MSHR Founder


"Photo of Bishop Shanahan"
Bishop Joseph Ignatius Shanahan, CSSp.

Bishop Joseph Shanahan was born in a beautiful valley of Glankeen, Borrisoleigh, Co. Tipperary in Ireland to Daniel Shanahan and Margaret Walsh on 4 June, 1871.

Joseph was ordained a Holy Ghost priest (CSSp) on 22 April 1900 in Blackrock College, Dublin. In 1902, he was sent on mission to Southern Nigeria to serve the people there.

On 28 September 1905 at age 34, Joseph was appointed Prefect Apostolic of Southern Nigeria and on 6 June 1920, he was ordained Bishop and Vicar Apostolic. He fostered evangelisation through schools and this led him to found the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary in 1924 to continue his legacy.

He died on Christmas day 1943 in Nairobi, Kenya.                                                                         Motto: Lord that I may See

Bishop Shanahan, said to the first seven postulants of the Holy Rosary Sisters on Foundation Day 7 March, 1924:

“There are before you, as before all missionaries, sufferings, and trials. But remember that it is Christ who sweats in our sweat; who burns in our fever; who aches in our tired limbs; who continues His suffering in ours.

You do not know the millions of souls that will be saved because you are here today- because you are beginning a new Sisterhood in Christ.”

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The Foundation

The Foundation

"Photo of the Dominican Mothers"
The Four Dominican Sisters and the Founder Bishop Shanahan, CSSp

The congregation of the Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary (MSHR), founded in 1924 by Bishop Shanahan began with seven women, three of whom had been lay missionaries at St. Joseph Girls’ School in Calabar, Nigeria. Bishop Shanahan wanted to empower women in Southern Nigeria so MSHR was established in Drumully House, near Killeshandra Co. Cavan, Ireland on March 7, 1924.

Foundation Day, 7 March 1924

Seated: Agnes Ryan, Bishop Shanahan CSSp, Ellen Burns.        Standing: Georgina O’ Dwyer, Christina Shannon, Fr. P. J. Whitney, Nora Leddy, Veronica Hasson, Elizabeth Ryan.

 The Seven women were mentored by the Dominican Sisters in Killeshandra, Dublin. Four Dominican Sisters – Mother Xavier O’Connor, Aquinas McSwiggan, Ursula Cullen, and Anastasia Hickey were assigned to guide the New Order in Cavan in February 1924.


The Dominican Sisters remained with the Holy Rosary Sisters for ten years until 1934. In the following decades, MSHR expanded rapidly both in membership and mission locations serving fifteen countries in Africa, the Americas, and Europe. 

"Photo of Dominican Prioress"
M Colmcille Flynn OP, Prioress of Cabra Dominican Convent
"Photo of First Mshr Formation Directress"
Mother Aquinas McSwiggan OP
"Photo of First Superior of MSHR at Foundation"
Mother M Xavier O'Connor OP, First Superior 1924-1933 and Bishop Shanahan CSSp
"Photo of Dominican Sister Associated with MSHR"
M Ursula Cullen OP (Left)
"Photo of Dominican Sister Associated with MSHR"
Sr Anastasia Hickey OP

A Century of Legacy


"Photo of the First Seven Holy Rosary Sisters"

The Centenary celebration of the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary has great significance for the Congregation and the entire Church. With a legacy spanning a hundred years, the celebration commemorates not only a milestone in history but also the unwavering commitment, dedication, and spiritual service of the Holy Rosary Sisters.

Throughout the years, we have demonstrated principles of virtue, selflessness, and compassion, inspiring and empowering countless others especially the poor and vulnerable to lead lives of purpose and goodness. We use this opportunity to reflect upon and thank God for our profound impact on individuals, communities, and society at large.

To learn more about our Centenary Celebrations please Click Here. And for the history behind our Congregation, please Click Here.

Motto: ‘Evangelizare Pauperibus Misit Me’ meaning “He has sent me to bring the good news to the poor” Luke14:18.

