Our Heritage

Our Heritage

The religious community that would become the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary was founded in Cork, Ireland, by Honora “Nano” Nagle on Christmas Eve, 1775. In a 1769 letter to a friend, Nano Nagle wrote, “If I could be of any service in saving souls in any part of the globe, I would willingly do all in my power.” Nano’s service in the winding lanes quickly earned her the title “The Lady of the Lantern” as she visited the sick, comforted the sorrowing and educated children in the hedgerows. The light of her legacy calls us to go where need calls most loudly and to challenge ourselves to serve one pace beyond.

While Nano’s example inspired several other founders of religious orders in Ireland, her sisters also established additional religious foundations in several countries around the world. In 1874 Mother Vincent Hennessy left the Presentation convent in Mooncoin, Ireland, with three young women, to teach the immigrant children of Iowa, establishing the Dubuque Presentation community. Mother Vincent inspired others to live out the Presentation motto, Caritas (love for all). Despite challenging beginnings, the Dubuque Presentation community flourished.

Today, Dubuque Presentation Sisters are involved in educational and pastoral ministries and service to others. Sisters minister in urban and rural areas in the United States and in O’Connor Province of Tarija, Bolivia. Worldwide, over 2000 Presentation Sisters and numerous associates work in 23 countries and network globally through the International Presentation Association.

Interactive Timeline

1775
1784
1874
1875
1876
1879
1880
1887
1903
1909
1919
1930
1963
1964
1965
1969
1970
1979
1980
1981
1988
1990
1991
1992
1994
1996
1998
2000
2002
2003
2004
2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019
1775

1775

Nano Nagle, a daughter of Ireland who lived under the oppressive Penal Laws of England, established a religious community in Cork, Ireland. This community later became known as the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

1784

1784

Nano Nagle died at South Presentation Convent in Cork, Ireland.

1874

1874

In response to an invitation from Bishop Hennessy of Dubuque, Iowa, Mother Vincent Hennessy, accompanied by three young women, left Mooncoin, Ireland, to establish a Presentation congregation in Dubuque. Arriving early with no convent available, the sisters settled in Key West, Iowa.

1875

1875

The convent parlors in Key West became the classrooms of the sisters’ first school. 20 pupils answered roll on the first day of class. The following September the enrollment swelled to 80.

1876

1876

Within a year the congregation had grown from four to seven sisters. On September 12, three sisters were assigned to their first mission at St. Malachi parish in Dubuque, later known as St. Anthony parish and school. Since 1876, Presentation sisters have served in 55 locations in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.

1879

1879

The sisters built a boarding school in Dubuque known as St. Vincent Academy where 12 sisters were assigned. Later this academy became part of St. Columbkille parish.

1880

1880

Soon after Mother Vincent and the sisters moved into St. Vincent Academy, she contracted pneumonia due to the incomplete construction of the building and later died. Mother Vincent’s death was a devastating blow to the young and fragile community.

1887

1887

Despite the difficult loss of their foundress, the young community continued to grow through the grace of God. As the community flourished, sisters were missioned to Danbury, Iowa. Since 1887, sisters served in 22 parishes and schools in what today is known as the diocese of Sioux City.

1903

1903

The first Presentation mission outside the state of Iowa was in Nebraska. The school where the sisters taught was located in Madison, Nebraska.

1909

1909

The sisters moved from St. Vincent Academy to a motherhouse which they built at 1229 Mt. Loretta Avenue. Sixty years later this motherhouse became the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center of Dubuque.

1919

1919

The first Presentation missions in the state of Colorado were in the cities of Stratton and Akron. Sisters were also missioned to Timber Lake in the diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, where they served in the school for 59 years.

1930

1930

During the depression of the 1930s, the sisters did not open any new schools. Some schools were temporarily closed. In many of the schools that remained open, the parishes were unable to pay any salaries. During those lean years, the music teachers were often paid with eggs, milk, meat and garden produce for giving private music lessons. Their labors sustained the sisters and left a powerful legacy of service for the community.

1963

1963

The Sisters of the Presentation of Oregon, Illinois, joined the Sisters of the Presentation of Dubuque to form one congregation.

1964

1964

The new parish and school named St. Germaine, located in Oak Lawn, Illinois, was the first mission of the community to serve in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

1965

1965

With the promulgation of the Documents of Vatican II, renewal in religious life was visible in the expansion of ministries, changes in lifestyle and modifications of the religious garb.

1969

1969

The sisters moved to a new motherhouse at 2360 Carter Road. This home, known as Mount Loretto, is the center for the administrative offices, the retired and infirmed sisters and the formation programs.

