Salesin Sisters 50 years in Croxteth Liverpool
Salesin Sisters 50 years in Croxteth Liverpool
6 th September 1959 Four Salesian Sisters arrived in Gillmoss at the request of the parish priest, to begin teaching in the primary school and caring for the children in clubs after school it was the day the province had gathered to celebrate Mother Angela Vesper golden jubilee who gave her blessing as the sisters left Henley on Thames noviciate. Two of the group, Sisters Winifred Acred and Mary Cairns had been professed just one month earlier.
The sisters arrived at 10.45pm in Lime Street station to be met by Fr. Kane and were taken to Newsham Drive to the Sisters of the Infant Jesus who had offered hospitality until the little community could find a suitable house nearer their mission in Croxteth.
By 9 a.m. the next morning they were facing a very amazed Miss Eagan, the head teacher of the primary school. She had been told that four teachers would arrive but she had not expected four nuns in full habits!
The first day was exciting and very busy as there was no previous planning. Each classroom had low cupboards with sliding doors when one of the sisters slid back a cupboard door everything tumbled out exercise books, scissors, paper and on top of them all landed a small plastic shrine with a picture of Mary Help of Christians. They felt that this was a sign Mary was with us in this new venture.
The new local church had just been completed. To the delight of the new community the stained glass window was of Mary help of Christians! It had been taken from an ancient historical church nearby. The sisters felt that Mary was truly with them showing her approval of this new mission in Liverpool.
The first weeks had all the excitement of a new mission the new superior, Sr. Nelly Paintin arrived in Birkenhead having travelled the long way round from Hastings to save a few pounds! Then taking the local ferry boat to arrive in Liverpool to a great welcome from the small community.
Liverpool is known for the friendliness of the people and the little community were definitely beneficiaries of this friendliness from the moment they arrived fifty years ago to this present day. The oratory began with 160 children on the first Sunday by the third Sunday there were 300 young people attending the oratory. The area was teeming with young people and the sisters worked with true Salesian enthusiasm in clubs, sodalities, liturgies and school alongside parish clergy and some keen helpers. These were soon to become the first co-operators. The sisters were answering a desperate need
By 1963 The Archbishop asked the sisters to take responsibility of a new school for senior girls. 24 th May 1966 saw the opening and blessing of the new High School for girls 14 – 18 under the patronage of Mary help of Christians. This school now serves 1200 girls in this deprived part of the city. Due to reorganisation in the city it is now under the patronage of St. John Bosco. The school has produced many vocations including our present provincial Sr.Pauline.
In 1999 the work extended over to the other side of the city to Toxteth and Edge hill with a sister working across three parishes co-ordinating the sacramental programmes and expanding the Salesian Chrism. The early days were days of expansion and large numbers of young people but times have changed houses have opened and closed. In 2000 a new house was built and the old large house demolished. The new purpose built house houses the office and meeting room for VIDES our flourishing youth to youth ministry.
Fr.David O'Malley who preached at the jubilee celebrations said “This celebration is not about what has changed but what has remained. Not what has been built and torn down but what has stayed the same. The women who pioneered the Salesian presence in Liverpool were not builders of bricks and mortar but builders of people. They were women interested in affection before architecture. They began, on behalf of the whole Salesian family to write a story of Salesian love for young people”.
23 priests SDB and priests from the diocese who had served in the parish concelebrated the jubilee mass of Mary help of Christians with a congregation of nearly 500 people, past pupils parents, teachers, co-operators. Two co-operators received a medal from the rector Major for long service. The pupils from the primary school took part in the introduction of the mass which was a condensed history of the 50 years. The students from St John Bosco provided the music and choir and a beautiful liturgical dance after communion. There was a real Salesian joy as everyone went to the school hall for a buffet and a retelling of memories.
To quote again from the homily of the mass “ What we build in love lasts in the hearts of people because God is love. God is eternal, hidden and ever present in life. Whilst others look on and see us building schools, running clubs being good social workers, professional teachers we can look deeper into the mystical reality that fills life”