The History of the Presentation Convent
by Catherine Beary
Have you ever wondered how our school originated? How old it is? How long are the Presentation Nuns in Listowel? The Presentation Convent is an important part of the history of Listowel and indeed, at the present, an important part of our life. Hopefully, the following information will make the people of Listowel more aware of the Presentation Convent, as an important part of both the past and future.
It all began in 1842 when Fr. Darby Mahony, the then Parish Priest of Listowel, decided to build Presentation Convent in Listowel. In May 1844, four nuns came to Listowel from Milltown, to run the convent. Their main objective was to open a National School in Listowel.
ON the day of the opening 300 pupils attended but this number soon rose to 500. Pupils were not only from Listowel but many attended from the surrounding areas. Amongst the attendance were some adults who were preparing for Confirmation. The nuns had just begun to raise funds for the building of an adequate school and Chapel, when disaster struck. The famine of 1845.
With money of their own and with the help of donations, the nuns sought to make the pupils as comfortable as possible. They served the pupils a breakfast of bread, a mug of boiled rice and a little milk almost every day throughout the famine. Money subscribed in England for famine relief was distributed by the authorities and some was raised by the nuns to purchase rye bread. This, again, they gave to their pupils. Because of their dedication to their pupils and community, many of the nuns died due to overwork and under-nourishment. The graves were for years behind the convent chapel, before being moved recently to the local cemetery.
After 1848 the situation improved. Due to hard work, perseverance and a little help from God, the nuns raised enough money to go ahead with the previously planned construction. In 1849 the Convent Chapel was built in 1852 an infant school with a number of classrooms was also built.
Mainly due to the fact that the Presentation Sisters are dedicated to the Holy Cross, a large cross was erected in 1853 on the Infant School. Because of the rules of the National School board, the Commissioners of National Education ordered it to be taken down. The order was ignored. A series of letters from the Commissioners ordering the nuns to obey were all rejected. In 8156, Fr. J. McDonnell the Parish Priest of Listowel at that time, refused to become Manager until the cross was removed. This didnít bother the nuns and to this day the e cross is there to be seen by everyone.
The reputation of the nuns as teachers was so good that parents from outside areas, ambitious for their children, found them board in town so that they could attend the convent school. An average of 80 girls were boarding in Listowel at this time. The nuns, as charitable as ever, distributed clothes and goods to the needy pupils. The clothes were distributed on given days of the year. 100 of the 500 pupils received a meal of bread and milk or bread and coffee (when the milk was scarce) or bread and soup (in the winter).
The Convent developed through the year. In 1883, the main building of the primary school was erected. In 1942, the secondary school was built. Both building s were, again, paid for out of the nuns own funds. In 1967 , due to the free secondary education scheme, the science laboratory and gymnasium were built. Three further classrooms were added to the school in 1969.
In 1971-72 the Chapel which is dedicated to Mary Immaculate underwent major restoration. In the school year 1972-73 the Primary School had 384 pupils and ten teachers, nine or those being nuns, while the Secondary School had 400 pupil and 20 teachers again nine were nuns.