New chapter in school's history as it transfers from nuns to church after 175 years
A school founded and run by a religious order of nuns since 1843 has been passed over to the church to lead.
St Anthony’s Girls Catholic Academy, now in Thornhill Terrace, Sunderland, was established by the Sisters of Mercy in Green Street as an all-aged co-ed school and was known at that stage as St Bede’s.
It was set up after the order, which was established in Ireland in 1831 by Catherine McAudley, were asked to oversee its launch and within weeks, had set up the girls’ school.
In 1904, it became a direct-grant grammar school and changed its name to St Anthony’s.
Sister Aelred, who is one of the 28 Sisters of Mercy in the city, was the school’s headteacher until 2004.
She was among the congregation at a mass led by the Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle Seamus Cunningham, the governing body, headteacher Monica Shepherd and the senior management team in the Oaklea Chapel.
The service asked for God’s blessing as the sisters transferred the trusteeship of the school to the diocese, with the decision to hand on the task made in part because the sisters are an aging group.
Sister Aelred said: “The sisters worked hard to establish it as a school of excellence and through the years.
“Sisters, staff and pupils have continued to take the school from strength to strength.
“In order to ensure that we do the very best for the students, the sisters have made the decision to give the land and the future guidance of the School to the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle.
“I suppose we are just getting older and this will be much better.
“The building of our new school was completed in 2017 and now the students have all the modern facilities to get the best education suitable for the 21st century.
“St Anthony’s is to be a Multi-Academy Trust, able to work with primary and secondary schools in the area, to share strengths, expertise and resources.
“It will be called the Catherine McAuley Trust and we are confident that our foundress will guide staff and students to maintain the unique ‘Mercy Spirit’ which makes it a happy, caring and successful School.
“The school will continue to have a special place in our hearts as some sisters will still be present on the governing body and in the chaplaincy.
“We thank the many dedicated Staff who have worked with us over the years; the pupils who have worked hard and achieved well, the parents, parishioners and the local education authority representatives who have given their support.”
The school has become a Multi-Academy Trust (MAT), which means it will now work more closely with the deanery family of schools within Monkwearmouth Catholic Partnership, formerly St Bede’s Deanery, which is the nine Catholic primary schools and the two catholic Secondary Schools within the central area of the city.