See also: A Loreto Ray of Hope Máire O'Donoghue

 

St. Anne's Resource Centre is on the left of St. Mary's Catholic Church as you approach it from the Fair Green. This was formerly St. Anne's Convent.

In the 1800s the poor children of Navan were in need of nourishment and education. One lady who was moved by their plight gave a donation of £500 to Bishop Plunkett for the erection of a convent in which the destitute girls of the town were to be " relieved and receive a gratuitous education. " Another lady also gave a donation of £500 and with this money the site of the Loreto House was purchased from Mr. Murphy of Navan.

On 20th July 1833, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr. Murray, brought four sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary - the Loreto Sisters - to Navan to set up a convent there.  The four nuns were Mother Teresa Ball, (pictured below left) the founder of Loreto in Ireland, Mother Francis Murphy from Ardmulchan, Mother Paul Finn (pictured below right)  and Sister Veronica Fox.

 


loreto sisters

(above) Mother Teresa Ball and (right) Mother Mary Paul Finn

On their way to Navan, Mother Paul and Mother Francis, carried on their laps a clock and soon had it deposited safely in a suitable corner.

When they arrived that day " there was no ceiling in the upper parts, and only clay flooring in the lower ones. The garden consisted of a gravel pit, a sandpit, and a few old trees; it was ornamented with the ruins of old cabins."

Totally undaunted they settled in and began to feed and educate Navan's young girls. The Loreto Convent of Rathfarnham was the first of that order in Ireland. Navan was to be the first affiliation to this convent. Mother Francis was for a brief space appointed superior but resigned soon afterwards as she felt unequal to the task. She lived on in Navan for forty years as Assistant Superior feeding and educating the poor.

When the sisters left St. Anne's in July 1989 they brought the original clock over to St. Michael's in Athlumney where it is still keeping time on one of their corridors. The remains of some of the early sisters and boarders were exhumed earlier that year and brought to the graveyard in St. Michael's. People living nearby were sad because they used to find great consolation praying at that little graveyard.

loreto tennis courts
(above)   A rare postcard from 1931 showing the tennis courts at St. Michael's Loreto.

Note Athlumney Castle in the background.

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Sources: The Loreto Annals

Loreto Navan - One Hundred Years of Catholic Progress Margaret Gibbons (Navan)

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In July 1989 the Loreto Sisters vacated St. Anne’s Convent and moved to St. Michael’s Athlumney. At that time the sale of part of the garden nearest Railway St. was proposed and the parish intended to use the building for parish activities. These facts were published in the Parish Bulletin of July 9th 1989. We quote:

“This week the Loreto Sisters from St. Anne’s will be moving to St. Michael’s Athlumney. The Parish will be taking over the House & Portion of the Garden. It is intended that the House will continue to be available for Parish Activities. The Loreto Order is considering the disposal of portion of the garden which fronts onto Railway Street. Monies received by the Loreto Order from the disposal of this portion of the property will defray only a small part of the cost of the present expansion of facilities for the extra students in St. Michael’s.”

Because the building is attached to St. Mary’s Church the Bishop and priests of the parish agreed with the sisters that the Parish should be involved in the future of the building and the garden.

The property still belongs to the Loreto Order and it was entirely their decision to vacate the Convent. It was also their decision to exhume the remains of the sisters buried in the grounds. This is a normal and recommended practice when a Convent to which a private cemetery is attached is closed down. This has happened many times over the last decade. The priests of the parish were not involved in this procedure. It was a private matter organised by the Loreto Order and fulfilled all the necessary legal requirements.

Over the last two and a half years many meetings have taken place in order to discuss the future use of the building and the garden. Over the years a number of groups have been offered the use of the building. The Department of Education, the Health Board, the Meath Youth Federation, the Society of St. Vincent De Paul, the Meath Mental Handicap Association and the Alzheimer Society: all looked at the building and found that they could not afford the costs of making it safe and suitable for their requirements.

In June 1990 the Parish had an Architect examine the building and he found serious defects in the structure of the building and that major renovations would be necessary if the building was to be of service to the parish. He estimated the cost of these renovations to be in the region of £300,000. A Fire Officer examined the building and he recommended structural changes to fulfill the fire regulations that would cost in the region of £250,000. Quite clearly the financial state of the parish did not make these feasible. In the meantime the Fire Officer instructed that no group should be allowed to use the building in its present condition.



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Loretto Convent, Navan

Extracts from The Catholic Directory.

The religious orders gave an excellent service in education up to the 1980s when numbers fell off. The government were happy to avail of this because it was cheaper.

1858. Loretto House, Navan - Superioress, Mrs. Finn; Chaplin Rev. P. Blake. Two large Day and Poor Schools.

1862. Loretto House, Navan - Superioress, Mrs. Finn; Chaplin, Rev. P. Gaughran. Large Boarding, Day, National and Sunday Schools.

1868. Loretto Convent, Navan - Superioress, Mrs. Murphy; Chaplains, Rev. James Moore and Rev. F. Meade. A long established, first class Boarding School for young ladies, with large Day, Primary, and Sunday Schools attached. Number in Community, 29.

1873. Loretto Convent, Navan - Superioress, Mrs. Barry; Chaplin, Rev. Peter Kelly. A long established, first class Boarding School for young ladies, with large Day, Primary and Sunday Schools attached. Number in Community, 38.

