Born to a wealthy family in Ireland in 1718, Nano Nagle’s parents sent her to France to be educated since strict penal laws barred Catholic children from attending school in Ireland. She returned to Ireland after her father’s death in 1746; her mother died soon after. Prayer and reflection led Nano back to France to become a sister. Even as she began her new life as a sister, Nano’s thoughts often returned to the children of the poor families back in Ireland.
At age 32, she left the convent in France and returned to Ireland, where she secretly gathered the children of the poor and taught them catechism, reading, writing and mathematics. As Nano spent her days with the children, they would tell her of their sick friends or family members. Nano began to visit the sick and the elderly after school, bringing them food, medicine and comfort.
She often made visits late into the night, carrying her lamp among the alleyways. Before long, Nano became known as the Lady of the Lantern.
Nano decided to open a convent where women could share the mission of Jesus through prayer, teaching and care for the sick and needy. Nano and three companions opened the first Presentation Convent in Cork, Ireland, on Christmas Day in 1775. In 1784, at age 65, Nano died.
She left her compelling vision of service to a growing community of Presentation Sisters. Her final words are emblematic of her timeless legacy, and they remain a guiding principle for the Sisters:
“Love one another as you have hitherto done.”