- St. Andrew's Convent -

 - The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception - 

St Andrew's Convent in the Parish of St Patrick's Kilsyth was established in May 1972 by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception. Founded in 1847, theirs is the only religious Congregation in the post-Reformation Catholic Church, male or female, to originate in Scotland. The lives of these Sisters, grounded in the Gospels and the visions of St Francis, have from the beginning been dedicated to showing their love for Christ and his people by working for others, particularly among the poor and the marginalised.

 

Their work can be traced from the slums of Victorian Glasgow to the shanty towns of Africa. Their community, which we were so privileged to share directly for 33 years in our midst here in Kilsyth, is in many ways an exemplar in microcosm of the fortunes of all the religious Congregations within the Catholic Church itself for the past 150 years - the order having had many heroic members.

 

The Franciscan Sisters have their worldwide headquarters in the Glasgow Archdiocese and are based in the heart of the City at Saracen Street.

It was Fr O'Brien, later Cardinal O'Brien who was then in St Patrick s as a young curate working in concert with Fr. O Connell, his Parish Priest, who first mooted the idea that the Order might welcome an invitation into Kilsyth to assist with parish life. Fr O'Brien had met by chance with a couple of Nuns who were visiting Mary and Dan Gordon (the parents of Fr John Gordon) in Anton Crescent and discussed the idea. The Mother General of the Order in Glasgow was approached and as a result the house at No.32 Low Craigends Kilsyth (next door to the Chapel House) was purchased by the Parish and gifted to the Franciscan Sisters for as long as they could staff the house.

There are a few Catholic Religious Orders who have had a formidable impact upon the development of social, educational, cultural and economic standing of the mainly Irish, mainly poor and mainly uneducated Catholic population of the West of Scotland since the Irish famine. The Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, together with other orders such as the Sisters of Mercy, the Marist Brothers, the Society of Jesus and the Sisters of Notre Dame, saw education as central to the overall improvement and development of the Catholic population. The idea of  mission also played a central role in permitting The Franciscan Sisters to embark upon such an endeavour as the establishment of a new Convent and branching into Parish work,  an act entirely in keeping with their history.

The Nuns were an integral part of Parish Life working in St Patrick's for 33 years and it came as no surprise to find them teaching at St Patrick s School (at least 5 of the Sisters taught at the school in the 1970 s and 80 s), working in Parish Groups, leading the rosary before Mass and saying Novena, acting as Eucharistic Ministers, running music groups, working with preparation groups for communion and confirmation, youth groups, women's guild and in many many other aspects of Parish and community life. Their mission was in effect to educate in both a secular and a religious sense and to minister to the needs of the people of St Patrick's and the people of Kilsyth in exactly the same way as they always had throughout their history.

The height of the close relationship between St Patrick's Parish and the Franciscan Sisters came in April 1984 when two of the daughters of the Parish, Pauline Dempsey and Brenda Murphy made their final professions and joined the order as Sister Margaret and Sister Carmella. Memorably, St Mary Andrew who had been in the Parish in the early 1970's and who had also taught at St Patrick's primary school for some years, returned to give a reading at the Mass. Shortly thereafter she returned to St Patrick's for a second time just before her untimely and premature death on 21st June 1986 at the age of only 43 as a result
of cancer. The whole parish was able to mark her passing as her Requiem Mass was said in her adopted home of Kilsyth.

The 25th anniversary of the Convent was celebrated on the 25th May 1997 in St Patrick's with a special Mass to mark the occasion where many former members of the Convent in Kilsyth returned to mark the occasion which also happened to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Order. There was always only ever a small community of Nuns in Kilsyth, no more than 3 or 4 or 5 at any one time. Latterly it dwindled to 1 or 2 and the house became unsupportable as the age of the nuns increased and in turn they needed support themselves.

When the Convent finally closed it was entirely fitting that Cardinal O'Brien returned to St Patrick's on Monday 15th May 2006 to say a Mass of thanksgiving for the lives and works of the many Franciscan Sisters who had lived out part of their vocation amongst the people of Kilsyth.

 - Some Memories of the Nuns - 

Sr. Andrew was in Kilsyth for 2 spells - she taught in St. Pat's at same time as Adelaide - p3 - First Communion class. 1973ish - 1977. She ran a "girls craft club" in the 70s. The group that went were more interested in the tea, chocolate biscuits, and, once a month, in the home made sponge cakes, that she got from her mother, when she went home to Riddrie for the day once a month.


She then came back to Kilsyth around 1983 and was diagnosed with cancer Sept/October 1985 and died on 21st June 1986. She was only 43. Her remains were received in St. Pat's on what would have been her 44th birthday (23rd June). After the funeral mass, she was buried in St. Peter's Dalbeth.


Sr Bernard was the last Superior. Sr Regina and Sr Anne Mary did not work in the parish, but lived in the community and got to know the people. Sr Regina and Sr Bernard were the last 2 sisters in Kilsyth -  Cardinal O'Brien said a farewell Mass.


Sr Mary Clement lived in St. Andrew's Convent in Low Craigends and was later killed in a road traffic accident in 1991 whilst on missionary duty in Africa. Sr Clement taught in St Patrick’s Primary school and art in St Augustine's Secondary in Milton, Glasgow. She painted a well known portrait of Canon McGarvey (right) in 1973 which remained in the possession of Eileen Robinson until her death in 2017 before being gifted to the Parish. It is now in the Parish House.

Sr Mary Adelaide was at St Andrew's Convent in the late 1970's/early 1980's - we do not have exact dates. She also taught at St Patrick’s School in P.3, P.6 and P.7 as well as teaching the children guitar. For a while during this period there was a flourishing guitar group in the church which was used as part of the music ministry of the church.


Sr Adelaide's guitar groups entertained all round the district as well as play at Mass in St. Patrick's and on a rotational basis in the Royal Infirmary.
When Sr Adelaide went to Nigeria, Sr. Clement took the group to the Royal in a minibus - tales of Sr Clément's driving exploits are legendary!!


Sr Agnes did sterling work in the AA movement, as well as visit the sick, help families and set up a very successful playgroup, (St. Gerard's Club).

She taught people in Kilsyth the Serenity (alcoholics) prayer.

 - Photo Navigation
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 - Painting of Canon McGarvey -        by Sister Mary Clement 

 

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