Professor Deirdre Raftery (pictured on the right of photo) delivered a lecture on “Unveiling the History of the Irish Nun: Opportunities for Research and Innovation” at the Loyola Institute lecture series, Trinity College Dublin on 27 March 2019. The internationally-acclaimed researcher from University College Dublin spoke about the neglect to record the history of Irish nuns, asserting for the need to hear their voices like those of women religious elsewhere such as in the United States.
At the beginning of her well-attended lecture, Professor Raftery quoted academic Caitriona Clear who stated, “Nuns have suffered the fate of historical marginalisation,” and went on to illustrate how despite some excellent scholarship by her and her team in UCD, and other researchers – lay and religious – there remains so much more of value to be researched.
“Time is running out,” she said. “There are ten, possibly fifteen years before the archives of some orders of nuns are lost forever.” She made a plea at the event for more postgraduate researchers to work on projects linked to Irish women in religious life and the need for funding to be made available for such research.
Professor Raftery’s work on the history of women religious has won several awards (Irish Research Council; Ireland-Canada University Foundation; University of Notre Dame Hibernian Award). She drew on her latest book about the founder of the Presentation Sisters entitled Nano Nagle: The Life and the Legacy (written in association with Catriona Delaney and Catherine Nowlan-Roebuck).
The Presentation Sisters, established in Cork City, continue Nano’s education and social inclusion work today. Of particular note is Nano Nagle Place, a bustling visitors centre in Cork that celebrates Nano’s vision of empowerment through education, community inclusion and spiritual engagement for a contemporary world.