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Nagle, Nano Honoria


Educator, foundress of the Presentation Sisters; b. Ballygriffin, near Mallow, County Cork, Ireland, c. 1718; d. Cork, April 26, 1784. She was the eldest of seven children of Garret Nagle and Ann Mathew, members of the remnant of the dispossessed Catholic landowners and jacobites in politics. During an unexplained change in family fortunes (c. 1728), she was sent to France. On her father's death (c. 1746), she returned to Dublin with her mother and sister, Ann. Since 1733, Dublin Catholics in addition to struggling against the disabling penal laws had had to contend against a new threat to the faith, the heavily endowed government-supported exploitation of poverty, contrived through the Charter Schools and their proselytizing institutions. The discovery that her sister, Ann, had disposed of a dress-length of silkNano liked to be fashionableto help the poor, followed shortly afterward by Ann's death, fired her determination to devote the remainder of her life to God in the service of the poor. The first step was a return to the family home to begin her apostolate in the immediate district. However, overwhelmed by the immensity of the problem compounded of poverty and ignorance, she entered a convent in France, but not for long. Solemnly advised by her Jesuit director, she returned to begin a school in a mud cabin in Cove Lane, Cork, c. 1754 or 1755. In nine months, at a time when Catholic schools were illegal, 200 girls were attending. In 1757 she was aided by a considerable inheritance, and within two years she was conducting seven schools, five for girls and two for boys, that provided a rudimentary secular education, religious instruction, and an assiduous preparation for the encounter with Christ in the Sacraments. To expand and make permanent this apostolic work for the poor, she introduced the Ursuline nuns in 1771, at great cost to herself. But her heart was set on the specific needs of the Irish apostolate, and so she founded in 1775, with a very few companions, the Society of the Charitable Instruction, "which excluded every exercise of charity, which was not in favour of the poor" (Walsh, Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters 1959), and which, after her death, grew into the famous Presentation Order. An inspiration to the men of her time, this small, physically weak woman radiated a Pauline energy in her zeal for the Christian education of youth.

Bibliography: t. j. walsh, Nano Nagle and the Presentation Sisters (Dublin 1959). m. r. o'callaghan, Flame of Love: Life of Nano Nagle (Milwaukee 1960).

[j. j. meagher]

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