Bi-centenary Celebrations – Hampton Court
As part of our Bi-centenary celebrations in the English/Scottish Province we marked the occasion with two outings, one in Scotland and the other in London, to enable as many Sisters as possible to come together and celebrate this wonderful occasion. One outing brought a group to Hampton Court Palace and Gardens in London and the other was a tour of the Scottish Highlands. Some sisters have written about their experience of the days.
We began our Province Celebration on the 23rd May with a liturgy which reminded us to be cheerful in living out our call as Religious women. We needed to show the Joyful face which radiated the fact we were following a Risen Lord not on our way to Calvary!
At 11 am the coach left Hackney and took us on our journey to Hampton Court. It was a journey which took in many of the Historic sites of London including the Tower of London and we crossed Tower Bridge which took most of us to a part of London we were not familiar with. As it was Saturday the traffic was heavy. On the coach Sisters chatted away to friends they had not been seen or been with for some time. When we arrived in Hampton Court the coach drove through the main gates and directly in front of us was the drive to the Castle. From that moment it was as if we were somehow intertwined with another century, just thinking of all that had happened in Hampton Court and how plots were hatched to destroy the very core of the people of England so that the King could marry who he wanted. And how, because of this life in the United Kingdom was changed forever.
Here we were celebrating two hundred years of the foundation of the Sisters of Charity and thinking of how our lives had also changed through the two hundred years of our existence. It was a time to remember all the great women who had gone before us and lived in very difficult times and circumstances. Yet somehow we are all connected. Before we left the coach we were given a golden envelope and a pen. The envelope contained the wherewith was to have our lunch and afternoon tea. The pen was commemorative, it had the inscription ‘Religious Sisters of Charity 1815-2015′ and was very hi-tech with a stylus on one end a torch on the other! Once disembarked we all scattered in different directions, some going to explore the Palace while others explored the grounds. We met each other as we moved through the beautiful grounds. Some of us even took advantage of a drive in a horse drawn carriage which took us on journey through part of the extensive grounds and gardens. We had a lovely meal in one of the Café’s in the Palace which was really nice. We were fortunate the rain did not come down, although it was pretty cold sometimes.
We were picked up by the coach at 6pm and had a relaxing journey back to Hackney. We were then treated to a lovely evening meal by the Hackney Community who had been fantastic hosts for the whole week-end to those who were staying there.
We were delighted to have with us Elizabeth Slattery and Helen Cunningham who had come to join Jackie Doherty as she was celebrating her Golden Jubilee on 24th May, the next day. Although Fiona Corway, who was also a Coe, was unable to come – between the four of them they were celebrating another two hundred years – that of two hundred years of service and Consecrated life. What a great gift to the Church and the Congregation.
These events take a lot of organising and preparation and I would like to say a big thank you to the Provincial Team for organising the day and being there to enjoy it with us.
I wonder what the next hundred years will bring!
Hampton Court as enjoyed by Catherine and May
We wish to say here what the day meant for us as we attended the day in London and went to Hampton Court.
After 9am Mass in the Convent in Hackney we had a quick cuppa and were on our way to Hampton Court by coach, all 23 of us! We were given tickets to allow access to visit Hampton Court Palace and Gardens. In the Palace we were provided with head-phones so that we could easily listen to the commentary and hear the History of the Palace and extraordinary life of King Henry VIII, the king with six wives! The trip allowed us to meet with other Sisters and to leisurely explore the spacious grounds and enjoy the wild life.
We enjoyed lunch in one of the restaurants and in the afternoon more time was spent over a cup of tea.
Perhaps it was the first time that we came together just to be ‘with each other’ in a long time and there was no task to be done!
The day was relaxing and enjoyable and when we returned back to St Joseph’s Convent, Hackney at 7.30pm we were treated to a delicious meal.
I think everyone enjoyed the day and I’m sure Mary Aikenhead would have approved of the way we were spoiled to mark the Bi-Centenary.
Other sisters wrote about aspects of the day(s) that stood out for them, Sr Frances Pollard writes about an extra aspect to visiting the Palace:
“Hampton Court is built on the banks of the River Thames which is easily accessed from the Palace. King Henry VIII, the most famous of the Palace’s occupants, used the river to reach many places including the Tudor palaces at Greenwich and Westminster, to travel into the centre of London and visit places along the river’s edge. At that time, travelling by water was easier and quicker than using muddy and dangerous roads.
There were many things about the day out that I enjoyed but the one that stands out for me was my walk and sit by the river. On our day the river had quite a number of craft on it. Some motor vehicles and narrow boats were moored by the edge and people were enjoying a meal and the sun and water while other vehicles moved up and down, a sailing boat here, a kayak there. People walked or picnicked along the edge. Having just come from the Palace filled with so much history and now sitting by the river it felt as though two ages had merged. It was interesting to be there and reflect on what it must have been like to transport the King and his retinue along this very spot on the river 500 years ago. Given his personality it was most probably a frenzied affair!”
Sr Nuala McGinley writes:
The English and Scottish Province celebrated our Bi-centenary and our foundress Mary Aikenhead being made Venerable on March 18th of this year 2015 by offering every Sister a choice of one of two venues to visit. Either one could visit Hampton Court Palace or drive to the Highlands of Scotland and enjoy the many beauty spots en-route. I opted for Hampton Court. For this trip a coach was hired and twenty three Sisters availed of this opportunity. Five Sisters from Scotland were in the group as well as the Hackney community and the two Sisters from Bristol. It was a surprise and a joy for us to have Sr. Mary Christian and Sr. Patricia Lenihan with us. Sr. Rita Dawson our Provincial Leader also graced us with her presence and her generosity. She gave each Sister an unexpected gift of money to have lunch and afternoon tea and encouraged us to enjoy the day ‘royally’, which we did!