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salesian sisters

50 years of Scotland’s superhero Salesian Sisters

Ryan McDougall and Amanda Connelly explore the Salesian Sisters’ support for Scotland’s young people

With Pope Francis’ recent exhortation for the world’ youth, Christus Vivit (Christ Is Alive), the role of young people in the Church today is not far from the minds of many Catholics.

It is apt then that in 2019, one of the Orders so closely dedicated to supporting our young people marks a very special anniversary in Scotland.


Half a century

The Salesian Sisters will celebrate 50 golden years of ministry in Scotland—an incredible achievement which has seen them carry out their work, inspired by their founder St John Bosco, over the past half a century.

St John Bosco, an Italian priest, founded the order in the late 19th century to help impoverished children during the Industrial Revolution.

The Salesians of Don Bosco’s mission is described as ‘the Christian perfection of its associates obtained by the exercise of spiritual and corporal works of charity towards the young, especially the poor, and the education of boys to the priesthood.’



Present in countries across the globe and as of 2014 having a membership of over 15,000 Religious, the Salesian Sisters have a strong and active presence in the UK.

Sr Ella Flynn, 86, evangelisation and missions coordinator for the Salesians’ Easterhouse community, said she first joined the Sisters shortly after its establishment in Scotland.

“I was in Ferguslie for six years which was where we founded in Scotland—it’s amazing that we’re about to reach the Golden jubilee,” she said.

After moving away to continue her work elsewhere for eight years, Sr Ella returned for another eight.


Celebration plans

The Sisters will mark the anniversary with a golden jubilee Mass on August 24 at 3pm at St Fergus’ Church in Ferguslie Park, Paisley.

The Mass, which will be celebrated by Bishop John Keenan, is open to everyone, with all invited to share in the celebrations. It is thought by the sisters to be a fitting venue, considering it was where they founded.

Sr Ella said: “I hope all people whose lives we have touched will get along to our golden jubilee!”

A spokesperson for Motherwell Diocese added: “Our diocese has been deeply blessed to have the presence of the Sisters and benefited greatly from their ministry. Please remember the Sisters, especially the Easterhouse community, in your prayers.”


St John Bosco

The support of young people has been a hallmark of the Salesian Sisters’ ministry in Scotland in the light of St John Bosco’s example, who is the patron saint of young people.

Perhaps one of the most innovative and successful mission initiatives of the Salesian Sisters in Scotland is URSpace, which works to support young people to explore and deepen their Faith both in their school and parish life.

With a great focus on supporting young people, the Salesian Sisters have served the youth in communities across Scotland.

As well as Easterhouse, they serve in Paisley, Milton, Elderslie and Johnstone, Nitshill, Newmains and Newlands.


Many happy memories

Sr Ella said the various clubs and initiatives for young people are among the ‘highlights’ of the congregation’s work over the years.

“I think we’ve provided many very happy memories for many young people and they have given us very happy memories in return,” she said. “The holidays were wonderful occasions spent with wonderful people—we did a lot of concerts, plays and youth clubs, too.

“We couldn’t have done any of it without the terrific support and help from friends and parents though. There was always a good group of helpers.”


Bishop McGill

Bishop Stephen McGill, Bishop of Paisley from 1968-1988, was also a keen supporter. He donated £100 to the Sisters to help them fund the holidays for the young people, which Sr Ella laughed was ‘a lot of money back then!’

After 50 years of service, Sr Ella joked that she and the current generation of Salesians would probably not be around for the next bi-centenary, but believes the future Sisters will continue their work.

“It’s been a beautiful 50 years,” she reminisced.

Asked what she believes is next for the Sisters, she added: “God alone knows. We’ll go on with our work for the young people and help them in their Faith.

“Our numbers have certainly diminished through death and as the years have passed we’ve gone down in size but God is above it all, He has His plans, and even Pope Francis said, ‘we might have a smaller Church now, but a humbler Church.’

“God’s in charge and we’ll be faithful to Him, the Holy Father and to St John Bosco.”

If you’d like to attend the August 21 celebrations, email: fmajubilee50@gmail.com

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