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Presentation Sisters

      The Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary (P.B.V.M.) were founded by the Venerable Nano Nagle in 1775 for "Charitable Instruction," the education and service to poor Catholics in oppressed Ireland. In 1874, Mother Mary Joseph Hickey and eleven other Presentation Sisters left Ireland to come to New York City at the invitation of Father Arthur Donnelly, pastor of Saint Michael's Church. Before embarking on their long journey, the missionary band knelt at the tomb of their foundress to seek her blessing. Their steamship, City of Paris, reached New York on September 8, 1874. Soon after their arrival, the Sisters began their work of teaching in Saint Michael's still-unfinished school on West 31st Street, "amid bricks and mortar, dust and workmen." The first enrollment was 600 children.

      The school and the community flourished. In 1884, Mother Teresa Reynolds and four other Sisters established Mount Saint Michael's Home for Children, at the Frost Farm in Greenridge, Staten Island. This group eventually spun off from the Manhattan community to become the Sisters of the Presentation of Staten Island. In 1886, a second group of Sisters, under the leadership of Mother Magdalen Keating, left New York to establish a new Presentation foundation in Fitchburg, Massachusetts. From those early beginnings at Saint Michael's Church, the Sisters of the Presentation went on to found schools and initiate new ministries in many locations in the northeastern United States and elsewhere.

      Staten Island was a flourishing area in the 1920s, and new parishes were being formed quite rapidly. Richmondtown's St. Patrick Church became the Mother Church to three Mission Churches, namely, Our Lady of Lourdes, St. Charles, and St. Clare.

      St. Clare Church, even then, had the tremendous cooperation of its congregants, and they were concerned about the education of their children. The founding Rector, Father Charles Parks, approached the Community of the Presentation Sisters and arranged for the beginning of the Catechetical Program.

      In 1922, the Sisters started the program in a rented hall on Giffords Lane. This little Mission Hall marked the beginning of a most fruitful educational system for neighborhood Catholics. When Fr. Parks became ill, it was the responsibility of his assistant, Fr. Thomas McDonnell (a future Bishop), to look in on the Catechetical Program. His report back to Fr. Parks was: "It is like Bethlehem, with the Sisters in charge of the Hall and the 200-plus children." The pioneer spirit of the first three Sisters, Mother Vincent, Mother Dominic and Mother Aloysius, is to be applauded. Indeed, it was their foundation upon which many other Presentation Sisters continued to build successful programs for the children of Great Kills.

      St. Clare Church became an independent parish in 1925, and planning soon began for a parish school. On July 1, 1935, Msgr. Joseph Farrell visited to bless the grounds on Lindenwood Road where new construction began, and St. Clare School opened on September 14, 1936. Mother Dominic became the first principal, and the Presentation Sisters continued to lead the school into the 21st Century.

      The Sisters commuted daily from Mount St. Michael's, since there was not a Convent in the parish. The first graduation ceremony was conducted in 1938. Kindergarten and the Mothers' Club were started in 1945, and the Fathers' Club in 1950. The parish children and parents were involved and responsible for the care of the buildings and grounds. They took great pride in their work and it became their special ministry. The school building was later enlarged twice, with new wings added in 1959 and 1987.

      In November 1961, Saint Clare Parish purchased the house next to the School, for the Presentation Sisters. When the alterations were completed, the parish had a sixteen-room Convent with its own chapel. The doors were opened in 1963, and the Presentation Convent received an architectural award as one of the best building projects completed on Staten Island that year. To the delight of the Sisters, they would no longer have to commute and endure terrible road conditions in inclement weather, and they could be fully accessible to students and parents.

      Parishioners had banded together to save their plaid stamps and green stamps. They traded-in these valuable stamps for the furnishings of their new Convent and the needs of their beloved Sisters. All the items that were needed in a kitchen or a sitting room were provided. The cabinets were stocked with dishes, pots, utensils, etc. Bed linens were secured and the closets proudly stored towels, blankets, etc. When the Sisters moved in, they remember that the Moms had even made the beds so that each Sister would feel most welcomed.

      The Sisters enjoyed many happy events in the Convent and loved being so close to the people. Father Eugene Hicks, the longtime Assistant Pastor, was a frequent visitor to the Convent when he would bring parishioners to celebrate special liturgies. These were always pleasant and welcomed events. There was always a most open and enjoyable relationship with the clergy of the parish.

      With the arrival of Msgr. Joseph Murphy in 1985, the Convent received some special attention to keep the facilities in good order. He was always trying to make things easier for the Sisters, and often spoke of the joy it was to have the Sisters in the parish. He was most generous and considerate of the Sisters. We are grateful for the appreciation of the dozens of Sisters over these many years and for their long ministry to the parish.

      On December 31, 1999, the Convent was re-dedicated. The re-dedication would use the former convent as the St. Clare Presentation Center, which is now home to the many faithful lay staff members who work to carry on the legacy of the Presentation Sisters in their ministries to St. Clare's parishioners.

68 Sisters Who Have Ministered at St. Clare's
(1922-2008)

M. M. Aloysius
M. M. Dominic (Principal 1936-1943)
M. M. Vincent
Sr. M. Alacoque
Sr. Kathryn Anderson
Sr. M. Andrew
Sr. M. Angela
Sr. M. Anne
Sr. M. Annunciata
Sr. M. Anthony
Sr. M. Aquinas
Sr. M. Assisium (Principal 1964-1986)
Sr. M. Benignus
Sr. M. Berchmans
Sr. M. Bernadette
Sr. M. Borgia
Sr. M. Borromeo
Sr. Eileen Boyle
Sr. M. Carmel
Sr. M. Cecilia
Sr. M. Charles
Sr. M. Christina
Sr. M. Christopher
Sr. M. Clare Dunne
Sr. M. Clare Landgrover
Sr. Miriam Coe
Sr. M. Concepta
Sr. M. Cordis
Sr. M. David
Sr. M. Dolores
Sr. M. Eileen
Sr. M. Emmanuel
Sr. M. Evangelist
Sr. M. Francis
Sr. M. Genevieve
Sr. M. Gertrude
Sr. M. Grace
Sr. M. Imelda
Sr. Jean Marie
Sr. M. Jeanne
Sr. M. Jerome
Sr. M. Joan
Sr. M. John (Principal 1943-1951)
Sr. M. Kathleen
Sr. M. Kevin
Sr. M. Lawrence
Sr. M. Liguori
Sr. M. Loretta
Sr. M. Magdalene
Sr. Marian
Sr. Marie
Sr. M. Mark
Sr. M. Martha
Sr. Maureen
Sr. Kathleen Monahan
Sr. M. Monica (Principal 1951-1964)
Sr. Mary O'Keefe
Sr. M. Paul
Sr. Catherine Quinn
Sr. Kathleen Quinn
Sr. M. Scholastica
Sr. M. Stephen
Sr. M. Veronica
Sr. M. Virginia
Sr. Jean Wagner
Sr. Rosemary Ward (Principal 1986-2004)
Sr. Virginia Wilkinson
Sr. M. Xavier