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Life at grass roots

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

Visit to Mary Aikenhead Heritage Centre by Staff of St Andrew’s Hospice, Airdrie

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”.

Mary Aikenhead, the Cardinal and the Heritage Space

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.

Remembering a Loved Teacher

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.

The photo below is of those who prepared the food and the Hall

A Reunion

Between 1951 and 1961, 500,000 Irish people emigrated to the UK. The challenges that faced many of the immigrants gave rise to a network of support which came about largely through the initiative of the Oblate Fathers. They set up Welfare Centres in some of the major cites and Sisters in the Province worked with them.

One such place was the IWIC (Irish Welfare and Information Centre) in Birmingham where Sr Teresa Harmon worked alongside Fr Joe Taaffe in serving the Irish community. Earlier Sr Carmel McGowan and Sr Anne Carmel worked with the Irish Community. Out of these initiatives came others and one of these was the Family Housing Association in Birmingham. Among their works was a hostel for homeless Irish men. This closed later due to there being no longer a need and was used by the Family Housing Association for other purposes. The Irish Welfare still occupied some of the building too as accommodation for the Director of Plunket House and staff offices.

Having the Family Housing Association on the premises was a great help as at that time (early 80s) many families were coming to Birmingham from the North of Ireland to escape the Troubles there and needed accommodation. Mr Erik Pearce was the Director of FHA and arranged flats when requested by Irish Welfare.

The Salvation Army Hostel was opposite Plunket House and when a flat became available we were able to furnish it from the Salvation Army. It was a great example of cooperation.

Sr Teresa Harmon writes: “After all these years it was a pleasant surprise to receive from Mr Pearce an invitation to a Reunion in November of this year to be held in the Grimshaw Rooms, Saint Chad’s R C Cathedral, Birmingham to take place on the 18th. Sister Mary Teresa and I travelled by train to New Street the main Birmingham Station which has become part of the famous Bull Ring and to me an even bigger surprise was to find trams outside the station which would take us to Saint Chad’s. It certainly was a comfortable way to avoid the city centre and on arriving at the Grimshaw Rooms we were met and warmly welcomed by Mr Pearce. The Archbishop of Birmingham, Most Reverend Bernard Longley joined the group for an opening prayer and welcome after which there was a shared table as everyone attending was asked to bring something for lunch. As we shared lunch, enjoying a wide variety of savouries and desserts we chatted about ‘old times’. It was nearly thirty years since I left Birmingham so I found it greatly changed place but very enjoyable to be back. It was a pleasant afternoon.”

An Advent Prayer from Prison & A Prisoner’s Thoughts at Christmas

An Advent Prayer from Prison

I pray for the world and its people
That people will live in peace everywhere.
I pray for my family and friends
That they may remain happy and safe.
My prayer is also for my enemies
That they may understand me and forgive.
I pray for the Catholic Church
For our Pope and all in ministry.
My prayers are for all those in pain and also
I remember the homeless, the poor and old.
May they all benefit from this time of Advent.
My prayers also include all those who are without loved ones
this year, that they will be comforted
In the knowledge that the Lord looks after our departed.

Whilst we wait for the Birth of Our Lord,
We pray for forgiveness.
May our lives be touched and made better in this Advent and let the
joy of the Birth of Christ overshadow all sadness.

May we all rejoice in the Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ
And the hope he brings to all. AMEN!

A Prisoner’s Thoughts at Christmas

Christmas is a time for new beginnings brought about by the birth of our Blessed Lord. It is a time for us to reflect on the year past and to look back on what we have or have not done in our lives. Could we have done some things better? Can we put things right? Should we have done some things at all?

Christmas is a time for forgiveness and mercy, to show others that we care and to show love to each other.
We are separated from our families and friends at a time that is devoted to family unity. Just as the birth of Jesus created the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph so Christmas is a time when families come together and the whole world feels united.

Do not be sad this Christmastide, but rejoice in the knowledge that we are closer to our families than at any other time, we are with them spiritually through our faith. They will feel our presence over the Christmas period and that will be stronger than at any other time.

As at Christmas we are all bound together by our Catholic Faith, let us all look to the coming year with great hope and joy.
Rejoice, the Lord is coming
Our sins are washed away,
Our Lives renewed! AMEN!
By kind permission.

