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New Heritage Room now open in St. Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney

Sr. Rita Dawson, Provincial of the Religious Sisters of Charity, officially opened the new Five Sisters Heritage Room on 21st May, 2019. She was accompanied by members of the Board of Trustees, Senior members of staff and community members.

It is called The Five Sisters Heritage Room, located in the Hub of the Hospice, because it tells the story of the five Sisters of Charity who arrived in Hackney from Dublin in 1900, leaving behind their families and friends so that they could help the poor and dying of East London. They were pioneering, brave women who, working with Father Peter Gallwey, and with a generous donation from Grace Goldsmid, a Jewish woman of means, opened St Joseph’s Hospice in 1905.

These sisters are:
Sister Catherine O’Flynn, first Superior who was born in Cork in 1867 and died in 1946. She is buried in Donnybrook Cemetery, she like all of the others eventually returned to Ireland. Sister Winefred Sugrue was born in Cork 1866 and died in 1935. She is buried in Kilbarrack Cemetery. Sister Agnes Aloysius Martin was born in Dublin in 1866 and died in 1937. She is buried in Little Bray Cemetery. Sister Mary Sabas O’Connor who was born in Louth in 1868 and died in 1923 is buried in Ballaghaderreen Cemetery. Sister Mary Uriel Duffy who was born in Mayo in 1874 and died in 1954 is also buried in Ballaghaderreen Cemetery.

Hospice Ledger

The Five Sisters Heritage Room contains some wonderful artefacts, including records of the first patients who were cared for at the Hospice and some fabulous footage going back many decades. The annals of the time record that the very first patient was carried into the hospice on someone’s back. A record reveals the occupations of some of the first patients as ‘soldiering’, ‘barman’s wife’, ‘maid’ and ‘tailoress’.

Mr Tony McLean, Chief Executive, St Joseph’s Hospice said, “I hope that the Five Sisters Heritage Room will be enjoyed by anyone visiting, working or volunteering at the Hospice and will share the story of these five remarkable women.
“I’d like to thank Sr Rita Dawson whose Congregation has funded all the interior work, and TNA Building Services who did all the external construction work free of charge.”

Sr. Maria Coates – who worked as part of a team to bring into being a new Heritage Room

Climate Rebellion takes hold of London

A peaceful protest

Two exciting things happened in London recently which have highlighted the urgency for action on climate change.

The first took began about a week before Easter and continued for about 10 days. Four busy intersections and landmarks of the city were taken over by ‘Extinction Rebellion’. During those days the protesters, in a united act of civil disobedience, defied repeated police attempts to remove them and caused widespread disruption.

Extinction Rebellion was founded in October last year and has acquired a substantial following. It has a set of principles which it expects all of its adherents to follow. It’s says of itself:
All are welcome who want to adhere to our principles and values (only some of which are quoted in this article due to restrictions of space):

  • We have a shared vision of change
  • Creating a world that is fit for generations to come. We set our mission on what is necessary.
  • We need a regenerative culture. Creating a culture which is healthy, resilient and adaptable.
  • We challenge ourselves and our toxic system leaving our comfort zones to take action for change.
  • We value reflecting and learning. Following a cycle of action, reflection, learning, and planning.
  • We welcome everyone and every part of everyone.
  • Working actively to create safer and more accessible spaces.
  • We avoid blaming and shaming. We live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.
  • We are a non-violent network. Using non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.

Apart from the members themselves many others joined the demonstrations which took place at Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus and Waterloo Bridge. On Waterloo Bridge a camp was set up and trees in large tubs and flowers were brought on to the bridge. A festival atmosphere was evident as music was played, there was dancing, singing, yoga and general good humour.

Extinction Rebellion

Over 1000 people, who refused to move from the spaces they occupied on the road, were arrested but no resistance was offered as they were carried off. Very few were actually charged and most of those arrested returned to their places on the road. Sometimes it was difficult to move people though as groups had glued themselves together!!!

Among the demands of Extinction Rebellion was that a Climate Emergency be declared and a target for zero carbon emissions by 2025.

Finally, and much to the relief of the authorities, Extinction Rebellion announced that the rebellion would end on the evening of the next day, maintaining control of its agenda. When the protests ended the city returned to normal very quickly. Motorists delighted to have their roads back again. It had been nice to walk down Oxford street without a car in sight!

When Parliament reconvened a week later, after the Easter break, it declared a Climate Emergency.

