On Saturday, October 28, 2023 we celebrated a very special time in our history as Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions here in the UKI Province. After 153 years of presence in Deal, Kent, we marked this day with our communities, Sturry, Wealdstone and New Southgate to come together with the parishioners of the local parish, St John the Evangelist and the Parish priest, Fr Matthew ‘Gbenga Madewa, members of our local school, St Mary’s Primary, and many friends, benefactors and local dignitaries, including the Mayor and others to give thanks for 153 years of dedicated service and who had known and appreciated our Sisters in Beech Court, Rectory Road, Deal over the years. The Liturgy was celebrated by Abbot Hugh Allan, the Vicar for Religious, Southwark Diocese and many priests of the deanery of Dover and two deacons. It was an occasion not only to bid farewell for the remaining Sisters but to offer thanks and appreciation for the years that we RNDMs have served the people and so many families of both upper and Lower Deal through two world wars since 1870 and bringing education and care of orphans and the disadvantaged to this town.
How did it all begin?
We were founded in Lyon, France, in 1861 and in 1870, our Foundress Euphrasie Barbier, was invited to come to Deal, to assist Miss Catherine Boys, who had already opened her house to many orphaned and destitute children in Deal. By this time, they were living in Middle Street and within two years of Euphrasie’s arrival Miss Boys died leaving the children with the sisters who had come from France to offer education and care for these children.
It was at this time that Euphrasie set her heart on beginning her ministry in England in Deal and the first house and convent of the Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions was bought in 1878 and named St Ethelburga’s. This big building was adapted as an orphanage and school in Queen Street, Deal—known as the “Turret.” During the war years, the sisters moved to a safer house and refuge in Beech Court, Upper Deal, in 1942, after St Ethelburga’s was damaged by a bomb. Since then, the sisters have been engaged in teaching and parish ministry.
It is with sadness that we experience the departure of our sisters but they leave a legacy of faith commitment, selfless service and have, over a century, reached out to touch many families within this parish and beyond.
The final words of Abbot Hugh Allan to the people gathered at the final liturgy in Deal summed it all up for us: If religious sisters who have lived here been good, kind-hearted women. Thank God. If they have cared for you and all those you love. Thank God. If they had the courage, the determination, and the imagination to serve you with all their hearts. Thank God. If your sisters have hearts that beat as one with Christ. Thank God. If you have been privileged to know and love the sisters of Our Lady of the Missions. Thank God.
These are familiar images that will always be part of our history:
Miss Catherine Boys. Queen Anne House, Middle Street. St Ethelburga’s Convent and School, Queen Street, Deal. The Chapel and playground for so many students. The Graves of our early and pioneer sisters who arrived from France in 1870. Beech Court, Rectory Road. St Joseph’s, Residential Care, Beech Court.