Killeshandra Centenary Celebrations

On March 10th 2024, the historic town of Killeshandra in Cavan, Ireland came alive with joyous festivities to mark the Centenary Celebrations of the Missionary Sisters of  Rosary fondly called the “Killeshandra Nuns.” The town was alight with prayers, laughter, music, light refreshments, and story-telling to ignite the spirit of community that has existed between the Sisters and the people of Killeshandra.

Eucharistic Celebration

The events began with the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist at St. Brigid’s Parish Church in Killeshandra. Many gathered to thank God for the gift and impact of the Sisters down the years. The Mass was presided over by Bishop Martin Hayes of Kilmore Diocese. It was a beautiful ceremony with lots of symbols presented at the Altar of Sacrifice.

The Symbols

They include the portraits of Bishops Shanahan and Finnegan and the seven pioneer Sisters, a globe, flags of various countries where MSHR work, a Bible, rosary beads, MSHR Constitutions, young plants including an oak, and some soil from the former convent property in Killeshandra.

Tree Planting Ceremony

After the Mass, a commemorative tree planting ceremony was held in the church grounds, symbolizing the deep roots and enduring legacy of the Killeshandra Nuns in Cavan. The people, Sisters, deacon and Bishop Hayes came together to plant an oak tree, representing strength, hope for the future and a commitment to preserving the historical connection of the Holy Rosary Sisters and Killeshandra for generations to come.

Historical Exhibitions

There was opportunity for the people, guests and Sisters to delve into the rich connection and heritage of the people of Killeshandra and the Holy Rosary Sisters.

The early works of the sisters and spiritual landmarks like the erection of the Memorial Cross at the site of the convent in Killeshandra after the house was sold and demolished many years ago, captured in photographs and motion pictures offered a glimpse into the bond, and impact of generations past.

Cultural Performances

St. Brigid’s Primary School Hall came alive with the sounds of traditional Irish music and dance, as the young performers took to the stage to showcase Killeshandra’s vibrant cultural heritage. In addition, the pupils were recognized with lovely gifts to celebrate their creativity.


The guests and sisters shared stories, laughter, snacks and drinks. The people had made a lovely Centenary Cake and this was cut with great delight by a selected few with photo taking. It was a time to relax, savour the flavours of Killeshandra and honour the memories of those gone before us, and dream for the future.


All good things they say must come to an end, but the spirit of Killeshandra Centenary Celebration lingers on, a testimonial to the resilience, dedicated love and service of a community that has stood the test of time. It was wonderful that Killeshandra was a part of this epic commemoration of a milestone event in the life of the Holy Rosary Sisters

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The Holy Rosary Sisters Visit to Cabra

The Visit to Cabra

"Dominican and holy rosary sisters photo"
The Dominican and Holy Rosary Sisters at Cabra

By Sr. Catherine Hally, Holy Rosary Sisters.

On 24 February 2024, the Congregational Leadership Team and some Sisters from the Central Region went to the Dominican Convent in Cabra, Dublin to remember and honour that time 100 years ago when four Dominican Sisters left their convent in Cabra to travel to Drumully House, Killeshandra Co Cavan to establish MSHR.

It was a joyful gathering with the Dominican Prioress and Council and other sisters. Having been welcomed by the Prioress General, Sr Franca Onyibor gave a short account of the history behind the date and its significance for both communities. Franca then presented the Dominican Sisters with a beautiful clock in gratitude for all they had done to support MSHR over the past 100 years.

A visit to the convent cemetery then followed. The graves of each of the eight Dominican Sisters associated with Killeshandra in the Foundation Decade (1924-1934) were marked by a vase of Spring flowers. All paused and remembered those pioneer Sisters in prayer and gratitude.

 We bid farewell to the Sisters and thanked them for their warm welcome, hospitality, generosity and time, knowing that the Prioress General and Council were flying to Argentina the next day to visit the Dominican communities in that country.


