End of an era as Presentation Convent set to close next August in Killina

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ger.scully@tullamoretribune.ie

THE Presentation Convent in Killina is to close next August after over 200 years in Rahan.

Sister Laura Boyle says the closure has been on the cards for the last number of years and cited a decline in vocations as the reason.

“We haven’t got sisters to come to it. Most of the sisters here are elderly, two are in their 90s and the others are in their 70s and 80s. We have two sisters in their 70s working outside,” she said.

There are currently just seven nuns in the convent. Sister Oliver Wrafter is the longest living resident having spent her entire religious life in Killina after joining the convent in 1941.

Sister Aine was teaching Irish in the Killina Presentation Secondary School up to last Christmas. She was 95 when she retired.

Sister Laura says the women are upset at the impending closure. “They are lonely and they will miss the people and miss each other.”

She said the decision to close was made by the leadership team who discussed it with each of the sisters individually so it didn’t come as a surprise.

A book celebrating the bicentenary was published in 2017 by an organising committee and incorporated the edited book ‘1817-1992 A Celebration of 175 years of Service’ by Sr. Oliver Wrafter.

In the book Bishop Michael Smith, writes, “The real revolutionaries in Ireland were not those with the guns but the Presentation sisters and the other religious communities who from the middle of the 19th century, opened schools in primary and secondary level all over Ireland.”

The Presentation Sisters came to Killina in 1817 having been invited by a woman called Maria O’Brien, the daughter of a wealthy Dublin merchant. Moved by the terrible poverty of the local children she was determined to improve their life through education. She herself had established her own school in 1812. Maria O’Brien issued an invitation to the Presentation Sisters at George’s Hill in Dublin and she provided funds and land for a convent. The Bishop of Meath, Bishop Plunkett supported the project by granting permission.

The first sisters to arrive were siblings, Sister Mary Angela and Sister Mary Teresa Biggar who travelled along the Grand canal from Dublin to Killina. Maria O’Brien supplied the sisters with a school house which she extended to allow for living accommodation. The two sisters quickly got to work and by September 1, 1817 they had opened a school for 100 pupils. Second level tuition began in 1948 and in 1951 the first students sat the Intermediate certificate followed by the first Leaving certificate exam in 1953.

Maria O’Brien whose foresight made it all possible, died in 1827. She had entered the convent herself and spent the last 5 years of her life there. Over the years the Presentation Sisters have made an enormous contribution to the educational and spiritual life of the people of Rahan and they will be sadly missed in the area.

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