Mother Clare Arthur
Foundress of Brentwood
In 1900, Mother Clare Arthur and two companions were sent from Upton (which had been founded from Tildonk) to Brentwood, in response to Cardinal Bourne’s request to open a school for girls. In 1904, the Convent became independent under the authority of the Archbishop of Westminster, and M. Clare was elected superior. In 1917 the Diocese of Brentwood was formed and the convent was, and remains, diocesan, although we were recognised as part of the Tildonk Congregation until our own Constitutions were approved in 1957.
The convent and boarding and day school flourished, and by the mid-twentieth century the community numbered 85. A mixed Primary School was opened in Dagenham in 1935 and one in Harold Hill in 1955. In 1965, Sisters went to Kenya in response to a request from the Bishop of Meru, to run a Secondary and an Intermediate school.
The 1980s and ‘90s were characterised by a diversification of ministries and lifestyle in response to a deeper understanding and interpretation of Angela’s charism, and the needs of the local Church. We experienced the evolution from a focus on education in a traditional school-based sense to a broader call to accompany others on their journey to achieve their unique potential. This led to a major commitment to the Youth Service of the Diocese, and the administration of a Retreat Centre for young people from 1985-2001. It also meant the establishment of communities, or at least a presence, in Dagenham, Harold Hill, Becontree, Westcliff, Chelmsford, Ingatestone and Basildon to enable Sisters to live closer to their ministries in school, parish, prison, and local hospitals.
In 2011 there are 20 of us, and the majority, including those who are frailer and more elderly, live in The Grange, in the heart of Brentwood, where the Generalate is based. The Sisters today work in day-centres for the homeless, a local hospice, a centre for asylum seekers and refugees, prison and hospital chaplaincy, and in parish ministry.
Our ministry to young people continues through involvement in Sacramental Preparation programmes and chaplaincy, and indirectly through support of the schools as Governors. We have an ‘Ursuline Network’ group for associates from different walks of life, and it which the possibility of making a formal commitment. We have always maintained, and in recent years have deepened, our relationship with Tildonk and the Irish Union and have a formal association with the Roman Union.