The Congregation: Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Following Nano's death, the congregation she founded in 1775 grew. The Sisters of the Sacred Heart established convents and schools in other towns and cities of Ireland. In 1791 Pope Pius VI granted papal approval. The sisters took simple vows and were not bound by enclosure ensuring that Nano Nagle’s desire to be wherever the poor were to be found lived on in the work of her sisters. At the core of the congregation's mission was a passion for justice and a devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Difficult historical and social circumstances caused significant changes in the Institute’s manner of life. In 1805, Pope Pius VII approved new constitutions which incorporated these changes: profession of solemn vows and a rule of enclosure. At the same time the Institute was given another official title: The Order of the Presentation of Our Blessed Lady.
With the hierarchial imposed limitation on the expression of Nano's mission, the sisters poured their energies into education of the poor and in so doing elevated the welfare, spiritual and material, of the families with whom they interacted. Although the change in their mission was decried by many, the congregation continued to flourish not only in Ireland but also in other parts of the world especially in North America, Australia and India.
Historical and legal factors caused each of the various houses of the Congregation to develop as independent units. Nevertheless, the charism of the foundress has always been a source of life and unity.
Eventually enclosure was abandoned and while maintaining a strong presence in educational systems, the sisters undertook anew the ministry dear to the heart of Nano Nagle-- direct service with persons and groups on the margins of society. Her practices of caring for the sick, visiting prisioners, and attending to the spiritual and material welfare of all with whom she came in contact were revitalized around the globe.
In 1976, in response to the invitation of Vatican II, a number of autonomous Presentation Congregations came together as one Congregation. This new Congregation established by Papal Degree is The Union of Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Over time other autonomous units in Europe and North America fused with the Union. The congregations in Australia formed a society and other congregations continue as independent units.
Whether in the Union or not, the experience of being Presentation today is shaped both by faithfulness to the Presentation tradition and by new understandings of how that tradition finds expression in social, religious, cultural and ecological contexts. Moved by the vulnerability of the dispossessed, the daily hunger of people, the search for meaning, the fragmentation of our universe and our own weakness, we have come to a new consciousness of our inter-connectedness and our interdependence. Pray for us that we may be true to our calling.