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A Vindication of Catherine's Hope for Birr

29 November 2011

South Central

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Birr’s First Lay Primary School Principal Retires 
Anne Heffernan, the first lay Principal in Birr Mercy Primary School, has retired recently, having spent nine years as Principal. Parents, staff and pupils were sad to see her go but they respected her wish to take early retirement and to direct her attention to doing things she always wanted to do before many more years passed by. Anne, herself a past pupil of the school, was the first lay Principal. She came after one hundred and sixty one years of administration by the Sisters of Mercy and she proved herself ideally fitted for the task. She was conscious that the ethos of any organisation is difficult to define, but intangible though it is, its absence can easily be perceived. Anne was conscious of this from the start and she put her heart and soul into carrying on the Mercy charism followed by generations of Mercy Sisters. 

The school blossomed under her leadership. Parents, staff and pupils appreciated her sincerity and her desire to have a school which was welcoming to parents, friendly to children and concerned with the welfare of all. It was a pleasure for us, former teachers, to visit the school and to feel that the values which many generations of Sisters of Mercy had striven to uphold were being nurtured nearly two centuries after their initiation. It showed, that though Mercy schools have moved on into the twenty first century with all its changes, the courage and foresight of Catherine McAuley in establishing the school in Birr was vindicated. With Anne’s direction the school for girls which Catherine opened in 1841 is still thriving today. It occupies the “good old house” to which the Sisters first came at end of 1840.

Change will come inevitably but our experience here in Birr assures us that though individual Sisters’ contribution may be forgotten, our Congregation’s legacy to education in Birr is not. There are teachers who feel honoured to carry it on.
We now welcome another Principal to Mercy Primary School, Barbara Hanamy also a past pupil, who has the conviction and ability to guide the school through labyrinthine paths of change and altering culture. Our Congregation can be happy with work well done over the years. We give a generous welcome now to other educators who are willing to devote their lives and abilities to the education of new generations of Birr children.

Anne starting..................

                                     ................................Anne finishing!
Kathleen Minogue rsm

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