph Cronin was appointed as the community's first superior, but due to unforeseen circumstances, she returned to Ireland in 1855 with two other members of the small community, Sisters Clare Duggan and Augustine Keane. The remaining sisters were Mother Mary Teresa Comerford, who assumed the role as new superior and Mother Xavier Daly, and their first postulant, Mary Cassian. The sisters had great difficulties in their early founding years; but succeeded in interesting prominent Catholics of the city in their work. By 1900, the San Francisco Presentation foundation established two convents and schools within the city limits and one in Berkeley. They also staffed schools in Gilroy and Sonoma.

The Presentation Convent, St. Michael's, New York City, was founded on September 8, 1874, by Mother Joseph Hickey, of the Presentation Convent, Terenure, Co. Dublin, with two sisters from that convent, two from Clondalkin, and seven postulants. Rev. Arthur J. Donnelly, pastor of St. Michael's Church, on completing his school building, went to Ireland in 1873 to invite the Presentation sisters to take charge of the girls' department. Upon the sisters' agreeing, Cardinal Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin, applied to the Holy See for the necessary authorization for the sisters to leave Ireland and proceed to New York, which was accorded by Pope Pius IX. The work of the sisters at St. Michael's was successful, 16,781 names being entered on the school register there from 1874 to 1910. In 1884 the sisters took charge of St. Michael's Home, Green Ridge, Staten Island, where over two hundred destitute children were cared for.

In 1886 Mother Magdalen Keating, with a small group of sisters, left New York at the invitation of Rev. P.J. Garrigan, afterwards Bishop of Sioux City, to take charge of the schools of St. Bernard's Parish, Fitchburg, Massachusetts. The mission flourished and established other foundations in West Fitchburg and Clinton, Massachusetts; Central Falls, Rhode Island; and Berlin, New Hampshire. The congregation was introduced into the Diocese of Dubuque by Mother M. Vincent Hennessey in 1874. In 1911 there were branch-houses at Calmar, Elkader, Farley, Key West, Lawler, Waukon, Clare, Danbury, and Whittemore, Iowa, as well as Madison, Nebraska. The congregation established itself in Fargo, North Dakota in 1880 under Mother Mary John Hughes, and took charge of a free school, home, and academy. St. Colman's, Watervliet, New York, was opened in 1881, the sisters having charge of the flourishing orphanage. In 1886 some sisters from Fargo went to Aberdeen, South Dakota, and, under the guidance of Mother M. Joseph Butler, took charge of schools at Bridgewater, Bristol, Chamberlain, Elkton, Jefferson, Mitchell, Milbank, and Woonsocket, besides two hospitals. In 1950, what is now called Presentation College opened in Aberdeen. The college primarily educated nurses for the northern portion of South Dakota. By 1910 there were in the United States 438 sisters, conducting 32 parochial schools, attended by 6909 pupils; 5 academies, with 416 pupils; 3 orphanages with 519 children and 2 hospitals.[2]


The Presentation sisters first settled in Perth when moving to Australia. The first school they founded in Australia was in Melbourne, and the school's and colleges below are others that they have founded.


Presentation Convent established in St. John's, Newfoundland. The Presentation Sisters came in 1833 and established a school next to their convent, still in operation today. Later the Benevelent Irish Society opened up their doors to the Grades 7-9 because of overcrowding. A high school was established as well.


United States


  1. ^
  2. ^  "Order of the Presentation". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed (1913). Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

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