|June 8, 2015 • VOL. 53, NO. 11 • Oakland, CA|
Sisters of the Presentation first came to Berkeley in 1878
The Sisters of the Presentation — also called Presentation Sisters or PBVMs — can trace their beginnings to Cork, Ireland, in 1775 and a woman named Nano Nagle. Nagle, who was named Honora, was born to a wealthy family. During this period the Irish lived under strict English laws that greatly limited or denied access to economic, educational and political opportunities. It was forbidden to practice the Catholic faith and it was illegal for Irish children to receive an education. Honora and her sister were sent to schools in France.
Risking arrest, she opened schools secretly to teach youngsters to read and write. Under the cover of darkness, she visited the families of her students and others — bringing food and medicine — often carrying a small lamp. To this day the image of Nagle running the streets and back alleys with that lamp is a symbol of the Presentation Sisters.
As word of her good deeds spread, Nagle began to attract followers. With enough women on board Nagle and three companions opened the first Presentation convent in 1775. Originally called the "Order of the "Charitable Instruction of the Sacred Heart of Jesus," the community was later called "Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary."
Thanks to the generosity of a rich uncle, Nagle's convent thrived and convents appeared in nearby towns.
By the time Nagle died in 1784, her legacy of service continued as groups of Presentation Sisters left Ireland to establish convents worlds away.
The Presentation Sisters have called the East Bay home since 1878, starting with the opening of St. Joseph School. Presentation High School and which served the East Bay community for 110 years, before it closed in 1988. The Sisters would start and operate several schools in Oakland and in San Lorenzo and Castro Valley.
After a period of growth in schools, convents and novitiates across the diocese and nation, the ministry of the Presentation Sisters changed. Sisters left the cloister and began living in small communities and much of their focus moved from schools to parishes and other ministries. In the Diocese of Oakland those have included social justice, hospital ministry and case management.
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