The way we strive to live our lives as Religious Sisters of Charity can be defined through our motto and our 4th vow. Our Motto ‘The charity of Christ urges us on’ and our 4th vow of ‘Service of the Poor’ enable us to discern where we should be and what we should be doing. Our purpose in doing this is to bring about the reign of God in the places where we minister and to the people we are living and working with.
Since the first sisters came to England in 1840 and to Scotland in 1948, our sisters have been involved in an extraordinary range and variety of ministries. The following gives a brief history of our Province and our ministries’:
Preston: 1840 – 1848
Because Ireland was Mary Aikenhead’s first concern, and the needs of the Irish poor were far from satisfied, she hesitated a long time before giving her consent to establishing a foundation outside Ireland. After five years of negotiation, she finally undertook a foundation in Preston, England where the Sisters of Charity went to educate poor children in day schools. Things did not work out well for the sisters there. In addition to financial difficulties, some of the sisters suffered ill health because of overwork, and in 1848 she decided that the sisters should return to Ireland.
Rock Ferry, Merseyside: 1890 – 2004
In 1890, the sisters felt capable once again of responding to needs further afield, and established St Margaret’s Home, Rockferry in 1890. Here, the sisters were involved in residential care of the elderly, parish visiting, State agency work, an Irish Welfare Centre and work with the Union of Catholic Mothers. The sisters moved from St. Margaret’s in 2004 and the residential home closed. One sister still remains living in the area.
Birkenhead, Merseyside: 1900 –
The Sisters moved into Claughton Road in February 1900 and for nearly 70 years St. Elizabeth’s was the hub of a vibrant ministry in Birkenhead and beyond. The Guild Room attached to the Convent provided a Centre for the spiritual, social and recreational life of girls and young women from all over the town, as well as families.
Sisters began teaching in St. Winifred’s Secondary Modern School in 1956.
Today there are 7 sisters living in Birkenhead, 4 sisters are each working in different parishes. This involves working with individuals, families, groups, schools: caring for their needs through home visits, counselling, catechesis, Sacramental Programmes and working with young people. Care of older people is an area of continuing growth as those needing Nursing Home care continues to grow. In addition to the above one sister is employed as a Prison Chaplain, one is a voluntary worker in a Luncheon Club for the elderly, and one sister who is retired prays for the work of the house.
Hackney, London: 1900 –
Five Religious Sisters of Charity arrived in Hackney, in the east end of London on 2nd July 1900. They had come to England through the efforts of Father Gallwey, a distinguished Jesuit who was familiar with their work in Ireland. He was instrumental in obtaining St Joseph’s Hospice (the sisters had originally settled in King Edward’s Road but the house soon proved to be too small) The sisters moved to 6 Cambridge Villas and within two years the Sisters (through an anonymous donation of £10,000) came into possession of surrounding villas and a lodge. The donor, a woman who remained anonymous, asked that the property be used as a Hospice of the dying. The endless demand for beds at the hospice resulted in repeated extensions to the hospice over the years. The Sisters also engaged in domiciliary nursing and social work. This work and their teaching in local schools kept the sister in intimate daily contact with people in their home, and this in turn, had immense value for the work they did at St Joseph’s. Beside the care of the very ill and terminally ill people, St Joseph’s also provided care for older people in St Patrick’s wing. Poor men and women came daily for food and clothes were also provided if they wished to have them. Jumble sales, bazaars and summer fetes were a wonderful opportunity for local people to come and buy excellent clothes, furniture, toys and crockery at a very reasonable cost.
Over the past 100 years the hospice has grown and developed and now provides a full range of community and inpatient services to the people of Hackney, City of London, Newham and Tower Hamlets, as well as inpatient care for people in Camden, Enfield, Harringey, Islington, Redbridge and Waltham Forest.
