Tag Archives: School

Newfoundland is not as “dreary as we heard.”

Archival Moment

January 10, 1856

Nano Nagle founder of the Presentation Congregation.

Nano Nagle founder of the Presentation Congregation.

 “On the 10th of January, 1856 , Sister Mary Clare Waldron, Sister Mary Ignatius Quinlan, Sister Mary Rose Mullally, and Sister Mary Regis Haplin (novice) religious of the Presentation Order, came from the Mother house to establish another house of the Order at Riverhead in this town (St. John’s) under the authority of Most Reverend Dr. Mullock, Bishop of St. John’s .”

The first nuns to serve in Newfoundland reached St John’s harbour on 21 September 1833.

The four Galway women came to Newfoundland at the invitation of the Catholic Bishop, Michael Fleming to establish a school that would offer improved educational opportunity for girls and young women in St. John’s.

Upon arrival in St. John’s the nuns were agreeably surprised by the appearance of Newfoundland.

“This country,” Sister Mary Bernard Kirwin wrote in her first letter home, “is by no means as dreary as we heard. The bay is beautiful and so is the country as far as we can see.”

Within a few weeks of their arrival in St. John’s the sisters had gathered approximately 450 students that they divided into classes. They began teaching in a room at the rear of an old tavern, the “Rising Sun” that also served as their home. The curriculum included grammar, literature, arithmetic, French, music, needle work, and Christian doctrine.

The Presentation Sisters remain active in Newfoundland and Labrador. Some places where you will meet Presentation women are: The Gathering Place; Nano Nagle Spirituality Centre; Presentation Sisters’ Retreat House ; St. Catherine’s Renewal Centre; The Lantern and Xavier House.

Recommended Archival Collection: Presentation Congregation Archives, Cathedral Square, St. John’s. The collection, which includes manuscripts, artifacts, record books, photographs and personal papers, documents the history of the Presentation Congregation in Newfoundland from the arrival of the first four volunteers to the present day. The Archives also holds materials related to education and to other apostolates in which the Presentation Order is involved. An interesting part of the Archives is the photographic collection that presents a visual history of the Presentation Congregation in Newfoundland.

Recommended Reading: http://www.presentationsisters.ca/

Did you know? One of the ventures of the Presentation Congregation with others is the Gathering Place, Military Road, St. John’s (see the advertisement above) The Gathering Place offers a noon meal program each weekday. Since its opening in 1994, the program has served numbers ranging from 40 to 170 guests per day.

Orphan Asylum School


January 30, 1876.

The Orphan Asylum School, Queens Road, St. John’s

On January 30, 1876 the Irish Christian Brothers opened their first school in Newfoundland known locally as the Orphan Asylum School.  The school had previously been under the jurisdiction of the Benevolent Irish Society. (BIS).

The arrival of the three Christian Brothers implied far more than the arrival of a few more teachers.  It meant the introduction of a group of teachers who taught as a unit, were all trained in the same teaching methods, used the same graded text books and employed the same code of discipline.

Attendance shot up from 66 at the former Orphan Asylum School in November to 300, the full limit of the space available.

The Orphan Asylum was built on Queen’s Road on the side of the hill overlooking St. John’s, across the street from the Basilica. The building featured a prominent tower observatory that was one of the most prominent architectural features of the city in its day.

After a year of teaching at the school, the BIS and Christian Brothers decided that the fifty-year-old wooden structure was no longer suitable and plans were made for a new stone building on the same lot. The Orphan Asylum School was sold for thirty-five pounds and was torn down.

Recommended Archival Collection:  Archives of the Congregation of the Christian Brothers, St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador.

Recommended Web Site:  The History of Catholic Education in Newfoundland. http://fromslatetochalk.ca/

Recommended Reading: Nobel to the View, The Saga of St. Bonaventure’s College  by Brother J.B. Darcy, Creative Publishers, St. John’s. 2007

Mercy Sisters Open Their First School in the New World


May 1, 1843

Mercy Convent, Military Road, St. John's, NL.

The Congregation of the Sisters of Mercy was founded in Dublin, Ireland by Catherine McAuley on December 12, 1831.

At the request of Bishop Michael Anthony Fleming of St. John’s, Newfoundland three Irish women Frances Creedon, Ursula Frayne, and Rose Lynch began their Atlantic crossing on the Sir Walter Scott to begin working as missionaries in Newfoundland.

They arrived in St. John’s on June 3, 1842. With no convent ready they  took accommodations at Belvedere, Bishop Fleming’s residence.  (The street is now known as Margaret’s Place – off Newtown Road. Belvedere is the buidling  nearest to the MCP Building that was  the old  Belvedere Orphanage.)

During the first eleven months of the new mission, the Sisters of Mercy visited the sick and the poor in their homes. On December 12, 1842, the Sisters moved from their temporary home to their new convent on Military Road. This was the first Mercy Convent in the New World.

On May 1, 1843, Our Lady of Mercy School, Military Road, was formally opened. From this nucleus, other convents were opened throughout the province.

Through the years the Sisters of Mercy were engaged primarily in the teaching and nursing professions. In recent years their main focus has been in Pastoral Ministries in various localities in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and in Peru.

Recommended Reading: “Weavers of the Tapestry”, Kathrine Bellamy’s, RSM -St. John’s, NL.  Flanker Press Limited   2006

 Recommended Web Site: http://www.sistersofmercynf.org/