The Franciscan Sisters of Atonement distribute food and clothing from their Cordova Street convent next to Oppenheimer Park on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. ((Fransican Sisters of Atonement Benevolent Society))

After 85 years of helping the needy on Vancouver's Downtown Eastside the convent of the Franciscan Sisters of Atonement is closing its doors on Monday.

The New York-based order arrived in Vancouver in 1926 and, over the years, has offered religious and language programs, day care, kindergarten classes, a clinic and room and board to the community.

In recent years the sisters at the convent have been serving over 1,000 sandwiches each day to hungry people in the neighbourhood.

But these days few people are joining the sisterhood and there are only four nuns left, and that's forced the Catholic church to rethink the operation, according to Sister Elizabeth Kelliher.

"We have not had vocations sent to our community for at least 15 years and if anything happened to one of the four of us there would be no replacements," said Kelliher.

The sisters are not retiring, but will move to other parts of Canada to continue their work. Kelliher says it's been very emotional to say good-bye to everyone.

"All of us feel very sad for leaving the people we have been friends with," she said.

The Archdiocese of Vancouver plans on continuing the food program. However no date is set for when it will re-open.

Earlier this year the church said a religious order called the Missionaries of Charity, which was set up by Mother Teresa, will move into the sisters' convent to continue their work.