MSHR Centenary Press Release

Press Release


"congregational leader's photo"
Sr. Franca Onyibor, MSHR Congregational Leader

The Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary (MSHR) launches its Centenary of Foundation celebrations on 7 March 2024 – the eve of International Women’s Day.

Founded by an Irishman Bishop Joseph Shanahan C.S.Sp, Vicar Apostolic of Southern Nigeria. The congregation first began its journey with the support of the Dominican Sisters of Cabra Dublin, before establishing its Motherhouse at Killeshandra Co. Cavan in the Diocese of Kilmore on 7 March 1924.

The Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary [MSHR] originated within the Irish missionary movement to Asia & Africa in the early 20th Century when many young Irish men and women responded to the call to minister to all corners of the globe, especially to those on the margins of society.

The mission of the congregation is to advance the Gospel message of hope, reconciliation, and compassion, especially through the promotion of the dignity and rights of women wherever the Congregation serves. 

The Congregation founded its first mission in Nigeria in 1928 and over the past one hundred years it has grown to include eight more countries in Africa as well as the United Kingdom, USA, Mexico, and Brazil. Presently, over fifty young women are at different stages of discerning their vocation with MSHR. More information can be found HERE

In the early years, the focus of the mission was mainly on the provision of education and healthcare in all its dimensions as well as pastoral care. Today that service continues but the sisters also engage with people of many faiths in the promotion of human rights, justice, peace, inter-faith dialogue, environmental sustainability, and support for refugees, migrants, and trafficked women.

Sr Franca Onyibor, the first African Congregational Leader, reflects on this remarkable occasion as a time of gratitude to God for the countless lives touched and transformed through our presence and ministries; as well as the numerous ways we have been enriched by those we serve. It is also a time to give thanks for our co-missionaries and friends in mission, as we acknowledge the enormous support, financial and otherwise of so many benefactors, over these past one hundred years.

The Centenary Celebrations began on 24 February 2024 in Ireland with an event in the Dominican Convent, Cabra Dublin to honour the part played by the Cabra Dominican Sisters in the early years of the Holy Rosary Congregation.

A Thanksgiving gathering will take place in Killeshandra on 10 March 2024 along with many other celebratory events in the congregation worldwide over the coming year: A list of events can be found on the MSHR Centenary Webpage.   The Centenary events will conclude with a celebration in Cavan Cathedral, Ireland on 3 August 2024.


Notes for Editors

Interviews available on request: please contact:

  1. Sr Franca Onyibor Congregational Leader MSHR on 0035312881708
  2. Sr Mary O’Shea MSHR on 0035318513529

With kind regards 

Sr Franca Onyibor

Congregational Leader 

‘Women Empowering People’

MSHR Celebrates its Centenary on the eve of International Women’s Day


Watch: Pace Setters Arrive in Dublin to a Warm Welcome from the Holy Rosary Sisters

On April 26th, 2023, 21 past students from Our Lady of Lourdes College in Bamenda, Cameroon arrived in Dublin for a special visit. These women, the PaceSetters graduating class of 1986, traveled from countries around the world including the USA, UK, Switzerland, and Cameroon.

They were welcomed at the airport by many of the Holy Rosary sisters who educated them decades ago. The Pace Setters came to show gratitude for the values and lessons they learned from the sisters during their time in Dublin.

The next day, the group attended a thanksgiving mass and enjoyed reconnecting after so many years apart. It was a joyous reunion and celebration of the lifelong impact the Holy Rosary sisters had on these women as students. Though the years have passed, the care and teachings of the sisters remain dear to their hearts.

From Monze to Panama – trip of a lifetime!

