Paying Tribute to the Mercy Sister’s in Rathangan

Today, Tuesday 29th August Sr. Rosarii Murphy and Sr. Bernadette Sheerin leave the parish of Rathangan, after a Mercy presence that goes back 142 years. The story of how the Mercy Sister’s came to Rathangan is very interesting.

In 1855 five Sisters of Mercy left St. Leo’s, Carlow to go to Alton, Staffordshire, England at the invitation of the Earl of Shrewsbury, who had given a house on his estate for a convent so that children living nearby whose parents were engaged in the Potteries would have a religious education. The Potteries is now the unique city of Stoke on Trent, originally six separate towns in North Staffordshire, the home of the pottery industry in England since the seventeenth century with world renowned names such as Royal Doulton, Spode, Aynsley and Minton. The earl died without heirs and his property ‘Alton Towers’ passed to the next of kin who were protestant. The grant towards the maintenance of the convent and school was withdrawn.

In 1873 four sisters left Alton for Borris in Ossory, County Laois. It was intended that the rest would follow but it was found that four were sufficient. Mr. Patrick Kehoe whose three daughters Srs M. Xavier, Ignatius and Evangelist were part of the Alton community was a relative of Fr. John Nolan, parish priest of Rathangan, County Kildare. When he was left a large sum of money he expressed to Fr. Nolan that he would like it to be used to secure a place for the remainder of the Alton sisters. In Rathangan there was a small house with ten acres of land rented from a Quaker family named Pim in which the curates of the parish lived. Fr. Nolan began negotiations and in July 1874 wrote to Sr. M. Ignatius Kehoe in Alton explaining that he wished to establish a convent in the parish and telling her what was set in place for the sisters should they wish to come – a house, school, land and money.

In 1875 on June 1st Srs. M. Magdalen Monaghan, Ignatius Kehoe, Xavier Kehoe and Aloysius Nagle came to Rathangan. They were formally presented to the parish by Dr. James Lynch, coadjutor Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin on August 15th, the occasion of Confirmation in the local church. The Sisters have had a presence steeped in education and social work, immersed in every aspect of parish life for 142 years. Sadly today they leave Rathangan and we pay tribute to their contribution on this emotion filled day. To Sr. Rosariii and Sr. Bernadette we say Ad Multos Annos as they move to their new community in Booterstown in the south of Dublin.