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“The Casket Girls” Celebrate 227 Years In Thurles

“Be bound to one another by the bond of love, respecting, helping, bearing with each other in Jesus Christ.”
(St. Angela Merici, Foundress of the Ursuline Religious Order)

The Ursuline Religious Order (Ursulines of the Roman Union) were and remain a Roman Catholic religious institute for women, founded at Brescia, Italy, by Saint Angela de Merici in November 1535. Their aim was primarily dedicated to the education of girls, while also caring for the sick and needy and bringing about a Christianising influence in existing homes and in the homes which those they came into contact with, would subsequently establish.

From Italy through Europe, this religious order began to expand, eventually spreading to Canada by 1639 and to the New Orleans French Quarter by 1727. (Latter quarter founded on May 7th, 1718, by the French Mississippi Company). Here they became affectionately known as the “Filles du’ Casket,” (Tranlation: “Casket Girls.”) because of the wooden cases which they hauled enthusiastically around, containing their meagre possessions, while in transit from Rouen in northern France to this new colony in the Americas.

Faith and education have been the very cornerstones of Ursuline philosophy since their humble beginnings and those two pillar virtues are as evident today, as they first were when the Order was first established here in Thurles. Former students from the Ursuline Convent in Thurles, today, populate the globe and their achievements in life as academics, as business people, as sporting icons, as musicians and performers, as parents, as wives, as partners and as Sisters, are as many as to quote 1 Kings 4:20 from the Bible; “as numerous as the sand on the seashore.”

The Ursuline Order first arrived in Thurles back in 1787, sixteen years after they were established in Cork. On that date 227 years ago Anastasia Tobin came back to her native Thurles having been professed as Sr. Clare Ursula in the Ursuline Convent, Cork. She took up residence in a little crude thatched cottage on the site of the present convent. Assisted by her sister Mary, she got the required permission from the Protestant Vicar General of the diocese to begin a school, thus establishing the first Catholic School in the Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly.

Since then, through changing history, their work of education has continued and expanded. Efforts to be faithful to what is best in their tradition have not prevented them from moving forward as required by a constantly challenging environment.

The aims of the Ursuline Order here in Thurles, over these 227 years, still remain constant as they continue to develop primary and second level students to gain their full potential both academically, physically, socially, and spiritually.

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