Tributes from our Mayor and Salesian Friends


In October, the pupils of Mrs Dooley Ryan's and Ms. O'Donnell's 6th class, emailed a few Salesian Friends, asking them if they would like to send good wishes to the Salesian Sisters of Fernbank, to mark the 100th anniversary of their arrival in Ireland and their departure from Fernbank Convent. The following warm tributes were received and were read aloud to the Sisters by 5th and 6th class girls, during our performance via Zoom on the 23rd October 2020. Our performance also included drama, music, art and poetry. Thank you to all who sent us responses. We hope you enjoy reading them.

Cllr. Michael Collins, Mayor of the City and County of Limerick.

Dear Sisters,

It is my great pleasure to congratulate you all as you mark the 100th anniversary of the Salesian Sisters in Ireland.

What an extraordinary achievement that your inspirational work is still continuing in the city where it all began a century later.

When the founding work of the Salesian Sisters got underway in 1920, Ireland was in the throes of the War of Independence and Limerick was just recovering from the influenza pandemic, which had left behind a trail of destruction across the country, affecting everyone in every county from all classes and creeds.

The courage that the Sisters displayed during those challenging times is truly remarkable. They defined the education of our city, laying a foundation for knowledge and tuition to flourish in Limerick against the odds.

I can only imagine the poverty that existed in Limerick during that time and how the Sisters provided a welcoming and happy place for so many disadvantaged young girls.

The Salesians are intrinsically associated with a long tradition of education in Limerick and I know that many alumni speak proudly of their school years in Fernbank and the role models that they encountered during their time there.

As we face into new restrictions due to Covid-19, we all have a challenging few weeks ahead.

I have no doubt you will keep us all in your prayers,

Congratulations once again on your centenary year,

With my very best wishes,

Cllr. Michael Collins

Mayor of the City and County of Limerick.

Alison Keyes

It is with fond memories that I think back on my time in Salesian Primary school. Salesians to me is not just about schoolwork, when I think of Salesians I think of all the fun I had, the great friends I made and the teachers who inspired me to become a teacher myself. I think of the Sunflower Club, Joyclub, Mission week, School Masses and Crinniú. It was during these times when the most important learning occurred, learning about how to be kind, generous and a good friend, all of which was modelled by the Salesian Sisters. I try to carry the Salesian Ethos with me in my work now as a teacher and in my personal life. I wish the Salesian Sisters all the best in the next chapter of their lives!

Thank you,

Alison Keyes

Catherine Walsh

To all the dear sisters in Fernbank and the Salesian Community,

My heart is uplifted when I remember all the past occasions of joy and celebration at Fernbank House. I give thanks today for all it has been to me and the hundreds of others down through the years. Fernbank House is a landmark in the history of the Salesian Family and in the history of Limerick, in particular the Northside, and has been a catalyst for the spreading of the Salesian Ethos throughout the city and its environs. "Home is where the heart is" and I know that the Salesian Ethos will always be alive in my mind and the minds of those whose lives have been touched and influenced by the teachings of St John Bosco and St Mary Mazzarello. Thank you Fernbank for all you have been to us all. We will miss the place dearly but the people will be with us in spiritand the memories will live on in our minds.

Wishing each and every dear sister the very best of health , happiness and peace always,

Love Catherine Walsh .

Deirdre Cusack

It is with great sadness that I write this farewell message to you, our wonderful Salesian Sisters here in Fernbank. I feel very privileged and honoured to have had such a strong connection with this community for almost four decades.

It only seems like yesterday that I started as a very young teacher in the Infant School in 1981..nearly 40 years ago!The sisters were always there to support, mentor and care for me and I was always welcomed with open arms. I fondly remember being brought to the convent for tea & scones when I stayed very late working in the Infant school some evenings! You really looked after me as a young teacher like a loving mother own Salesian family! Of course you continued this caring and nurturing til I retired in 2018!

We were also invited to Fernbank Convent for many special celebrations during the school year. Christmas,Silver and Golden Jubilee Anniversaries were celebrated in great style in your beautiful Fernbank chapel. Your doors were always open- full of warmth, love and smiling faces.️
I have said goodbye to many Salesian sisters throughout the past decades but I will never forget your kindness and generosity of spirit . Parting from true friends is always very difficult to do but you will always have a huge part of my heart & my children's hearts too-I promise to stay in touch!