Paradise Panama

God sent a gentle breeze from the four corners of the earth, steering hearts of young people to converge in a special “Paradise” Panama. This wonderful mingling of people from round the world was an amazing and joyful  experience for many of them, as Agnes, from Monze in Zambia, tells us:


“I, Agnes Nkhata, am glad to share with you my most wonderful experience of the World Youth Day in Panama. I was privileged to be one of the twenty eight pilgrims that form the Zambia group. I also represented my Mary Immaculate Parish at large. I want to tell you about  Saint Jose Chame Parish in Panama.  I chose this because the great love, generosity and hospitality I experienced there set the tone to the wonderful impact the World Youth Day made on me.

We arrived at Saint Jose Chame Parish Panama about 23.00, after our long journey. Late as it was, the Parishioners were waiting to welcome us.  The youth and their families all were present singing and dancing.  My tiredness disappeared as I watched the joy of being welcomed to a foreign country and people in such a pleasant manner. They had organized the families that would host the Zambian Contingent before our arrival. The parish Chairperson called out each pilgrim and assigned the host family to the person. Our oneness as a Zambian family gave way to an insertion to a new family.  For the next one week that was our home. They took every care of us from feeding, transportation, giving us treats, name it!!  All of us spoke only English and they only Spanish. Yet we communicated. They installed the Spanish – English translator apps to their phones and this made it easier to communicate.

Our activities

In our own parish of Saint Jose Chame there were over eleven countries. It was here at the Diocesan level that we had various activities, such as the daily celebration of Mass, praying the Rosary, having our lunch together, showcasing different cultural activities from various countries, faith walks through the forest, planting of trees and Painting. Each country painted her national flag on a very big canvas.

Young people are special

By now our new families have broadened. Every pilgrim stepped out of her or his own group and joined others in their dancing or other cultural activities. I came to understand that the young people are special. They can adapt easily and are very loving and lovable. It was a joy to see unity in diversity. In fact, it was a joy to be a Catholic and to be a youth. I have learnt and gained a lot and I hope to give what I have received.

Tears and hugs

Our parish families attended the last celebration of the Mass with us in their parish, distributed presents to us and we also gave them some presents we brought for home. They came as a body to see us off to Panama City in the morning of our departure. It was an emotional moment because we were leaving our “home out of home” for ever. Amidst tears, hugs and pecks we parted. Though I was, (as many of us were,) invited to come for a visit whenever….. I knew in my heart that it may never happen.
But part of me remains in my lovely host family, the parish and Panama as a whole. I cherish my time at Saint Joseph’s Parish Chama.

Abraham tells it:

I, Abraham Chisanga, from the diocese of Monze in Zambia, want to tell you about my new friends I met in Zambia
My trip to Panama for the World Youth Day was the first out of my country.  During the event I got exposed to many people and cultures. I made a lot of friends! Though I made a lot of friends but I was freer with the three of them. Their names are: Juan Vieney  Molan and Jessica Lodrigas from Central America and Alfredo from Germany. I met them at the church called  St Joseph. It was during the night when we were having the official introduction of the Participants.

After the introduction one of my new friends, by the name of Juan, took me to his family. He  introduced me to his family and the family welcomed me. They even gave me shelter, food and everything which was needed. I felt very happy.  I can’t even explain how pleased I was because it was the first time in my life to have such experience. To live in a different family and a different country and find that ok is a memory I cherish.

During my stay with my friends in Panama these were my experiences: We taught one another about our different cultures and how we worship.  The only challenges I had with my friends were about the language, different accents and different types of food. The food in particular was very different from the food I’m used to eating here in Zambia. But because I had made up my mind before travelling for the World Youth Day to follow the saying, “when you go to Rome, do like the Romans” I tried my best to understand the language and enjoy the meals.

​I’m still communicating with my friends. We are still encouraging one another about Christianity and worship via social media.

After their “family” experience in their parish the participants moved to Panama City, for the General Assembly, where they took part in workshops, prayer and reflection on the theme: “I am the  handmaid of the Lord.”  They also had the opportunity to see Pope Francis and  and meet still more friends from round the world.

