Nano Nagle was born in Ireland, at Ballygriffin, Co. Cork, in the year 1718. Because of the Penal Laws against Catholics, she was educated first at the local hedge school and later in France. On completing her education, Nano resided in Paris and enjoyed a social life with her sister Ann, among that privileged set of Irish emigrees associated with the Stuart cause. On her return to Ireland in 1746, Nano was appalled by the oppression and enforced ignorance of poor Catholics in Ireland. In spite of her desire to be of help, the task seemed impossible, and she decided to enter the religious life in France and pray for her people. But God’s plan for her was otherwise. Like St. Patrick of old, she felt the call of the children of Ireland to return to her native land.
She came back to Cork and started what was to be her life’s work. In 1752 Nano Nagle risked imprisonment and even death by opening her first school in a mud cabin, in Cove Lane In Cork. In 1771, she introduced the Ursuline Sisters into Cork, thinking that this would ensure the continuation of her apostolate. But the rule of enclosure observed by the Ursuline Order made this impossible. Nano had to think again. On Christmas Eve, 1775, she founded what was to become the Congregation of the Sisters of the Presentation by inviting Miss Mary Fouhy, Miss Elizabeth Bourke and Miss Mary Ann Collins to join her in her apostolate to the poor. Her decision was timely for, worn out by her labours for the Irish people, Nano Nagle died on April 26th, 1784. Presentation Sisters are spread throughout the world, in Ireland, England, Newfoundland, Australia, Scotland, Bolivia, Zambia, New Guinea, U.S.A., Phillippines, Ecuador, India, Pakistan, New Zealand, Zimbabwe and Chile.