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[The following most interesting and valuable communinication is from the pen of an English Protestant lady ; it was written for publication in an English periodical, but we think it finds a more fitting place in THE IRISH QUARTERLY Review. It possesses a peculiar interest for Irish Catholic readers, and we believe that very much of the information contained in it, will be new to but too many of our fellowcountrymen and countrywomen.- ED.]
A GLANCE AT IRISH CHARITABLE INSTITUTIONS. To the Editor of The Irish Quarterly Review.
December, 1857. Perhaps a slight sketch of different Schools, and Charitable Institutions I have visited, during a recent tour in Ireland with some relatives, may be interesting to your readers.
Many of these Institutions, as may naturally be expected in that country, have been established by different religious orders existing among the Roman Catholics for the relief and assistance of the destitute and suffering classes of the population, the majority of whom belong to that faith.
As the constitution of these orders and the purposes for which they were founded are perhaps but little known in England, it will not be irrelevant to the subject to insert the following particulars forwarded to me through the kindness of a friend.
There are several orders of Nuns in Ireland. Some are cloistered, who never leave the precincts of their convent after having taken their vows. Among them the Carmelites are governed by rules far stricter than those in force in any other order. They never see or converse with any persons but those belonging to the convent, except through a grating. They dress entirely in serge and never use linen, not even for sleeping, except during severe illness. Until lately they only took one meal a day, and never ate meat at all; but the present Archbishop of Dublin has released the Carmelite nuns from obedience to this rule, and now they take the regular number of meals, and eat meat three times a-week, In order to make up, as it were, for this indulgence, they have opened an additional school for 500 poor children, for they consider that if they fare better they must work harder.
I did not make the acquaintence of any ladies belonging to this order, but we visited a convent of cloistered nuns (the order of the Visitation) in the neighbourhood of Dublin in which we found the sisters engaged in their schools, and they appeared perfectly happy, and contented with their lot. But the nuns whose acquaintance we had chiefly the pleasure of making, belonged to the sisterhoods of Charity and Mercy, who differ from other religious orders, in being able to leave their convents whenever the objects, to which they have devoted their lives, require them to do so. They also, unlike other orders, visit the sick, and undertake the management of hospitals.
The foundation of both these orders is of comparatively recent date, the former having been organized by a Mrs.* Aikenhead, a lady of Cork (who is still alive), in 1815; and the latter by Mrs. M'Auley, in 1827. These orders have spread so rapidly that their convents have been established all over Ireland, and so far as regards the sisterhood of Mercy, in several other parts of the world. Very possibly (but of this I am not sure), the sisters of Charity may also have establishments in foreign countries.
Both these orders have the same object in view, i. e. the amclioration and relief of the sick and destitute, the education of the poor, and the reformation of the vicious. “ Miss M'Auley," says the friend whom I have before mentioned, "resided with a wealthy gentleman and his wife in Dublin, as companion. The fidelity with which she watched over their interests, and the general sweetness of disposition she evinced, on all occasions, towards them, so won upon the hearts of this good couple, that they were induced, when dying, to bequeath her their entire property, well aware in what manner she would dispose of it, her love for, and devotion to, the poor (particularly unprotected young women) having been so evident during her residence with them."
The benevolent intentions of the two foundresses have been admirably carried into execution by both sisterhoods, who work unceasingly at their labour of love.
It must also be understood that the house work in all convents, except the very rough cleaning, is almost always performed by the sisters themselves; and that not only are
Mrs. is the title given to nuns in Ireland, whether they are married or not.
these various charitable institutions, many different ones being carried on in the same convent,) superintended, but, if I may use the expression, norked by the Nuns.
The first school I visited in Ireland was in the convent of St. Mary of the Isles, at Cork, belonging to the Sisters of Charity, where, besides a school for poor children, there is an asylum for destitute female orphans, in which the pupils are received, clotherl, and educated. They are instructed in the duties of domestic servants, and at a proper age are placed out in situations.