Accompanying young people

Sister Mercy Ani, who travelled with the youth to Panama, reflects:

“Young people are the future generation. They are a well of vibrancy when motivated. They love God deep in them and long to be understood and valued as full members of the church who have talents to share.
The poor economic situation in many African Countries is reflected in the lives of most young people in Zambia too. The worst hit being the female youth. Early marriages, teenage pregnancies with its twin sister, teenage mothers,  abortions, school drop outs, drink among the young men, and even cases of suicides are areas that cry for concerted efforts. Since the focus is on “Accompaniment” we collaborate with Family and Education ministries in education for effective  parenting, inspirational teaching and leadership formation across the board.” 

Holy Rosary Sisters thank you for your support and prayers for our youth ministry in all our Regions .  May  God bless you all.

Embracing Peace in North East Nigeria

By Sister Franca Onyibor mshr  

Franca describes efforts to sow seeds of peace using the skills of Non-Violent Communication in North East Nigeria, where the Boko Haram conflict has been tearing communities apart.  She and her colleague, Duke, meet and listen to people on both sides:

   “ We are having amazing experiences with stories of pain and some joy too. So far we have worked with four different groups.  We have also been engaged with the initial work for restorative dialogue with a group of local Farmers and Fulani herdsmen – two groups that have been in conflict for many years. The local security guards (called vigilantes) have also been part of this initial dialogue. People have been killed on both sides and properties lost. As is unfortunately so common in these types of conflict, one side sees the other side as impossible – “they will not come, they will not talk”. And yet when we went to the other side we had barely finished explaining why we had come when they started to say, “whatever it is we will do it, we want peace!”  We expected ten for this gathering and over thirty turned up including young Fulani herdsmen. Even though I am the only woman present, the group desired peace so much that they were enthusiastically open to receive from me and to share with openness.

As we together explored ways forward for peace, many of the Fulani elders also expressed their deep desire that their children from henceforth would learn to read and write. I feel sad for many of the young men present who could neither read nor write. Though this place is located in the middle of nowhere, I have started praying  to Bishop Shanahan for nomadic school for these Fulani children and for many other Fulani children in Nigeria.  I believe with our dear Founder that this dream will one day come true.  Thank you for joining me in this dream and prayer for these precious children.

     “Nonviolence is a chosen, mindful approach to life that emerges from standing for love, courage, and truth”- Miki Kashtan, Little book of Courageous Living

” I am a member of a worldwide network for peace called, ‘Non Violent Communication’ (NVC). It was founded by Marshall Rosenberg; website is  I feel drawn to this path because it offers me concrete tools for transforming my own anger and hurt to grow towards an open hearted kindness and love towards myself and others. Today, NVC continues to nourish me as I try to respond to the call to contribute to sowing seeds of peace by bringing NVC to Nigeria. The unanimous response of those who have participated in my training programmes  is one of deep appreciation for NVC.

Fatima, a participant whose aunt was killed in a conflict, put it this way:
I came to this workshop with huge emotional pain. I leave with a lighter heart due to the deep listening I experienced. I am also learning how I can begin to create peace and harmony within myself and in my relationships. In fact, I see the potential NVC has to bring peace to Nigeria.”

The writer of this article, Sister Franca Onyibor, is a Missionary Sister of the Holy Rosary from Nigeria.

Trauma healing for people displaced by Boko Haram attacks in North East Nigeria

Sister Franca Onyibor, Missionary Sister of the Holy Rosary, writes about the healing work she and her colleague, Duke, are doing in some of the camps for Internally Displaced People (IDPs)

There are 700 people at this camp and they all wished to participate. Sadly, for a start, we are choosing to work with the number we can manage (35) and choosing from those most in need.

