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“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’.http://www.jrsuk.net/

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.

Creation Time Reflections

During Creation Time the sisters in the English/Scottish Province reflected on the book ‘Finding God In A Leaf’ by Fr Brian Grogan SJ.

One sister wrote, “Here are my favorite passages in the book:
‘Everything in nature is a love-note from God……..the great lover who chooses to convey boundless affection for us. Sky, light, clouds, living things – the delicacy of the flower….these are the caresses of God.’ (page 19)
The cosmos is the monstrance of God. Everything exists in the womb of divine being.’ (p27)
I like the idea of ‘…the seamless garment of God’s Creation…’ (p17). Pope Francis says: ‘It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet.’ (LS9)

The Leaf
The humble leaf attracted much attention during reflection times and some sisters wrote:
“Finding God in a Leaf’ makes me appreciate LEAVES and the important role they play in nature. ‘Leaves are small but well-organised living factories ‘ “ (p14)

Another sister who routinely sweeps up a multitude of leaves around the house each Autumn reflected on “A messy pile of autumn leaves is a divine mystery before being a problem to be swept up.”(p24) She writes that this Autumn she was less burdened by the task and memories arose of how as a child on her way to and from school she and her friends would enjoy walking through the fallen leaves and catching their fragrance.

Another spoke of reflecting on a leaf and how it had become quite obvious to her that God was present in each one.
A sister said that as leaves cling to the branch so do we to Christ and through him we are connected to each other and to all creation.

Tiniest Things
A sister wrote: “When Jesus said of Creation ‘Look, behold!’ I never thought he was speaking about the tiniest things”. ‘God has written a precious book, whose letters are the multitude of created things present in the universe. No creature is excluded from this manifestation of God: from panoramic vistas to the tiniest living form.’” (LS 85)

While discussing Creation Time one sister said in passing: “There was a small spider in my shower and he seemed lost so I showed him the way out.”

The Passion of Sister Earth Today (p48)
The adverse effects on Creation was noted by a sister:
“Reading this reflection reminded me of a recent programme on BBC called
‘Drowning in Plastic’, the damage being done to sea creatures especially and another programme called ‘Fashions Dirty Secrets’ which told of the effects of the fashion industry on the environment, drying up rivers and putting chemicals in the water and the effects on the poor families living by the rivers and lakes.”

Airdrie convent chapel display for Creation Time

“Through using the reflections from the booklet ‘Finding God in a Leaf ‘ I was brought to the realisation of how much I take creation for granted. That in pausing, looking and hearing the splendour of God’s creation around me, I am made aware of how I am one with it all. God loves me and all His creation as ONE. Therefore, I have a big responsibility of caring for creation.”

“Since reading about the season of creation Sisters’ (on the care floor, Hackney) have had dreams and thoughts about the planet. It has created a new awareness of the earth and in concrete terms in remembering how lovely it was to be in a garden and growing plants.”

God in all that exists
“I also found the little booklet, ‘Finding God in a Leaf’ very inspiring and could well be used as a gospel-like companion. My greatest awakening from it was ‘So God is to be found in computers, in trucks, cars and roads, in soaring buildings and tiny hovels’ and the list goes on. “Note that in terms of ‘nature’ and ‘creation’ we include all that exists…..what is manmade too’” (page 13).

Sharing Creation Time with others:
“The Book about Creation time-Finding God in a Leaf, I used daily and found it a real source for prayer.
I was giving a short reflection to the Parish Ladies Group for their September Monthly Meeting. That particular evening we were thinking about Water, and the gift it is to us all. We looked at a short DVD from Cafod, about parts of our world where there is practically no clean drinking water. We then moved into our little Chapel, and I read to the group from page 20-21 of ‘Finding God in a Leaf’ which is about the Holy Spirit in the work of Creation. We had a time of quiet prayer and then listened to the hymn: “Come to the Well”- by Bernadette Farrell.
There is so much we could use in relation to Creation in this Book.”

The Eucharist and the Universe
“ There were many things I loved about this book, this is one: ‘The Eucharist is embedded in cosmic history, it stretches all the way back to the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago.’ The writer goes on to explain by offering an image: ‘if you want to make an apple pie from scratch you must first invent the universe…..flour is needed which requires wheat and milling equipment – metal, farms, soil, minerals, farming skills, seeds, likewise for apples- and don’t forget the bees. You will need to organize the climate, throw in the sun, clouds, rain and seasons. Invent electricity, add water, a few cloves and sugar. To truly say it was I who made the pie you’ll have to make the primary elements, which you’d sweep up from dead stars. And don’t forget to create a dynamic order so everything happens at the right time and dovetails with everything else! Now imagine what has to go in to the making of the ingredients of the Eucharist. How true it is to say that the Eucharist embraces all of creation (in all time).’” (p 31)

“May our struggles and our concern for this planet never take away the joy of our hope.”

