History of the Canonesses
His mercy reaches from age to age (Luke 1.50)
The Augustinian Canonesses of the Mercy of Jesus have their roots in a group who, more than 700 years ago, began serving the needy and distressed in the expanding French fishing port of Dieppe. In the Hotel-Dieu, which was equivalent to an almshouse in England, they worked alongside the Hermits of St Augustine, following the same rule as they did.
They cared for the victims of scurvy, plague, leprosy and fevers of all sorts, which were prevalent in the overcrowded town. They visited the destitute, who lived in miserable hovels, or even lodged in caves hollowed into the cliff face. Sisters from the Dieppe community worked within these same cliffs during the Second World War, in an underground hospital called La Bimarine. Thousands of French and Allied soldiers were treated here.
From the seventeenth century, the Sisters had opened communities in other areas of Normandy and Brittany, and were major pioneers in providing healthcare in Quebec from the same period. In the late nineteenth century, they went to South Africa. In 1902, the first community opened in England, when the community of Guingamp in Brittany came to Liverpool, seeking refuge from the anticlerical laws existing in France at the time.
History of the Community at Boarbank Hall
In 1921 the Archbishop of Liverpool was requested by the Catholic Friendly Society to find religious who would undertake to found a convalescent home for working men and women in the north of England. He turned to the Augustinian Canonesses in Liverpool, and eight sisters, four of whom had come from France in 1902, came to open a new community at Boarbank Hall. The convent was solemnly blessed on 21st September 1921, and the first convalescent patients arrived on the Feast of St Michael in that same month.
Their work prospered and the community grew in numbers, soon requiring further buildings. In the local area, where Catholics were few and far between, the sisters soon became involved with the local Catholic church, catechising children and instructing converts. The community also opened a guest house, where old and young, families and individuals, have since found rest and relaxation, as well as an oasis for spiritual renewal. This was a haven for many during the war.
In 1949 the work of hospitality was extended to include the care of sick and terminally ill people from the surrounding district, and this led to the opening of a Registered Nursing Home in 1955.
The care of so many people from other Christian denominations led rapidly to the broke down prejudice and fostered ecumenical activity, which has increased over the years. It is through the generosity and support of all our friends that we have been able to build a physiotherapy room and our unique Oratory and make alterations to the Chapel and Nursing Home.