About the Archive

Sisters of the Holy Faith Congregational Archives

The Sisters of the Holy Faith is a Roman Catholic religious congregation who functions as a religious charitable organisation to benefit humankind through education, outreach, and missionary work. In keeping with archival best practice and norms, the authorized form of name is the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Faith. Other standardized forms of name according to other rules include: Holy Faith Sisters and Holy Faith Congregation.  The sources of authority derive from the Constitutions of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Faith, which was approved by the Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes. The date of the Decree 2 February 1988 (Prot. N. D5-1/78).

The Repository

The Sisters of the Holy Faith Congregational Archives (hereafter referred to as HFA) are currently housed in the eighteenth-century portion of the main convent building. The Margaret Aylward and Fr John Gowan papers, dating from 1851 to the present day, are preserved in acid-free folders and boxes and are preserved in the temperature/humidity controlled archives room. Ephemera is located in the Reading Room and the Margaret Aylward Room. The catalogued American Collection remains in the Reading Room. Oversized documents (Ordnance Survey maps, eight architectural drawings) are stored in a six-drawer, oversized document cabinet. The Glasnevin complex is made up of several buildings dating from the eighteenth-century (Glasnevin House) onwards. This multipurpose site serves several generations. The Tolka River flows through the convent lands and forms a physical boundary with the well-known National Botanic Gardens.

Archival and other holdings, guides and publications

The HFA holds a wealth of primary source material. This material covers documents pertaining to the Ladies’ Association of Charity, St. Brigid’s Orphanage, Holy Faith schools, convents and various ministries, foreign missions, and administrative paperwork.  One of the primary functions of the archive is to serve the reference needs of the current administrative units of the congregation. The archive includes, but not limited to: registers (11 volumes);  the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Faith as a community,  religious institutes, civic authorities, the history of the congregation, documents relative to its foundations, letters of appointments of regional superiors, chronicles of events, each phase of formation (aspirantate and pre novitiate-novitiate-post novitiate-practical training-theology), pastoral care of youth, schools and associations,  foreign missions, congregational family with its constitutive groups,  social communications, confreres,  statistical data on various regions, administrative archives and ephemera. The ephemeral collection includes, but not limited to, artefacts from various continents, slides, videocassettes, CDs, DVDs, ledgers, photographs, and photographic albums.  

Also included are: the Annual Reports of the Ladies’ Association of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul (1852-1862); the Annual Reports of St. Brigid’s Orphanage (1857-1907); and Publications of St. Brigid’s Orphanage. While these particular collections are housed in Aylward House, they are now available online.

Finding Aids of the Sisters of the Holy Faith Congregational Archives

With the exception of the digital collection, all finding aids are in situ at Glasnevin. Descriptive lists of the fond, sub-fond, series, sub-series, folders, and items of CHF. There are workable manual and electronic finding aids. The finding aids include a printed catalogue of the records relating to the family of Margaret Aylward, their property and business interests, Margaret Aylward’s life and labours for the faith, her incarceration in Grangegorman Prison (1860-1861); Ladies of Charity, St. Brigid’s Orphanage, Holy Faith schools, the founding of the Holy Faith Congregation; spiritual guidance of Fr. John Gowan; the expansion of the congregation and interaction with the church and state authorities; rules and constitution(s). The first finding aid completed in 1984-1985 has a reference code HFA1. The second finding aid, completed in 2017, details archives from missions in Trinidad and the United States and has a reference code HFA2. The third finding aid, completed in 2020, covers the United States region and has a reference code HFA/USRA.


Access to the archive is by appointment only. The conditions and requirements for access and use is granted with permission by the HFA archivist. Requests are made in writing (letter or email) preceded by a phone call if applicable. In accordance with HFA official archival policy, sanctioned in July 2018, researchers indicate details of required resources prior to visiting. The archives are for reference only and the archivist will not provide a loan service for individual/community use. 

  • Access to St. Brigid’s Orphanage Information Tracing Services

The HFA archivist may determine that certain records have restricted access due to concern for privacy of individuals. Archives that have not been processed or closed will not be made available for researchers. St. Brigid’s Information Tracing Services, which has been in operation since 23 January 2017, manage all queries pertaining to St. Brigid’s Orphanage. These enquiries are processed and answered by a Health Service Executive (HSE) social worker. If the individual is still living, any such records can only be used with the individual’s permission. The archivist complies with data protection, freedom of information legislation and other relevant legislation and regulation within the national jurisdiction and the EU.

  • Accessibility

Located on Glasnevin Hill, the archivist’s office is located within one-minute walking distance from the no. 83 bus stop. It overlooks the headquarters of Met Éireann to the north, and to the south, the convent grounds join with the National Botanic Gardens and Glasnevin Cemetery. The archives room, the reading room and the archivist’s office are located on the second floor of the Holy Faith Convent, in the eighteenth-century portion of the building. It is not wheelchair accessible. A small car park is located in the front of the building. There are three meeting rooms on the first floor with ample seating and tables. A small kitchen is located between two waiting/meeting rooms. Dublin Bus serves the area (nos. 83 and 13) as well as Dublin Luas. The last Luas stop at Cabra Boombridge is a twenty-minute walk to the Glasnevin complex (approximately).

  • Reproduction services 

With regard to conditions for governing access and reproduction (rights). Reproduction is carried out in a manner compatible with the document’s integrity, conservation requirements and copyright law; restrictions may be imposed on reproduction where necessary. Postal services are available for a nominal fee. Copying services are available for a nominal fee. Phone calls are permitted only for outgoing calls-with the permission of the archivist. Photographing of archival material requires the permission of the HFA archivist.

  • Holy Faith Sisters Digital Archive

Copyright © & Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) belong to the Holy Faith Sisters. The resource may be used and reproduced (with accreditation) under the following license: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)

Best Practice: Rules and Conventions

The Sisters of the Holy Faith archival practices adhere to archival best practice. This includes following the archival guidelines, appropriate preservation principles and best practice, for the following authorities.

  • International Council on Archives, ISDIAH-International Standard for Describing Institutions with Archival Holdings (1st Ed., London, 2008)
  • International Council on Archives, ISAD (G): General International Standard Archival Description (2nd Ed., Ottawa, 2000)
  • Society of Archivists, Ireland, ISAD(G): Irish Guidelines for Archival Description (2009) 
  • Copyright and related rights Acts 2000 and (amendments) Act 2007
  • Data protection acts 1998-2003, 2018 (www.data protection.ie
  • GDPR 25/5/2018 General Data Protection Regulation
  • Archival Policy of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Faith Glasnevin Dublin 11.
  • July 2018 Constitutions of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Faith 1988
  • Provisional Directory of the Congregation of the Holy Faith 1988
  • International Standards Organisation, ISO 639-2 Documentation-Bibliographic References-Electronic Documents or Part Thereof (Geneva, 1992) 
  • International Standards Organisation, ISO 15924
  • Codes for the Representation of Names and Scripts (Geneva 2003) 
  • Records in Contexts (RiC) and an ontology (RiC-O) (2019)

Contact information

Location and address:  Aylward House, Holy Faith Convent, Glasnevin, Dublin 11, D09 EF84 

Tel: 00353 (0)1 8371426

Email: admin@hfaith.ie

Contact Archivist: Sr Alice Aylward, Email: holyfaitharchivist@gmail.com


https://www.holyfaithsisters.org/  … http://hfsdigitalarchive.org/