|Where We Live & Work|
|Baileborough - The Story of Our Community|
The convent was founded on the feast of St. Joseph the Worker in 1932 by Mother Josephine O’ Shear and Sr. Joseph Kilcoyne. The purpose of this foundation was to establish a Novitiate to serve the needs of the Presentation Mission in India and Pakistan.
Background: Mother Frances Xavier Curran, Superioress of Presentation Convent Rahan led the first group of Presentation Sisters to arrive in Madras, India in January 1842. Mother Xavier was accompanied by three professed Sisters from Presentation Convent, Maynooth and a Postulant for Kilkenny. Their journey by sea lasted five months. The boat on which they travelled dropped anchor well out to sea in the Bay of Bengal. From there, passengers and cargo were transferred to small boats and rowed ashore. Madras had as yet no harbour so crowds of coolies waded into the water and lifted the passengers on their shoulders to dry land.
In 1895 Mother Ignatius, Sister Stanislaus and Evangelist went to Rawalpindi in Northern India on the invitation of the Mill Hill Fathers. Their mission was to open a school for the children of army personnel, British and Irish. Mother Ignatius had been given Nano Nagle’s bible by Mother De Sales White, Presentation Convent, Cork in 1890 when she was going to Madras. She held on to this treasure in all her journeys. The Bible is now in South Presentation Cork. Mother Ignatius died on 13 June 1899 at the age of 43, after eleven days’ illness. Mary Maher from Kilkenny and Mother Josephine both died from cholera in 1944, Mother Evangelist died from small pox.
In 1908 Mother Columba left for Ireland to find postulants, leaving only 2 Sisters in Rawalpindi, Northern India. She returned with 7 girls, four of whom persevered and lived and worked as Presentation Sisters well into their eighties: Three of these were Sr. Margaret Mary Kiernan, Sr. Anthony O’ Reilly, and Sr. Lawrence O’ Reilly. Later they were joined by Sr. Gertrude Bell from Crosshaven and two postulants from Ireland, Sr. Peter Conway and Sr. Constance Collins. By now the Sisters in Rawalpindi decided it was time to establish a novitiate in Ireland.
It is interesting to note that the only Bishop in Ireland willing to allow a Missionary Novitiate in his diocese was Bishop Finnegan, Bishop of Kilmore. A small house was purchased on the Main Street in Virginia, Co. Cavan as the first Rawalpindi Novitiate. The founding Sisters were Mother Josephine O’ Shea and Sr. Joseph Kilcoyne. It was found that this house was too small and too publicly situated.
At the request of the Bishop, the Superior in Rawalpindi was asked to purchase a more suitable accommodation. In 1945, at the end of World War 2, a larger house was purchased in Bailieborough through the agency of the local solicitor, Mr. English. Bailieborough was a Plantation Market Town. It got its name from William Bailie. Like its neighbouring town, Virginia, it had its origins in the Plantation of Ulster. The first village grew around the gates of the Castle. Later a new village was laid out overlooking the town lake. A Charter to hold a Fair was granted in 1702. The only remaining building remaining from that era is a ruined church with ivy-covered walls. Plans for a new town were drawn up in 1817 with the building of the Courthouse. This town expanded and by 1900 the Bailieborough we know to day was complete.
The new convent was large, situated in fine grounds on the edge of the town of Bailieborough. This new home had been built in 1840 by Sir John Young, for his agent Thomas Chambers, who administered his estate and collected his rents. It was known as Tandragee House. Private families who lived there included Isaac Broom, Justice of the Peace and later Charles Hourican. The house was purchased by the Presentation Sisters with 9 acres of land for the sum of £1,750.
Sr. Gabriel Monks returned from Rawalpindi to take over possession of the property in the name of the then Mother General, Mother Peter Conway. On 12th August 1945, Dr. Lyons blessed the convent and consecrated it by saying Mass in the little Chapel. There were 20 young Sisters present as they were detained during the war and unable to obtain passages to India.
During 1945 and 1946 fifteen Sisters succeeded in reaching the Mother House. It was decided to establish a Juniorate in Bailieborough and a house close by was purchased and named Lourdesville. The Juniorate began there on 11th February 1958 and admitted a steady number of girls who were educated to Leaving Cert level and afterwards admitted to the Novitiate in the Convent Building. After two years in the novitiate they went on to Rawalpindi. This was later changed so that young Sisters remained in Bailieborough Novitiate to complete three years after first vows before going on to Rawalpindi for the remainder of their missionary life.
