Charism and Spirituality


30 June 2016: Reclaiming our founding spirit

Anne Henson of the Presentation Congregation Lismore writes on the currency of the charism and spirituality of the Presentation founder, Nano Nagle, for the changed conditions of our time. Download Anne’s article



Like all charisms, the Presentation charism is a gift spread through the Holy Spirit in the Church and in the world. Joan Chittister describes charism as

a living passion for whatever dimension of the life of Christ …
peace, truth, healing, mercy … is missing now.
Here, in our time.
Where we are.

A charism is a deep awareness of a Gospel value or values linked to a special need in the world. The Gospel value or emphasis remains constant over the history of the group throughout history. The area of need also remains constant but the specific expressions of the need may change over time, place and culture.

Charism is always at the service of mission.

Father Anthony Gittens says that mission is a job description of God. Mission is God’s action. The Church doesn’t have a mission; God’s mission has a Church. The Presentation Sisters don’t have a mission; we are the Presentation face of God’s mission. Proclamation is about the mission of God, not about our mission.

As the Presentation face of God’s mission our mission is about

seeking out
building on
and celebrating
God’s presence.

Engagement in God’s mission calls us to conversion. The goal of mission is to bear witness to and to proclaim God’s Kin-dom within us, among us and in the whole community of life.

The Kin-dom of God is the context for relating to each person and to every living thing as kin or family. God’s Kin-dom will only be realised through a process of radical social change which enables all to be kin, all to share equally at life’s banquet.

Nano Nagle’s dream, like that of Jesus, was that all would be able to participate fully in the banquet of life and she engaged in a process of radical social change so that this could happen.

Nano Nagle was the face of God’s mission to those made poor and kept poor by the unjust social and political structures of her time.

Nano Nagle teaching poor childrenThe South Presentation Annalist tells us “thus did she devote her person and her wealth to the gratuitous instruction of the poor and destitute little ones of the Lord.” As well as her work in the schools, Nano visited homeless and sick women in their homes, their garrets, their mud cabins bringing them her compassionate presence and whatever help she could and putting her life at risk as she trod the unlit alleyways of Cork at night by the light of a dim lantern. We cannot help but be reminded of Jesus’ story of the banquet to which all are invited as we read in the Annals of the first Christmas for Nano’s newly formed religious congregation. They invited 50 beggars – the poorest of the poor from Cork’s alleyways – to Christmas dinner and Nano herself waited on them and stood behind their chairs as they ate their Christmas meal. Nano, following in the footsteps of Jesus, engaged in the process of social reversal, bestowed favour upon those made poor and powerless and was a sign of hope that it was possible for all to be included as family in the Kin-dom of God. Not only did Nano, her first companions and our early Presentation foremothers preach the Kin-dom of God; they also embodied it in their own lives.

The way Nano Nagle engaged in God’s mission (her charism) was characterized by:

  • Passion for those made poor and for changing the structures of society that made and kept people poor
  • Zeal – doing “all in her power” to change the way things were for those made poor
  • Courage
  • Trust in Divine Providence.

Celtic HeartThe early Presentation Sisters and all the Presentation Sisters, Associates and Friends of Nano over the years have been the guardians of Nano’s dream to engage in the Mission of God in this distinctive way. Their hopes, their dreams, their passion, their stories live on in us and in all the people around the world who have been inspired by or touched by the Presentation charism. These women and men have left us a spiritual legacy to fuel our vision and shape the strategies to achieve it. We can access this spiritual legacy through two major Presentation images – heart and temple. These two images are central to Nano’s spiritual vision and to the two names given to her religious congregation – Sisters of Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

For more resources on ‘Being Presentation’ go to



Sr Raphael Consedine pbvm wrote this in the Foreword of Sacred Space, a collection of her beautiful poetry:

Faced with the human task of living with the simplicities, the complexities and ambiguities of our world, people of all faiths, and of no particular faith, know the need to withdraw momentarily and sometimes for extended periods into their ‘sacred place’ – that deep reflective centre from which they live, and which grounds them strongly within their daily reality.

In ancient times, seers measured out a temple – the words denoted ‘sacred space’ – on the ground and in the heavens. Standing there, they read the signs which directed their actions.

Our own life-experience is continually heightened, deepened, extended by our contact with others in our evolving world. Our sacred space is uniquely ours yet living from it makes us acutely aware of what we hold in common. Sharing the perceptions of the heart creates possibility, energises us to reach beyond.


Woman of Welcoming Heart

They know her in the crowded lonely ways
woman of welcoming heart, whose lantern sheds
kind beams for eyes waste-minded by the weary miles,
for them her hands are open, for her their doors.
Room is made by dim and smoking fire, some small
and she, receiving, knows still more to give,
and, welcomed, grows in art of welcoming.

Apart, in shadowed hours of night and dawn,
leaning heart to heart on the One who pulses life
into the lowliest and least of all that lives,
she learns to unclasp the last-kept store
and lay it down in welcome: ‘Take and share.’

Until, the last loaf broken, the last wine poured,
she can dare the outer darkness, the fine-piercing sword,
and bear to be bereft…
heart-certain that beyond this last black mile
light streams from beckoning windows and from
wide-flung door,
where she will hear the voice grown dear in silent
listening years:
‘Woman of welcoming heart, here is your home.’

Raphael Consedine pbvm


The words and poem above, Woman of Welcoming Heart, are from Sacred Space by Raphael Consedine pbvm, published by Presentation Sisters Victoria, 73 Grey Street, West St Kilda Vic 3182.