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President MacAleese honours FCJ sisters’ legacy, Ard Scoil Mhuire FCJ, Bruff, Ireland on November 17, 2006

On Tuesday 17 November, Katherine and Frances were delighted to share in the excitement of all at the School when, as part of their 150 years’ celebrations, they received a visit from the President of Ireland, Mrs. Mary McAleese.  In the chapel, Katherine welcomed the President, who then unveiled a plaque honouring the contribution of over 200 FCJ Sisters who have served at Bruff since its beginning.

Photos of President McAleese with Staff.

Later, speaking to the students assembled in the Hall, the President praised the daring and foresight of Marie Madeleine who, so soon after the Famine years, made a foundation in the west of Ireland to offer education for girls.

The following article is taken from the Limerick Leader Newspaper:

When the French Sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus came to Bruff 150 years ago, they arrived in a post-famine Ireland where one million people lay dead and another million were forced to emigrate, said Mary McAleese during her visit to Ard Scoil Mhuire in Bruff this week. President McAleese visited the school to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the FCJ sisters to the town.

Following an invitation from Dean Cussen, six FCJ sisters arrived in Bruff in 1856 to set up a girls’ primary and secondary school, and the schools have been in place ever since. President McAleese said that the sisters arrived in the midst of poverty and despair, and brought a message of hope. “They changed the story of Ireland and they did it slowly,” she said.

President McAleese said they did an amazing thing by setting up a girls’ school in 1856. “Women, then, were as far down the food chain as you can get.  Trinity College didn’t open its doors to women until the early 1900s,” she said.

President McAleese said that we lived in an amazing Ireland today without the old rules and regulations where you are told you can’t do something because of your background or because you are a woman. “The old days of ‘you can’t’ are gone,” she said.  She said that Ard Scoil Mhuire was an amazing co-ed school and paid tribute to the ambition of the sisters who arrived in Ireland and which had allowed this to flourish.

Photos of the assembly.

Since the school was founded, over 200 sisters had had contact with thousands of students, she said.  President McAleese said that they provided education which allowed confidence to grow out the wreckage they had found when they arrived in the country. She said that these 200 women had given young men and women the opportunity to use their brain power which was Ireland’s best natural resource.

“Education is an opportunity to know yourself and to be curious and go out into the world and use it,” she said. President McAleese told the students that the education they were getting in Ard Scoil Mhuire was like a lottery ticket which will give them a chance to change their lives and allow them to go where they want and get the job they want. She said that there had never been the likes of the present generation in Ireland before, and it will be fascinating to watch them go out into the world.

Photos of the President with students.

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