Presentation Sisters Union News Update June 2009 Print Version
For many years the Abbey Church had been in a state of great disrepair and the community were too involved in debt to undertake its restoration, but now benefactors came forward unexpectedly and enabled the nuns to clear the debt and to rebuild the Church completely.
Towards the end of 1779, the Lady Abbess, writing to Rome, asked for a confirmation in perpetuity, of the Indulgences. The bearer of this letter finding that the Cardinal Secretary for Briefs was unfavourable to the devotion to the Sacred Heart, bore it direct himself to the Sovereign Pontiff, Pius VI, with the result that a Bull, 'Ad Augendam Fidelium Religionem' was given, granting a plenary indulgence every day of the year to all the faithful, who, having received the Sacraments of Penance and the Blessed Eucharist should pray before the altar in the Abbey Church for the Pope's intentions. This favour was so remarkable that it greatly increased the confidence of the Lady Abbess and the community in the Divine Heart of Jesus. Assembled in Chapter, the nuns passed a resolution to give themselves anew to the Sacred Heart in a more solemn and public manner than heretofore: to celebrate the coming Feast of the Sacred Heart with the greatest fervour and pomp; and to petition the Bishop Ypres, Most Rev. Felix de Wavrans, for the erection of a Confraternity of the Sacred Heart in their Church. When the Abbess made known to him their resolution, his Lordship at once granted their request. The Abbess then applied to the Holy See for the privilege of celebrating the Feast as a First Class with octave, with the Mass and the Office lately granted to Poland. By a Brief dated March 27th 1780, her petition was granted. On June 2nd Feast of the Sacred Heart, 1780, the Bishop celebrated the conventual Mass in the Abbey Church. Before receiving Holy Communion, the Nuns, as the Sacred Host was held aloft in the Bishop's hand, made a solemn act of Consecration which the Abbess read aloud in the name of all, whereby they made "an entire donation of our house and all we possess, our community and each of its members forever, ready at all times to serve as victims in order to repair the outrages to which the Divine Heart is daily exposed for love of us in the most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar." In the afternoon the Bishop assisted at Vespers and Benediction and then solemnly erected the Confraternity. He subsequently supported the petition of the Abbess to the Holy See, and confirmation was given by Pope Pius VI on November 14th of the same year.
The nuns were soon to experience in a very special way the protection which Our Lord had promised to St. Margaret Mary would be granted to those in whose homes the picture of His Sacred Heart would be exposed for veneration. In 1781 the Josephite Terror began in Belgium, but during the 9 years it lasted the Abbey was never molested. Then followed the French Revolution. For 5 years the revolutionary soldiers occupied the Abbey. The nuns refused to leave and continued to carry out the regular observance, claiming exemption from the law which did not apply to aliens. During all the time Holy Mass was celebrated daily and the Divine Office was punctually recited in Choir. When at last the troops withdrew, everything, including the Nuns' beds, had been looted, but the Church remained intact, with the picture of the Sacred Heart above the altar.
During the century that followed, and until the First World War, the Community kept up the traditional devotion to the Sacred Heart. The nuns had the happiness of knowing that from their Convent, which for many years was the only one left in Western Europe, the devotion was spreading through Flanders, and even to Ireland. As mentioned above, Nano Nagle was at the Abbey school when the first Association was established among the pupils. She gave the devotion to the Presentation Sisters and to the Ursulines, both of whom carried it wherever foundations were made. Another pupil, Judith Browne, (1767-1774) was Foundress of the Brigidine Sisters in the Diocese of Kildare. From her the Sisters received the devotion and their Mother-House was the first to have granted the Mass (Egredimini) in Ireland. Soon there were branches of the Confraternity in all the parishes of the Diocese of Kildare.
Note given by Dame Bernard of Kylemore Abbey (Now deceased)
I was first told of Nano's connection with Ypres in Autumn, 1908, when I first went to school there, by Dame Josephine Fletcher an Irish nun, professed on 21st November 1851, who knew nuns who had known nuns professed before the French Revolution.
The following letter was written by Dame Bernard to Sr. Camillas, a Presentation Sister from Fargo, North Dakota, author of "From Acorn to Oak" 1969, a study of Presentation Foundations 1775 -1968.
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