Community

'Before all else, live in harmony, being of one heart and one mind on the way to God, sharing everything in common.'

Rule of St Augustine 1.2

Our Mission

The spiritual life of the Augustinian Canonesses is structured on the Gospels and the Rule of St Augustine, which begins: ‘Before all else, live in harmony, being of one heart and one mind on the way to God, sharing everything in common.’

Our Constitutions enable us to put this into practice, summing up the characteristics of our life as Canonesses as: liturgical and personal prayer; sharing all things in common; and the service of the sick and needy through works of mercy and hospitality. This life is lived in the stability of a monastery, which, implanted in a particular church, ‘aspires to be a centre of vibrant love for the building up of the Body of Christ’.

Our Community Today

Since 2016, we have joined with our Sisters from Liverpool to form Our Lady of Hope, a single Community on two sites, Boarbank and Ince Blundell Hall. This, sadly, involved the closing of Park House in Liverpool, from where the foundresses of both Boarbank and Ince originally came.

At present (June 2023), twelve Sisters live at Boarbank and five at Ince Blundell. We also have a resident chaplain and another resident priest. They say daily Masses for the Community, patients and visitors and support our pastoral care.

“He who accepts the common life possesses God .”

Augustine Sermon 355.6

Our Local & International Friendships

All our caring and hospitality is centred around the liturgical life of the community. It is a joy to share the Eucharist and the Prayer of the Church with our residents, guests and other friends of all denominations and none. The many priests and religious who stay with us enhance this aspect of our life. We are delighted to welcome ecumenical groups to our Guest house, and to host the annual Advent Carol Service for Churches Together in Grange-over-Sands and District.

 

We have an ever-expanding network of international friendships, with both religious and students staying with us in recent years from Africa and the Far East as well as most of the countries in Europe. They come to learn English, to gain work experience and to learn something of our life.

Canonical Life

At a time when other devout Christians were turning to the ascetic isolation of the Egyptian desert, St Augustine found his inspiration in the common life of the early Christians (Acts 2.42-47). As a priest and then a bishop, he founded religious communities to live with him, as a witness to the unity proclaimed by the Gospel. He recognised that men and women would be attracted to Christ when they saw his love revealed in their life together.

Following St Augustine, men and women over the centuries have come together to try and live out the same ideals. They share their possessions, talents and time, to witness to the Gospel and to serve the mission of Christ. In the 12th and 13th centuries, the Rule of St Augustine became particularly popular among reformers such as St Norbert. Many new orders and congregations have been founded over the centuries which use his Rule to live out the fundamental spirit of the Gospel and to meet the needs of their own day. 

To live the canonical life is to share in the experience of forming the Church: to share griefs, joys, hopes and challenges. Empowered by this vision, men and women serve through many different means: parish work, teaching, nursing, hospitality and centres of silence. Yet each form of service is rooted in personal prayer and in shared praise, and each leads back to these:

‘The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul’ (Acts 4.32).

Spiritual Support

Gospel Witness

Serving the Church

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History of the Canonesses

Catharine de St. Augustin (1632-1638) - beatified in 1989

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.

early constitutions

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 breakdown of prejudice and fostered ecumenical activity, which has increased over the years.

 

It is through the generosity and support of all our friends that we are able to make regular improvements to Boarbank. Over the years, these have included extensive development of the Chapel, the building of the Nursing Home, our unique Oratory, and the regular refurbishing and embellishment of our Nursing Home, Guest House and grounds.