It will truly be the end of an era in New Inn when the community gathers to say goodbye to Srs Assumpta, Fidelma, Nellie and Rena, as they leave the village next week.
135 years ago the Mercy Community in New Inn began with the arrival of four sisters, and now the final four sisters will depart.
The convent, and former boarding school, has been sold and so the sisters are moving on to pastures new, but not before the local community come together to thank the sisters for all their dedication, support and friendship.
The desire to have a religious order of teaching sisters and brothers in a parish was universal throughout Ireland during the second half of the nineteenth century.
The smallest of villages aspired to this objective. In 1877 the Mercy Sisters in Charleville responded to the invitation of Fr. John Ryan, parish priest of New Inn at the time, to establish a convent in the village.
The parish provided a 23 acre farm and convent for the Sisters. On 1 May 1879 four sisters arrived accompanied by Mother M. Joseph Croke, superior of Charleville convent, a sister of Dr. Thomas Croke, Archbishop of Cashel and Emly 1875-1902. The sisters transformed education in New Inn.
On their arrival they began teaching girls in the parlour of the convent and a new school for girls opened in 1890.
A ‘secondary top’ was started in 1938, becoming a secondary school in the 1950s with a boarding school added between 1964 and 1985.
The school had close ties with nearby Rockwell College, run by the Holy Ghost Congregation, and they shared teachers and facilities. Srs. M. Gertrude and Kevin from New Inn were the first Cashel and Emly Mercy sisters to be sent for training to Carysfort Teacher Training College, Dublin, between 1927 and 1929.
In 1920 the New Inn sisters took over Drangan convent from the Tipperary sisters.
In 1964 New Inn acquired a wider ministry when four sisters opened a convent and school in St. Patrick’s, Jacksonville, Florida, which continued until the late 1980s.
The present school, Scoil Mhuire gan Smal, was built on a site freely given by the Mercy Sister in 1965 and was opened on January 10, 1966. The school was upgraded and refurbished in 2002 under the guidance of then principal Sr Assumpta Dunne. Ms Fiona Ryan took over from Sr Assumpta in September 2005 and became the first lay principal of the school.
In 1987 it was decided that the first floor of New Inn Convent be renovated and equipped as a Unit for the Sick. Over the years many Sisters have been cared for here. A centre for Counselling and Human Development was founded in 1990 under the sponsorship of the Mercy Sisters and directed by Sr Maureen Fahey, Psychologist. It was blessed by Archbishop Dermot Clifford in 1992. A portrait of Canon John Ryan painted by Fr Bottrell C.S.Sp, displayed in the Hall of the Convent and is now in possession of parish.
Next Wednesday, November 28, the Sisters of Mercy will take leave of New Inn convent after a presence of almost 135 years. To mark this historic occasion, a concelebrated Mass, presided over by Archbishop Dermot Clifford, will take place in New Inn Church on Thursday, November 29, at 7pm, followed by light refreshments in the community centre, where everyone can reminisce with their former teachers and classmates over a nice cup of tea. A wonderful evening is anticipated. All who would like to help or attend are most welcome.
It will be a sad night for the sisters, but as Sr Assumpta said: “the school is thriving, it will be the same here as we move on.” Next Wednesday will be an opportunity for everyone to meet up, and the sisters appreciate very much the work of the community.
This is a very significant time in the life of the New Inn community and in the lives of the Mercy Sisters . We wish Sisters Assumpta, Fidelma, Nellie and Rena the very best.