Frances Taylor, founder of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God, once told one of her young Sisters: "Serve God always but not always in the same way. Do all you can for love of Him."
The words of Mother Magdalen Taylor – to use her full title – certainly apply to the SMG Sisters at St Joseph's in Freshfield who celebrated 100 years of serving God in many different ways last month. The Sisters marked their St Joseph's centenary with an outdoor Mass on 8 June, said by Bishop John Rawsthorne alongside Canon Joe Kelly – the episcopal vicar for sick and retired clergy, and parish priest of St George's, Maghull – and Father Paul Mooney, rector at the Mill Hill Missionaries.
To quote one of the Sisters: "We thanked God for our history, for all the kindness and help that we have received from the Friends of St Joseph, our staff, our families and our Sisters, and most of all for those we have been privileged to look after."
Today the St Joseph's site includes a care home with hydrotherapy pool for up to 36 people with learning disabilities, the Fernley day centre, and a convent and prayer centre for retreats. The Frances Taylor Foundation on Merseyside, meanwhile, provides support for more than 300 people overall, many of them living in their own accommodation.
When the Sisters took over the original house on the site in 1915, donated by the Blundell family to Liverpool Archdiocese, they were tasked initially by Archbishop Thomas Whiteside with caring for children convalescing after tuberculosis. Their role has changed considerably over the years.
In the Second World War, St Joseph's became an evacuation site. It was then a home for children with complex needs (chiefly spasticity) and from the 1970s the children had their schooling on site. When the school closed, following a change of government policy (whereby young people under 19 had to be placed in the care of the community), the Sisters turned St Joseph's into a home for disabled people. This was inaugurated in 1990 and by the end of that decade the prayer centre had opened too.