The Mass to mark the closing of our community house in Preston and to celebrate the Society’s presence in the town since 1853 took place at St Wilfrid’s church on Thursday afternoon, 15 October. You can read Looking Back at 160 Years in Preston here. Below is the welcome text read at the Mass.
By Judith Lancaster SHCJ
It is wonderful that so many of us have come together today to give thanks for the presence of Holy Child sisters in Preston over the last 162 years. It is sad that this long-established connection is drawing to a close. But this afternoon is a time when, acknowledging the sadness, we choose to remember and celebrate together with joy. It is a time for remembering and reconnecting, thinking again about the people and events, the circumstances and situations that were significant – perhaps even life-changing – for us years ago.
The nuns put their stamp on the schools we attended. They influenced the people we have become. They encouraged us to be ourselves. Preston owes much to the Society and its contribution to Catholic education here; and equally the Society owes much to Preston because some very gifted women from here became Holy Child sisters. So, sister or parent or past pupil, or whatever our connection with the Society, each of us here today has our own story to tell, our own memories. And I hope we can celebrate and share them this afternoon.
But we are remembering a longer story too: 162 years of it. When the first nuns arrived, the town was in the grip of a 36 week lock out from the mills that brought hunger and poverty and something way beyond hardship to the families of the children in the schools. The nuns set to, not confining themselves to the classroom, but helping in soup kitchens, finding shoes for the children to wear to school, listening to the heart-rending stories the mothers had to tell. And, now, as the Society closes its last community house here, we know there is still much work of the same kind to be done, in foodbanks, in drop in centres for homeless people, in support for recently released prisoners, in every kind of social care. The needs remain. But, as we leave, we know that all of you are here. Long may you flourish. And so now we enter wholeheartedly into today’s celebration.