The second exciting thing to happen in London was the Climate Strike which took place on 24th May. Several hundred young people went on strike and gathered first in Trafalgar Square to protest against climate change and later walked to Parliament Square.

Climate Strike

Many of the young people sat in groups on the grass there while a large group bounced and danced to music in another part of the square. The presence of the young people was very peaceful.
I got into conversation with one of the dozen police officers on duty in the Square on that occasion and his comment to me about what he witnessed was “It gives me hope.”
Sr Patricia Byrne

Another group of Hackney Convent Staff visit the Heritage Centre

Hackney Staff

Sr. Jackie Doherty led a final group of convent staff from Hackney to the Heritage Centre in Harold’s Cross. This time our own Sr. Patience also joined the group for her first visit to Dublin and the Heritage Centre. In all 8 people went on this trip Creselda, Bridget, Patricia and Oxana from the Care Floor and Chris and Andrea who are part of our housekeeping team, together with Jackie and Patience.

Our day began and ended with travel difficulties with only one taxi arriving in the early hours of the morning instead of two, making us very anxious as we had a long way to go to the airport, and, on our way back to the airport that evening long delays due to traffic congestion – another reason to be worried when going for a flight! At both ends we arrived on time, thank God
Despite these difficulties the bit in the middle was magical!

The group with Mary Aikenhead’s wheelchair

We were on time for our slot at the Heritage Centre arriving relieved and ready for a coffee. And with the same warm welcome we had received on previous occasions from Srs. Mary and Helen we settled in to enjoy our visit. Which is exactly what happened. We really enjoyed seeing the exhibits and pictures of the life of Mother Mary Aikenhead. Seeing and touching the wheelchair that she actually used was a really special experience for the group. The more I saw the more I realised what a wonderful woman Mary Aikenhead was. We were all greatly in awe.

Having spent some time in the Heritage Centre we went to lunch. This was a lovely reflective time when we talked about what we had experienced and we shared our most enjoyed and thoughtful moments.

After lunch we returned to the Heritage Centre to sign the visitors book and some took the opportunity to revisit their favourite exhibit.

In Dublin’s Fair City

For those of our group who had not been to Dublin the visit to the city centre, the afternoon was the opportunity to address this. We got on a bus outside the hospice and arrived in O’Connell St shortly after. The bus took us past some of the sites of the city, such as St Patrick’s and Christchurch cathedrals, the Bank of Ireland and of course the river Liffey. Some shopping was inevitably done in the popular shopping area off O’Connell St, Henry St.

With the Captain!

From the city Centre we were able to get an airport bus back for our flight. One last enjoyable thing happened next when, at the airport we, well some of us, enjoyed that famous and some would say, delicious, beverage, Guinness, only half a glass! The delay back to the airport forgotten.
Sr Jackie Doherty.

“A Visual Prayer”

Srs Angela Murphy and Helena McGilly attended a blessing of the statue of ‘Homeless Jesus’ at Farm St Church, London. This unusual sculpture is horizontal. Homeless Jesus, also known as Jesus the Homeless, is a bronze sculpture by Canadian sculptor Timothy Schmalz that depicts Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench. It is an attempt to express an image often seen in our cities where there is a high level of homelessness. The statue has been described as a “visual translation” of the Gospel of Matthew passage in which Jesus says to his disciples ‘whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do to me’.

The Homeless Jesus statue can be found in cities in the US and in cities throughout the world including the Vatican where Pope Francis received and blessed it. Usually the statue, which is life-sized, is placed in a public place, often on the street where passers-by can view it. The statue’s home in London is in Farm St Church and in Dublin the statue is placed outside Christchurch Cathedral.

The sculptor, Timothy Schamalz, is deeply influenced by his Christian Faith. His first Homeless Jesus was created in response to the crisis of homelessness. He says “I am devoted to creating artwork that glorifies Christ…….I describe my sculptures as being visual prayers.”

The Medaille Trust honors St Josephine Bakhita

The Medaille Trust honored St Josephine Bakhita at a Service at St Chad’s Cathedral, Birmingham. Sr Patricia Byrne attended this service which the Medaille Trust organised, the second year that event has taken place.

The Medaille Trust is a Charity which was set up by Religious, including the Sisters of Charity, in 2006 to provide safe housing for trafficked women. It has grown over those years to be the largest provider of safe housing for women, men and children. There are now nine safe houses which together provide 109 bed spaces. The Medaille Trust says of itself and its aims:
“Our main priorities are helping our clients to move on to a positive chapter in their lives – free from exploitation and slavery. Recogising that every individual has their own set of experiences and circumstances, they are taken on a supportive journey which encourages a life of independence.”

