Ursulines in Wales: Brecon

Brecon 1948

Initially, as with many other Religious Orders, response to a call to religious life was to be effected through prayer and education, the traditional form of Ursuline life. The special occasion in 1948 was the invitation received from Bishop Petit of the Diocese of Menevia in Wales to the Ursulines in Thurles to take over a convent and school in Brecon. His ecumenical purpose was clear from the beginning (if not fully understood); a school which would welcome children of all denominations who would live and learn together; as adults would know and respect each other’s belief and practice. St David’s School had for forty five years been owned and staffed by the Daughters of the Holy Spirit who were about to open a new Apostolic School in Co Monaghan.

This outcome followed: On the 25th August 1948 six Thurles Ursulines and one sister from Waterford joined two Blackrock sisters to depart from Cork to make a new foundation in Brecon, described then as ‘mainly Protestant’. Two Sligo Sisters and one from Waterford completed the community later, and St David’s School continued.

In 1950 St Joseph’s R.C. Primary School was established, initially on convent premises. Ultimately, after years of hard work, there was a purpose-built school from 1976, Ursuline Sisters working there until 1996. By now owned by the Diocese of Menevia, and under Diocesan and Local Authority auspices, its future seemed secure. Sadly due to falling numbers, together with Powys Educational Authority Policy on small schools, after consultation it was decided to close the school and the remaining pupils have been accommodated in other town schools.

At the same time St David’s School continued to flourish in numbers, staffing, in general academic level with a Governing Body, receiving its Recognition/Registration in 1970. The sudden announcement of its closure in 1993 was one met with great sadness and regret that there would no longer be a boarding school establishment for girls in Brecon.

Today, sisters continue to reside in the Convent in Brecon and are involved in a variety of ministries in the local area:

  • in the parish,
  • in the local history society and local archive group,
  • hosting a vibrant group of Ursuline associates
  • local St Vincent de Paul Society
  • Guide dogs for the blind
  • The Brecknock Society which gathers to knit together and dispatch garments and blankets to children and elderly people in Eastern European countries
  • and offering friendship to many people.