The Sisters of Mercy have ministered in Brentwood, Essex, since 1872. T he  Mercy Community in Chelsea, responded to a pressing request from Canon John Kyne, Parish Priest of Brentwood,  for a small community to teach in the Schools and visit the sick and sent three Sisters to begin this mission.

The work  flourished and continues still, though much else has changed. The Sister’s presence in Brentwood is sustained today by Sisters Jude and  Rosario. They live in a small Convent in Priest Lane.

Across 143 years the Sisters in many and varied ways have contributed to life and growth of the Catholic Faith in Brentwood, Town and Diocese.Starting in a very small Convent the wheel has now come full circle. As numbers increased a larger more substantial  building was required. In this new Convent  all future  Brentwood Sisters received their initial formation. In 1983 it was chosen as the First 'Generalte' of the Institute Of our Lady of Mercy.  Today this building is now used as “The National Training Centre for Evangelisation” run by The Sion Community. Sisters, who originally joined the Mercy Congregation in Brentwood, now minister in many parts of the UK and in missions over seas.

Since September Sr. Jude 1995 has worked for the Diocese Brentwood as Religious Education Adviser. The work is very extensive and varied as there are 75 Primary Schools and 18 Secondary schools in the diocese. Her role involves providing in-service training, support and advice to schools in areas such as obtaining ‘The Catholic Certificate in Religious studies(CCRS);’ Inspections of our schools and related training; attending the short listing meetings and interviews for the appointment of Head teachers, Deputy Head teachers, Assistant Head teachers and R.E. Co-ordinators. this would be followed by Leadership training for newly appointed Deputy Heads and Head Teachers. She attends many and varied meetings with the LEA and of local Authority Officers from different Boroughs regarding the schools. She is proactive in securing teachers for Diocese through contacts with University of East London and St Mary’s Twickenham.

The pastoral aspect of the role, through presence and support to schools in times of bereavement, capability, stress etc. is crucially important to Jude. This work has also involved compiling policies, and programme for Sex and Relationship Education in the Catholic Schools.

Of particular significance in this area is the programme called, “A Journey in Love,” which ranges from Nursery to the end of Secondary Education. This programme is now used by other Dioceses.
There is of course much more aspect of  the work than that outlined here, but the above is an indication of our on-going ministry of 'Mercy' Brentwood. 

Sr. Rosario, the second member of this small Community works in South Sudan for most of the year. It is a tough  dangerous mission and the two short spells each year at home in Brentwood are sorely needed and much appreciate. She feels greatly supported by Sr. Jude and the local Community.
Her latest report on her work in South Sudan may be viewed here 



 How it all  began in Brentwood

As a result of continuous request on the part of Canon John Kyne, Parish Priest of Brentwood, for a small community to teach in the Schools and visit the sick, St Joseph’s Convent of Mercy, Chelsea, established a branch House in the town in 1872. Initially there was no Convent, so the Canon generously vacated the Presbytery in favour of Mother M. Ignatius O’Keeffe and her two companions and took up temporary abode in a small cottage nearby.

The Sisters soon experienced the great generosity of a local benefactress, Countess Helen Tasker, who had a Convent built for them beside the Church (later to become the Cathedral). In appreciation of her very generous gift, the Convent was dedicated to St Helen. Her benefactions continued throughout the remaining thirteen years of her life in the building of a school and orphanage for girls (which she partially endowed) in the grounds. Even after the Countess’ death the Community continued to be indebted to her since she had left by Will an endowment for the education of orphan boys. To fulfil her wishes, Shenfield Lodge, situated a short distance from St Helen’s, was purchased, converted into a home with a school attached and gradually developed into an Industrial Institution which did admirable work.When the Diocese of Brentwood was established in 1917, St Helen’s Church became the Cathedral. The Mercy Apostolates extended to include Religious Instruction and Visitation of Catholics in Harlow and Wickford while, in 1928, St Helen’s School was divided into Senior and Junior departments. Post-World War II reorganisations led to St Helen’s becoming a Junior School and alter to a separate (new) Infant’s School. At the beginning of the 1970’s, the Diocese’s need for a pastoral Centre led to the building of a new Convent (in Sawyer’s Hall Lane) near the Junior School. So, after over a century in the Convent on queens Road, the Community moved into its new abode in 1974. Part of the old was retained and part was demolished and rebuilt, the whole forming spacious Diocesan offices conveniently situated beside the Cathedral.

Institute of Our Lady of Mercy

The Inaugural Chapter of the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy (September 1983) elected its first Superior General and chose Brentwood as the location of the Generalate – on an interim basis – a choice which was confirmed by the 2nd Session of the Chapter. The Convent was eminently suitable, having accommodation immediately available, containing a lovely Chapel, and being situated near main motorways and stations. From 1985-87 the Novices were also accommodated in Brentwood, but moved to Colchester in the latter year.A decision of the 2nd General Chapter to move the Generalate from Brentwood had far-reaching effects on the Community.  When the actual move took place (1989), the building, which had for sometime been too large for the Community needs, became the National Training Centre for Evangelisation run by the Sion Community. Provision had been made for more elderly Sisters to Hornchurch, where the Convent had been equipped to cater for their special needs.

Sisters of Mercy in Ethiopia

Following her retire from  full time work in educatio Sr. Rosario, a member of the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy, Great Britain. joined  the Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO). posted to at Samara University where she has been involved in the development and delivery of education courses. This university was set up in 2005 and it is still an active building site. In a recent e-mail, she said: ‘six thousand students are packed into various spaces on the expanding building site but they take the dust, smells and overflowing sewage pipes as normal.’

She recalls: 'Ethiopia in eastern Africa is one of the poorest countries in the world. It ranks 170th out of 177 countries on the 2004 Human Development Index. More than three quarters of its population lives on less than $1 a day. Its poverty-stricken economy is based on agriculture, and this sector suffers from frequent droughts and poor cultivation practices. Later she was posted to