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Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2494

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Sisters of Mercy celebrate 150th anniversary of foundation in Shrewsbury

Bishop Mark Davies has given thanks to the Sisters of Mercy in a Mass to celebrate the 150th anniversary of their foundation in Shrewsbury.

The Bishop praised the Sisters, whose St Winefride’s Convent is close to Shrewsbury Cathedral, for their work “in the education of the young, in the care of the poorest and in the service of women and families”.

A foundation of the Sisters of Mercy was established in the town in 1868 by Bishop James Brown “as part of that first flowering of a new spring-time”, the Bishop said in a homily at Mass in Shrewsbury Cathedral.

“They arrived without human resources beyond their own self-giving,” Bishop Davies said. “A new community founded less than 40 years before by the Venerable Catherine McAuley (left) and part of a vast renewal of consecrated life which in 19th Century saw hundreds of new communities taking brave and long-lasting initiatives and making of the streets of our expanding towns and cities, their cloister.

“Little more than four years before, a Shrewsbury woman, 44-year old Elizabeth Prout had died in the midst of her mission to found a new, religious community serving the women of the industrial north. Here the Sisters of Mercy must surely have been conscious they constituted a first shoot of this renewal of religious life which had once flourished in this town and across this county.  A new shoot, planted by the faith and love of the first Sisters, would flourish in the shadow of this Cathedral.”

The Sister had to work to overcome the ingrained prejudice they encountered, the Bishop continued, adding that they were fortified by a sense of vocation.

He said: “It was a divine vocation, not assurances or predictions of the future which brought them here.

“We cannot foresee the future, any more than the Sisters could in the distant summer of 1868.  Yet on this 150th Anniversary we can truly say theirs is a ‘fruit that will last’ for they set out to live in that greater love – to lay down their whole lives – that is the hallmark of the consecrated life and the priesthood.  In this Eucharistic love the Sisters would abide and in the words of the Gospel, their joy is complete.”

Bishop Davies added: “Pope Francis observes that ‘wherever consecrated people are, there is always joy!’

“Today, as we recall the arrival of the Sisters of Mercy and give thanks for all the Sisters who have faithfully served this mission, we rejoice.  And we pray never to lose the joy of consecrated life and that, together with all the Sisters gone before us and the countless souls they served, we may share in everlasting joy.”