Four St. Louis Sisters came to Carrickmacross on September 24th 1888. They were Sr. Angela Kehoe, Sr. Josephine Fahie, Sr. Benedict Eardley and Sr. Lucy Downey. They were met at the railway station by Father William McKenna, local solicitor Mr. Phelan and members of the public. The first Mass was celebrated for the Sisters on the 25th September by Father Eugene McKenna.
The accommodation provided for the sisters had originally been the historic Essex Castle which was bought by Dean Birmingham from the Marquis of Bath in 1885 for 2000 pounds sterling. The Sisters still live there to the present day.
On October 15th 1888 a day school was opened with 12 pupils present. The townspeople helped to build a boarding school and the foundation was laid on Shrove Tuesday, March 5th 1889. The boarding school lasted until 1979 but the St. Louis Primary and Secondary Schools are still thriving as day schools for girls of the surrounding area of Carrickmacross. The Sisters taught in these schools for many years with the able and generous co-operation of their lay colleagues who have remained good friends of the community. In the present year 2008 most of the teaching sisters have retired. Just two remain full-time in school. Some help out part-time.
At the moment the community consists of 18 sisters, nearly all of whom are over retirement age though still active. Many have spent long years on the missions as nurses and teachers. These love to tell of their experiences in Ghana or Nigeria and the colourful people they met there. Contacts with our convents in Africa are very important especially when news comes of difficulties such as famine or war. Our young St. Louis Sisters are African.
Today’s mission for the Carrick sisters is helping with prayer groups, visiting the sick at home or in nursing homes, and helping people in need. A recent initiative is the invitation to lay people in Carrick to become Associate members of St. Louis. A number of men and women have become St. Louis Associates and have committed themselves to sharing in our spiritual life.
Religious life now is very different to the one we knew when we entered the convent. Many rules were relaxed since Vatican 2 and we can now visit family and friends easily. Our life is more materially comfortable now too but we hope that we still hold on to what we saw as “the pearl of great price” on the day we entered : a close friendship with the Lord and the values He stood for during His life.