Convent’s 150th anniversary

Convent of Mercy
Convent of Mercy

For many years the Sisters of Mercy have been educating and helping the people of Lurgan and now they are celebrating their 150th anniversary.

Spearheading the education of both girls and boys in the 19th century, these nuns were trailblazers, paving the way for a modern, well-taught society.

And their talents have evolved bringing pastoral care to many families and individuals across the Lurgan and Craigavon areas.

They have been a solace in times of need and a rock for those eager to shape a new life for themselves.

As a mark of Thanksgiving for their ceaseless service throughout decades, a special Mass will be held in St Peter’s Church next week.

With Chief Celebrant Bishop John McAreavey, the people of Lurgan are expected to unite in gratitude for the work these nuns have carried out over the past 150 years.

The Thanksgiving Mass will be held on Saturday, August 20th, at 6pm.

Everyone is most welcome to refreshments in the Parish Hall where you will have an opportunity to mingle and speak with the Sisters.

Sr. Evelyn Kenny will give a brief summary of the work done by sisters since their Foundation in 1866.

It is a remarkable history and dates from 1865. Then, acting on behalf of the Very Reverend James McKenna, a member of the Magee family of Union Street bought a piece of waste ground close to the livestock pound in Edward Street.

It was the site for a Convent and was bought in February of 1865, Building work startedin March 1865 and in May 1866 it was completed and ready for a number of nuns who arrived in Lurgan from Warrenpoint along with Mother Emmanuel.

On the 10th September 1866, the nuns opened two schools inside the building, for girls, St Mary‘s, for boys, St, Joseph‘s. The two schools were free, but if the family could pay, it was one penny a week.

They also opened night classes for adults, mainly for these wishing to learn to read and write.

Numbers for the day schools, averaged at 280 pupils and 190 for night school.

Before this, the only Catholic girls school in the area was in a wooden shed in the Dougher cemetery.

It was difficult to get the board of education in Dublin to recognise these new schools, so obtaining equipment was difficult. Nuns often made alphabet cards out of letters from newspaper headlines.

In 1871, Lurgan became an independent foundation with Sister Mary Gertrude O’Hagan as the first Mother Superior of The Covent of Mercy. Well established by 1875, the community began a school building programme. The Edward Street school cost of £1,000 to build.

The old convent in Edward St is now Mount Zion House, a hub of community groups.

Next door the Adoration Chapel is well attended daily.

And the nuns now live in a specially built home beside the Springwell Centre. Many young and old will remember visiting the well tended gardens and searching for the elusive tortoise. There has always been a warm welcome from the nuns with tea and shortbread always offered.