Awakened to the mystery of God’s compassionate Love, living the Eucharist by her life, Nano radically immersed herself in the lives of the poor and marginalised. Like all true prophets, called, and sent on mission, she dared to take unthinkable risks unafraid of the consequences her radical actions could occasion. Nano Nagle was a prophetic woman. She was the voice of the voiceless oppressed and poverty-stricken people or her day.

Prophets receive from God the ability to scrutinise the times in which they live and to interpret events: they are like sentinels who keep watch in the night and sense the coming of the dawn (Isaiah 21). Prophets know God and they know the men and women who are their brothers and sisters.

Prophets are able to discern and denounce the evil of sin and injustice. Because they are free, they are beholden to no one but God, and they have no interest other than God. Prophets tend to be on the side of the poor and the powerless, for they know that God himself is on their side. (Pope Francis’ Apostolic Letter for the Year of Consecrated Life 2015 and Keep Watch CTS Pamphlet)

Nano certainly fulfils these criteria. She was the sentinel who kept watch by day and night. She recognises that the poor are Christ. She discerns and denounces the injustices of her day that left people paralysed, over-burdened, devoid of any sense of their own worth and dignity. She set her face, as prophets do, to challenging and redressing the grave injustices they endured. She empowered people, who until her time were voiceless, hopeless, apathetic and powerless.

With “indomitable courage, radical creativity, native shrewdness and an indefatigable zeal of her faith,” Nano Nagle pioneered a socio-religious movement. Passionate for God’s justice she championed the cause of Catholic education during the Penal Times. Through her prophetic and zealous stance, the yoke of tyranny was finally lifted. An oppressed people began again to raise their bowed heads and with dignity and hope, dared to ‘walk with head, held, high’ (Leviticus 26): “Challenging the brutal power of her peoples’ oppressors she spent her life on the ‘razor’s edge of danger’.”Both Extracts from reflection on Nano Nagle by Salvador Fink OFM

Nano’s lantern work, exercised with boldness and courage, was seen in her ministry of befriending and comforting orphans, widows, “reduced housekeepers and superannuated tradesmen” who came under Rev Dr Coppinger’s notice (See his Life of Nano Nagle). The issues that preoccupied the energies of heart, mind and body of Nano Nagle are not dissimilar to our time. The prophetic voice is vitally important in our world today. Who will speak if you don’t? Raphael Consedine, Presentation Sister, gathers the essence of this prophetic woman in her poem:

Profile: Nano Nagle

In the face of fear, she chose to be daring,

In the face of anxiety, she chose to trust,

In the face of impossibility, she chose to begin.

To universal misery she opposed ministry to persons,

To ignorance, knowledge,

To disillusionment, tenacity of purpose,

And to multiple vexations, singleness of heart.

Faced with failure, she held fast to hope,

Faced with death, she believed in a living future,

And a programme for that future she gave in one word,