A historic agreement has been reached for the local community to lease the former Presentation Sisters Convent in Killina, Rahan. The building, an impressive structure located beside the church and across from the secondary school in Killina, is to be developed into a community resource centre, following a successful bid by a local steering group to lease it along with the accompanying grounds.
Negotiations between the group, chaired by a local man, Noel Keyes, have been ongoing for some months since the Killina Presentation Convent closed its doors in 2019 after the last remaining nuns moved out. News of their departure was greeted with great sadness by the local community as they have been part and parcel of life in Killina and the wider Rahan area for 202 years – the Presentation Convent was founded in Killina in 1817. Their departure left a large empty property with extensive grounds, and this generated interest from a number of groups, aware of its development potential.
A group of local parishioners came up with the idea of setting up ‘Killina Presentation Resource Centre’ and a steering committee was established. The committee put forward a detailed strategic plan to the Presentation Sisters, proposing to develop a resource centre to provide high quality facilities and a range of activities accessible to all sectors of the community. In July 2020, the Presentation Sisters notified the steering committee that their application had been successful and work is now underway to set up a board of directors and to further develop plans for the venture.
Among the facilities proposed for the venue are meeting rooms, work hubs, social services, arts and entertainment, training and education, therapy, exercise and relaxation, waking services, a heritage museum and a community shop and café. Detailed plans are being finalised and will be released publicly in the coming weeks and months.
The general Rahan area has witnessed the closure of a number of shops, a post office and the local Thatch Pub over the past couple of decades and the committee hope this undertaking will help rejuvenate the area.
Noel Keyes, Chairman of the Killina Presentation Resource Centre Steering Committee, commented: “We are very grateful to the Presentation Sisters for believing in our vision for a new resource centre at the heart of our community. We have watched all of the businesses and services around Rahan close their doors down through the years, and we were determined to save this historic public building in our parish and to develop a facility that present and future generations can benefit from and be proud of. We realise that there is a lot of work needed to get the Killina Presentation Resource Centre up and running and that we will need a lot of support from the community, which I am very confident will be forthcoming.”
Mr Keyes added: “We are very excited by the project and we are thankful to the many people who have helped us reach this stage. The building is of great importance to the local community. Apart from its size and potential as a base for community groups and other organisations and ventures, it has a big emotional pull on a lot of people in the area and we are delighted that agreement has been reached.”
The grounds boast a unique walled garden and orchard which will be used to provide community allotment programmes and training facilities for social and horticulture groups. Funding for the project will be drawn from a range of grants along with a variety of fundraising drives, with the Killina Presentation Resource Centre envisaged to be self-sustaining once it is fully operational. Considerable funding is required for the initial set-up period and members of the steering committee are hopeful that parishioners, the wider community and those living elsewhere in Ireland and abroad will support them. Initially, locals will be asked to make donations to help the project get off the ground and a leaflet drop will take place in the coming days – all donations, big or small will be very much appreciated. Anyone wishing to get involved with the committee, offer assistance or make a donation should make contact through the Killina Presentation Resource Centre’s email address email@example.com or its new Facebook page.
The Convent building is steeped in history and has been an integral part of life in the area for over two centuries. It was founded by Maria O’Brien in in 1817, later Sister Mary Clare, daughter of Denis T. O’Brien, a wealthy Dublin merchant who owned Rahan Lodge and vast land in the locality.
Moved by the poverty of the locals in those pre-famine years in the early 1800s, Maria initially set up a school for children in 1812 and then invited the Presentation Sisters to set up a community in Killina. This was duly established in 1817 and Maria O’Brien later joined the order herself, serving for five years until her death in 1827.
Apart from their pastoral duties, the sisters played a pivotal role in education in the area for generations. They provided primary education for many locals and this eventually led to the formation of the ‘Presentation Sisters’ Secondary Top’ in the 1960s, which later became a full secondary school. The Presentation Girls’ National School amalgamated with the local boys’ school in 2009.
Many nuns spent most of their life in Killina, including Sister Oliver Wrafter, an Offaly person of the year who lived there from joining the order in 1941 until its closure last year. The vast local history of the religious heritage and everyday life of Rahan will be celebrated in a museum in the new community resource centre.