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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 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.
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.”
“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.”
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!”
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.
There was great excitement here at St. Joseph’s Convent in Hackney on 6th June because we were celebrating the fact that Mary Aikenhead started her journey in giving her whole life to God in Religious Life. She was aged twenty-five when she joined the group entitled ‘The Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary’ known more widely as ‘The Bar Convent’ because of its proximity to Micklegate Bar in York. The year was 1812. Her friend Catherine Walsh accompanied her.
We had planned how we might celebrate this important event the week before at our community meeting. We decided on having a barbecue in our courtyard which is beautifully laid out with raised flower beds and slender trees such as the gracious Silver Birch. Everyone in the house was to be invited including the staff.
The person who cooks for us rose to the challenge while Sr Angela oversaw the myriad of practical jobs that needed to be attended to in the garden, setting up of tables and chairs, positioning of umbrellas, distribution of crockery, cutlery etc, etc. All members of the community took part willingly in the preparations and there was a real sense of teamwork. Everything was prepared quickly and without fuss.
We need not have worried about the weather. It was a glorious day, nearly too hot. Some of the older sisters were protected from the strong sun by colourful sunshades. The main table was laden with food tastefully set out. It was a real work of art to see, satisfying even to the sight not to mention the palate. There was food to suit everyone’s taste from chicken legs to burgers, to spare-ribs. A great variety of vegetables accompanied this comprising colourful salad dishes with vibrant red beetroot juxtaposed with bright green lettuce and yellow peppers. Of course, we could not have a balanced meal without the humble potato which was of the
small, new variety.
Each dish was accompanied with its appropriate sauce. It was all so pleasing to look at. No wonder everyone was happy including the staff who comprised carers and support staff. About twenty people celebrated altogether. No doubt Mary Aikenhead would have approved of our big get together which was a most enjoyable day for all, sisters and staff alike. In the evening we joined with all our sisters throughout the world as we recited the Evening Prayer together, the form of which had been devised by Sr. Brigid Kelly. Our final hymn and prayer of the day was most appropriate: ‘We Glorify the Lord by our Lives’. We pray that we may continue to do so.
Mother Mary Aikenhead pray for us!
As we grow in our understanding of the nature and scope of human trafficking we become more aware of its different aspects and are in a better position to challenge it on its various fronts. One aspect that is being better understood is the supply chains companies use for production of their goods. Most products have several aspects of production involving materials which may come from different parts and are gathered or made by people, these then become parts which are produced by more people and finally put together by yet more people (imagine a garment or a car). The people that are engaged to work in production are often grossly underpaid or not paid at all. We call this slave labour. So, looking at supply chains and ensuring that they are slave-free is both a necessary and extremely complex process, even for companies themselves as their supply often comes from countries far away such as Bangladesh, the Philippines, Thailand, etc.
‘Plant Flowers, Root Out Slavery’ is a campaign which has been running since the beginning of June. It found practical expression when, during the famous annual Chelsea Flower Show, several people campaigned outside the flower show to raise awareness among those attending that the principle sponsors of the show M&G Investments, are major shareholders in a company which is being challenged for its use of slave labour. People interviewed were surprised that this company was at once accepting the fruits of slave labour while at the same time sponsoring such a wonderful event.
Since the Modern Slavery Bill was passed in 2015 the UK Government has worked hard to comprehend and address the crime of modern slavery. One of the ways that it is doing this is by making UK companies accountable for their supply chains. 10,000 of the top companies, initially, are being required to state publicly that their supply chains are slave free. So far only 3000 have responded but this is a legally binding requirement which the others will have to respond to eventually. One only hopes that the delay in their response is due to them ensuring that the supply chains are slave free or that they are taking steps to rectify any inconsistency.
This is a time too when we might ask ourselves about the supply chain to our wardrobe or our fridge. A good way to start would be to look at the labels on our clothes, where were they made? Is it possible that my top which was made in Bangladesh was contributed to on its journey to completion by persons who were enslaved? It is time we all became involved in challenging companies who endorse or collude with slave labour.
Patricia Byrne rsc
Logo and pictures by kind permission of Freedom United
Help stop profits from slavery in Eritrea
Our chapel in St Joseph’s Convent, Hackney has been graced by a very special bunch of flowers. The flowers were delivered on 20th May to St Joseph’s Hospice from St George’s chapel in Windsor Castle where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex) were married the day before. Each patient was presented with a bouquet of flowers specially prepared for them by the Castle staff and there were some also for the Hospice chapel and for the convent.
The wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan was an amazing event. As Harry is 6th in line to the throne now the Wedding took place in the quietness of St George’s Chapel and not at Westminster Abbey where the wedding of a more senior royal would occur. Although I say ‘quiet’ it was anything but quiet, it was a national event which was watched by nearly 14 million people in the UK and by over a billion worldwide. It was celebrated with street parties all over the country and thousands lined the streets around Windsor Castle in the hope of getting a glimpse of the couple. The wedding day was blessed with perfect weather.
This wedding had a character of its own. The bride did not have adult attendants, but children acted as bridesmaids. The six bridesmaids were between the ages of 2 and 7! And they carried off their duties wonderfully. In all there were 10 bridesmaids and pageboys following Meghan down the aisle. Another characteristic of this wedding was the gospel choir which sang ‘Stand by me’ this and other elements in the service, the sermon by an American Episcopalian bishop, for example honored Meghan’s African American heritage.
Prince Harry is very popular in the country and the nation seems to have taken his bride to its heart. Meghan has brought a freshness and vitality to the Royal family. She has been described as having a keen awareness of social issues and is especially interested in women’s’ issues. Harry also is socially minded and together they promise to be a great force for good on the world stage.
Here at St Joseph’s Convent the sisters gathered in a party spirit and surrounded by bunting and flags to watch the wedding and all that went before and after. They described the experience as ‘wonderful’. Receiving the flowers the following day was icing on the cake because they provided a very tangible connection to this marvelous event.
Carolyne is a member of staff at St Joseph’s Hospice and a friend of the community. She is also a photographer who has a passion for photographing mini creatures. She goes to great lengths to catch them at their best, going out very early in the morning and lying on the grass for long periods of time, to name but a few of her tactics. She has kindly agreed to share some of her images with us. You can tell from her descriptions how lovingly she observes and records these marvelous creatures.
“When I was a young child my dad taught me all the names of the birds and their song. When the Blackbird sings its evening song, my dad is there with me. Similarly my mum used to let me run free in the garden where I would check under each stone to see what creature was living there. These happy days were the foundation for my love of nature especially nature that is often hidden from sight, the creatures of the grass and leaves.
Being able to photograph the natural world brings me great joy especially when the stresses and strains of life seem overpowering. I began taking photographs later in life quite by accident when a friend inspired me through her work and creativity. I always carry a camera when out walking and spend most of my free time out in the local park or the wider countryside.
In my day job I work in a hospice which is a privilege and being a nature photographer has allowed me to bring the outside world in to my patients who very often can no longer go out. I am often asked to bring my pictures in for the patients to see and enjoy. To be able to bring God’s wonderful creation into their lives has given my work greater meaning.
Getting up before sunrise is the best time of the day to capture the magic. To be alone out in the field or forest with only the morning mist, the birds and insects for company is bliss. It is at this time that most creatures of the grass are still asleep and still which makes it easier to take their photos. My favourite creatures are Damselflies, Dragonflies and Ladybirds. They captivate me every time I see them. I could watch them for hours. Here are some of the photographs that I have taken whilst on my travels. I hope that you enjoy them.”
Carolyne Barber 2018
Another Team Building Day to the Mary Aikenhead Heritage Centre, Dublin, was organised by Sr. Catherine Egan on the 28th November 2017. This follows a series of such days built up over the past number of years. It is one of the highlights in the year for Staff from all departments – Nursing, Catering, Fund Raising, Reception, Household and on other occasions Medical staff.
The day began with an early flight from Glasgow by Ryanair.
There was a warm welcome from Sr.Mary Roche at Harold’s Cross Heritage Centre. Following a cuppa Mary proceeded to introduce the staff to the history of the Congregation.
The audio-visual story of Mary Aikenhead from her childhood to her last days in Harold’s Cross made a deep impression on everybody. As almost all the staff were themselves Scottish born they were delighted to follow the history. This was followed by a visit to Mary’s own rooms where she lived, worked, prayed and planned for the Congregation.
Following lunch in the restaurant the group requested a visit to the new Palliative Unit. The staff from St Andrew’s were delighted to be shown around as they are in the process of doing likewise in Airdrie. On the way through this new unit the group met a Volunteer who was very familiar with the many corridors in Palliative Care and kindly led them through. This volunteer managed to bring them into a bedroom (whose occupant was taking a walk on the corridor) and explained how all the new equipment works. He also told how Prince Charles had visited Palliative Care last summer whilst on one of his private visits when in Ireland.
