An era came to an end this week as the last two Sisters of St John of God, the Catholic order which has helped educate generations of children in Trowbridge, packed their bags to move on.
Sister Anne and Sister Monica have worked in the parishes of St John the Baptist in Trowbridge and St Bernadette in Westbury for more than 40 years, while the order itself has been based in the area for 88 years.
About 400 people joined the sisters for a celebration Mass at St John’s.
Sister Anne and Sister Monica, who are retiring to the order’s Irish base, said: “Wednesday’s thanksgiving celebration was a wonderful affirmation of blessings and friendship of the past 80-plus years.
“We were delighted that so many people from the past and present joined us for this memorable occasion. We know many people travelled long distances to be with us.
“Physically we are leaving Trowbridge, but we carry with us precious memories of people who supported us and took us to their hearts over the years. To quote our final hymn at Mass: ‘We will go out with joy and thanksgiving’.”
The order of the Sisters came to Trowbridge in December 1926, after Bishop Lee, of the Diocese of Clifton, invited them to help provide Catholic education to the local people.
The order began work in a single classroom behind St John’s Church on Wingfield Road, and eventually was involved in founding both St John’s Catholic Primary School and the former St Augustine’s College. Over the years many Sisters have worked in the town’s schools.
Canon Liam O’Driscoll said: “The mass went very well. It is sad they are leaving us, but we celebrated their achievements. We have been blessed to have them and they have been a great support to me over the past 25 years.
“The Sisters have been here for 88 years in the parish and have been at the forefront of Catholic education in Trowbridge.
“They started off small, but gradually the numbers grew. The mass was an amazing celebration of their service, but tinged with sadness at them going.
“A lot of the good work they have been doing over the years has been carried on by lay workers, but they have done so much for the community and it was nice we could show appreciation for their work.”
As well as teaching, the Sisters were also heavily involved in parish and community life.
The Regional Leader of St John of God in Ireland, Sister Geraldine, was among the people who attended the service to thank Sister Anne and Sister Monica in person for all their hard work, with the Sisters thanking everyone for their friendship and generous support over the years.