When Presentation Sisters reflect on Vocation Sunday, the timing of the annual day of prayer influences their reflection. The day is placed in the post-Easter calendar, the same time of the year as when the foundress of Presentation Sisters, Nano Nagle, passed from the world (26th April 1784). One month after her death one of her founding companions wrote an account of Nano’s final days for a Dublin friend, Teresa Mulally. A picture clearly emerges of how Nano Nagle’s life was rooted and grounded in personal prayer. We are told in this letter that in the week before she died she spent eleven hours on Holy Thursday night before the Blessed Sacrament. This call to personal prayer continues to be central to the life of Presentation Sisters.
As Presentation Sisters living through the current pandemic we are reminded of the many health challenges – posed by famine, war and illness across the years in the various parts of Ireland – through which Sisters have lived and ministered. They were always addressed by more intense prayer, as well as frontline servie. A Family Prayer from the Famine Years was special to the Mooncoin community in South Kilkenny, for example. The prayer read:
At morning’s dawn and evening’s shade,
Mary, to thee we call for aid.
At every hour while swift it flies,
Mary, to thee our souls arise.
Yes, yes, thy dear and sacred name,
Till life’s last breath shall be our theme,
Mary! our guide from childhood’s day,
Mary! to thee, to thee we pray.
Oh! grant us, ere our course is run,
Ere we appear before thy Son,
Ere we at his tribunal kneel,
Mary! thy own sweet aid to feel.
Oh! shed from thy all radiant throne, T
he light that still must guide us on.
Grant us Contrition’s healing sigh,
In grace to live, in peace to die.
This Prayer to Our Lady was called in Mooncoin the “Tapestry Hymn” because it was worked in cross stitch in 1845 on native material by local woman Mary Lucas. In due course, the Tapestry was presented to Knock and is on display in Knock Folk Museum. Mary Lucas’ two sisters joined Kilkenny Presentation community in 1842 and 1846. They knew the impact of the health challenges of those times and both died very young. Their grandmother, Mary Lucas, had originally composed the prayer in the 1750’s. We see in this story of community prayer legacy, as in the life of Nano Nagle that the family plays a critical role in sowing the seeds of prayer in the life of Presentation Sisters.
In the midst of the current pandemic Presentation Sisters, Friends, Associates and Co-workers are again uniting in a circle of prayer, this time through a prayer circle across rotating time zones around the world in order in order to invoke God help in addressing the the pandemic. The global network of prayer shared between our communities in five continents is inspired by the invitation of Pope Francis: “In these trying days, while humanity trembles due to the threat of the pandemic, I would like to propose to all Christians that together we lift our voices towards Heaven. I invite all the Heads of the Churches and the leaders of every Christian community, together with all Christian of the various confessions, to invoke the Almighty, the omnipotent God, to recite at the same time the prayer that Jesus, our Lord, taught us. I, therefore, invite everyone to do this several times a day.”
Prayer amongst Presentation Sisters at this critical time in world history, draws too on the intercessory power of Venerable Nano Nagle:
O God, you filled the heart of Nano Nagle
With loving care and compassion for the needy
Through her intercession help us in our need
during this time of the pandemic
Grant that like her, we may do your Will
And that we may grow in your love
And the love of thy neighbour
Through Christ our Lord. AMEN
To learn more about the Presentation Sisters or explore a calling, visit: www.presentationsistersne.ie