The Staff were enthralled by the experience and it was a great opportunity for them – away from their own environment and particular work – to meet with colleagues from other departments of St Andrew’s hospice.
All were so grateful for a wonderful day in Dublin organised for them by Sisters Mary Roche and Catherine Egan. As one of those who made the visit, (Andrew Flynn – Schools and Colleges Co-Ordinator) said:
“The trip to the Heritage Centre was an amazing experience and it gave us all an insight into the history of the Sisters of Charity and how our own Hospice came to be. It is quite humbling to be part of something that started 200 years ago when Mary Aikenhead and a few like-minded people created something that at the time was to help the poor of Dublin and has evolved to help countless people all over the world. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to make us all feel welcome and to give us a truly unique experience”.
Cardinal Vincent Nichols came to St Joseph’s Hospice to celebrate Mass in honour of Mother Mary Aikenhead and to bless the new Heritage Space which had been created in the Reception area of the Hospice.
The celebration of Mass at which Cardinal Nichols presided was informal. The informality was especially noticeable in his homily which he delivered standing almost amongst the congregation. He spoke without notes and without hesitation as he told of the effect that the gospel account of the parable Lazarus and Dives had on the young Mary Aikenhead. It is thanks to the gift of the grace God gave to Mary Aikenhead then that we are here today for without the gospel and Mary Aikenhead there would be no hospice. He went on to say that we cannot separate the past, present and future. We are in a living stream that flows onwards. If Mary Aikenhead was here today she would insist upon the same openness which, for the past 113 years the hospice has shown in welcoming everyone. It is in the spirit of Mary Aikenhead that it is need alone that is the criterion for admission to the hospice.
The Cardinal concluded by saying that Mary Aikenhead had two basic convictions, the dignity of every human person and a special love for the poor. And so, he said, we give thanks to God and pray that this spirit will be kept alive and we ask God to bless this special place day by day”.
In the spirit of informality which continued, at the end of the Mass Cardinal Nichols received from Fr Peter, the hospice chaplain, a Hospice bag containing a host of hospice paraphernalia, a hospice pen, pencil, lanyard, mug etc. Fr Peter suggested to the Cardinal that when he goes to important meetings he should replace the lanyard he’s given with the one from the hospice.
After a photograph had been taken in the chapel of the Cardinal and the Sisters of Charity present everyone was invited to attend the blessing of the Heritage Space. And so a large number of people followed the Cardinal down to the Reception area where the blessing was to take place. While we stood and waited for the blessing to conclude and formal photographs to be taken it was clear that many of the attendees were anxious to get a closer look at the detail of the Heritage Space which contained the photographs of well-loved faces. Then before moving upstairs to the Education Centre to partake of a scrumptious buffet laid out to celebrate this important event, many took the opportunity to stand and look and point and discuss the content of the Space.
This Heritage Space records the Congregation’s presence in the hospice from the beginning and the values which underpin everything that is done in St Joseph’s, and the contribution which others have made towards the up – building of the hospice and hospice care over more than a century.
Mass for Sr. Mary Murphy RSC. R.I.P.
On Monday 6th November 2017, 32 past pupils of St. Winifred’s School, gathered in St. Werburgh’s Church Birkenhead, for midday Mass to celebrate the life of Sister Mary Murphy R.I.P. who had been their Headmistress for many years. They had wanted to remember and give thanks for Sr. Mary who had died last May. Canon Hoban who had been the School Chaplain in Sr. Mary’s time, celebrated the Mass and spoke of the memories he had of Sister. He said that she had contributed greatly to education in Birkenhead. The music was provided by Fr. Ray Burke, Parish Priest, who is a gifted musician.
Two of the pupils had come to the Convent the previous week and put together a short Tribute, and some Prayers of Intercession.
One of the past pupils read a tribute and another did the Prayers of Intercession.
In the Tribute they said:
“Today we are gathered to give thanks for the years Sister Mary spent here in Birkenhead, as Headmistress of St. Winifred’s Girls School, Prenton. We, who are past pupils, all have different memories of our time at St. Winifred’s, and we will have an opportunity to share these later in the Hall over a cup of tea. Also on the Staff at that time were Sister Agnes and Sister Monica both also deceased R.I.P”
As well as other Parishioners, Sr. Frances and Sr. Teresa, Sr. Mary Brennan and Sr. Brigid were present.
After Mass refreshments were served in the adjoining Parish Hall, all of which had been prepared by three of the past pupils. It was a time of great re-unions. Leaflets of Venerable Mary Aikenhead were distributed to all so the Charism of the Religious Sisters of Charity continues to spread.