Hammersmith London: 1920 – 1998
For many years, St Brigid’s convent in Hammersmith was the centre of the London mission of the Sisters of Charity. The Sisters visited the sick and the needy in six surrounding parishes. They also ran guilds and sodalities and instructed converts. Later they moved to Mater Dei, Hammersmith Grove from where they ran an Irish Welfare Centre which arranged accommodation for homeless people, gave advice and referred clients to other agencies. They were also involved in the Westminster Crusade of Rescue and other social work. This convent was closed in 1998 when the Sisters transferred to Acton. Similar ministries continued in Acton i.e. hospital chaplaincy, day care for homeless people. In addition a sister worked with families in the Catholic Rescue Society. A sister was nursing in a home for older people. One sister taught in a school for underprivileged people and a sister worked with women involved with prostitution.
Walthamstow, London: 1920 – 2006
St Mary’s Convent Walthamstow was founded as a Missionary centre in 1921. The sisters visited the sick, organised Guilds and Sodalities for boys and girls. In 1929 the sisters accepted the charge of a Residential school containing 200 children. In 1931 the Parish school was re-organised and St. Mary’s became the Primary school for the Residential children and children of the Parish. In the 1980’s trends in Child Care caused the Sisters to look at where they were going as many children were now being fostered and not placed in residential care. The decision was taken to close St Mary’s Children’s home and a smaller house was purchased. Sisters were also involved in pastoral work in St George’s Parish, and they were involved in local schools including: – St Helen’s infants, St Mary’s Primary and Corpus Christi.
Basingstoke: 1927 – 1964
The Convent of The Holy Ghost opened in Basingstoke in March 1927 chiefly for the religious instruction and guidance of children and adults. The sisters also organised Sodalities and the Mothers’ Guild in the local parish. In 1951 a small Primary School was opened which grew to quite a considerable size. Due to a lack of financial support the school had to close and the last sister left the Convent in 1964.
Bath: 1934 – 1996
The Sisters of Charity founded St Catherine’s Convent in Bath in 1934 and worked in the various parishes in the town visiting homes, instructing Catholic children and conducting the Mothers’ Guilds (UCM) etc. In the early days the sisters also visited three hospitals. On 26th August 1939, St. Joseph’s Hospice in Hackney, London was taken over as an Air Raid Casualty Station so it was decided to move the patients of the Hospice to Bath. Two additional houses were bought to accommodate the numbers arriving from Hackney and thus began the foundation of a Nursing Home in Bath. For over 50 years the Nursing Home was under the care of the sisters until, due to shortage of personnel it was sold. The Convent was maintained until 1996 when the last sister left Bath having spent the previous year living in community with a group of young adults and one other sister.
Walmer, Kent: 1936 – 1940
The convent in Walmer was opened in response to the invitation of Fr James O’Connell, who wanted Sisters to work with a mining community in his parish in Kent. He wanted them to visit the families of the miners and to start a school for the children, and undertook to provide them with a rent-free house and daily Mass. He made this appeal in 1933, but the convent was not opened until 1936. The community in Walmer was evacuated in 1940 and the convent was occupied by the military.
Bristol: 1937 – 2015
The Sisters of Charity established the Convent of Our Lady of Lourdes, Knowle, Bristol in 1937 as a mission centre for the new building estate of Filwood Park. The sisters taught at the local primary school, visited homes and organised guilds and sodalities in the local parishes. The sisters also worked closely with the other Christian churches on the estate and with community based projects that worked towards alleviating some of the poverty that existed on the estate. The Sisters were engaged in the Mission of the local Parish Church of Christ the King. In the later years sisters also worked in Hospital Chaplaincy in the large City hospital and assisted in some City-wide run projects for vulnerable people.
Birmingham: 1937 –
The Sisters of Charity founded St. Anne’s convent Saltley in 1937 and took charge of the junior and infant section of the Rosary schools. They also taught senior pupils in the secondary school, visited homes, conducted Union of Catholic Mothers, Children of Mary, junior sodalities, youth clubs and instructed converts.
