THE Vatican has announced that the Irishwoman who founded the Presentation Sisters has been promoted to the next step on the path to sainthood.
Pope Francis has bestowed the title of "Venerable" on Nano Nagle. She had been declared a "Servant of God" 19 years ago.
Last night's announcement means that Nano Nagle is on the second of four steps to canonisation.
Nano Nagle was born to a wealthy family in Ballygriffin, Co Cork, in 1718. According to a Presentations Sisters' statement, she "devoted her life to God and to working with people on the margins of society."
They added: "Nano Nagle is one of the great pioneers of Catholic education in Ireland."
She set up her first school in Cove Lane, Cork, in 1754 and founded the Presentation Sisters two decades later. The order now has about 1,200 nuns and hundreds of school worldwide.
The nuns pointed out that she lived during the era of the penal laws and said: "In setting up schools in defiance of the established colonial order, she sided with those (who had been) made poor and challenged the institutional injustice that perpetuated marginalisation and poverty."
Nano died in Cork in 1784 and is buried in South Presentation Convent's grounds.
The head of the Congregation Leadership Team for the Presentation Sisters, Mary Deane, said they were "delighted" with the Vatican's announcement. She said that by proclaiming Sr Nagle as venerable, the church had "recognised Nano as a woman of faith, hope and heroic virtue, whose vision and work transformed the lives of so many.
"Nano has been and continues to be a source of inspiration and challenge as we respond to the needs of today in fidelity to the Gospel and in the spirit of Nano." Sr Mary said that a celebratory Mass to mark the announcement will take place in Cork this month.