The Lantern, A Christian Life Centre, operated by the Presentation Sisters, opened its doors in 1997 on September 21, the anniversary day of the coming of the first four Presentation Sisters to Newfoundland.
In the early 18th century new seeds of God’s creative dream were planted in the heart of a young Irish woman named Nano Nagle who went on to become the foundress of the Presentation Sisters in Ireland in 1776.
Nano Nagle, the foundress of the Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary (PBVM), was born into a privileged background in 1718, the daughter of a wealthy Irish landowner. As a very young woman she became keenly aware of the widespread poverty in her county and of the effects of the oppressive Penal Laws which were designed to keep the Irish impoverished, without property and without education.
Wanting to be of service to her people, Nano went to Cork, where her brother lived, and set up her first little school for the poor in a rented mud cabin in Cove Lane. She did so in defiance of the law, and in complete secrecy even from her brother.
Within a year, the first school grew from 30 students to 200 students who were housed in five schools. By 1775, Nano had established a congregation of nuns with the specific vocation of educating the poor.
Nano became known as the Lady with the Lantern because her work did not end with the school day; it continued in her visits to the poor in their homes in the back streets of Cork. She was described by a biographer as she made these rounds:
“How often have we seen her, after a well-spent day, returning through the darkness of the night, dripping with rain, mingled in the busy crowd, moving thoughtfully along by the faint glimmering of a wretched lantern” (Coppinger).
That lantern has now become the symbol of the Presentation Sisters all over the world.
Presentation Sisters In Newfoundland
On September 21, 1833, a small ship, named The Ariel, sailed through the Narrows of St. John’s Harbour. Among the passengers were the first four Presentation Sisters to come to Newfoundland, carrying the vision and spirit of Nano Nagle to our shores. They had left family and homeland and all that was familiar to them to respond to an invitation from Bishop Fleming, then Bishop of St. John’s, to come and establish a school that would offer improved educational opportunity for girls and young women.
In 1994 the dream of a Christian Life Centre began to take shape among a group of the Sisters. What had been Presentation School closed its doors in June of 1996. As the dream continued to unfold, the newest part of the school was kept intact and appropriately renovated, to become what is now widely known as The Lantern, A Christian Life Centre.
Nano’s spirit, the spirit of these first four women and those who followed them, continues to guide us as we endeavour through our Lantern ministry to meet today’s emerging needs in collaboration with the numerous others who share that vision.
The ministry of The Lantern focuses on the development of spirituality, the formation of community and the promotion of justice, as expressed in our Mission Statement. The variety of programming and other activities/events throughout the year, offered by Lantern Staff as well as by others in the wider community, flow from and are guided by that Mission Statement.
The Lantern symbol, so central in Nano’s own life and mission as a truly Gospel woman, invites all who share the vision, indeed all seekers, to indeed be Light in our world today.