Our Sisters faced not only the daunting task of establishing themselves and a school with its running costs, but more importantly, breaking down barriers of suspicion within the local community. As the Sisters accepted non-Catholic children into the school, this spirit of ecumenism helped St Anthony’s to flourish to this present day.
The school community is fortunate to have a children’s Mass every Wednesday and each class takes a turn to prepare the liturgy. The Mass is well-attended by Catholics and non-Catholics who are uplifted by this highlight of the school week. Several parents and children have converted to Catholicism. Sr Celestine, the Headteacher, finds it so encouragqing to hear remarks such as, “The school has played a huge part in keeping the Faith alive in this part of the world.” St Anthony’s also boasts of a former pupil of theirs being ordained to the Priesthood – and presently Parish Priest in Bristol.
Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception
My name is Sr M. Celestine McKenna. I live in our Mission in Cinderford which is situated in the heart of the Royal Forest of Dean.
In 1960, our Sisters founded St Anthony’s Primary School to provide a Catholic education for children who had previously attended non-Catholic schools. Indeed, before 1960 there had been no Catholic school within a 30 mile radius of the Forest of Dean. Sadly, this meant that Catholic children attending non-Catholic schools were often ridiculed and bullied by children and teachers alike.
Today, St Anthony’s is certainly well-utilised by the neighbouring community and District. The Royal Forest of Dean College sends students for teaching practice, while the secondary schools throughout the Forest and Gloucester send their students for work experience. The local Town council utilises the school for adult education classes.
Our Mission in Cinderford continues to grow and it is encouraging to know that despite the present economic climate, parents are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices to ensure that their children receive a good Catholic education in a school which achieves success in the field of academics and sports.
ST. ANTHONY PRIMARY SCHOOL