The community moved to Acocks Green in July 1995 from where the sisters continued to work in local parishes, hospital chaplaincy and projects supporting women vulnerable to prostitution. After extensive refurbishment of the house, the present community moved in early 2006. The sisters are now involved in the local parish in the Legion of Mary and the prayer group, volunteer support for the local hospice, working with asylum seekers and refugees, anti trafficking campaigning and community organising through Birmingham Citizens.
Clydebank, Scotland: 1948 –
The Sisters of Charity began their work in Scotland in Glasgow. In 1950 they opened a hospice at St Margaret’s, Clydebank, and two years later acquired an adjoining house. In 1969 a new hospice was opened to accommodate sixty patients. In 1989 the Appeal Fund was launched for the re-development and upgrading of the hospice and in 1993 the floor was opened and also a new Day Care Centre. In 1998 the new Education Centre was opened followed by a new Hydrotherapy pool on 2000. The Sisters are now responding to need by building a purpose built thirty bedded unit for patients, giving more choice and comfort at a difficult time in their lives. Today the Sisters continue this work of caring for the sick, Parish work and visiting older and housebound people in their homes.
Sowerby Bridge, Yorkshire: 1953 – 1998
The Sisters of Charity founded the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Sowerby in 1953 and started a private independent infant and junior school because there was no Catholic school in the parish. They also visited the poor, took charge of the mothers’ guild, COM etc and gave religious instruction to the senior children attending non-Catholic schools, and converts. The convent closed in 1998 due to lack of personnel but he sisters maintained a presence in Yorkshire by working in both Leeds and Mytholmroyd.
Basildon, Essex: 1957 – 1996
The Sisters of Charity founded St Teresa’s Convent in Basildon, Essex in 1957. At the time, Basildon was a new, rapidly expanding town, built to accommodate people from the overcrowded districts of East and Central London. The congregation built a primary school and convent and engaged in social work.
Airdrie, Scotland: 1957 –
The Sisters of Charity arrived in Airdrie, Lanarkshire in 1957 and they opened Assumption House, a Nursing Home for 16 elderly people. They were also involved in parish visiting, the U.C.M., Sodalities, instructing converts and other parish activities as the need arose.
In 1986 the sisters moved from Assumption House to a new purpose built convent and Hospice in Henderson Street with the new name of St. Andrew’s Hospice, the only hospice in Lanarkshire. The Hospice provided 22 Specialist Palliative Care beds, 10 bed for care of the Elderly, a Day Hospice, Home Care, Out Patients Clinic for pain control, Out Patients appointments for Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Home Assessments, Bereavement Services, a Drop-In for bereaved children, social and spiritual care. The sisters are also involved in parish ministry and hospital chaplaincy.
On the feast of St. Andrew 2006 a new extension providing an Education Centre, administration and appeals offices, were blessed and officially opened.
Chester, Cheshire: 1958 – 1982
In 1958 the Sisters of Charity took possession of the Convent in Chester which had been built and occupied by the Little Sisters of the Assumption. Their primary task was the visitation of people in their homes, both in St. Werburgh’s parish and in the Lache area of Chester where many disadvantaged families lived. Two sisters were sent to teach in the local Primary School and in the Secondary School. Later another sister became Head of the Infant School. In 1966 a Secondary Modern School was opened in Ellesmere Port and a Sister of Charity was appointed Head of R.E. She was joined by another sister in 1968. It was with great reluctance and sadness that it was decided to close the convent in 1982 due to lack of personnel. However, one sister continued to teach in the Primary School until 1995, commuting from the convent in Rock Ferry.
Witney, Oxfordshire: 1959 – 1990
In 1956 the Parish Priest of Our Lady and St Hugh in Witney went to Ireland to ask for Sisters help to teach in the parish school and work among the people in the area. The parish was in a new town with many young families and no Catholic school. Five Sisters came, three to teach and two to work in the parish. The Sisters also collected children from outlying areas to take them to school. Some of the Sisters taught catechism to the children in the R.A.F Base in Brize Norton and later a Sister worked full time at the Base with the service men and their families. The sisters left Witney in 1990 due to shortage of personnel.
