Call to England
In 1835, Fr. Tandy became Parish Priest of Banbury, Oxfordshire, and opened a school for poor children. He was helped by Mary and Winifred Norbert who spoke very enthusiastically of Chartres and the Sisters. Fr. Tandy, with the permission of Bishop Wiseman of Birmingham, invited Sisters from Chartres to come to Banbury.
Sister Zoile (Geneviève Dupuis) with her companion Sister Joseph Maria Sapiens were appointed to this mission and in June 1847 they arrived in Banbury. This was to be a new foundation, independent from Chartres, France.
It was a time of great challenge for Geneviève. Leaving home and country, she faced the difficulties of a foreign language, a different culture and material poverty but she possessed a strong faith. Her task was to form a community and their initial concern was to provide education for the poor. By 1849 there were over one hundred pupils being educated. Geneviève realised that older children were not attending school because they were working during the day so she started up night classes for these. She said to her Sisters, “Show a mother’s love and anxiety for the little ones of Christ, show them that you love them, do your best for them…”
Geneviève was described as ‘intelligent, distinguished and of valiant spirit’ and these attributes stood her in good stead in the early years at Banbury. Under her wise leadership the congregation expanded and during Geneviève’s lifetime she opened 88 convents. Plans to open a convent and schools in Ireland were well under way when Geneviève died on 25th September 1903. Later that year the first house opened in Ireland, namely, Kilfinane, Co. Limerick.
In 1954 the congregation responded to an invitation to send sisters to South Africa, to what is now the diocese of Rustenburg. Ministering mainly in the fields of healthcare and education the congregation responded positively to the request from Archbishop John Garner of Pretoria to nurture a new congregation of Sisters, the Sisters of St. Brigid.
Nearly fifty years later, in 1990, the Sisters began working in Romania at the request of Archbishop Ioan Robu, Bucharest.
The characteristic spirit of a Sister of Charity of St. Paul, inspired by Geneviève Dupuis, is a spirit of charity. It is expressed in a deep personal love of Christ and in a life dedicated to the service of others.
Mother Geneviève Dupuis was a woman of great vision and courage, who opened 88 Convents throughout England, and plans to open a convent in Ireland were well under way when Mother Geneviève died on 25th September 1903. From these beginnings the Sisters became involved not only in primary but later in secondary education. Also the sisters were involved in caring for orphaned children in England and in Ottawa Canada. They also ran an orthopaedic hospital in Coleshill as well as caring for the elderly and sick sisters at Selly Park nursing home.
In later years the Sisters also moved into adult education, and a teacher-training college was established in Selly Park in 1910. The college evacuated to Woodchester in Gloucester at the outbreak of the Second World War. After the war, the college moved to its final site in Newbold Revel, a stately home in rural Warwickshire.
In 1954 the Sisters were invited to open a convent in South Africa, in the Rustenburg region. The Sisters ran a mission hospital and schools for primary and secondary students. Their work also involved secretarial training and outreach to remote villages to develop home dressmaking skills and nutrition. In the 1980s a teacher’s training college was opened, in which the sisters were also involved. The sisters were in pastoral visiting and facilitating Sunday services in remote villages. They facilitated in the founding and training of a new community of African Sisters of St. Bridget. The new community now runs independently of the Sisters of St. Paul.
Following the overthrow in 1989 of Ceacescu in Romania, a new era began where the Sisters not only opened nurseries and schools up to secondary level, they also taught English at different levels outside of school. They worked with street children and ran soup kitchens. In 1995 the first Romanian Sisters were welcomed into the Novitiate.
The work in both these countries is ongoing continuing Mother Geneviève’s vision of reaching out to the poor.