It's not every day that you celebrate a milestone as big as 200 years of existence. But last week saw the staff and students at the Presentation Secondary School doing just that, with a programme of events lined up to commemorate their bicentenary.
The Presentation Convent was opened on Francis Street on October 2, 1818, by founding sisters Catherine Devereux and Jane Teresa Frayne. Originally run out of a schoolroom in the convent house, the school developed over the course of two centuries into its current status. Two years ago, a committee was formed and planning for last week's events began.
The first, formal day of celebrations took place on Tuesday, October 2 - the convent's Foundation Day. Throughout the morning, the current students, who number almost 800, visited the sisters in the Presentation Convent, going to the Convent Chapel, learning about the social justice work of the Friends of Nano Nagle, and visiting the original schoolroom. The tour concluded with a walk through the convent gardens while paying respect to the deceased nuns in the convent cemetery.
The group met sisters residing in the convent and others, from around Ireland, who had started their religious life in the convent many years ago.
That evening, a large crowd attended the open evening, book launch and lantern procession walk, with many past pupils and staff returning and reminiscing over their own memories of the place.
The book 'Going One Step Beyond: The Presentation community in Wexford, 1818-2018' was launched in a crowded Concert Hall. Researched, compiled and written by teachers Joe Rolston and Scott Gaynor, the book traces the development of the convent and school over 200 years. Both authors gave credit to Dermot McCarthy, who researched the newspaper archives for information pertaining to the Presentation convent and school.
In her speech, Sr Grace Redmond sincerely thanked the authors, on behalf of the Presentation Sisters, for the 'remarkable publication' that had been produced. School principal William Ryan and Sr Imelda Wickham also spoke on the night. The proceedings concluded with a performance of 'Who will light the lantern?' by sixth year student Rachel Grace, before the Lantern Procession to the convent. Refreshments were served afterwards in the school.
On Thursday morning, staff, students, sisters and invited guests attended a celebratory mass in Rowe Street Church celebrated by Bishop Denis Brennan and school chaplain, Fr Tom Dalton. The bishop paid tribute to the sisters for what they had given to the town.
Finally, on Friday night, Rowe Street Church was packed to capacity for an evening of song and music to bring a formal end to the celebrations. Former Presentation student and Wexford Festival Opera Ger chairman Lawlor acted as master of ceremonies for the event.
Soloists included former students: George Lawlor, Grace Murphy, Yvette Walshe, Aileen Donohue, Mary Roche, Sharon Clancy, Vicky Clancy, mother-and-daughter Louise Jones and Rebecca Grey and Anita Cullen, as well as current Presentation students Aoise Davis, Aoife Prunty, Sophie Kelly, Alyssa Daly, Aisling Fanning, Aoife O'Neill, Megan English, Ana Bates, Shauna Murphy, Sophia Connolly and Rachel Grace.
The Presentation School Choir also performed four songs to conclude the evening's event. Great credit was given by principal William Ryan and Sr Grace Redmond to the Presentation's music teachers, Lorna Mahon and Amy Redmond, for their efforts in organising the event. The concert was recorded on the night and will be available to purchase on DVD in the near future.