Abbesses

Lady Abbess Marina Beaumont 1665-1682:

Lady Abbess Marina belonged to the community of Ghent. The Bishop of Ypres (Belgium) asked her to found a Community in Ypres and gave her a house. Five members of the Ghent Community accompanied her to Ypres. At first all went well with the new foundation, but there was difficulty in attracting novices, and nuns loaned from other houses did not remain. On Lady Abbess Marina's death in 1682, only two nuns were still in the house, one being Lady Abbess Flavia Carey.

Lady Abbess Flavia Carey 1682 - 1686:

The Abbess of Ghent had always intended that Ypres should be an Irish Abbey, and she requested that Irish nuns be sent to Ypres to elect an Abbess. Lady Abbess Flavia was elected and she is recognized as the first Lady Abbess of the Irish Community. Lady Abbess Flavia was the first who, jointly with the Communities of Ghent, Pontoise and Dunkerque (Dunkirk), gave this house to the Irish for a refuge and to keep it as such.


Lady Joseph Butler

Lady Abbess Joseph Butler 1686 - 1723:

On the death of Lady Abbess Flavia Carey, Lady Abbess Joseph was elected. A cousin of the Duke of Ormond, she was the first Irish Lady Abbess. In 1688 James II, a great benefactor of the Community, invited her to Dublin to found an Irish monastery there, and gave her a house in Great Ship Street. In 1690. after the defeat of James II at the Battle of the Boyne, she returned to Ypres.

For the next five years she lived with just four nuns in extreme poverty and was advised to dissolve the monastery and join another community. But she persevered, was given financial assistance from Pope Innocent XII, the King of France and Queen Mary of Modena, and the Community lived on. She died in 1723, the first and greatest of the Irish Lady Abbesses of Ypres.


Lady Abbess Xaveria

Lady Abbess Xaveria Arthur:

Lady Abbess Xaveria was Lady Abbess Joseph's first novice after the return to Ypres. She was elected Abbess on the death of Lady Abbess Joseph, and held the office until she died in 1743.


Lady Magdalen Mandeville

Lady Abbess Magdalen Mandeville:

Lady Abbess Magdalen succeeded Lady Abbess Xavera Arthur. During these two abbacies, the Community suffered great hardships - poverty, trials and afflictions were their daily lot. So much so that the Community seriously thought of leaving Ypres and transferring to the French King's dominions, but this was abandoned and the Community struggled on. Lady Abbess Magdalen died in 1760.


Lady Bernard Dalton

Lady Abbess Bernard Dalton:

Lady Abbess Bernard was elected in 1760 and during her time numbers increased and conditions improved. She had a great devotion to the Sacred Heart. This devotion has enjoyed a long tradition in the Community, which claims to have been the first to introduce the devotion to Flanders.


Lady Scholastica Lynch

Lady Abbess Scholastica Lynch:

On the death of Lady Abbess Bernard Dalton in 1783, Lady Abbess Scholastica Lynch was elected. In 1793 soldiers of the French Republican Army invaded the house. On hearing that the General of the army was an Irishman, she sent word to tell him of the conditions and asked for help. He withdrew the soldiers and paid compensation for the damage they had caused. In 1794 the French again took possession of the town and ordered all the religious orders to leave. Being foreigners they were able to hold on, but were continually harassed by the army. In the midst of such intimidation, Lady Abbess Scholastica died in 1799.


Lady Bernard Lynch

Lady Abbess Bernard Lynch:

After Lady Abbess Scholastica died, her sister, Lady Abbess Bernard was elected. Near the end of 1799, the nuns were ordered to leave, and the house was sold over their heads. They were forced out, but just as they were leaving on 13th November, a violent storm prevented them from going. Next day the Government changed and they were able to stay, but they had to buy back the house and once again were reduced to extreme poverty.

Despite such poverty, the Divine Office and the Rule of St Benedict was always maintained and they were able to boast that during the whole reign of terror they performed the Divine Office with an exactitude worthy of their order. By 1810 conditions had improved greatly. Lady Abbess Bernard died in 1830.


Lady Benedict Byrne

Lady Abbess Benedict Byrne:

Lady Abbess Benedict succeeded Lady Abbess Bernard and was the last Irish Lady Abbess at Ypres. The unstable political situation during her years of office caused many difficulties, but she guided the Community through them all. She died in 1840.


Lady Abbess Winifred Jarrett:

Lady Abbess Winifred was the only English Abbess, apart from Lady Abbess Flavia Carey, to have been elected. During her time the monastery building had deteriorated badly and Lady Abbess Winifred took upon herself to build a new one, which was finished in 1886. Lady Abbess Winifred resigned in 1885 as she was no longer competent and though she kept the title, the administration was handed over to the Prioress Scholastica Berg. Lady Abbess Winifred died in 1890.


Lady Scholastica Berge

Lady Abbess Scholastica Berg:

Lady Abbess Scholastica was elected Lady Abbess in 1890. She was a Belgian, but fully in sympathy with Ireland and the Irish. Under her the Community prospered and she arranged that they recite the Benedictine Office instead of the Roman Office in use until then. In 1912 she suffered a stroke which left her unable to speak and partially paralyzed. The Prioress, Dame Maura Ostyn took over the responsibility of running the Community. In 1914 war broke out, and during the bombardment of Ypres that year the Community had to leave the town. After many adventures, they arrived at Oulton Abbey in England, and eventually got to Macmine Castle in County Wexford, Ireland in 1916. Lady Abbess Scholastica died in 1916 at Macmine.


Lady Maura Ostyn

Lady Abbess Maura Ostyn:

Elected in 1916, she was another Belgian. She had the hard task of organising the journey from Ypres to England and to Ireland and was to be the Lady Abbess who would finally bring the Community to Kylemore. Unable to return to Ypres, and finding Macmine Castle unsuitable for their needs, Abbess Maura searched the country for a suitable property and found Kylemore and an archbishop who would welcome them to the diocese. This outstanding woman died in 1940.


Lady Placid Druhan

Lady Abbess Placid Druhan:

Abbess Placid, a native of County Wexford, had been a pupil in the school at Ypres and entered there. She was elected in 1941. Under her rule the Community prospered and increased in numbers. She died in 1953.


Lady Agnes Finnegan

Lady Abbess Agnes Finnegan:

Abbess Agnes was elected in 1953. She too was a past pupil of the school. Elected at the young age of 36 special permission had to be obtained from Rome: she was the youngest Lady Abbess in Europe. Abbess Agnes was the last of the life Abbesses and retired in 1981.


Since then, Abbesses have been elected for six year terms and to date have been:

Lady Abbess Mechtilde Moloney, 1981 - 1987

Lady Abbess Mary O'Toole, 1987 - 1994

Lady Abbess Clare Morley, 1994 - 2001

Lady Abbess Magdalena FitzGibbon, 2001 - 2007