It’s a great joy to be with you today. I feel very privileged and honoured to be here and on behalf of all of our Sisters gathered here and our global
Presentation Congregation, I extend congratulations, gratitude and appreciation for this wonderful celebration in honour of the 300 birth anniversary of our Founder Nano Nagle.
I have no doubt that Nano Nagle would be immensely proud of you all as I am sure your parents and teachers are. This celebration is a wonderful expression of the collaboration of so many people – students, teachers, Sisters – and so many more. Although it’s hard to name some people I do want to mention in particular Srs Goretti O’Callaghan, Mary Quinn, Grace McKernan and Pauline Casey and the Tercentenary committee who have coordinated the programme here.
To all of you who have made this such a joy-filled, memorable and life giving celebration – a huge thank you!
We, Presentation Sisters, are gathered here from around the world for our Congregational Gathering – a time when we reflect together on our life and make decisions in relation to how we are being called to respond to the needs and challenges of our world today. Since our Gathering coincides with the 300 birth anniversary of Nano Nagle, Cork was the obvious place to begin our journey of the Gathering. Nano was born not too far from here in Ballygriffin, near Mallow and it was here in Cork city that Nano began her schools and her work with the poor. It was also here that the Congregation began so this is like a coming home for us, returning to our spiritual roots, our spiritual home.
You captured for us in words, film, music, song and movement the story and spirit of Nano and also the theme of our Congregational Gathering: Nano Aflame…stoking our passion, becoming fire…radiating love.
You reminded us so powerfully of Nano’s courage, her desire to make a difference in the lives of people, especially the poor children. Nano believed in the power of education to transform the lives of the poor, in spite of the oppression and discrimination that existed she went ahead establishing schools at great personal risk. Nano was a woman of deep faith, trusting in the goodness of God. She lived, she walked and worked here in these streets and yet her vision was for the whole world… ‘if I could be of any service in saving souls in any part of the globe I would willingly do all in my power’.
Today Nano’s story is being shared and lived out by countless women and men throughout the world who have been captured by Nano’s vision, her passion and the witness of her life.
Presentation Sisters living and working in 23 countries, continue Nano’s commitment to education, to the care of the vulnerable and powerless and to the transformation of unjust systems in a variety of ways and within a variety of contexts in our world today.
The beautiful lantern made by the Art students from St Mary’s Secondary School, Middleton, that will lead our procession, reminds us of Nano – “the lady with the lamp” bringing light into the darkness of the people in Cork in the 18 century.
The symbol of light and of fire connects deep within us, deep into our soul. We are children of light, when we were born we came from darkness to light and the lighting of the Easter candle reminds us of the power of light over darkness, the power of love to transform. All life and all light comes from God. To live in the light is to live in Union with God, with one another and with all of creation. We began our Congregational Gathering by lighting the candle,
connecting with the flame. In Ballygriffin we lit a fire as a reminder of the rich heritage and tradition that has been passed onto us and our responsibility to continue to keep the flame of faith and hope alive.
The symbol of the Lantern that is still today associated with Presentation Sisters and Ministries throughout the world reminds us of our call to follow Jesus, to be people who live in the light and to bring the light to our troubled world of today just as Nano did in her time.
As we celebrate the 300 birth anniversary of Nano, maybe the best gift and the most fitting tribute we can give to her is to become like her, a bearer of light, carrying the flame of love. In honour of Nano, the delegates will walk through the city, carrying lanterns, bearing the light.
I am sorry that for health and safety reasons not all of you are able to walk with us this evening but all of us here are called and challenged today to have the courage to bring light into our world and to become a light. This call was echoed recently by Pope Francis – in his letter – Gaudete et Exsultate: Rejoice and be glad, Pope Francis reminds us that we are all called to be holy, to be our very best selves, to use the gifts that God has given each one of us for the good of our world today.
Being a light is living our lives with love, choosing to befriend and not isolate, to be kind and not harsh or judgemental. It is choosing to live with gratitude for all the opportunities that we have, to live with hope, with appreciation and respect for all people, and for the earth that provides for us. I could go on and on…but deep down I think each one of us knows where we need to bring light and be a light in our family, school, communities and in the world today.
For Nano, actions spoke louder than words as expressed in her family motto “not words but deeds”. Whilst she would enjoy, celebrate and give thanks for all that has been I think today Nano would be saying to us, look around, listen… to the cry of the poor today, to the needs of our world, to the cry of the Earth…there is still much work to be done and I believe that you my dear young people have the ability, generosity, courage and commitment to do what needs to be done and to make a difference in our world today.
To bring the light to others and our world, we firstly have to recognise the light of God that is within me, within you, within each other and all of creation. I invite all of us to do a simple greeting which is also a blessing that comes from India – which some of you may know. In this greeting we join our hands together and bow to each other as we say Namaste. What we are saying by this gesture and words is that the God within me recognises the God dwelling within you.
As we do this can we also make a promise, to let our light shine wherever we are and to recognise, respect and reverence the light in everyone we meet so that together we can shine our light in the world.