Book Launch - Against the Odds
One of these commemorative events took place in the heart of Limerick City on Friday 28th February as the book ‘Against the Odds’ a history of the Foundation of the Province, was launched in Halla Íde - the first house and teaching venue the Salesian Sisters established in 1920. In order to accommodate the attendance of as many as possible two sessions were held. Glimpses into the early years were shared by Salesian Sisters and authors of the book Noelle Costello and Sarah O’Rourke. Past pupil Dr. Sinéad McCoole provided the political and social context. Sr Yvonne Reungoat, from the Salesian Sisters Leadership team in Rome launched “Against the Odds” which was published by Arlan Publications. Sr Bridget O’Connell welcomed all and Sr. Betty Baker was the MC for the evening.
When the four original Salesian Sisters arrived in Ireland in 1920 there was no legal school leaving age and many young people dropped out of school, before the age of 14, without mastering a basic education. At the request of Bishop Denis Hallinan the newly arrived Sisters ran night classes in Halla Íde, Thomas Street for 250 girls who worked mainly in factories. The curriculum consisted of reading, writing, maths, cookery, laundry and needlework. Needlework and embroidery classes were also offered to business girls. The Sisters encouraged singing, dancing and drama. Religious instruction was also given and many of the girls were prepared for Confirmation.
Four years later in September 1924, the Provincial Leadership team decided to purchase Fernbank House with a loan from a Belgian Bank .The opening Mass was offered there on December 8th 1924. This house went on to become the motherhouse for the Salesian Sisters in Ireland.
The original four pioneering sisters started an education foundation which has proved a lasting legacy for the people of Limerick and Ireland over the past 100 years. The Order grew to 124 Sisters at its height and currently constitutes 13 communities throughout the country. The Salesian Sisters established and contributed to several schools and different forms of ministry (eg chaplaincies, parish/diocesan work, youth centres, youth/adult retreats, art therapy, spiritual guidance). Together with colleagues and co-workers they continue to be involved in the lives of many young people and their families.
During the coming months of 2020 celebrations will be held in various places by different groups, as the past 100 years will be celebrated and remembered.
Reflecting on and celebrating the past will give new hope, impetus and guidance for the future.