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.