Order’s ‘sacred site’ to become €10m centre of spirituality

A building that once housed the 18th century South Presentation Convent and School is to be transformed into a €10m visitor centre and “a sacred space for contemplation” in the heart of Cork City.

The Presentation Sisters have won enormous praise for their Nano Nagle Centre at Ballygriffin on the Blackwater which, with its unique blend of heritage, spirituality and ecology, attracts thousands of visitors from around the world.

The global order hope their plans for the 3.75 acre “sacred site”, which includes their founder, Nano Nagle’s grave and ample gardens, will ensure it too becomes a must-see on the Cork City Historic Tourist Trail.

Last year, Pope Francis announced that Nano Nagle was a woman of heroic virtue and declared her to be “venerable”, placing her on the second of the four steps to Sainthood.

Nano Nagle founded the Presentation Sisters order at Douglas Street on Christmas Eve in 1775 in response to the dire poverty and lack of education that she saw around her. Its ethos inspired the establishment of several other religious orders in Ireland, including the Presentation Brothers and the Christian Brothers.

The new complex is to be called Nano Nagle Place and is “seeking to preserve the heritage, ethos and philosophy of Nano Nagle”. It will include a heritage centre, an archive building and a garden coffee shop alongside Nano Nagle’s tomb. The project is being fully funded by the order.

Minister for Arts and Heritage Jimmy Deenihan attended yesterday’s launch on Douglas St and spoke warmly of the Presentation Sisters and their “unselfish contribution to this country”.

Minister Deenihan it was wonderful “to see new life being breathed into this old building” and that he was “firmly of the belief that one of the reasons the Irish were so welcome around the world was because of the work of religious orders.”

He was confident that Nano Nagle Place would become an international tourist attraction, which would preserve and promote both the story of Nano Nagle and the history of the Presentation Sisters,,” he said.

Congregational leader of the Presentation Sisters Union, Sr Mary Deane, said the vision of Nano Nagle “has carried all over the world and still compels people to respond with compassion, hope, creativity and faith.

“2018 will mark the 300th birth anniversary of Venerable Nano, it would be a fitting honour to her, to the city of Cork, as well as the Presentation family throughout the world, to think that by 2018 this site will be transformed from what you see today. Our dream is that Nano Nagle Place will continue to be a vibrating hub of the life and spirit of Venerable Nano,” she said.

Planning for the project is to be launched in the coming weeks. A limited company has been formed, chaired by Cllr Jim Corr, a former teacher at Presentation College, to oversee the project. The board is made up of voluntary lay people and includes four Presentation Sisters.

It is expected that the redevelopment will take place over a two-year period.

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