Who Was Nano Nagle?
Nano (Honoria) Nagle was born in Ballygriffin, Country Cork, Ireland in 1718. She was the founder of the Presentation Sisters and pioneer of Catholic education in Ireland. Her family were devout Catholics who had managed to hold on to their land in penal times, when landownership and education were forbidden to Catholics.
Nano was educated in Paris and enjoyed an active social life. The family had relatives in Paris and Nano lived with them for some years to escape the persecution of Catholics in her homeland. While enjoying the social life and the freedom that living in Paris allowed, Nano maintained a strong faith and sense of social justice.
Between 1746 and 1748 Nano's life was marked by grief. Having returned to Ireland to be with her family,she now had to endure the death of both her parents and her sister Ann. Nano returned to Paris and entered a convent.
During her time in the convent Nano struggled with the problem of what to do about the poor in Ireland. Finally Nano decided that she could be of more use to the poor by actively helping them rather than by prayer alone.
She returned to Cork, Ireland in 1750 to set up the first of her schools. It was based in Cove Lane and although Catholic schools were illegal at that time it soon had several hundred pupils. Nano's first school was a mud cabin in a very poor part of town.
Nano Nagle spent all of her considerable fortune on establishing schools for the poor of Cork. In the school the children were taught to pray, work, read and write.
Lady with the Lantern
In the evenings after her schools were closed, Nano was a familiar sight in the city's dark and dangerous streets, seeking out the hungry, the homeless and the elderly. With her lantern in hand, she tended to anyone who was in need, but particularly to destitute women.
Nano set up her own sisterhood. It was the first female religious group in Ireland to combine religious life with systematic, charitable works. The religious group of women who has chosen to work with Nano eventually became the Presentation Sisters in 1805,
Nano died from tuberculosis on April 26th 1783 at the age of 65 Nano Nagle's grave may be visited in the Presentation Convent Cemetery in Douglas Street, Co Cork.