Saturday, December 30, 2023

End of an era as St Louis nuns to leave Dundalk after 74 years

The Sisters of St. Louis are leaving Dundalk after 74 years as the last remaining nuns are set to vacate the Dún Lughaidh convent in mid-February.

Their contribution to the education of generations of young women will be recognised at celebrations on January 27, with Mass in St. Joseph’s Church, Castletown, at 2 p.m. followed by lunch and light entertainment in the Carrickdale Hotel.

Past pupils, retired staff members and other friends of St. Louis are also invited to visit the convent and secondary school between midday and 1.30 p.m. on the day.

The Sisters of St Louis are a French order of nuns who have been in Ireland since 1859, when three sisters came to Monaghan from the French Motherhouse near Paris.

The nuns were invited by Cardinal Dalton to set up a convent in Dundalk in 1949 and they secured the historic 15th century Castletown Castle, also known as Bellew’s Castle.

The following year, four nuns, Sr. Jeanne D’Arc, Sr. Hildegard, Sr. Dympna and Sr. Therese, opened the all-girls secondary school, called St Louis Dundalk with 16 pupils. 

As numbers grew, the main school building was built and officially opened on September 8 1953. It operated as a boarding school for several years whilst also accepting day pupils.

As the number of students continued to grow, the school expanded with the building of the Chapel Hall and the Castle itself was converted into classrooms. 

A new wing, Dealga, was built in the early 70s and a home economics room and science lab were added in the 1990s. The new school gym was officially opened by President Mary Robinson in 1992.

In the following years, a new canteen was opened and a devastating fire which destroyed the concert hall, housing the study hall and technology rooms in 2018 led to a €2.3million upgrade of the Dealga wing thanks to funding from the Department of Education and Science.

The school now has state of the art facilities allowing students to pursue a wide range of subjects supported by the latest technology.

As the number of nuns declined, the running of the school was taken over by the Le Chéile Schools Trust, which looks after the schools of fifteen religious congregations.

As well as their involvement with the secondary school, St Louis sisters also had nuns living in two houses in the local community, in Ard Easmuinn and Coxes Demesne, but these have been sold in recent years, with the sisters moving to Dublin.

The four nuns remaining in the Dún Lughaidh convent, Sr Siobhan Dillon who taught in the school for most of her career, Sr Hannah, St Sinead, and former music teacher Sr Brinadine, will move to the St Louis convent in Rathmine, Dublin in mid-February.

Other sisters who had lived in Dundalk have already moved to Dublin, including Sr Mary O’Connor, who taught in the school from 1976 to 1989 and who also lived in the community house in Ard Easmuinn, and Sr Marie Celine O’Brien, while Sr Claire Ryan, who had taught in the Redeemer Boys School before working in the community in Coxes Demesne, is now a resident in the Curam Care Nursing Home in Fatima.

Anyone wishing to attend the celebrations are asked to RSVP by Wednesday, January 15 by emailing