The new Juniorate known as Lourdesville adjoined the Convent. Its last owners had been Mr. and Mrs. Phillip McIntyre, the Principal of the Bailieborough Primary School, and his wife, who was a sister of Mother Lourdes Gillick. Prior to that it was the property of Dr. Ryan, who was the first Catholic doctor in Bailieborough after Catholic Emancipation. He was very good to the poor and the only lay person to be buried in the local Church Grounds in Bailieborough.
In all 76 young women entered the Presentation Congregation in Bailieborough and Virginia between 1933 and 1965; 40 before 1945, 7 between 1946 and 1948 and 29 between 1949 and 1965 when the Novitiate was no longer needed.
When the Convent which had been founded in 1932 became too big for the number of Sisters living there, it was sold and a smaller house on the opposite side of the road was purchased in the mid eighties. This house continues to be the Community House for the two Sisters who now live in Bailieborough. It is a welcoming community for local people, situated beautifully on a hill and while being on the edge of the town it has a rural setting. The Parish Church is close by. The Sisters have always had an impact on the life of the Parish, supporting parish programmes and the liturgical life of the people.
In the 1960s, Bishop Quinn, who succeeded Bishop Finnegan as Bishop of Kilmore requested the Presentation Sisters to open a co-educational Secondary School. The School ‘Lourdesville’ was opened on 6th September 1965 with just one class of first year students. A single prefabricated classroom, in conjunction with the Villa, was to form the nucleus of Lourdesville Secondary School, offering a wide prospectus to Leaving Certificate level. The first class consisted of 35 pupils at a cost of £15 per pupil. The corresponding boarding school fees at the time were approx £90. The first pupils were all girls. Co-education was not approved by the Bishop of the time. However this situation did not satisfy the Sisters who saw the need to educate boys as well. Consequently in 1966 two more classrooms were added to admit the first batch of boys and girls, 43 in all.
The early staff consisted of Sr. Josephine O’ Brien and Sr. Gabriel Monks and Mr. Kieran Murphy, an Irish teacher. Sr. Christine O’ Reilly and Sr. Ciaran McGlynn were called back from India (Goa) to Ireland and after doing their H.Dip were appointed to the staff. Sr. Christine was principal from 1966 to 1978.
“No matter what facet of education one cares to mention, be it academic, mechanical, sport or pastoral care, Lourdesville Secondary School has succeeded admirably. It opened in an area where education was a luxury and has been successful in developing the Bailieborough area. Its contribution cannot be too highly applauded, because there are many people who benefited from its presence who would otherwise have been deprived. Its growth from 35 pupils in 1965 to 320 pupils and 21 teachers in 1979 is, in itself, sufficient proof of its achievements”. (Martin Smyth, Staff member)
On the 8th November 1981 the School became the property of the Department of Education and became the first Community School in Cavan. Mr. John Wilson, Minister for Transport and Telegraphs performed the Official Ceremony. Dr. McKiernan blessed the new building and so ended Presentation Sisters ownership and care of Lourdesville Presentation School. Sisters continued to teach on the staff of the Community School until the mid 1980’s.
School ministry continued to be the main ministry after the need for a novitiate ceased. Sisters also worked in the Parish and were involved in Liturgy, and pre-Sacramental programmes. Youth Ministry and parish visitation were a priority. Community hospitality was very important. The community house continues to have an open door for all.
Bailieborough was a welcoming community for returned missionaries. Many of the Sisters from Pakistan and India who had their roots there return frequently.
There are now (in 2008) two Sisters in Bailieborough. One Sister continues to work voluntarily in the school. Her ministry to the students and staff is much appreciated. She is also involved in spiritual accompaniment and prayer ministry. Another Sister works in a drugs-awareness programme in Cavan. The ministries to youth initiated by Sisters in the town continue to be vibrant even after the Sister concerned has moved on to another place.
Between 1933 and 1965 the main focus of the Bailieborough Community was to train missionaries for India and Pakistan. Between 1965 and 1985 the Sisters were mainly involved in School Ministry.