History – Qld Presentation Sisters
Nano Nagle, the foundress of the Presentation Sisters, gathered her first small community in Cork, Ireland, in 1775. The Sisters devoted themselves to the education of the poor children of the Ireland of that time and to visiting those who were poor and sick in their garrets. Communities of the Sisters spread in time with the movement of Irish migration around the world – a migration undertaken by so many who experienced poverty and desperation.
In 1874 a community of Sisters came from Kildare in Ireland to the inland town of Wagga Wagga in New South Wales. They were soon known as excellent educators, not only in primary schools as in Ireland but in the convent high schools they were asked to establish. In 1899 Bishop Higgins, newly appointed to the Rockhampton diocese in Central Queensland, asked the Wagga Sisters to staff a parish school and open a high school, as well as a boarding school in Longreach. This small town, as it then was, situated 700 kms inland, was not marked on any map available to the Wagga community. It was, however, the centre of a very large grazing district at a time when wool was Australia’s chief export.
Early progress was slow and there were daunting hardships for the five Sisters who volunteered to come. Three were Irish women and two were Australians, including Sr M Ursula Kennedy who before many years had passed became the loved leader of the community until her death in 1960. She was supported by many generous and gifted women as these made the journey to Longreach over the years to enter the Presentation novitiate there. These entrants, joined from the early 1920s by a succession of young women from Ireland, enabled the spread of the Congregation throughout Queensland.
The Sisters were ready to adapt to the changing conditions in Queensland and the Church. In 1953 their novitiate was transferred to Manly in Brisbane and, in 1960, the centre of administration was also transferred from Longreach to Brisbane. From the 1960s on, as new schools were opened, some older ones began to be closed because of population changes. The 1960s also brought the Second Vatican Council (1962-5) which challenged all Religious Institutes to renew and adapt in response to new needs of a rapidly changing world.
The Queensland Presentation Sisters responded wholeheartedly to this challenge. With the Second Vatican Council urging that all people live out the call of their baptism, some long-standing practices were reviewed. There were changes in dress, a return to baptismal names instead of religious names, and changes in practical areas of service. From being teachers, many of the Sisters undertook new ministries in new areas of need. Despite the rapidity of change, however, the spirit and the ideals of Nano Nagle, devoted to responding to the urgent needs of her day, continued to inspire her Sisters in Queensland and to pervade the schools where the Sisters taught. A number of Queensland Sisters over the years have volunteered for the Presentation Papua New Guinea mission, begun in 1966 as a combined commitment of the various independent Presentation congregations in Australia.
The Queensland Presentation Sisters, as members of the International Presentation Association, have actively adopted the motto to “think globally, act locally”. In this, they echo telling words of Nano Nagle herself: “If I could be of service … in any part of the globe, I would willingly do all in my power.”
Foundations in Brisbane:
- Herston 1924
- Clayfield 1925
- Graceville 1937
- Manly 1941
- Cannon Hill 1947
- Norman Park 1948
- Wavell Heights 1950
- Northgate 1952
- Ekibin 1958
- Wishart 1973
- Rochedale 1975