200th Celebrations carry on into 2016!

2016-7hackneythumbSr Angela Murphy, a member of the Hackney community gives us an inside view of the Bi-centenary co-hosted by the Sisters of Charity community and St Joseph’s Hospice and following on from Sr Angela’s account two sisters who attended from Airdrie community, Srs Maria Porter and Catherine Egan relate their experience of the event.

“Here in Hackney our celebration of the 200 years took place on Thursday 10th March 2016. After months, weeks and finally, days of preparation everything seemed to fall effortlessly into place. The chapel in the hospice looked its very best. The choir was busy having one last practice. There was great hustle and bustle in the catering area. Sisters and hospice staff worked together greeting and welcoming invited guests including our sisters who had lived in the Hackney community over the years and many past and present members of staff.

Cardinal Vincent Nicholls was the chief celebrant at the Mass concelebrated with six other priests. It was the Cardinal’s first visit to St Joseph’s and upon entering the chapel he was surprised to see such a stunning peace-filled and prayerful place and spoke about it in his homily.

Throughout the Mass the choir sang beautifully. At the Gospel the story of Dives and Lazarus was read, the story that inspired Mary Aikenhead to dedicate her life to the service of the poor. Now in 2016 we, her followers, are challenged to embrace this story anew and discover its meaning today.


From L-R: Srs Maria Porter, Barbara Kenny, Anne Doran, Geraldine O’Connor, Cardinal Vincent Nicholls, Srs Rita Dawson, Angela Murphy and Jacinta Rankin

In his homily Cardinal Nicholls recounted the life and ministry of Mary Aikenhead, our Foundress. He spoke about how she had inspired the founding of a hospice: “although Our Lady’s Hospice in Dublin was not opened until three years after her death…Mary is rightly lauded as the pioneer of the modern hospice movement. Providentially more hospices followed…In 1905 this hospice was opened” He went on to say “You know, what really strikes me about Mary Aikenhead and the Congregation she founded is just how marvellously you show what the Year of Mercy is about. You follow faithfully Mary’s dedication to corporal and spiritual works of mercy, not least by your abiding commitment to hospice care……To care for those who are dying, to console those who are suffering and to comfort those who are spiritually distressed are all at the heart of the works of mercy”.

Sr Rita Dawson, Provincial of the English/Scottish Province gave a very inspiring and poignant address towards the end of Mass.

After the Mass the Cardinal, in the presence of the sisters, blessed a plaque outside the old convent, now part of the hospice complex, and renamed the building Mary Aikenhead House. Following the blessing all went to the dining room where a buffet meal was served (and enjoyed) by almost two hundred guests. There was an atmosphere of joy and happiness. The Cardinal greeted many and after his meal he left to visit patients and staff in the hospice. The patients were very pleased with the Cardinal’s visit.

After the meal everyone was invited to the Convent for afternoon tea. About one hundred people came including the Cardinal. Everyone mingled as they moved around looking at the old photographs and recalling past times.

When our visitors left we breathed a sigh of relief that everything had gone so well and thankful for such a wonderful day of celebration.

May the Lord continue to fulfil His purpose for, in and through each one bringing His love and compassion to all. AMDG”

Sr. Maria Porter from Aidrie writes:
“This Celebration was a joint event organised by the Community and the Staff of St. Joseph’s Hospice Hackney. It was the final event in the yearlong festivities for the foundation of our Order by our foundress Venerable Mary Aikenhead in 1815 .

The main focus was the celebration of the Eucharist by His Eminence Cardinal Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, in whose diocese is the convent/hospice. Several priests who had involvement with the Community/Hospice over the years concelebrated with Cardinal Nichols.

There was a great sense of festival in the day as past and present people were invited and joyfully greeted each other – on many occasion not having seen each other for years. Blue, yellow and white balloons lined the corridors. Present were local dignitaries, the Mayor of Hackney, doctors, admin staff, social workers, nurses, porters, laundry workers, seamstress, volunteers, sisters who worked in the hospice and in local parishes – the list could go on and on. To accommodate the great number of people who came and who could not be accommodated in the chapel, the overflow was linked to an adjacent hall by television. In fact before the Eucharist the priest in charge of the Mass asked for silence. The silence was very powerful as all became recollected reflecting on the history they were involved in.

The Eucharist was very joyful with the choir adding to the overall service. Sisters from the community did some readings and bidding prayers.

Cardinal Nichols in his homily spoke of how overawed he was at the beauty of the chapel when he entered in procession. He referred to its history as being the only building to survive the blitz in l939/45. He went on to speak of the foundation of the Order in Hackney in 1900 at a time of great poverty in the area when sisters visited the sick and poor in their homes.

Then in 1905 because of the great need to care for those who were seriously sick a hospice was founded. During his homily Cardinal Nichols read out the names of the first five sisters who started the hospice – Sr.Winifred Sugrue, Sr Mary Sabas O’Connor, Sr Mary Uriel Duffy, Sr.Catherine O’Flynn and Sr. Agnes Aloysius Martin.

At the conclusion of the Mass Sister Rita Dawson, Provincial leader of England/Scotland spoke of the growth of the hospice in Hackney and the great legacy left by the pioneer sisters. She thanked Cardinal Nichols for coming and she hoped he would visit again. Sr. Rita spoke of the Core Values of the hospice and about how important they are in the situation in which we live. Sister got a great ovation for her words of appreciation and encouragement for the future of the work in Hackney.

Later Cardinal Nichols unveiled a plaque to the wonderful founding sisters. The plaque is outside Mary Aikenhead House. Part of this building was the original Convent and has now been adapted to facilitate the day Hospice needs.

A beautiful buffet was served in the dining room where more greetings and sharing of past and present experiences were exchanged. Meeting old work colleagues and past friends of the convent was one of the highlights of the day. Afterwards all were invited to the convent dining room for tea and cakes.

Cardinal Nichols left at this stage of the celebration as he was due in the local church of St.John the Baptist for Visitation. The parish priest Fr.David had assisted the Cardinal at the Eucharist in the chapel.

A big thank you must go to Sr.Geraldine O’Connor and her community for such a great celebration of the foundation of the Congregation.
Sisters May Commins, Maria Porter and Catherine Egan represented the Airdrie Community.”

Sr Catherine Egan writes of her joy at meeting old friends and work colleagues:
“The joint Celebration of St Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney and the Convent Community was a held on March 10th; it must have been the final one for the Province marking the 200 years since the Order was founded in 1815.

The occasion was joyful, a real celebration and what an opportunity for those of us who had worked at St Joseph’s Hospice to come together! Recognising work colleagues from the past and noticing how the passing of time changes us all! We greeted each other and chatted about many things as time permitted and it’s true to say the afternoon passed all too quickly!

Doctors who served and worked in the Hospice and Heenan House including Dr Margaret McKerrow, Dr Louis Hayes-Moore, Dr Louise Moore and Dr Richard Lamerton – who set up the Home care services with the late Sr Mary Antonia, RIP, – were there to mark the occasion.

2016-7hackney2Cardinal Vincent Nichols was the main celebrant at the Mass and it was good to see Fr Brian former Chaplain to St Joseph’s together with Fr Fox from the Augustine Community in Hoxton and the present chaplain Fr Peter Smith, all concelebrating at the Mass.

In his homily the Cardinal talked about the poverty of the East End of London in 1905 and how the hospice to-day continues to care for those who are most in need following in the footsteps of the early pioneers and meeting the needs of the sick.

After the Mass the Cardinal also visited the sick in the Hospice and was generous in giving of his time to visit the Sisters in the Convent also and to join in the afternoon Tea where the Celebration cake was served.”

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