Ollerton: 1960 – 1988
Following many requests and much negotiation the Convent was finally opened in a mining community in Nottingham. The sisters arrived to take up residence on July 26th 1960. There were two Sisters in the Community, these were supported and helped in every way by the members of the Parish and the guidance of the Parish Priest. The Sisters established a parish school in the Convent on September 12th 1960 with 23 pupils. Eventually a new school was built in the village at a cost of £22,000 using specialist materials which would counteract ‘subsidence’ the bane of miners lives! The school opened on august 27th 1962 with 100 children enrolled. There were many Apostolates undertaken by the Sisters including: Home Visiting, Catechesis, U.C.M Children’s groups. The Sisters left Ollerton on December 12th 1986. However two of the Sisters moved to Nottingham to continue their work, Social Work and Catechetics, another Sister joined the small group in Nottingham. This small group was attached to the Convent in Yorkshire. The Sisters left Nottingham on September 26th 1988.
Macclesfield, Cheshire: 1961 – 2011
Sutton Hall was the home of Miss May Lomas when she offered it to the Diocese of Shrewsbury. It was an historic house, a place where the Mass had been celebrated and the Blessed Sacrament reserved during hundreds of years. The chapel was disguised to resemble a barn from the outside, a necessary safeguard until the repeal of the Penal Laws came with Catholic Emancipation in 1829. Wishing to continue the tradition she asked Bishop Grazer to find a community of religious for Sutton Hall.
On Saturday, 26th August 1961, a community of five took up residence and at once the work began. Two sisters served in St Alban’s school, two began visiting homes in the parishes of St Alban and St Edward the Confessor, while the fifth facilitated all by the essential service of home-making. And there we lived for twelve years.
However, Sutton Hall was not very close to the town, so in April 1973 Bishop Brewer spoke with to the community about the possibility that the Diocese might wish to reclaim the house. Eventually the decision was taken and the sisters purchased a house in St Alban’s parish from which we continued to serve. Prison visiting began in 1990 and together with parish work continued until the house closed in August 2011.
Langley, Buckinghamshire: 1962 – 1988
On 27th April 1962 the Sisters of Charity arrived in Langley, where a new housing estate had been built on the outskirts of Slough. Sisters were involved in pastoral ministry in the parish and were instrumental in the opening of the parish schools. The sisters were very much part of the life of the parish as it grew and developed during the following years. They visited homes, started the Union of Catholic Mothers, Children of Mary, junior sodalities, and instructed converts. On 10th January 1988 after 26 years of the sisters’ presence in Langley the last 2 sisters living in the house moved to new ministries.
Chiswick, London: 1984 – 2010
It was decided to move the Sister’s headquarters (Provincial House) from Hackney to Chiswick in 1984. This is a centre for administering the affairs of the Congregation in England and Scotland. It gave more space and had easy access to transport. For many years a sister worked in pastoral care in the local male prison and was involved in parish activities and bereavement counselling. In November 2010 the Provincial House moved again – this time to Acton.
Leeds: 1988 – 2011
In 1988 a Sister of Charity was missioned to Leeds to see how people struggling with homelessness and addiction could best be served. She realised that even more that housing they needed the experience of belonging to a supportive, life-giving community. After eight years she moved into a ground floor flat near the city centre and for some years this became the focal point for a loose-knit non-residential community.
In 2004/5 both the middle and top floor flats became vacant. Leeds City Council offered the tenancies to the Sisters of Charity so that the whole house would be under their management. For a while two Sisters lived there. A partnership was formed between Catholic Care, the Simon Community, Leeds Irish Health and Homes and the Sisters of Charity to provide a welcoming space on the ground floor for support groups to meet. In January 2011 the flats were returned to Leeds City Council.
