The Presentation Convent

William Burke, Esq., of Currylea died on 1834 and by his Will provided for the establishment and endowment of a Convent of the Presentation Order in Tuam. Dr. McHale entered into negotiations with the Presentation Community in Galway of which Mother Mary Power was the Superioress and the first nuns arrived in Tuam on the 9th May 1835. They were Sr. Mary De Sales Coppinger, Sr. Mary Ignatius Blake and Sr. Mary Louis Tighe. The were established in a house which stood near the site now occupied by the Schools at the Cathedral Road and on the morning after their arrival Mass was celebrated there for the first time. (There is now no trace of the original building, but during recent excavations at the Cathedral Road in connection with the new Water Scheme, the foundations came to light). On the same day the appointment of Sr. Mary De Sales Coppinger as first Superioress of the Community was confirmed by Dr. McHale.

Any account of this foundation would be incomplete without reference to Miss Anne Burke who was a daughter of Richard Burke of Quansberry, Co Galway, and a sister of Lady Howth. This good lady proved a valuable friend of the Order and her zeal to promote the interests of religion and to provide education for the Poor of Tuam was, to a large extent, responsible for the success which attended the new community.

Mother Mary De Sales Coppinger died on the 16th November 1835, and on November the 24th of the same year, she was succeeded as Superioress by Sr. Maria Browne who came from the Galway House to fill the office.

The first postulants to join the Order in Tuam were the Misses Jane and Mary McTucker of Sligo - called in religion Sisters Joseph and Teresa, respectively. The reception took place on the 16th July 1838, and the function was attended by many of the Catholic gentry of the country. Sr. Veronica Cunningham a lay sister, was sent from Galway on March 11th 1837, and of the original Community, this sister and Mother De Sales Coppinger are the only ones buried in Tuam, the others having returned to the Galway House.

The first premises used by the Order were small and very inadequate. The building of a suitable Convent was delayed, however, owing to legal difficulties in connection with the Will of William Burke and it was not until July, 1848, that the foundation stone of the present Convent was laid by Rev. Thomas McHale. The building was completed on September 8th 1849. the present schools were built in 1852 and Dr. McHale contributed largely to their erection.

The Foundation at Tuam was the first community of female religious to be established in the diocese since the Penal times. By inviting the nuns to open their school Dr. McHale hoped to defeat all possibility of the National System of Education being introduction into the town. Throughout his life he succeeded in his aim and it was not until 1882, during the Episcopacy of Dr. McEvilly, that the Presentation Schools were placed under the National Board. Subsequently, Branch Houses were opened at Headford (November 1906), Athenry (Jan. 1908), Keel (June 1919) and Tiernee (August 1935) and at the moment a group of Sisters are about to set out to take over a new Foundation in New Zealand.

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