The webpage of the Youth Ministry of the Irish Province of Augustinians

Augustinian Sisters of the Mercy of Jesus

The Sisters of St. Augustine of the Mercy of Jesus were founded 1842 in Bruges by Canon Peter John Mayes, he was a great advocate of the mentally ill.

He travelled extensively to study their treatment and care, pioneering more human treatment for them than was the norm at that time. He believed in the value of having Sisters dedicated to the care of the sick and he took a group of Sisters from Bruges to Burgess Hill in Sussex (England).

Whilst visiting his brother Fr. Louis Mayes in England, Canon Peter met Cardinal Wiseman and Bishop Grant of Southwark who asked him to found a house in England for the care of the sick – St. George’s Retreat.

In consequence Canon Peter arrived at Burgess Hill from Bruges on 5th October 1856 and Sr. Raphael was appointed Superioress, by this time Canon Mayes had bought an area of around 200 acres in Sussex borrowing the money from Bruges which had to be paid back over the years.

With labour and building materials being brought from Belgium the construction of St George’s retreat began in 1867. It was officially opened on the feast of St. Joseph in 1868. The name was chosen in memory of the opening in July 1848 of St. George’s Cathedral in Southwark, the first Catholic Cathedral in England since the reformation and after the restoration of the hierarchy. The first patients, men and women arrived in 1869. Canon Peter Mayes liked to call St. George’s Retreat God’s Hotel. Then building work continued until the main building was completed in 1877 in which year Canon Peter Mayes died.

Possibly owing to the distance involved in those years Burgess Hill became independent of Bruges.

Today our Sisters work in our own houses in the Diocese of Plymouth, Northampton. We also have Sisters in Birmingham and Westminster still carrying on the vision of Canon Peter Mayes.

St. George’s being the Mother House, is where a new care village and three care homes have been established. In recognition of this commitment to service Sr. Thomas was awarded an MBE by Queen Elizabeth in January 2013.

Article posted on 12th of March 2013

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