Shepherd’s Bush, London: 1990 – 2011
In 1989 it was felt there was a need for another house in London and a house in Shepherd’s Bush was eventually purchased to meet this need. The house was officially opened on the 15th October 1990. Three Sisters were missioned to live and establish a community in the parish of Our Lady of Fatima, White City, which ministered to a large multi cultural population housed in high rise flats. One sister was engaged in Metamorphic Technique – Holistic Healing. Another, as Vocation Co-ordinator and Retreat Director. The third sister was engaged in Sixth Form College Education. Over the years the house experienced many changes in ministries such as: Co-ordinator in the Catholic Children’s Society, Bible Study, Director of Education in the Province/Ministry to Religious Programme/On-Going Formation, Provincial Bursar, Pastoral Ministry, Administration and Health Visitor in Middlesex. Shepherd’s Bush was also a central base for sisters studying in Heythrop College and London University. The house closed in March 2011.
Canning Town, London: 1990 – 2012
On October 1st 1990 two Sisters moved into a terrace house in Canning Town which is in the East End of London. The house is in St Margaret’s Parish which is part of the Brentwood Diocese. The purpose of the ministry was for the Sisters to be available to the local community and this they did in a variety of ways: working alongside statutory agencies, supporting young mothers, parenting classes and after schools clubs, befriending and supporting refugees and immigrants, giving English classes in the house. The house closed in March 2012 but the Congregation continued its presence in the parish with a sister continuing to work as a parish visitor.
Chingford Estate, London: 1993 – 1998
On 19th February 1993 a Sister of Charity and a Sister of Mercy took up residence in a rented flat. This was the beginning of a collaborative mission between the two Congregations – a collaborative enterprise that involved both living in community together and ministering on the estate. The vision was that the Sisters home would be among the people and be part of the life of the estate – part of the visible Christian community at the service of the people. The Sisters felt drawn to a simper open life-style. To help them realise their vision they formulated four aims:
Cumbernauld, Scotland: 1994 – 1998
On June 22nd 1994, two sisters moved into a house in a housing estate in Cumbernauld, on the outskirts of Glasgow. For almost 3 years prior to this one of the sisters had already been working in St. Lucy’s Parish as full-time Pastoral Assistant, commuting from Airdrie on a daily basis.
The primary ministry in Cumbernauld was Pastoral Work as well as working with various groups such as the RCIA, Parenting Programmes, Assertiveness Programmes, Small Faith-Sharing Groups, a Eucharistic Prayer Group and a group of Associates.
From 1997, due to a change in personnel the main function of the sisters was to be a presence in the parish and to fill in wherever the need arose. A process then began regarding the feasibility of the house and after some prayer and discernment a decision was taken to close the house on 7th March 1998.
Queensgate Villas, London: 1996 – 2009
In June 1996 a second house opened in Hackney near Victoria Park and just a mile from the Hospice Community. This was a much smaller community than at the Hospice. For a short time four Sisters lived in this house, but usually it was a community of three Sisters. The Sisters who lived there were involved in a variety of ministries, including voluntary work, care of older people, chaplaincy at the Hospice and Vocations work.
Acton, London: 1998 –
Five sisters moved from the house in Hammersmith on September 8th 1998 to a house in Acton more suitable for the sisters and their ministries. In Acton they continued many of the ministries started in Hammersmith – working with children, hospital chaplaincy, volunteer work at a day centre for homeless people, nursing, prison chaplaincy, volunteer work in school, housekeeping and working with women vulnerable to prostitution. In November 2010 a second house opened in Acton to serve as the Provincial House.
Mytholmroyd, Yorkshire: 2006 – 2010
The parish of the Good Shepherd, Mytholmroyd covers some 98 sq. miles, mainly sheep grazing hillsides, farms and moorland. The sisters association with the parish began in 1968 when a sister, began working as the parish sister, travelling each day from Sowerby Bridge. When this sister was transferred to another part of the Province in 1996 our association with this part of Yorkshire ceased for 8 years. Then from 2004-2006 a sister commuted from Leeds each day to work in the parish. However in 2006 a flat was rented in Mytholmroyd and a sister began to live in the parish. The work of the parish sister included visiting the sick and elderly and working with young people. The sister moved from the area in September 2010.
In May 2013 each community in the Province wrote about who they are and what they do. To take a look at what each community in the Province looked like at that time click on the community name below…