By Br. Alfonce Kugwa
21 November is a memorable day for the Presentation Sisters as they celebrate the feast day of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The feast became unusually important this year as it was combined with the commemoration of the tercentenary of the anniversary of the birth of their foundress, Nano Nagle born in Ireland in 1718. This day, the congregation celebrates Nano Nagle’s legacy and selfless love in restoring the dignity of humanity.
The Presentation community at Nagle House took time to trace the journey travelled by Nano Nagle in establishing schools and the congregation of the Presentation Sisters. The gathering was reminded of Nano’s zeal to emancipate poor children especially girls from the bonds of poverty through education. Nagle House students recited poems and sang songs in honour of Nano whose sweat did not go to naughty but transformed many lives of simple girls. Her zeal was to build as many schools as possible in all parts of the world as witnessed by her own words, “If I could be of any service in serving souls in any part of the globe I would willingly do all in my power.”
Fr. George Gasa said Nano toiled during the night to bring light to the marginalised. He stressed that while other people use the darkness of the night to do all sorts of illicit things, Nano used the darkness of the night to accomplish works of mercy by bringing civilisation to the downtrodden.
‘A lot of things happen during the night because people take advantage of the darkness. Darkness can also mean ignorance or lack of knowledge. Nano used the darkness of her time to bring light to the lives of the poor. Because of political turmoil of her time that prohibited majority education, she had to work during the night to liberate girls and boys from the bonds of ignorance by starting schools and later founding the congregation of the Presentation Sisters,” said Fr. Gasa.
Fr. Gasa reiterated that it was through Nano’s commitment that many people especially women have been educated in Zimbabwe and in other different parts of the world.
He said: “The challenge for the Presentation Sisters today is to fulfil Nano’s dream through revitalisation of people’s faith, hope and to use this opportunity to bring God to the people. Being professional teachers alone is not enough but the way you inculcate knowledge should reflect that it is God working in you.”
He urged the Presentation Sisters to commit themselves to God especially in the darkest situations of their lives.
“No amount of darkness should lead you to ignore God who is the source of your strength,” Fr. Gasa said.
The priest praised the Presentation Sisters for answering the call of their foundress by providing education to poor children. The Presentation Sisters in Zimbabwe run Nagle House School in Marondera which was established in 1959 as a boarding school and was transformed into a day school to cater for the educational needs of the local girls. They also run St. Michael’s Presentation Primary School and Wadzanai Training Centre in Borrowdale.
Sr. Bridget Gochera highlighted that local girls had no access to quality education hence the sisters were compelled to consider that plight. In 2002, the Sisters realised that the local girls were being marginalised in accessing quality education and decided to open doors for them so that they can as well realise a bright future.
“When the school was a boarding, it only concentrated on the needs of children from elite backgrounds and local girls were left out as they could not afford the fees required then. For boarding one has to charge high rates which are unaffordable to the poor. But under the new arrangement, we want to produce internationally marketable students with the lowest possible fee,” Said Sr. Gochera.
Nagle House School has 29 teachers and an enrolment of 477 students from Form 1-6 and they offer an official repeat class for Form 4.
The congregation of the Presentation Sisters has 10 members in the whole country and in Marondera their mission is vibrant as a result of three groups of Friends of Nano who are torch bearers in Small Christian Communities. The first of group for Nano’s friends was started by one Sr. Ancella in 1985. The groups engage in works of mercy, protection of the environment and sustainable agriculture.
“This group is important for us as it keeps us occupied and active. We always have something to do,” said one of Nano’s friends.
The first Presentation Sisters arrived in Zimbabwe, then Southern Rhodesia in 1949 from India and settled at Mount Mellary in Nyanga.