Sarah was the youngest Russell girl. She became Sister Emmanuel. In 1866 she was sent as Superior, along with four other Sisters, to open a branch house in Lurgan, then a thriving manufacturing town.
They arrived in August, causing quite a stir. Few people there had ever seen a nun before, with their strange garb. With a practical Russell as their leader, the Sisters quickly opened a day school. This was quickly followed by a night school for those who worked in the mills. Afterwards an orphanage was opened. Even today Lurgan continues to have a Mercy primary and secondary school for girls.
Lurgan then was an Orange stronghold and the arrival of the Sisters had been timed to allow the fervour of the twelfth of July celebrations to subside. But the following Twelfth, the Sisters experienced the full fury of the bigotry which has blighted this part of our land even until the present day.
An Orange mob tried to stone the Convent. Fortunately such an event had been anticipated and the Convent had been built beyond the reach of stone-throwers! Nevertheless the Sisters were terrified. Afterwards Sister Emmanuel – a brave, strong woman – confessed that her knees were trembling with fear. Even after the mob had left, she spent the entire night praying before the Blessed Sacrament for the safety of all.