Welcome Address given by Sr Philomena, Congregational Leader
14 May 2018
During these weeks since Easter, we have read in the Acts of the Apostles the account of the apostles and disciples criss-crossing Asia Minor establishing Christian Communities and then re-visiting to encourage and support them.
The history of St Winefride’s Convent tells a very similar story of Sisters invited by Bishop Ullathorne to establish a Convent of Mercy in Staffordshire. Four Sisters arrived from Carlow in Ireland in 1849 and settled in Cheadle. Then we read of the Sisters opening a Convent in Alton, followed shortly by a Convent in Bilston. Times were hard for everyone and the Convents at Cheadle and Bilston were forced to close. The combined community accepted an invitation from the Bishop to settle in Shrewsbury, arriving in July 1868. In each place where they settled, the Sisters opened schools for the children of the poor, especially the girls, started night classes for women and girls and engaged in the Mercy work of visiting the sick and the poor in their homes. Our Foundress, Venerable Catherine McAuley once wrote, “Hurray for foundations! They make the old young and the young merry!” It is a few years since we celebrated a new foundation but we are always pleased to celebrate an old foundation that has stood the test of time and changing circumstances.
We gather today to celebrate a criss-crossing of the “Black Country” and the efforts of Sisters down the years to respond to the needs of the time and the place.
We welcome today:
Bishop Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury;
Priests of the parish and area;
Sisters of Mercy who have travelled from many places;
A representative of the Smyth family, benefactors to the first Sisters;
Friends of the Sisters at St Winefride’s Convent;
Pupils and staff of St Winefride’s School;
Volunteers, co-workers and Mercy Associates – who help us in our ministry of Mercy.
On behalf of the Sisters of St Winefride’s Convent and of our Congregation of Sisters of Mercy I welcome you, and thank you for your support over the years and your presence with us today.
Sister Philomena Bowers