Míle buíochas do gach éinne, le ghrá agus dea ghuí i gcónaí,

Love and best wishes, Deirdre (aka Mrs.Cusack !)xx

Eithne Gavin

The name Fernbank has a deep resonance in my psyche as it has been an important and joyful experience for the greater part of my life.

My First introduction to Fernbank was when as a shy and very nervous 19 year old I approached the main door of the convent for what I expected would be a real formal and searching interview for my much longed teaching job in Scoil Maria Auxiliatrix. As I passed the statue of Mary Help of Christians I said a silent prayer. My interview turned out to be a nice and friendly chat with Sr Alice RIP in the parlour followed by a cup of tea and biscuits after which Sr Alice asked me if I would like to join my older sister Peig on the teaching staff. I left feeling 10ft tall after my 'successful' interview.

During my years teaching, pupils and teachers spent many happy days where we enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the Sister's chapel, and on many occassions voices could be heard practising for the celebrations of important feast days. We belong to a family could often be heard loud and clear coming from the chapel.

A very fond memory of mine is of the day I got married in 1975. The Sisters at the time could not attend weddings so we brought our wedding to them. After the cermony in the Holy Rosary Church we visited the convent and walked up the aisle for the second time and had photographs taken with the sisters on the front lawn.

The annual get together of the sisters and staff in the convent parlour were always a very enjoyable occassion. We were always wined and dined and afterwards sat around chatting, reminiscing and of course there was the sing song led by Sr.Mary Gillen R.I.P. on piano. Great times. The Gentle, kind and caring nature of the Fernbank Sisters created a happy working environment for all while nurturing the ethos of Don Bosco.

I think I can speak for all the former staff of Maria Auxiliatrix as I say thank you for gifting us with such happy memories. We are sad to see you leaving Fernbank and the shutters coming down on the convent. However Fernbank House will always be synonmous with the Salesians Sisters and your wonderful legacy will never be forgotten.

I wish you all good health and happiness as you begin new chapters in your new homes.

Slán go Fóill, Le grá, Eithne Gavin

Jenny Dooley Ryan (spoken at presentation to Sisters 23.10.20 outside of Fernbank Convent)

I feel honoured to gather here today, to represent our staff, pupils and parents, as we celebrate with you on this historic day, the centenary of your arrival here into Limerick.

There is no doubting it, but there is something very special about the Salesian Way! Since the first time I came to Salesians, almost 20 years ago, fresh from Mary Immaculate, I felt welcomed and at home. The warmth of the Salesian Sisters was infectious. The family atmosphere was palpable. And it wasn't long before I knew I'd fit in just fine with the way things were done around here!

As well you all know, you are renowned in Limerick for your work with the young people. You have won the hearts and minds of the people of Limerick and especially all of us here in the Salesian Primary School with your kindness and encouraging spirit. Your belief that education is a matter of the heart is engrained in each and every one of us that works here today and those that have worked here in the past. We are committed to passing on our Salesian ethos to new staff members that join and to empower them to enjoy the Salesian way of working. We will do our best to keep the fun going, the celebrations many and the spirits high.

With staff, you have always guided gently, challenged appropriately and rewarded generously. Standards are high and you have always supported us along our journey. More than anything, you have shown a great compassion and an understanding of our stories, our strengths and our needs. We have formed strong friendships and bonds, that will forever be in our hearts.

For pupils, our Salesian school is a vibrant and a happy learning place. Children are loved and valued, respected and challenged. We thank you most sincerely for giving us the Salesian way of education, which emphasises the need to grow the mind, body, heart and soul, while all the time treasuring the uniqueness of all the children in our care. This is what we as staff aspire to in every encounter we have with children.

The children will undoubtedly miss you. Over the years you have shared your gifts and talents with them in abundance and it was always very obvious that you enjoyed working with them. Speech and drama, Computers, maths, literacy, mediations, pastoral support, support with sacrament preparation. You have enriched the lives of thousands of children.

