One God, One Family, One Community
Convents and Schools
Convents and their communities have played a major role in the spiritual and material successes of St. George’s Parish. A newly established Franciscan Convent in 1808 was able to offer support to Fr. Baldwin, the first Rector of the Mission. Then, with great generosity, having built a new Convent in South Road, the Franciscans purchased a plot of land in 1858 adjacent to their own, on which would be built Church, Rectory and School.
In 1950, the Franciscans sold the Convent to the Sisters of St. Joseph of Annecy, who had arrived in Taunton in 1920, from which time they had been in charge of St. George’s School. Now they took over St. Joseph’s Convent School for boys and girls up to 11, and for girls up to 18. St. Joseph’s School was closed in 1976, and the Sisters moved to Staplegrove. They continued to be in charge of St. George’s Primary School until 1990.
A Convent of Perpetual Adoration was built in Park Street in 1867. The Sisters gave great help to the Parish, but departed in 1929, leaving behind an identifiable building which is now in use for business.
The various Orders of Sisters and their charitable works were sadly missed by St. George’s, and by the people of Taunton. From 2005, the South Road Convent site became a gated area of high quality housing, with the main Convent building converted into Flats. There is some welcome continuity of support in the Parish Team, from a Sister of the Franciscan Sisters of Mill Hill and a Sister of St. Joseph of Annecy.
Since 1848 Catholic Schools have been a key part of the Parish. Starting with two rooms behind St. George’s Chapel, a new School opened in 1870, on the site presented to the Parish by the Franciscan Convent. Then in 1970 a new Primary School was built on the site; the School has continued to modernise and expand, and now has a multi-cultural roll of some 200 pupils. For 35 years, up to 2010, a joint Catholic/Anglican Secondary School, St. Augustine of Canterbury, existed in the Town. It is a signal achievement that for more than 160 years dedicated teachers have instilled Christian virtues and a Catholic ethos into generations of children
In 2000 Mgr Patrick Lynch retired after 33 years of loving dedication and hugely admired work for St. George’s and St. Teresa’s. He died in 2007 in Ireland, mourned in Taunton by many, of all Faiths and none.
Fr. John Cunningham came to Taunton as Curate in 1992, and followed Mgr Lynch in 2000 as Rector. Later, as Canon John he was privileged to be the incumbent, and to undertake the onerous but joyful duties of leading the St. George’s community in the 2010 Celebrations for the 150th Anniversary of the official opening of the Church.
In 2006, The Friends of St. George’s had launched a 150th Anniversary Church Refurbishment Appeal Fund for £150,000; the target was almost reached, thanks to their endeavours and the generosity of Parishioners, by April 2010. The sum was to include the provision of a large stained glass window at the West end of the Church. Internationally renowned Stained Glass Artist, Patrick Reyntiens was commissioned to provide a window on the theme of Christ in Glory.
The window was installed in Autumn 2009, and dedicated as the Mgr. Patrick Lynch Memorial Window. Its predominant pale blues and yellows, floodlit from the inside, gazing on to the Town, do full justice to the spiritual theme, and to that much loved lover of Taunton, Patrick Lynch. The total cost of the window was £83,000, with remaining funds to be spent on maintaining the Church to the high standards which our forebears would expect of us.