The service was led by Archbishop Bernard Longley during which he spoke about “the scourge of human trafficking” and its devastating effects on people’s lives. But the service was a truly ecumenical affair because also sharing in the service was Rt Rev Dr Alistair Redfern, retired Church of England Bishop of Grantham while the music was provided by the Salvation Army band. The presence of the Salvation Army band and some other members of that Church was significant as the Medaille Trust works in close collaboration with the Salvation Army in the provision of safe housing.

The sermon was given by Dr Redfern the guest speaker, who spoke movingly about his long association with those involved in human trafficking. He especially emphasised the importance of having our eyes open and being watchful because human trafficking is happening under our noses, possibly on our streets, certainly within a short range of where we live. He said that we need to be aware and notice.

During the service a Pledge was signed at the bottom of the poster of St Josephine Bakhita by Archbishop Longley and the CEO of the Medaille Trust, Mr. Garry Smith. This was a sign of the commitment between the Archdiocese of Birmingham and the Medaille Trust to continue to work in partnership. After this signing the members of the congregation were invited to come up to the sanctuary to light a candle as a sign of our commitment to pray for freedom and justice for modern slavery victims. During this time the atmosphere was set by the Salvation Army band and the words from St Josephine Bakhita which were read out:

“If we had no hope in God, what would we do in the world?”
“If I were to keep kneeling the whole of my life,
it would not be enough to express my gratitude to the Good God.”

A first-class relic of Saint Josephine was present throughout the National Service of Prayer at St Chad’s Cathedral. The tiny piece of bone in a small see-through box was observed and touched by many after the service.

Tomorrow’s Women – A charity to encourage vulnerable women to live their lives fully

Tomorrow’s Women Wirral (TWW) is a small, local, independent charity with a primary aim to encourage vulnerable women to make positive lifestyle changes and provides daily support, advice, tools and skills to do so. Having over 6,500 registered women and receiving over 140 women daily through the door, they were thrilled to recently host a very special visit from the most esteemed Royal couple, Their Royal Highnesses Prince Harry and Princess Meghan. The occasion was a memorable one to all that were involved, as the women of TWW were able to converse with the pair quite intimately. They spoke to both staff and the women that access the centre and gained an insight into ‘a day at TWW’.

Those involved said that The Royals were both genuinely interested in the women’s lives and journeys, as well as the great work of the centre. They engaged thoroughly in conversation, gave an attentive ear to listen and openly shared their support for the work of the charity and the incredible strength of the women they met. The impact of the Royal Visit has encouraged new women to access the services at TWW. They hope that this outreach will continue well into the future and that it may initiate further funding streams to be able to grow and maintain the incredible work of Tomorrow’s Women.

Tomorrow’s Women was a grateful recipient of funding from the Sisters of Charity.

Visit to the Olive Muslim School Hackney

On the 3rd December 2018 the Mission Team in St. Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney (Carolyne Barber and Sr. Maria Coates) were invited to deliver an Assembly to the children of Olive School, Hackney. The Olive School is a Muslim faith primary school, established in response to community demand for high-quality education that meets the aspirations of local families. It is a Muslim faith school that promotes traditional British values and welcomes applications from all faiths and none.

The Mission Team talked about St. Joseph’s Hospice Heritage, Mission, the early work of the Sisters, and the service it provides today. Lots of pupils asked interesting and meaningful questions about the work of the Hospice. Sr Maria and Carolyne reported “We received a great welcome. It was a lovely afternoon which we really enjoyed and we were delighted to hear that the pupils wanted to raise money for St. Joseph’s Hospice in the future. The Assistant Headteacher has invited us back later this year.”

#OurTurn petition handed in to Prime Minister

Sister of Charity, Sr Patricia Byrne attended the submission of the #OurTurn petition to the Prime Minister’s residence, No. 10 Downing Street. In this article Patricia explains about the situation in the UK regarding Child Migrants and those who are working to alleviate the many problems the children face.

Sr Patricia writes “Despite the crisis in Europe of migrants arriving in large numbers the UK has taken in less than other European countries such as Germany, Italy and Greece. A total of 20,760 migrants have arrived in Greece in 2018, bringing the total number of arrivals in the EU in 2018 to just over 76,000. The greatest concern is for unaccompanied child migrants who are very vulnerable, not least to exploitation and trafficking.

