Sad farewell as nuns leave Preston after 135 years

ALL SMILES: From left, Sister Louise, Trudy Clayton, Sister Frances, Carol Bunting, Sister Emelda, Rev Mother Anselme, Jean Buckley, Sister Helene, Beryl Finney and Sister Caroline before a fashion show, to raise money for the Millennium Flower Festival
ALL SMILES: From left, Sister Louise, Trudy Clayton, Sister Frances, Carol Bunting, Sister Emelda, Rev Mother Anselme, Jean Buckley, Sister Helene, Beryl Finney and Sister Caroline before a fashion show, to raise money for the Millennium Flower Festival
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Nuns from the Little Sisters of the Poor are leaving Preston after 135 years of caring for the city’s elderly.

And the shock news, revealed by the Bishop of Lancaster, could threaten the future of the care home they run in Garstang Road, Fulwood, which currently has 39 residents.

While I am deeply saddened by this decision, I understand completely the challenges which the Sisters face and sympathise with the circumstances they find themselves in.

Bishop Michael Campbell

“We don’t have sufficient sisters in Preston to continue,” Sister Catherine Ann told the Evening Post. “It is a very sad day for us.”

The Little Sisters are the third order of nuns to announce they are quitting Preston and Leyland in the past six months.

All three have blamed falling numbers for the decision to leave the area at a time when the Catholic Church is suffering a worrying decline in Central Lancashire.

The Winckley Square nuns ended 162 years in Preston in October and the Sisters of Our Lady of Missions closed down their Leyland base in February after 68 years in the town.

Both of those orders decided to call it a day after being reduced to just two nuns still working in the community.

Bishop Michael Campbell said: “While I am deeply saddened by this decision, I understand completely the challenges which the Sisters face and sympathise with the circumstances they find themselves in.

“I have always had and continue to have the highest regard and appreciation for the Little Sisters of the Poor and the selfless work they have done for the elderly and dying.

“They have made an immeasurable contribution to the life of the city of Preston.

“The Little Sisters will be sadly missed and will always be held in the greatest affection and respect by the Catholic community in Preston and in the wider Diocese of Lancaster for all their selfless ministry in the service of the elderly and those near the end of life.”

While the announcement will come as a huge blow to residents and their families at the Jeanne Jugan Residence run by the Little Sisters in Fulwood, there is no news about when the nuns will be leaving and whether it will continue to operate without them.

Sister Catherine Ann said: “There are only seven of us left here and several are elderly.

“Numbers have been dropping. The sisters are getting older and are just not capable of carrying on the work.

“We have no idea at the moment when it will happen - there is no time limit yet.

“It is very early days. We have just told the staff and our residents and their families.

“As for the future of the home, we don’t know yet what is going to happen. We have all that to look into.

“It would be our wish that it should continue to care for the elderly in Preston. Hopefully it will do so. We feel very sad, but it is also very sad for the residents. For them it is their home.

“We have been in Preston for 135 years and we have done the best we can for the care of the elderly of Preston. But now we have to move on.

“As we speak we have no idea what the future will bring. All that has to be sorted out.”

Commenting on the decision, the Little Sisters Mother Provincial Caroline Emmanuel said: “It is with great sadness and regret that the Little Sisters of the Poor have decided that they will be leaving Preston.

“This has been a very difficult decision for the Sisters, but due to the community getting older and that there are much fewer Sisters, they now feel that they are unable to continue their mission in Preston.

“The Little Sisters are immensely grateful for the support they have been given, over the years, by the Catholic community of Preston, the current Bishop of Lancaster, previous Bishops of the Diocese as well as by local priests and by so many people in Preston who have been so supportive.

“They are especially thankful to God for all that they received from their benefactors, associates and friends in Preston. It is understood the Sisters are already working hard to ensure a continuity of care at the Jeanne Jugan Residence if at all possible.”