Mother Vincent Hennessey

1874 | Foundress of the Sisters of the Presentation in Dubuque, Iowa

Mother Vincent Hennessy, along with help and commitment of three young companions, courageously left Mooncoin, Ireland, carrying Nano’s “lantern” across the Atlantic, establishing the Dubuque Presentation congregation.

Because the Archdiocese of Dubuque was not ready for them, the Visitation Sisters provided hospitality to Mother Vincent and the three postulants, Alice Howley, Ellen Ahearn and Kate Reide, for their first three months in the new land. They moved to their first drafty and small convent in Key West in January of 1875. The parlors of their convent became the classrooms of their first school when 20 pupils answered the roll on the first day of class, February 5, 1875. The following September the enrollment had swelled to 80. In 1879, a new motherhouse and school became their home, where St. Columbkille School is currently located. It was named St. Vincent Academy in honor of Mother Vincent who died in 1880. Though beginnings were difficult, faith was strong, and the community flourished.

In 1908, the community purchased property on Mt. Loretta Avenue which served as a new motherhouse. With the growth of the community, a new building was added in 1952. In 1969, this building was sold to the Archdiocese of Dubuque and the sisters purchased what had been St. Bernard Seminary at 2360 Carter Road. Today, this remains the home of the Sisters of the Presentation and is often referred to as Mount Loretto.

Although little is known about Mother Vincent, she inspired others to live out the Presentation motto, Caritas (love for all). Her faith and fortitude carried the Presentation mission into the future.