There are now more child migrants in Europe than at any other time since World War Two. Many of them are unaccompanied and face a harsh winter in desperate conditions. Here in the UK the government has failed to respond adequately to this crisis taking in only a small number of children so far despite some Councils’ willingness to take more child migrants.

A campaign, #OurTurn, to petition the government to take more children in has raised more than 33,000 signatures and this petition was handed in to the Prime Minister’s residence on 5th November.

Before the handing in of the petition we met in Parliament Square, just across the road from the Houses of Parliament, to be addressed by members of the organization that had initiated the campaign. ‘Safe Passage’ helps child refugees to find safe and legal routes to sanctuary. We were also addressed by members of two Councils, Hammersmith and Fulham, and Ealing. Both Councils have already taken in a number of children and called on us to encourage our Councils to do the same.

The delegation to No. 10 was led by Lord Alf Dubs who was accompanied to the door of the Prime Minister’s residence by members of Safe Passage and some migrant children while the rest of us stood in solidarity by the gates outside.

It was a moving event as we stood together and reflected on this crisis involving children, victims of a problem they had not contributed to in any way.

Sr Patricia Byrne at the #OurTurn campaign gathering

A Joyful start to the Advent Season

Sr Angela Murphy relates the experience of attending an Advent service at the Jesuit Church in Farm St, London, organized by the Jesuit Refugee Service.

“On the 3rd December 2018 Sisters Helena, Angela and Barbara attended a ‘Joyful Start to the Advent Season’ at Farm Street Jesuit Church. The service was organized by the Jesuit Refugee Service. The readings which included both traditional scripture and poetry, were read by volunteers and Refugees gave us much to reflect upon.

The Service was led by Fr. Damian Howard SJ who encouraged us to think about those who live far from home, missing their loved ones. His homily identified the wisdom of Refugees, who uniquely have the experience to understand what is needed to bring reconciliation in the “complexity and grime of the human world”. He concluded “May you welcome the God of Refugee wisdom into your home this Christmas, may you sense His presence anew, inviting you into saving companionship”.

Highlights of the service were performances by the JRS Refugee Drama Group who were supported by Rise Theatre as they performed ‘The Christmas Goose’. This play tells the story of a husband and wife, the wife knows and loves Jesus the husband cannot understand how God could come on earth as a man. As the migrant Geese, the actors gave witness to their experience of trying to seek sanctuary: The system (Home Office) is designed to create chaos, to kick you when you are down. One of our Refugee friends who has been coming to the JRS centre for about a year, was preforming with the Gospel Choir, he said of his involvement, “It helps to counter the crushing sense of isolation that many of our friends experience, it rejuvenates the mind and soul, it encourages our friends to face life’s challenges”.”

Photos Credit: JRS UK/Jesuits in Britain’.

Jesus Our Teacher – Centenary Year of Education (Scotland) Act 1918

Our sisters in Airdrie tell the story of Catholic Education in Scotland and the celebrations for the centenary of formal recognition of Catholic schools in Scotland one hundred years ago:

This Act of 1918 brought pre-existing and future Catholic schools into the public provision education. This historic legislation qualified Catholic schools for public funding and opened the door to much more extensive access to Catholic education. Since then Catholic schools have flourished amazingly. They have demonstrated time and again that they are much valued and very popular centres of educational excellence, with many pupils achieving academic and personal success. The slogan adopted for the 2018 Centenary is ‘Catholic schools – good for Scotland’.

Srs. Mary McKeon and Agnes Morgan attended the Mass to celebrate this milestone in Motherwell Cathedral which was concelebrated by Bishop Toal and many priests of the Diocese.

In addition to the above celebrations the Diocese of Motherwell has launched an Ambassadors programme to support and mentor those entering the teaching profession. Also, visitors to the Cathedral in our Diocese will be able to get guided tours from local pupils who will explain the history of their Mother Church.

An icon, JESUS OUR TEACHER, was commissioned to tell the history of Catholic Education in Scotland. The story of the Icon of Jesus Our Teacher has been brought to life through a specially commissioned drama. The artist, Bernadette Reilly, presented the finished Icon to the Bishops of Scotland in November 2017. It has been on pilgrimage across the Diocese since January 2018 and the sisters in the Airdrie community were very happy that their parish hosted this beautiful Icon in celebrating the passing of the Act one hundred years ago.