A welcome frequent visitor to Clydebank Convent

A Day Out to the Heritage Centre, Harold’s Cross

Six members of staff of St Joseph’s Convent together with Sr Jacqueline Doherty spent a wonderful day, Tuesday 16th October, visiting the Mary Aikenhead Heritage Centre in Dublin. The group tells all:
“We felt very privileged to be part of the Mary Aikenhead story. We were warmly welcomed when we arrived at the Heritage Centre by Sr Helen and Sr Agnes Rose – starting with a welcome cup of Barry’s tea and barnbrack.

The diorama story of Mary Aikenhead as a child and then through the history of how the Congregation started, was truly inspiring. From there we went to where Mary Aikenhead spent the last years of her life and where she wrote her letters encouraging her budding congregation. We loved that area, her table, chair, bed, bath-chair, cloak and rosary beads – wonderful!

After an enjoyable lunch in good company we were shown the chapel – so peaceful, beautiful, the altar area depicting the Washing of The Feet, bought by Mary Aikenhead with a generous donation she received.

Later, we were shown the new palliative care unit, immaculate, spacious grounds, wonderfully designed with a lovely still atmosphere. We were unable to see the Anna Gaynor unit, a hundred bed unit for the care of older people, on that particular day.

On our way out we prayed at Our Lady’s Grotto – as we said goodbye we felt like we wanted to take it all back with us!
Then we hit the road to Dublin City Centre – O’Connell, Henry St, Grafton St and, finally, Dunnes Stores.

We finished the day at the airport with a traditional glass of Irish Guinness. Altogether an unforgettable experience!”

Advocate – Serve – Accompany: Refugee Week

Sr Angela Murphy reflects on her ministry at the Jesuit Refugee Day Centre in Wapping. The Centre aims to provide a safe and welcoming space where a personal welcome and appreciation of each person is a priority. Refugee Week, celebrated from 18-24 June was marked by several special events.

“The past week has been a special one for Staff, Refugees and Volunteers at the Centre. It has given our refugee friends a chance to speak out and celebrate the many gifts they have to contribute to society. During the week they showed their appreciation at some events to celebrate Refugee Week and we went along to support them.

Wallace Museum: The Wallace Museum has one of the finest collections of French Art in Europe. The museum supports people who are refugees by training them to become Community Ambassador Tour Guides. Some of our friends from the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) have become Guides. We availed of the expertise of our friends when we visited the museum. Each talk was given by a different member of the Community Ambassador Team from JRS. It was interesting to see through the eyes of the Guides the objects collected by Sir. Richard Wallace and to experience first-hand the contribution our friends are making to their new home.

Heythrop Conference: Refugee Stories, Changing the Narrative: This conference was a collaboration between Heythrop College and the Jesuit Refugee Service. It is a response to one of the aims of Refugee Week, “to spread the word and reshape the conversation.”
During the Conference three of our friends were given a slot called, Refugee stories: Changing the Narrative. We were delighted to hear Josie who stole the show, some were moved to tears as she shared her experiences.

JRS Gospel Choir: The Joy of the Gospel: A Gospel Choir Workshop. Following their huge debut success at Christmas, the JRS Refugee choir were back raising their voices and spirits on Saturday when we came together to sing, to learn and to share food. The Refugee Gospel Choir is one of the many activities JRS facilitates alongside the Day Centre. One of the choir members said “The first time I preformed I was nervous. I’m a good singer but not very confident. Before I would never put myself forward but now if there is a solo I will volunteer to give it a try. The choir has helped me a lot”. It provides a respite from the often uncertain lives of our refugee friends.

A visit to the British Red Cross: Some of our friends also attend the centre run by the British Red Cross. They had open house last Wednesday so a few of us paid a visit. We received a big welcome. Then we enjoyed looking at the art on display there created by our friends which was very interesting and colourful and which often told their stories.
The chef was busy preparing food and carving (yes, carving!) fruit; his display was wonderful, so creative. The women’s choir sang for us. When the food was ready we were invited to go outside into the sunshine where the food was served. A great day was had by all.

It has been a brilliant week which brought us together in a different way and hopefully has helped to change the narrative.