Bernard, Agnes Morrogh (Mother Mary Arsenius) (1842–1932), nun, teacher, and founder of Providence Mill, Foxford, Co. Mayo, was born 24 February 1842 in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, the eldest child of John Morrogh , of a prominent catholic family from Glanmire, Cork, and Frances Morrogh (née Blount) of Hurstbourne Tarrant, Hampshire. Shortly after her birth she was taken to the family home in Cork, where she remained until 1849, when her father inherited the Bernard estates in Co. Kerry from his maternal grandmother. He changed his name to Morrogh Bernard and settled in Shehree House, near Killarney, Co. Kerry. Agnes, having received her early education from her mother, was sent to the Laurel Hill convent in Limerick city and later to the Augustinian convent of the Dames Anglaises in the rue des Fossés, Paris. On her return to Ireland in 1860 she informed her parents of her plans to become a nun. In time she overcame the initial misgivings of her father and began her novitiate with the Sisters of Charity in Harold's Cross, Dublin, in 1863; her decision to enter the Sisters of Charity showed a determination actively to serve the poor.
She was professed in January 1866 and given the name ‘Arsenius’. After a brief spell spent teaching at the order's school in Gardiner Street, Dublin, she was appointed as headmistress of the King's Inn Street school, where she had charge of 1,200 pupils. Poor health forced her temporarily to abandon her work in 1869, after which she was attached to the Magdalen asylum in Donnybrook, the Mountjoy Street convent, where she served as ministress, and the Lakelands orphanage. In 1877 she was appointed rectress of the convent in Ballaghdereen, Co. Roscommon. There she established a national school, which provided meals, and later an industrial school with places for up to seventy-five girls. She also established a laundry, pharmacy, bakery, and lending library, and promoted spinning and weaving skills in the district.
On the invitation of Dr John Lyster, the bishop of Achonry, she opened a convent in Foxford in April 1891, with an attached school, which provided pupils with both food and clothing. To alleviate the desperate poverty in the district she decided to establish a woollen mill, and, on the recommendation of Michael Davitt (qv), consulted John Charles Smith of Caledon Mills, Co. Tyrone. He advised her on factory construction and layout, selected her machinery, and recommended the factory's first manager, Frank Sherry. With the assistance of a loan, a substantial grant from the Congested Districts Board (CDB), and other monies, the Providence Mill opened on 25 April 1892. Owing to the success of the enterprise, the Connaught Industrial Exhibition was held in Foxford in 1895, with displays of factory produce, crafts, and dairy products. Factory inspectors, such as Adelaide Anderson, commented on the mill's good management and working conditions. William J. D. Walker, an adviser to the CDB, after a surprise visit to the factory, spoke of its ‘smart business-like air’, and of its contribution to the ‘social and moral elevation of the people’. Alongside the mill, the convent opened a co-operative creamery, and it also provided community education in horticulture and diet. This additional work involved up to 800 households. Bernard resisted the demands of the catholic hierarchy to dismiss Parnellite factory workers who had heckled a parish priest at a demonstration, stating ‘I am here to help the poor regardless of creed or politics’; she subsequently apologised publicly on behalf of her employees. A Gaelic League supporter, she was responsible for the formation of Foxford's orchestra, choir, and brass and reed band. Having suffered heart attacks in 1900 and 1901 she retired, only to be reappointed rectress in 1909.
Bernard played a significant role in the founding of the Milltown teacher training unit, which catered for the Sisters of Charity, and organised the campaign for the beatification of the order's foundress Mary Aikenhead (qv). In 1924 she retired as rectress of Foxford convent. She died 21 April 1932 and was buried at Foxford.