St Anthony’s nuns’ celebrate triple diamond jubilee at Sunderland convent

Three nuns have been celebrating a combined 180 years since entering their Sunderland convent.

Sisters Mary Aelred, Mary Adrienne and Mary Alphonsus entered the Oaklea Convent in Tunstall Road in 1962 and so have 60 years each in service. They took their final vows with the Sisters of Mercy in 1968.

Sr Alphonsus worked in care, for many years devoting her time to a home in Ryhope. She is now a parish sister.

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Her colleague Sr Adrienne taught next door at St Anthony’s school for decades, specialising in French. She is now the Reverend Mother of the convent.

The diamond jubilee of, from left, Sisters Alphonsus, Aelred and Adrienne, was a four-cake affair. Picture by Fr Marc Lyden-Smith.

Sr Aelred became a much-loved teacher of politics up to A-Level at the school, serving as head teacher between 1993 and 2005.

All three were inspired by Catherine MacAuley, the Irish nun who founded the Sisters of Mercy in 1831. The institute has been closely associated with education ever since.

The occasion of the nuns’ diamond jubilee was celebrated at Oaklea with their families and friends with a special mass, a special meal and no fewer than four cakes, with the most spectacular one decorated by Oaklea staff and shared among the whole community.

The Echo asked Sr Aelred, now 77, what had kept her going during six decades of convent and educational life.

Mass was celebrated to mark the diamond jubilees of, from left, Srs Adrienne, Aelred and Alphonsus.

She said: “Our founder was Mother Catherine McAuley. She believed that education gave everyone the opportunity to become the very best person they could be.

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“I was lucky enough to be involved in education. I just loved it. I worked with exceptional staff and really good pupils. So I have to say that my apostolate (teaching) part of the vocation has kept me going, as well as the community. We have a very close community.”

Sisters Aelred and Adrienne are fondly remembered by the thousands of pupils they taught over the years; mainly, but not entirely girls. Sr Aelred still recognises the vast majority of them.

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She added: “I’m better at faces than names. I used to teach to somebody’s face; their eyes - and your eyes never change. When I meet people outside I always know if I’ve taught them or not.

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"Sometimes I forget the names, but I do remember the faces.”