1874. Loretto Convent, Navan - Superioress, Mrs. Barry; Chaplin, Very Rev. J. Higgins. A long established, first class Boarding School for young ladies, with large Day, Primary, and Sunday Schools attached. Number in Community, 38.

1875. Loretto Convent, Navan -Superioress Mrs. Barry; Chaplin; Very Rev. J. Higgins. A long established, first class Boarding School for young ladies, with large Day, Primary and Sunday Schools attached. Number in community, 38.

1876. Loretto Convent, Navan. Superioress, Mother M. Teresa; Chaplin, Very Rev. J. Higgins. A long established, first clas Boarding School for young ladies, with large Day, Primary and Sunday Schools attached. Number in community,38.

1878. Loreto Convent, Navan - Superioress, M.J. Teresa Colahan; Chaplin, Rev. D. Cole. A long established, first class Boarding School for young ladies with large Day, Primary and Sunday Schools attached. Number in community, 38.

1879. Loretto Convent, Navan - Superioress. M.J. Aloysius Barry; Chaplin, Rev. D. Cole. A long established, first class Boarding School for young ladies, with large Day, Primary, and Sunday Schools attached. Number in community 38.

1882. Loretto Convent, Navan - Superioress, M.J. Aloysius Barry; Chaplin, Rev. B. Duff. A long established, first class Boarding School for young ladies, with large Day, Primary and Sunday Schools attached.

1883. Loretto Convent, Navan - Superioress, M.J. Aloysius Barry; Chaplin, Rev. B. Duff. A long established, first class Boarding School for young ladies, with large Day, Primary and Sunday Schools attached.

1884. Loretto Convent, Navan - Superioress, M.J. Aloysius Barry; Chaplin, Rev. B. Duff. A long established, first class Boarding School for young ladies, with large Day, Primary, and Sunday Schools attached.

1885. Loretto Convent, Navan - Superioress, M.J. Aloysius Barry; Chaplin, Rev. B. Duff. A long established, first class Boarding School for young ladies, with large Day, Primary and Sunday Schools attached.

1890. Loretto Convent, Navan - Superioress, M.J. Aloysius Barry. A long established, first class Boarding School for young ladies, with large Day, Primary and Sunday Schools attached.
The 32 years between 1858 and 1890 seem to be stable as far as education in Navan was concerned. Did Superioress Mrs. Barry become M.J. Aloysius Barry. The senior nuns had the title Mother and the junior nuns the title Sister. They seemed to have a full complement of 38 in the community. Some nuns orders had more candidates looking to join than there were vacancies. There was a system where applicants had to produce a dowry similar to a marriage dowry.

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Opening of St. Anne's National School 1953

Public officials, clergy and others who were at the opening of St. Annes's National School, on the left of the church on the Fair Green in 1953, included:

Eamon deValera, Taoiseach.

Sean Moylan, Minister for Education.

Dr. Kyne, Bishop of Meath.

Rev. W.P. Conlon, St. Patricks Classical School.
Dr. H. Dunne, Administrator, Navan. (toastmaster)
L. Murray, Secretary Department of Education
Rev. Dr. O'Dwyer, St. Columbans College, Dowdstown
Ruari O'Brolochain, Meath County Manager
B. Boyd Barrett, Chief Architect, Board of Works
Michael Dee, Meath County Engineer
Con Bourke, Secretary, Meath County Council
Mary Kate McGurl, County Librarian
Father Gerry Herbert, C.C. Navan
Dr. E.F. Drum, County Medical Officer of Health.
Senator Pat Fitzsimons, Chairman, Meath County Council
Brendan O'Sullivan, Kells, National Schools Inspector
Paddy Byron, Chief Education Officer, Meath Vocational Education Committee
Rev. J. Holloway, C.C. Navan.
Cormac Murray, Building Contractor, Navan.
W.J. Corcoran, Chief Agricultural Officer.
Rev. P. Tully, C.C. Moynalty, Chairman Meath GAA Board
Matt O'Reilly, T.D.
G. O'Kennedy, Headmaster, Navan Technical School
Rev. Brother Brendan, Superior, De La Salle School, Navan
Tom Kennedy, Chairman, Navan, Urban Council
Rev. C. King, Chaplin, Our Lady's Hospital, Navan
Michael Hilliard, T.D.
Michael Callanan, Town Clerk, Navan
Captain P.Giles, T.D.
J. McNamara, Horticultural Instructor, Navan
Peter McDermott, Secretary, Meath GAA Board
John Duffy, Civil Defence Officer
M.F. Smith, Auctioneer, Navan
Paddy Brady, B.E. Navan
P. Kelly, Manager, Cormac Murray staff.
R.Byrne,Navan. Mattie Crinion, Navan. Michael Gilsenan, Navan
Rev. P. Stewart, C.C., Navan.
Superintendant W.J. McConville, Navan
Henry Loughran, Navan

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St. Anne's National School was built by Cormac Murray.

Local sub contracors included:

William Walsh & Co. - furniture

Navan Steel Products  - gates, railings and roof trusses

John Englishby & Sons - wrought iron works for stairs

Thomas McGuinness Navan - plumbing

Rennicks Ardbraccan - cut stone

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