From our Irish roots to our foundation in Dubuque, Iowa and beyond, we have a long history of apostolic service. We honor those that have come before us with a look at our history and heritage.
Nano Nagle, a daughter of Ireland who lived under the oppressive Penal Laws of England, established a religious community in Cork, Ireland. This community later became known as the Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Nano Nagle died at South Presentation Convent in Cork, Ireland.
In response to an invitation from Bishop Hennessy of Dubuque, Iowa, Mother Vincent Hennessy, accompanied by three young women, left Mooncoin, Ireland, to establish a Presentation congregation in Dubuque. Arriving early with no convent available, the sisters settled in Key West, Iowa.
The convent parlors in Key West became the classrooms of the sisters’ first school. 20 pupils answered roll on the first day of class. The following September the enrollment swelled to 80.
Within a year the congregation had grown from four to seven sisters. On September 12, three sisters were assigned to their first mission at St. Malachi parish in Dubuque, later known as St. Anthony parish and school. Since 1876, Presentation sisters have served in 55 locations in the Archdiocese of Dubuque.
The sisters built a boarding school in Dubuque known as St. Vincent Academy where 12 sisters were assigned. Later this academy became part of St. Columbkille parish.
Soon after Mother Vincent and the sisters moved into St. Vincent Academy, she contracted pneumonia due to the incomplete construction of the building and later died. Mother Vincent’s death was a devastating blow to the young and fragile community.
Despite the difficult loss of their foundress, the young community continued to grow through the grace of God. As the community flourished, sisters were missioned to Danbury, Iowa. Since 1887, sisters served in 22 parishes and schools in what today is known as the diocese of Sioux City.
The first Presentation mission outside the state of Iowa was in Nebraska. The school where the sisters taught was located in Madison, Nebraska.
The sisters moved from St. Vincent Academy to a motherhouse which they built at 1229 Mt. Loretta Avenue. Sixty years later this motherhouse became the Archdiocesan Pastoral Center of Dubuque.
The first Presentation missions in the state of Colorado were in the cities of Stratton and Akron. Sisters were also missioned to Timber Lake in the diocese of Rapid City, South Dakota, where they served in the school for 59 years.
During the depression of the 1930s, the sisters did not open any new schools. Some schools were temporarily closed. In many of the schools that remained open, the parishes were unable to pay any salaries. During those lean years, the music teachers were often paid with eggs, milk, meat and garden produce for giving private music lessons. Their labors sustained the sisters and left a powerful legacy of service for the community.
Sisters Mary Paschal Cunningham, Albia O’Brien, Eunice Kane and Honora Sullivan began the community’s first religious education program. This program in Monticello, Minnesota, was the community’s first presence in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
The Sisters of the Presentation of Oregon, Illinois, joined the Sisters of the Presentation of Dubuque to form one congregation.
The new parish and school named St. Germaine, located in Oak Lawn, Illinois, was the first mission of the community to serve in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
With the promulgation of the Documents of Vatican II, renewal in religious life was visible in the expansion of ministries, changes in lifestyle and modifications of the religious garb.
The sisters moved to a new motherhouse at 2360 Carter Road. This home, known as Mount Loretto, is the center for the administrative offices, the retired and infirmed sisters and the formation programs.
With the call of Pope Paul VI asking religious congregations to send 10 percent of their members to serve in foreign missions, the Presentation sisters responded whole-heartedly by missioning sisters to serve those made poor in southern Bolivia. Sisters continue to serve there today.
Because of the educational discrimination experienced by many in the African-American community, Presentation sisters began ministering in schools in the Archdiocese of Chicago that served this population. Today, this ministry not only continues but has expanded.
Dedicated to the value of faith formation, the sisters utilized their skills and reached out to young adults. They began their work as college campus ministers in 1980 and are still present in this ministry today.
With a strong desire to serve the needs of the poor wherever they may be, the sisters were drawn to serve in the Hispanic and migrant communities. The first Presentation mission in the United States was at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish and school in the Archdiocese of Chicago.
Presentation sisters from around the world united to create the International Presentation Association which works for world-wide justice and supports a non-governmental organization at the United Nations.
Sisters served in Guatemala for 10 years. They were involved in education, preparing catechists and church lay leaders, and helping organize those who were involved in local community improvements.
Retreat ministry began in Buffalo, Minnesota, at Christ the King Retreat Center. Today, this ministry continues in various locations.
Through a process of discernment, the community set its focus and direction into the next decade by committing their energy and resources toward empowering women and children.
The community offered spiritual comfort by reaching out to those imprisoned. Prison ministry began in Marianna, Florida. Today, this ministry is located in Rochester, Minnesota.
Over the next years, as needs arose, individual sisters came forth to serve in varied works and locations. They brought hope and joy to many places, including the Lakota people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, Tanzanians in Africa, service in food pantries in Chicago and Dubuque and in numerous roles of peace and justice.
Nurturing a mutual and supportive relationship with Christian laity, the Presentation sisters began the associate process. Together, the sisters and laity foster the charism of Nano Nagle.
Addressing the unmet need for transitional housing for women and children in Dubuque, Presentation sisters partnered with other religious congregations in the area to establish Maria House.
The Sisters of the Presentation sponsor the Presentation Lantern Center, located in Dubuque. This center offers hospitality, educational opportunities and advocacy to women and their children. The doors opened on November 13, the anniversary of the founding of the Dubuque Presentation community. Sister Corine Murray was named the first executive director of the center.
In a total community vote, the sisters took their first corporate stance to embrace the Earth Charter. By this action, the sisters committed themselves to help create a sustainable global society founded on the principles of respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice and a culture of peace.
Thirty-two years after ministry began in Bolivia, young women desiring to enter the Presentation community were captivated by the spirit of Nano Nagle. A formation program was established in order to welcome Bolivian women.
New Orleans, Louisiana, is the site of a collaborative ministry project of the North American Presentation Sisters. These sisters, from different Presentation communities, are ministering to the poor and most needy.
Unemployment and wages too low to afford enough food, are among the main reasons that people seek help from shelters and soup kitchens. Recognizing these critical needs of the homeless in Dubuque, Presentation sisters, in collaboration with other women religious, corporate sponsors and private citizens, opened Teresa Shelter, an emergency shelter for women and their children.
The sisters adopted the following International Presentation Association Directions for Mission, ”Conscious of our identity as Presentation women, we listen deeply to the cry of Earth heard most loudly in the cry of those made poor, and we are moved to attend with urgency to the woundedness of our global community.” At this time, the sisters completed an audit of their carbon footprint and are striving to reduce it by 25 percent over next five years.
To assist in preserving our heritage, Sister Joan Lickteig accepted the invitation to write an informal history, Tending the Light, of the Dubuque Foundation of the Sisters of the Presentation. This book expresses in broad strokes contributions made by the congregation to keep Nano’s mission and flame alive.
Presentation Quest, an immersion and service program, was created to experience and address the root causes of poverty and to educate about earth sustainability. These opportunities for sisters, associates and volunteers engage all in a deeper understanding of relationships to one another, to Earth and to God.
A wisdom circle to explore creative aging was established. This process assists sisters in finding healthy ways to live out their wisdom years, drawing energy from past experiences and discovering unused gifts for mission.
Women & Spirit: Catholic Sisters in America, a project of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR) tells the story of the contributions of women religious in America since the early 1700s. Hosted in Dubuque, this exhibit, developed through the collaborative efforts of the twelve local congregations, also highlights the roots of the congregations of Sisters from the Upper Mississippi Valley.