In Dublin we visited several convents; one in Baggotstreet, the parent house of the Sisters of Mercy, and the one in which Mrs. M'Auley commenced her charitable labours by establishing an asylum for the protection of females of good character. It now contains several institutions under its roof. Firstly, a National School, that is, a school in connexion with the Board of Comınissioners of National Education in Ireland. Every school in that country which is either directly under the management of the Board, or which being managed by local Trustees or Patrons is inspected and assisted by the Commissioners, must be thrown open to children of every Christian denomination. Religious instruction must be amply provided for; but no child is obliged to be present during these lessons unless it is so desired by its parents or guardians; and in sehools only assisted by the Commissioners, if the managers do not choose to admit the religious teachers of the different denominations into the school-house, which all those “ vested for the purposes of National Education” are compelled to do (of course under regulations of time and convenience), they must allow their pupils to absent themselves at reasonable times for the purpose of receiving religions instruction elsewhere. These admirable regulations, which are faithfully carried into practice, have rendered it possible for persons of any denomination to become either patrons, managers, or teachers of National Schools. The Commissioners have thus demonstrated that with judicious rules, honestly enforced, the two religions whose antagonism has so long been, aye, which still is the bane of Ireland, may exist together in harmony. Let us, therefore, hope that if the admirable example of the National Board of Education be followed generally in the country, religious
differences will in time cease to be one of the chief impediments to every social improvement. One of the Professors at the Central Model Schools, in Marlborough-street, Dublin, assured me that, during the twenty-five years be had passed in the establishment, no trouble had ever arisen from difference in religious creed.
The Marlborough-street Institution contains, besides a school for children of all ages, training colleges for the National School teachers. In the schools children receive an education for a penny a-week, which many parents who pay a hundred times as much for the instruction of their offspring might really envy. We were present at an examination of a class in mental algebra, which astonished visitors (among whom was the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Carlisle,) well qualified to form an opinion on the subject.
The professor to whom I have before alluded, Dr. Sullivan, was so kind as to examine a class in geography, in our presence, in the girls' school, and the answers given by the pupils evinced not only an accurate knowledge of the different continents and islands, oceans and rivers, but of their relative position on the globe. One little girl required scarcely a moment's examination to point out a spot on the map fixed upon while her eyes were blindfolded, and of which she was only told the latitude and longitude.
Dr. Sullivan also shewed us the manner in which the pupils were accustomed to exercise themselves in orthography. He desired a class of the girls each to choose in turn words to be spelt by a class-fellow, every one trying, of course, to puzzle her opponent. She who failed in spelling the word given to her lost her place in the class, and was sent to the bottom. This lesson, or game, for it might be called either, was kept up in a spirited manner, and appeared to create much amusement.
We visited the house in which the young women in training for teachers live during their residence in Marlborough-street. Besides elementary instruction they receive a training in domestic economy; they assist in the housework and cooking. There is also a “cottage kitchen, su ggested I believe by Archbishop Whately, in which the fire-places and cooking appliances are on a par with those in the cottages of the Irish peasantry. In this kitchen the two students, whose turn of duty it is to cook for the day,
prepare, out of the remains of yesterday's dinner, a repast for themselves and a companion whom they are permitted to invite.
The National Schools are spread all over Ireland, and it was very pleasant, as we drove through villages consisting of little more than a few clusters of cabins and remote from any town, to see a neat stone building with “National School" painted in large letters over the door.
The School in the Baggot-street convent where we were very politely received by the nuns, who took much trouble in shewing us over the whole of their establishment, is in connexion with the National Board. The ladies led us first through the school-rooms, which were large and well supplied with all requisites ; the low small desks, with their respective benches, excited our especial admiration. The school-rooms, however, (scrupulously clean) were all we could see, for our visit was paid on a Saturday, which is a holiday in Baggot Street.
We were next shewn the schools for a higher class of girls in training for teachers, and who, I understand, act as monitors to the pupils in the former department. These girls are boarders and live entirely in the convent. We saw a class to whom one of the sisters was giving a lesson on the globes. We were much struck by the beautiful and intelligent expression in the countenances of many of these girls. The sister kindly desired her pupils to sing for us, and their performance was very pleasing.
These indefatigable Sisters of Mercy next led us through their asylum for destitute females of good character, whom they train to become servants. They have a large washing establishment, the labour of which is performed by these women; the receipts, of course, helping to pay for their support. If the washing and ironing here is equal to that at a convent we were permitted to inspect at Cork, belonging to the Sisters of Charity, the public must consider it a privilege to be able to send their clothes to such a place. I may mention that that part of the Cork Institution in which the washing is conducted is self-supporting, the first charity I have met with which has achieved that object.
Not content with these various institutions, the sisters have what we should call a Register Office, to which female servants seeking for places may come and stay during cer