Last nuns to leave iconic convent

August 20th, 2015 7:15 AM

By Southern Star Team

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FIVE nuns living in the Convent in Rosscarbery have confirmed that they will be leaving by the end of September, but they also confirmed that the convent is not for sale at this time.

Two of the nuns, Sr Regina and Sr Bernadette, will be going to live in the convent in Clonakilty and St Valerie, who is originally from Glandore, has secured an apartment in Rosscarbery. That leaves Sr Angela and Sr Redempta ‘house hunting’ in the locality.

The nuns, who are members of the Sisters of Mercy, believe in ‘shared leadership’ but Sr Angela spoke for all of them when she said: ‘It is sad to be leaving such a beautiful building.

‘We were asked by our congregational leaders to consider our quality of life in this building. It is a listed building, both inside and out, and any changes to the building would involve restrictions. ‘For five women who are moving towards retirement, it is not an option. But we are pleased to say that it has been extremely well preserved – something that is an immense tribute to the original builders.’

The convent and the school were built in 1894 and extended in the 1900s. The new secondary school, Mount St Michael’s, was established in 1950 and in the early 1970s a new primary school was built on a greenfield site.

Although there are no nuns teaching in either the primary or the secondary school, they still work together. In fact, it is that collaborative approach that allowed a trailblazing Sr Brigid to make Mount St Michael’s the only voluntary Catholic co-educational school in West Cork.

Sr Angela paid tribute to Sr Brigid but said: ‘No one person could achieve that without the co-operation and collaboration of everyone involved – it does, however, show the courage and vision they had to establish a co-educational school.’

At its peak, there were 20 nuns living in the convent and 80 boarders living in a house that was built directly behind the convent, but Mount St Michael’s ceased to be a boarding school in 2004, because there simply wasn’t a demand anymore. That’s not to say that the school didn’t continue to thrive – today, Mount St Michael’s has 400 pupils and 30 teachers.

Over the last two years, the number of nuns living in the convent fell from 10 to five, following the passing of Sr Ethna, Sr Joseph and Sr Brigid, with St Genevieve and Sr Clare moving to different postulates.

Sr Angela pointed out that the convent chapel has been a focus for people of hope and care: ‘People know they are being prayed for up here. It is the question we are asked most frequently, “What will happen to the chapel?” But wherever we are, our prayers will be with the people of Rosscarbery.’

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