100 years ago, you arrived as strangers into Limerick. Since that day generations and generations of families have walked through your school doors daily and have departed as proud Salesians, brimming with happy memories of the fun they had learning and fulfilled by the recognition of their achievements. You can't go far in Limerick without meeting some one who has been to Salesians, or knows someone who has been to Salesians - a friend- a cousin - a second cousin - a partner. There is always a connection. During these meetings, stories are exchanged, fond memories recalled and the Spirit of the Salesians lives on in the ordinary moments of everyday life. You have been a positive influence again and again. We are proud to be Salesians and so proud of you.

I speak for our staff when I say, you have been the best teachers, the sweetest neighbours and the most faithful friends and we look forward to continuing those friendships. We will miss the friendly waves in the morning as we embark on a new day, and the feeling that no matter what time you come or go from school, you are never alone.

Words do not do justice to how much we will miss you. But my sense is that you yourselves know how dear you are in our hearts.

We thank you. We wish you blessings in abundance, good health and happiness.

I have an Indian Salesian priest, who says as we part company, Jenny you must go to come, so dear Salesian Sisters as you go, remember you are forever welcome in our Salesian School in Fernbank, and we hope that you will come back to visit us on many occassions in the future.

Mary O'Reilly

My first encounter with the Salesian Sisters was in September 1963.It was my Lucky Day because from that day forward my life has been enriched in so many ways by the Salesian Sisters and their wonderful Ethos.

While teaching in the P.S. Fernbank I witnessed first hand the Preventative System of Education practised by St. John Bosco. This was definitely a new experience for me.

Family, Joy, Celebration, Generosity Activity and Caring are some of the words I would associate with my Salesian Family.

Michelle Ryan Lonergan

To all the Salesian Sisters,

I am thinking of you all in a special way today. This is such a wonderful celebration for you all. Happy 100 years in limerick to you all today!!!

You have given so generously to the Salesian schools and communities and have achieved so much over the years. I feel so blessed to have been be part of the Salesian Community for so many years. Your ethos is so special and like no other.

Today is all about you. I know because of all the restrictions your celebrations have been altered somewhat. I wish you all a very happy 100 birthday today. I hope you have a wonderful day and cherish the memories from today always.

My wish for the Salesian Sisters in Fernbank is continued luck, good health and blessings as you move to new homes and begin new chapters.

Le grá,

Michelle Ryan Lonergan

Dr Sinéad McCoole (author of 'Against the Odds', written with the knowledge that a 6th class child would read this to the Sisters)

I am reading a message from Dr Sinéad McCoole, who lived on the North Circular Road, while she was a pupil at our school. Sinéad is a Historian and Author and was a contributor to the centenary publication Against the Odds.

In that book, another pupil, Lizzie Nolan tells her story. She was in the first Salesian class at St Ita's, Thomas Street. Lizzie was still alive when Sinéad was our age. At that time, she wrote her memories of her schooldays and because she did that, we can now read what it was like for a Salesian pupil one hundred years ago.

Sinéad asked me to say that she was delighted to have the opportunity to send a congratulations to the Salesian Sisters on their centenary. She said that working on Against the Odds gave her a fuller understanding of the ethos and guiding principles of the Salesian sisters.

100 years ago, Limerick was in the middle of the campaign for independence – the sisters entered a warzone. We recall today those brave, strong and tenacious women, Sr Mary Gotto and Sr Luigina Gotto from Rubiana Italy (they were sisters) Sr Kathleen Kerans (from Aldershot, England) and Sr Julianana Martelloni also from Italy, their Community Leader.

When they arrived at Limerick's train station on 23 October 1920 they were hoping and praying to establish a school and be accepted by the people of Limerick– we know they were – and what a good job they did! They were soon joined by more nuns and more and more communities were established in Limerick and elsewhere in Ireland.

Sinéad wanted me sign off the message like this.

I am, [fill in the readers name] and with Sinéad, and all Fernbank pupils past and present wish all the Salesian sisters' health and happiness for the future as they start a new century on the 24 October 2021. 

Love Books! Children's Book Festival 2020
Happy Days in Juniors ️
Copyright ©2019 Salesian Primary School. All Rights Reserved