10.24.2007

The Beginning

On January 7, 1884 Bishop Bagshawe received the vows of the first Sisters of St Joseph of Peace at Nottingham Cathedral. A few days later, he made the journey with them to the town of Grimbsy, on the North Sea, where there was a fledgling Catholic population in need of their services. Whereas they made the journey by train, our little pilgrimage arrived by car!

On arrival, we went to one of our houses where we received wonderful CSJP hospitality. Back in January 1884, our first Sisters arrived at the Church of St. Mary on the Sea which had been completed just one year earlier. They would have walked through this door! Two more Sisters made their vows at St. Mary's a few weeks after their arrival in Grimsby.

The Grimsby Catholic Community was in the minority, and anti-Catholic sentiment was strong. There had also been some recent controversy with the recently departed Pastor at St. Mary's. The Sisters had their work cut out for them!

Margaret Anna Cusack, known in religion as Mother Francis Clare, had made a promise that the first house of the new community would be named after St. Francis Xavier. So, when the Sisters rented a little house around the corner from the Church, it was christened St. Francis Xavier convent. Incidentally, our current house in Grimbsy carries the same name!

The rented house has long since been torn down and replaced by this modern apartment block. We did a little bit of research at the local library, however, and managed to find a listing for St Francis "Savior" Convent at this exact location in the 1886 Street Directory, including a reference to the "Sisters of Peace" and "Mother Francis Clare" as the Superior. The Sisters opened a little school in the rented house and the mission in Grimsby was up and running.

Five years later they moved to a new property down the Street, also named St. Francis Xavier. The Sisters opened a fee-paying school for Young Ladies to help fund their ministry to the poor. We found this property listed in the 1893 Street Directory as "St. Francis School for High-Class Ladies."

This building too was torn down long ago to be replaced by another apartment block. The name continues on, however, as it is called "St. Francis Court."

While we were at the library, we also found the 1891 Census for Grimsby. After a bit of sleuthing (and some wonderful help from Simon the librarian!) we found the page for St Francis Xavier Convent, listing 5 Sisters and 1 housekeeper. Very cool!

3 comments:

Kaye Drew said...

I attended st Francis xavier convent school from 1965-1968. I have been searching for info or photos of the school without any luck. Can you help? I remember visiting the convent on abbey road with one of the sisters. The head of the school was sister Mary Joseph.

Susan Rose, CSJP said...

Kaye,

Thanks for your note! If you send me an e-mail at susan@francois.org I can forward it on to our Province Archivist who I'm sure can help you find more info!!

clare lubich said...

Hi Kaye these were the exact dates I too attended St Francis Xavier before emigrating To Perth Australia in Oct 1968. I have very fond memories of the school.My maiden name was Meagher and I was almost 7 when I left.