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First steps... California

In 1953, just as we were celebrating our own Golden Jubilee as a Congregation, we were invited to move out in faith on our first missionary journey. In those days we tended to think that being a missionary meant one had to go overseas - it wasn’t until Vatican II that our understanding encompassed the notion that ‘mission is wherever you are!”.  So in September, 1953, five sisters sailed from Liverpool on the first stage of their journey to California. Not a destination that might initially come to mind as being in need of missionaries, however, because of the policy of separation of Church and State in the USA, it is not permissible to teach religion in public schools, so we were invited to assist in the establishment of the Catholic Educational System in the area. In anticipation of our arrival, the Parish Priest of Atwater had already started to build the school. We began work on Monday 19th September, just two weeks after leaving England! A further five schools were opened in the following year or so in Turlock, El Cerrito, Sacramento, Livingston. There was no shortage of children; sometimes the sisters had as many as 60 students in their classes. With no Federal funding in the beginning the schools operated on a shoestring, but the parents and children rallied round and were so very generous with their time, treasure and talents. Through their ingenuity many obstacles were overcome and the schools flourished.

First sisters USA
On board the 'Media', Liverpool-September 5th 1953
Sr Lorna at work
Sr Kathleen at the clinic

As time went on, the works in California became diversified. Several sisters went into parish ministry, one works in a clinic for the homeless in San Francisco; another is involved in Hospice, visiting the homes of the terminally ill, another works with Mercy Housing, a project that provides affordable accommodation for elderly people and those with special needs. Counselling, retreat work and RCIA are other areas where the sisters are involved.

Preparing for the day
A helping hand
Sr Kathleen - Nursery
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