Parishioners from St Oswald's in Warrington came out in force to say goodbye to the Sisters of the Cross and Passion at a special farewell Mass.
The Farewell Mass of Thanksgiving on Tuesday 23 February marked the end of an era for the Passionist Sisters, who had maintained a presence in Warrington for 117 years. A dozen Sisters were present at the Mass which was attended by a large number of parishioners as well as staff and pupils from St Oswald's primary school. Father David Heywood, parish priest of St Oswald's, concelebrated the Mass with Father John Gildea from St Peter's, Woolston and Father Austin Griffin.
In his homily, Father Heywood explained the origins of the Passionist Sisters – an Order established in Manchester in 1851 and which in January 1899 opened a convent in Warrington beside St Mary's Benedictine church and priory, and promptly took charge of St Mary's girls' and infants' schools. The Sisters left that convent on Buttermarket Street in 1929 and moved to Bruche Hall in Padgate in the newly founded St Oswald's parish. At one stage they taught in six different schools across Warrington – including St Oswald's where they worked until 1988.
By 1997 none of the Warrington Sisters were teaching but from their convent at Bruche Hall and then from Tree Tops Close they continued their other apostolates: instructing converts; parish visitation, especially of the sick and needy; opening the convent and its grounds for days of recollection; helping with sacramental programmes; organising pilgrimages; and parochial involvement as readers or eucharistic ministers.
At the end of the farewell Mass, Father Heywood presented Sister Maire O'Sullivan, the Provincial Leader, with a cheque from the parish to help to pay for providing nursing and care homes for the sick and elderly Sisters. In the words of one member of the Order, Sister Dominic Savio: "The Sisters did not want to leave but, like the clergy, they were experiencing a dwindling number of vocations and increasing age."