Bishop Michael Campbell said he was 'deeply saddened' at the news

The community of the Little Sisters of the Poor, which has been serving the Diocese of Lancaster for 135 years, have announced that they will be leaving the diocese with “great sadness and regret.”

In a statement released by the diocese, The Little Sisters Mother Provincial Caroline Emmanuel said: “It is with great sadness and regret that the Little Sisters of the Poor have decided that they will be leaving Preston”.

Sister Caroline, cited the fact that the community is ageing and dwindling in size as the reason behind their “difficult decision.”

The statement released by the diocese said: “The Little Sisters are immensely grateful for the support they have been given, over the years, by the Catholic community of Preston, the current Bishop of Lancaster Michael Campbell, previous Bishops of the Diocese as well as by local priests and religious and by so many people in Preston who have been so supportive.

“They are especially thankful to God for all that they received from their benefactors, associates and friends in Preston. It is understood the Sisters are already working hard to ensure a continuity of care at the Jeanne Jugan Residence if at all possible.”

The Little Sisters have been in Preston since 1881 (one of nine new foundations in Great Britain, Ireland and the Channel Islands established in the 1880s) when they began their work for the sick and the dying in Preston in a small house in Deepdale Road, before moving to larger premises on Garstang Road, known then as Springfield House, now the Jeanne Jugan Residence.

Commenting on the news, Bishop Campbell said he was “deeply saddened” but understood the decision. He said: “Firstly; I want to celebrate all the wonderful care and work for the sick and the elderly carried out by the Little Sisters in Preston – long before the State came to be involved in such work. Secondly; while I am deeply saddened by this decision, I understand completely the challenges which the Sisters face and sympathise with the circumstances they find themselves in. I have always had and continue to have the highest regard and appreciation for the Little Sisters of the Poor and the selfless work they have done for the elderly and dying.

“They have made an immeasurable contribution to the life of the City of Preston and our Local Church over the past 135 years. The Little Sisters will be sadly missed and will always be held in the greatest affection and respect by the Catholic community in Preston and in the wider Diocese of Lancaster for all their selfless ministry in the service of the elderly and those near the end of life.”

The Little Sisters of the Poor is a Catholic Religious Congregation, founded in France in 1839, by Saint Jeanne Jugan in order to care for the impoverished elderly who lined the streets of many French towns and cities.

Its members are Catholic women who make vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience and a fourth vow of hospitality.

They are one of the larger religious institutes of women in the Catholic Church, with around 230 houses and more than 2,300 members worldwide.