Nano Nagle was born in Ballygriffin on the banks of the Blackwater in Co Cork and, with the exception of her education in Ypres, Belgium and Paris, France, the majority of her adult life was spent educating children and ministering to the poor in Cork city.
Nano is buried at South Presentation in her beloved Cork City and today areas of the city still echo with the sounds, spirit and impact of Nano and her companions. Nano’s childhood was a carefree one in the beautiful location of rural Co Cork. Her family was fortunate enough to be financially wealthy at a time when Penal Laws were harsh on Catholics, but those same laws meant that peace of mind was in short supply for them. Nano’s parents, Garret and Ann Nagle, had to resort to furtive methods to educate their children and they risked losing everything they had by practicing their religious beliefs.
Today the Presentation Sisters are fortunate to be in ownership of part of the location of the home where Nano was born in Ballygriffin and the site of her first school and convent in Cork City, now known as South Presentation.
The site at Ballygriffin is now a Retreat Centre and Organic Farm and the convent location at South Presentation is currently being developed into a ministry and heritage centre as part of the mission of the Congregation to serve the needs of the local community and all who visit from the many parts of the world where Nano is known and loved. This location will be known as Nano Nagle Place.
The Society of Presentation Sisters Congregations in Australia have produced some amazing resources on the Irish locations of note relating to Nano Nagle and some of the history around them. They have kindly given us permission to reproduce excerpts of those resources here:
The Cork of Nano’s day was a busy port with trading vessels leaving for England, India and the West Indies but side by side with the affluence of the traders was the destitution of the general populace.
The image of Nano as a woman of the Lantern comes from the description in ‘A Panageric on the Life of Nano Nagle’ by Dr Coppinger, given in 1774. He wrote:
‘How often have we seen her, after a well spent day, returning through the darkness of the night, dripping with rain, mingled in the bustling crowd, moving thoughtfully along by the faint glimmering of a wretched lantern, withholding from herself in this manner the necessities of life at administer the comforts of it to others.’
Nano Nagle cared deeply for the dignity of all people. In a world where the sense of belonging is fragile and fragmented, where affluence and poverty contribute to the erosion of human values, global division and the depletion of earth’s resources, the centre offers an opportunity to young and old to experience the wholeness and interconnectedness of life.