Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Sisters plan to develop first convent into visitor centre

The South Presentation  board of directors, (back) Mícheál Deasy, Joe Casey (vice chairman), Joe Carey, Tom O'Dwyer, CEO Michael O'Sullivan; (front) Sr  Pauline Casey, Sr  Noreen Flaherty, Jim Corr (chairman) and Sr  Bride Given.An Irish religious order will unveil a €10m plan today to preserve its first convent — founded in Cork in the 18th century — and develop it as a heritage and visitor centre.

The Presentation Congregation said it hopes the ambitious project at its historic South Presentation Centre in the city centre will preserve the heritage, ethos and philosophy of founder, the Venerable Nano Nagle.

Nano Nagle founded the order in Cork in 1775. For centuries, the 3.75-acre site in Cork, which features buildings dating back to 1771, a walled garden, a graveyard and the tomb of Nano Nagle, has attracted visitors from all over the world.

Now the order wants to preserve the site and develop it in a way which will make it a unique visitor attraction and an integral part of the Cork City Historic Tourist Trail.

The development will include a new heritage centre, an archives building, visitor facilities, and a cafeteria in the convent’s tranquil gardens.

The order said the new centre, which will be called Nano Nagle Place, will be revitalised as a sustainable resource to be shared with the people of Cork.

Details of a limited company which has been formed and registered as a charity to oversee the ambitious project will be announced today.

The company board includes three voluntary lay people and three Presentation Sisters.

It will be chaired by FG Cllr Jim Corr, Cork city’s longest serving councillor and a former teacher in Presentation College. Its day-to-day operations will be managed by chief executive Michael O’Sullivan.

Sr Bride Given, a Presentation Sister and company secretary, said they consider South Presentation as a very special and sacred place.

“We regard Nano Nagle’s tomb as an important shrine,” she said. “However, we don’t see it as ours alone, but as a place of inspiration for the whole community, and for all our Sisters.”

Board director Joe Casey said they hope to preserve and re-invigorate the story of Nano Nagle and the Presentation Congregation.

“These are changing times not just for the Presentation Order, but for all religious orders,” he said.

“The Sisters and the whole Presentation Community consider it essential that the values and ethos of Nano Nagle are carried into the future.

“It is also to reconcile the spiritual ethos of this site with multi-functional social, cultural and educational initiatives.

“This transformation will be fully in keeping with best international practice of converting sacred spaces, such as abbeys, monasteries and convents for wider community use.”

The board is finalising the development proposals and hopes to lodge a planning application soon. Pending the planning process, it is hoped that work on the site will start towards the middle of the year. It will be financed through the Presentation global congregation and it is expected that the re-development will take two years.

Mr Corr said they will engage with the local community, and update people regularly on the process.

* www.nanonagleplace.ie

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