Wednesday 18 October 2017

225 years on, school bids farewell to last nun in principal role

Conor Kane

A NEW chapter in education has been opened as a convent school celebrates 225 years as part of the fabric of the community.

Past-pupils of the Ursuline Convent in Thurles, Co Tipperary, joined with current students, staff and parents to celebrate and pay tribute to the last nun to hold the role of principal.

Sr Berchmans is retiring and will be replaced by the school's first lay principal, Mary Butler.

The school also opened a new extension, 225 years after the first Ursuline establishment was set up in the town.

Caring

In 1983, when Sr Berchmans was appointed principal, the then "new" school was opened to accommodate 400 students. It now has 730.

Sr Angela Merici founded the Ursuline Order in the 15th century. Anastasia Tobin set up the first such convent in her home town of Thurles in a thatched cottage in 1787, having been professed Sr Clare Ursula Tobin in Cork.

Those days were spoken of at a commemorative Mass in St Patrick's Cathedral, celebrated by Archbishop Dermot Clifford and more than 20 priests.

Archbishop Clifford said that while Ireland's economy is in a bad state, the history of the Ursuline convent and its place in the community would show that "things were often much worse".

The school had built up a reputation, he said, for educating students who became "caring and responsible citizens".

Among those who returned to celebrate yesterday were sisters Veronica Reddan (now Mrs Kerrison and living in Rhode Island) and Kathleen Reddan, natives of Sixmilebridge, Co Clare, who were pupils in the 1960s.

"We were 50 miles from home and that was considered far away at the time," said Veronica.

"It's the very same now, as if it was never changed," added Kathleen.

After cutting the ribbon to open a new extension, Sr Berchmans said it was a "very, very happy day" for the convent.

She admitted, however, that it was tinged with sadness for herself, on her retirement, as the last member of the religious order to be principal.

"It's the end of an era," she said, adding that the school was in good hands as it enters its next phase of growth.

Irish Independent

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