The late Sr Oliver Wrafter

Last Sunday morning in Rahan, there were snowdrops on the altar to commemorate the one hundredth birthday of a most remarkable person.

Sister Oliver Wrafter (who passed away in April 2021) had no presence on social media, was an unassuming and softly-spoken person, but made an impact for the good in the Irish midlands that few people could hope to emulate. She and her fellow sisters were pioneers of education in Offaly. Against all the odds, and despite much opposition from the department of education, they succeeded in establishing a first-grade secondary school with Leaving Certificate status in a very rural setting.

So why the snowdrops?

When the young Ita Wrafter (the future Sister Oliver) was nearing the end of her time in secondary school, she couldn’t decide whether or not to enter the religious life. One morning, she asked the Lord for some heavenly assistance. If someone were to give her flowers that day, she would take it as a divine sign that she should enter a religious order. Later the same day, out of the blue, a schoolmate gave Ita a bunch of snowdrops. From that moment on, she never looked back. The humble sister with the ready smile and twinkling eyes would spend the rest of her life in Killina Presentation, working as a teacher, principal, and mentor to students and teachers alike.

The legacy of Sister Oliver and her fellow sisters is very much alive. This June, a group of students and teachers from Rahan Presentation secondary school will visit various projects in Zambia that were set up by Irish Presentation sisters. They include an orphanage and AIDS centre in an area of great poverty. The Zambia Immersion Project is of enormous educational benefit to these students from County Offaly. In addition, during their visit, they will provide material support to the projects founded by the Irish sisters.



I was very touched reading this piece about SISTER OLIVER of whom I had never heard.

Although its setting in RAHAN in Offaly has deep meaning for me as my branch of the Buckleys hail from near there, and I attended Sunday Mass in Rahan regularly at the Jesuit House of TULLABEG.

Sister Oliver reminds me of the millions of religious sisters and lay people who practised their faith in prayer and action without ever being known, heard tell of or acknowledged.

The fact that the sisters in this part of rural Ireland reached out to Africa to orphans and AIDS victims is astounding.

In many ways, the fact that this good work of so many has been overshadowed by all the scandal and corruption in the Church is so very, very sad.

But I’m sure that Oliver and others did all they did for Christ and that Christ, sees, remembers and rewards.

I wonder how Sr Oliver felt about all the scandals that enveloped her and others in the last 30 of her life?