1970

1970

With the call of Pope Paul VI asking religious congregations to send 10 percent of their members to serve in foreign missions, the Presentation sisters responded whole-heartedly by missioning sisters to serve those made poor in southern Bolivia. Sisters continue to serve there today.

1979

1979

Because of the educational discrimination experienced by many in the African-American community, Presentation sisters began ministering in schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago that served this population. Today, this ministry not only continues but has expanded.

1980

1980

Dedicated to the value of faith formation, the sisters utilized their skills and reached out to young adults. They began their work as college campus ministers in 1980 and are still present in this ministry today.

1981

1981

With a strong desire to serve the needs of the poor wherever they may be, the sisters were drawn to serve in the Hispanic and migrant communities. The first Presentation mission in the United States was at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish and school in the Archdiocese of Chicago.

1988

1988

Presentation sisters from around the world united to create the International Presentation Association which works for world-wide justice and supports a non-governmental organization at the United Nations.

1990

1990

Sisters served in Guatemala for 10 years. They were involved in education, preparing catechists and church lay leaders, and helping organize those who were involved in local community improvements.

1991

1991

Retreat ministry began in Buffalo, Minnesota, at Christ the King Retreat Center. Today, this ministry continues in various locations.

1992

1992

Through a process of discernment, the community set its focus and direction into the next decade by committing their energy and resources toward empowering women and children.

1994

1994

The community offered spiritual comfort by reaching out to those imprisoned. Prison ministry began in Marianna, Florida. Today, this ministry is located in Rochester, Minnesota.

1996

1996

Over the next years, as needs arose, individual sisters came forth to serve in varied works and locations. They brought hope and joy to many places, including the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Tanzanians in Africa, service in food pantries in Chicago and Dubuque and in numerous roles of peace and justice.

1998

1998

Nurturing a mutual and supportive relationship with Christian laity, the Presentation sisters began the associate process. Together, the sisters and laity foster the charism of Nano Nagle.

2000

2000

Addressing the unmet need for transitional housing for women and children in Dubuque, Presentation sisters partnered with other religious congregations in the area to establish Maria House.

2002

2002

Addressing the unmet need for transitional housing for women and children in Dubuque, Presentation sisters partnered with other religious congregations in the area to establish Maria House.

2003

2003

In a total community vote, the sisters took their first corporate stance to embrace the Earth Charter. By this action, the sisters committed themselves to help create a sustainable global society founded on the principles of respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace.

2004

2004

Thirty-two years after ministry began in Bolivia, young women desiring to enter the Presentation community were captivated by the spirit of Nano Nagle. A formation program was established in order to welcome Bolivian women.

2005

2005

New Orleans, Louisiana, is the site of a collaborative ministry project of the North American Presentation Sisters. These sisters, from different Presentation communities, are ministering to the poor and most needy.

2006

2006

Unemployment and wages too low to afford enough food, are among the main reasons that people seek help from shelters and soup kitchens. Recognizing these critical needs of the homeless in Dubuque, Presentation sisters, in collaboration with other women religious, corporate sponsors and private citizens, opened Teresa Shelter, an emergency shelter for women and their children.

2007

2007

The sisters adopted the following International Presentation Association Directions for Mission, ”Conscious of our identity as Presentation women, we listen deeply to the cry of Earth heard most loudly in the cry of those made poor, and we are moved to attend with urgency to the woundedness of our global community.” At this time, the sisters completed an audit of their carbon footprint and are striving to reduce it by 25 percent over next five years.

2008

2008

To assist in preserving our heritage, Sister Joan Lickteig accepted the invitation to write an informal history, Tending the Light, of the Dubuque Foundation of the Sisters of the Presentation. This book expresses in broad strokes contributions made by the congregation to keep Nano’s mission and flame alive.

2009

2009

Presentation Quest, an immersion and service program, was created to experience and address the root causes of poverty and to educate about earth sustainability. These opportunities for sisters, associates and volunteers engage all in a deeper understanding of relationships to one another, to Earth and to God.

2010

2010

A wisdom circle to explore creative aging was established. This process assists sisters in finding healthy ways to live out their wisdom years, drawing energy from past experiences and discovering unused gifts for mission.

2011

2011

Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America, a project of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) tells the story of the contributions of women religious in America since the early 1700s. Hosted in Dubuque, this exhibit, developed through the collaborative efforts of the twelve local congregations, also highlights the roots of the congregations of Sisters from the Upper Mississippi Valley.

