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Presentation Sisters: Called to education and works of justice

January 30, 2015
Sister Stephanie Still, PBVM

Catholic San Francisco is featuring one religious congregation from the archdiocese in each installment of this periodic column, “Wake Up the World!” marking the Vatican’s Year of Consecrated Life. This is the challenge Pope Francis has given to consecrated persons: to wake up the world by living, praying and ministering in a way that reflects how Jesus lived on this earth: with compassion, mercy, gentleness, forgiveness, justice and concern for those who are poor or marginalized in any way.

On Sunday, Nov. 16, the Sisters of the Presentation celebrated the 160th anniversary of their founding in San Francisco on Nov. 13, 1854. Sisters, associates, staff, co-ministers, friends, and many alumnae of our schools joined in the celebration.

As we celebrate the Year of Consecrated Life, we also celebrate the decades of ministry contributed by our sisters to the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Two areas of contribution which are central to our lives as Presentation Sisters are education and work for justice. Indeed, the two are inseparable in our approach to ministry and immersion in the lives of the people with whom and for whom we minister.

The ministry of our Irish foundress, the Venerable Nano Nagle, who defied the penal laws imposed on the Irish people by the English, linked education and justice. Our founding sisters and succeeding generations of sisters continued that consciousness that education is one means to bring about justice by changing the systems of each time period.

Today that is continued in our educational ministries at Presentation High School, San Jose, the Learning and Loving Education Center for immigrant women in Morgan Hill, in El Proyecto de las Rosas in the Central Valley, and The Lantern, in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Since our founding in San Francisco, the laity has been central to our ministry and service. In the early days, the sisters could literally not have survived without the support of benefactors. That support over the decades has continued with benefactors and widened as the laity became important co-ministers and partners in our justice endeavors.

Our sisters learned important lessons about adapting to each era with the devastation of the earthquake and fire. The changes they needed to make in their community life and ministries as a result of losses they endured after that event are the foundational learnings that have readied our sisters to change with the times especially during the many social changes of the 1950s and 1960s, the response to Vatican II, and more recent developments in technology and social organization. Our sisters are truly lifelong learners.

What a privilege it has been for us to help develop and serve in the Archdiocese of San Francisco for our 160 years. As the city has grown and changed, and as we have watched the church adapt to those changing times, we are very grateful to have been part of the progress and systemic change that has improved the lives of the people of San Francisco and beyond. We stand ready to continue our service and to continue our ministerial calls to education and works of justice.

Sister Stephanie is president of the Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


Sisters of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Founded: Cork, Ireland, on Christmas Eve, 1775

Arrived: San Francisco on Nov. 13, 1854

Original ministry: Education

Current ministries: Education with Catholic schools and immigrant centers, retreat opportunities, hospital ministries, justice issues actions

Number of sisters in the archdiocese: 48

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