ON MAY 31 1987 the Sisters of the Infant Jesus came to the end of a year of celebration, held to mark the Tercentenary of the death of their founder Pere Nicolas Barre, in Paris on May 31 1686. Events to mark this special day were held in convents throughout the world and the Sisters at St Matir's Convent in Weybridge marked the day with a special reunion for Old Girls and Staff, past and present.
Nitolas Barre was born in Amiens in 1621, the eldest son of a cloth merchant. He was educated by the Jesuits and, on leaving school, entered the Order of Minims. Ordained a priest in 1646 he spent 15 years in Paris teaching, preaching and acting as confessor at the Convent of Place-Royale. From Paris he went lo Amiens and, in 1659, to Rouen.
It was here that, helped by the generosity of two wealthy ladies, the first Charitable schools were set up. Schools continued to spring up and in 1675, when Pere Barre was recalled to Paris, he started schools there and also established the Mother House in the Rue St Maur, now the Rue de l'Abbe Gregoire.
The Institute, as the Sisters were now called, continued to flourish after Pere Barre's death. Again the schools proliferated, vocations came and in 1851 the Sisters were invited to work in Malaysia.
Working in the Straits brought a need for English speaking sisters as Malaysia was a British colony. Vocations were looked for in Ireland and England and in 1892 it was decided to establish a convent in England.
Two sisters, Mere St Gaetan and Sister St Augustine travelled to England from Singapore. Mere Gaetan was in poor health before she left on her journey and died on the very day that the first Mass was said in Southgate, the first English convent.
The school at Southgate was not successful, but the Sisters were able to obtain a five year lease on a property in Camberwell and moved there where they established a day and boat-tying school. Not long beton the lease was due to expire the Parish Priest of Camberwell, Canon McGrath, was transferred to Weybridge.
There he found very little in the way of Catholic education and, knowing that the Sisters were available for this mission, he invited them to Weybridge. The Sisters accepted the invitation and on October 8 1898 nine Sisters and three boarders arrived back in Weybridge to take up residence at Clinton House St Maur's Convent.