The Convent of Jesus and Mary Language College celebrated 125 years since the foundation of the school on Tuesday 8 October.
Students, staff and friends of the school, including Sisters from other Jesus and Mary schools across Europe, gathered in the ‘Canvas Cathedral’ in Willesden, North West London for the Founders’ Day Mass.
The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster was the main celebrant and was joined by priests of the deanery and beyond. In his homily, Archbishop Vincent reflected on what we have learnt from the Sisters of Jesus and Mary: “a moral language, a vision and a way of life.” He commented on how clear it is that the spirit of St. Claudine (their foundress) is embodied across the school.
Headteacher Mrs Geraldine Freear commented: “We are challenged to continue to provide a first class education for young people equipping them with skills that will ensure them a strong faith and a good position in the world of work. The facilities for the girls are superb. They continue to excel and lead in a supportive environment. I find it incredible that the bricks of the corridors of the Convent building heard the prayers of the very first sisters back in 1888. Today they hear our prayers. We are making history ourselves'.
History from 1888
The Convent of Jesus and Mary in Willesden was founded in 1888 by the Congregation of Jesus and Mary sisters originally from France. A group of French nuns came to England in 1860, and by 1886 had come to Willesden. They left the security of their own country and the ways they had known to set up a school in Willesden, as it was close to the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Willesden. These pioneers, inspired by Claudine Thevenet, their foundress, had but one aim, to reveal God's goodness to young people and help them grown up as useful citizens able to stand on their own two feet. Mrs Freear said:“We continue to teach St. Claudine’s values and identity as of the utmost importance in our world of today – education, simplicity, forgiveness and love of Jesus and Mary.”
Today, the school community continues to follow in her footsteps, remembering Claudine’s courage and hard work, and her trust in the goodness of God. In 1888 the present school of Jesus and Mary was opened as a private boarding school for girls. It was always clear that at some future date the school would provide secondary education for all Catholic girls in the area, as Claudine Thevenet would have wished. Eventually the school was extended in the late1950s, which provided a much-needed gymnasium, rooms for Housecraft and new, well-equipped laboratories as well as additional classrooms. The new extension was opened on 14 July 1959 and the following September the school expanded to become a five stream entry. Today the school is a thriving 11 – 18, six form entry, highly successful school.