2012

2012

During Chapter, a meeting held every five years, a new directional statement was established, clarifying the congregation’s vision for the future and commitment to engaging their passion and strength in continued work for justice, peace and compassion. “Ignited by the fire of God’s love and impelled by the legacy of Nano Nagle, we, the Sisters of the Presentation of Dubuque, participate in the evolving consciousness of the cosmos by reverencing relationships, celebrating unity, engaging contemplation and fostering partnerships to transform ourselves and our world.”

2013

2013

A new ministry in Hampton, Iowa, was established to address the needs and realities of Hispanic immigrants. La Luz Hispana, “The Hispanic Light,” offers a hospitable space where Hispanics can come together to share and build their strengths, where social isolation is not a barrier, and where hope and a sense of possibility are fostered.

2013

2013

A new ministry in Hampton, Iowa, was established to address the needs and realities of Hispanic immigrants. La Luz Hispana, “The Hispanic Light,” offers a hospitable space where Hispanics can come together to share and build their strengths, where social isolation is not a barrier, and where hope and a sense of possibility are fostered.

2014

2014

A dream unfolds in Bolivia when Presentation Sisters serving there purchase a new house in the city of Tarija. The home is a place where young university women can come to live, study and share community life, learning about the Presentation spirit and culture.

2015

2015

In celebration of jubilee, Presentation Sisters, with the help of generous partners, were able to purchase nearly 150 water filters for the Guarani people of Bolivia. The water filtration systems help provide safer drinking water, using no chemicals or electricity. These systems last 10 years and filter water at a higher standard than United States tap or bottled water.

2016

2016

Presentation Sister Paula Schwendinger investigated the needs of immigrants in rural areas of Iowa including Cascade, Dyersville, Farley and Petersburg. Through her observation of the needs, Sister Paula initiated Hispanic Outreach Ministry of Evangelization (HOME). She seeks out individuals of the Hispanic community in their homes and offers them religious and Bible studies, translation and networks Hispanics with community services and resources. Sister Paula has found that HOME is where the heart is.

2017

2017

During Chapter, a meeting held every five years, a new directional statement was established, clarifying the congregation’s vision for the future and commitment to engaging their passion and strength in continued work for justice, peace and compassion. The leadership team called those gathered to look into the future and consider where Dubuque Presentation Sisters are called to live radical hospitality.

Sister Carmen Hernandez states, “My hope is that we will move our direction and commitments into action and this, without a doubt, will mean we will need to take risks, make mistakes and let go of fears and of what has become familiar to us. Isn’t that what our foundress, Nano Nagle did? We continue to seek the most life-giving way forward as we risk radical hospitality, a hospitality emanating from the deepest part of our being in kinship with Earth and all people. With radical and root coming from the same word, we are called to look to Nano, and the characteristics of her risking as she planted the roots of her challenging ministry in Ireland 150 years ago. We will only be richer and deeper by extending ourselves to a world out there which cries out daily for our help. Whatever we decide to do, let’s do it. And let’s do it together.”

2018

2018

Presentation Sisters around the world celebrated the 300th anniversary of the birth of Nano Nagle. With a lantern in hand, Nano walked the winding lanes of Cork, lighting the hovels and attics, incarnating God’s love in dark places. Known as the “Lady of the Lantern,” Nano inspired others by her singleness of purpose and passion of heart for those made poor and for changing the structures of society that made and kept people poor. Today, united by the legacy of this great woman, Sisters of the Presentation, associates, benefactors, partners, family and friends move as one for mission – Nano’s mission of serving those made poor and working for justice.

Since 1874, the Dubuque Sisters of the Presentation have played a significant role in continuing Nano’s work of love. Today they find their ministries of serving those most in need in nine states, the District of Columbia and Bolivia. With a desire to joyfully go where need calls most loudly, Presentation Sisters boldly grasp the lantern, tend its light and pass it on to ensure that the light of Nano’s hospitality, compassion, love and hope continues to shine among all, transforming the world in the process.

2019

2019

The Presentation Sisters respond when the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) received an urgent request for economic help and for volunteers to give hands-on ministry to the immigrants in the hospitality centers at El Paso, Texas border.

“Poverty is to be without options. The migrants are here because they have no other option. They are here because they have no other choice.” Reuben Garcia, founder of Annunciation House, speaks directly about the plight of the migrants arriving in massive numbers at the southern border.  “You must understand that this is not just a problem ‘down there.’ This is a massive human problem that is befalling our family – my family. We need to do something about what is happening to our brothers and sisters!”