I am gradually coming to accept my human limitations regarding the number of IDPs still longing for healing. We hope and pray that whatever healing comes to those who do some work with their trauma will somehow impact the larger community in a meaningful way.
As we sat there on benches under the shade of the trees in the middle of their camp, listening to their stories was shocking, horrifying, heart breaking, and awe-inspiring for me. In addition, listening to the stories of how they came to the camp was very difficult for all – and the pain of those experiences was very evident on many of the faces. One woman still does not know the fate of 3 of her children taken by Boko Haram. Can you imagine the kind of courage it requires to face that pain? All of them face this kind of pain in one way or another; and yet all still have room for great gratitude also……. it is very humbling for me. Simultaneously they  began to get more connected with how their enormous pain lives in their bodies and to explore some ways to calm that. We focused on somatic or body-based activities to help them to reconnect with their physical being-ness.

Over the first couple of days most of the IDPs showed limited emotional expression and although they said that it was good what we were doing together, it was difficult to discern any impact. It was not until the third day when one of the women, who had lost more than 50 members of her family, reported that last night was the first time she slept all the way through the night without awaking, that we began to notice subtle but definite changes.  After this, slowly others reported improved sleeping, with another woman exclaiming still in some surprise “I was sleeping so deeply that someone actually had to come and wake me up because they were wondering where I was!”  Others began to report feeling lighter in their bodies, one woman stating, “It is as if my shoulders are not carrying so much weight.” In general the mood lightened and more emotion seemed to be present, and occasionally laughter.

Haunted by the memories

Many reported the horror of watching their loved ones die in front of them; and this was compounded by not being able to do anything to help save them, or even to be able to offer the dead the dignity of burying the body.  This was haunting many of the participants. So on the last day we had a ceremony where they were able to symbolically bury their dead and/or turn their loved one who had disappeared and their status was unknown over to God. During the ritual ceremony participants brought symbols of their deceased or missing loved ones. Not one, but four different people, brought a tree branch with many, many leaves as a symbol for the more than 50 people they lost in their families – it was more than I could take in; to imagine that this woman or this man in front of me has endured such a level of loss and is still able to be standing and functioning… it is a strength I am not sure I possess. Nonetheless, the ritual was a solemn and powerful experience as each person came up to the ceremonial ‘altar’, spoke their loved ones’ names and shared briefly how this person had touched their lives. One of the IDPs expressed her huge relief in these words: “I no longer see bodies of my loved ones eaten by pigs and dogs. With this ‘burial’ ceremony, I see them in their full humanity and beauty and I am relieved.” The pain of loss was there, but so too was the deep love that those who passed had brought into their lives.


At the close of the 4 days many reported that this ritual was the most empowering thing that they had done, and that they felt a huge amount of relief having finally buried their dead with the care, love and dignity befitting a loved one. These IDPs were so grateful for the work – just even for the fact that someone cared for them enough to spend 4 days together; it was very humbling. They expressed their deep appreciation to those whose financial support made our work possible, requesting that we carry to you all bags and bags of gratitude from their hearts to yours….

We are indeed immensely grateful to you whose prayers and donations are making all this possible. For example it is because of your donations that we are able to provide lunch to the IDPs who come for the workshop, pay the airfare for Duke to come to Nigeria and to travel to these risky places (to name a few). Had we not provided lunch for the participants, they would need to endure a 20 minute walk each way in blistering heat without shade to return to their camp, make their own food, and then walk back. This would have significantly impacted their ability to participate. So thank you from all of them to you for this gift.

In a recent letter Franca adds to her thanks.  “There is so much good news which I long to share. Since the peace project in North East Nigeria, some of those we encountered have caught the passion for peace. For example, one of our Fulani collaborators has taken the message of non-violence to mosques – and his message is being received. Many more are asking him to come to them. Here in Nigeria there is huge tension between Igbos and the Muslim North, fueled by hate messages to each other. In response, our team is in the process of meeting Igbo chiefs and Imams for a forum on non-violence, with groups in Northern states as well as Kogi and Enugu…. Please keep us in your powerful prayers.”


Franca belongs to an international organisation committed to Non Violence.  See also her article Passion for Peace in North East Nigeriaposted September 2017