THE bodies of nuns are to be exhumed and moved from the grounds of a Sunderland care home.
The graves of more than 30 nuns at the Little Sisters of the Poor Holy Cross home – which is earmarked for closure – are being moved to burial plots at nearby Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, in Chester Road.
The home, in Ettrick Grove, Barnes, which cares for elderly and disabled people, is set to shut because of a shortage of nuns.
Sister Catherine, from the home, said: “This is due to the Little Sisters withdrawing from Sunderland.
“We have our own private cemetery here, but when we move away, the sisters will, of course, have to be interred somewhere else.”
Despite the impending movement of the graves, nuns at the Little Sisters are hopeful a buyer can be found for the home so that it can still be used to care for those in need.
“Negotiations are taking place at the moment with a care company who are interested in buying the home,” said Sister Catherine.
“We are hoping that a new business would interested in taking over and continue to care for the elderly.”
Funeral director John Morrell, of Walker & Morrell Funeral Directors, in Washington, is now in discussions with Sunderland City Council as to when the relocation of the nuns – some of whom died more than a century ago – will take place.
“Some of the graves I’m told go back to as far as 1882 and I am looking at the practicalities of doing the work,” said Mr Morrell.
The Little Sisters of the Poor first started caring for people in a house near St Benet’s Church, in Monkwearmouth, in 1882.
They then arranged for the Holy Cross Home to be constructed on the other side of the city.
It is thought that about 20 residents are currently being cared for at the home.
Residents and ward councillors in the Barnes area spoke of their shock when it was announced that the site would close.
People living near the home fear that it could be turned into housing, however, previous attempts by firms to develop the Little Sisters have failed.
*Do you have a family member of friend who will be affected by closure of The Little Sisters? Call our newsdesk on 501 7236.