Pause for Hope

For the past 20 years a Pause for Hope service has taken place at Liverpool Cathedral. Many people have been involved in the making. An organising committee with representatives of cancer charities and organisations in Merseyside such as, Marie Curie Cancer Care, Macmillan Cancer Support, The Linda McCartney Centre, Clatterbridge Centre for Oncology, Jospice International, The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, The Lily Centre, The Lyndale Centre plan and prepare the Services. Similar groups have been established in Manchester, based at the University chaplaincy, and in Chester where the local hospitals and hospices support the services.

This year services also took place at St Chads, Birmingham, Motherwell Cathedral and St Mirin’s, Paisley as well as services tailored to local needs and facilities, in parish churches in different parts of the UK and the Isle of Man.

This service at the Cathedral in Liverpool was attended by families living with cancer and those who had lost loved ones from the disease.
Bishop Tom Williams, the auxiliary bishop of Liverpool, led the Service. Also present were representatives of various denominations, the Lord Mayor of Liverpool and other civic dignitaries.

After the Opening Prayer a very moving part of the service took place when candles were lit by members of the congregation for someone with cancer or in memory of a person lost to cancer, during which the choir provided an emotional accompaniment. This prayer, which was composed by Mgr Peter Cookson was used during the the lighting of candles.

Dear God, our loving Father,
The candles we have lit represent each and every one of us
whose lives have been touched and changed forever by cancer.
Their light also reminds us of Jesus Christ, your Son,
who is the Light of the World
and the light in our darkness.
Give us, we pray, comfort in our anxiety and fear,
courage and strength in our suffering,
patience and compassion in our caring,
consolation in our grieving;
But above all give us hope
Now and always,
through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

In the Service children figured prominently with singing, dancing and reading of Bidding Prayers.

A very poignant moment occurred when a poem was read which had been composed by a cancer sufferer who was unable to attend due to her illness. The poem was read on her behalf.

Joe Maguire Consultant Clinical Oncologist at Clatterbridge hospital gave a reflection on the part Hope plays in enabling people to live with cancer.
The beautiful Cathedral bells rang out at the beginning and end of the service first inviting and then sending the congregation on its way as they too filled the atmosphere with a rich note announcing hope.

Professor Ray Donnelly, the founder of the initiative, has stressed that prayer is a very powerful instrument in coming to terms with cancer, treating it and, eventually, finding a cure. “Through prayer we learn to accept, and even to love, his will for us and can face, with a calm peace, the trials and tribulations that we will meet as we deal with our diagnosis, treatment and results. It is consoling and of great merit to unite our sufferings to those of Christ on the Cross and to offer them for ourselves, our families or whatever intention we may have.”
Sr. Frances Pollard

Roman Catholic Prison Chaplains Conference

Sr Patricia Byrne recently participated in the Catholic Chaplain’s Conference in the UK which takes place every year. Here Patricia tells us about the conference and what impacted on her.

“The title of this piece ‘Roman Catholic Prison Chaplains Conference’ hardly conjures up images of hilarity. Indeed, it was a sober enough experience but for all that I would describe it as an enriching and encouraging one.

The annual Conference took place at St Mary’s University, Twickenham in the suburbs of London. In all about 80 chaplains were present. It was a very busy time packed with lots to do and absorb as meeting many colleagues and receiving much information took place.

The conference lasted for two days. It began on the Tuesday after lunch, 5th September and finished at lunchtime on 7th and every moment was taken up. There were various aspects to the conference which included Prayer times – these consisted of Mass, morning and night prayer, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction, then there was a period where we were introduced to new resources produced by Catholic publishers and chaplains who produced a book or course to respond to a need within the penal system. A morning was facilitated to help us to identify and value what we bring to our ministry and to explore the opportunities to further our own skills. We spent a lot of time sharing about our strengths and weaknesses as well as contributing to building up pictures of the many aspects of our role throughout the prison system. This was a very positive experience because it enabled each one to engage with several other chaplains and so build up relationships with colleagues working in the same ministry.

We were encouraged to engage with on-line courses especially those made available by chaplaincy headquarters for chaplains specifically.

We got some really good input too. One of the two talks that most impacted on me was from a woman called Dr Pia Matthews entitled ‘Issues arising from the Synod on the Family and Prisons’. This was an account of her time in Rome during the Synod on the Family from the time she was appointed by the Pope to attend as an expert to the time she completed this task. It was important to hear that because every chaplain has a concern for the family of the prisoner and when families become involved with chaplaincy every chaplain will do their best to assist them in their struggle with their relative being in prison.

The second talk was given by the lead chaplain and it was entitled ‘The Man of Sorrows and the Dignity of the Prisoner’. He made a comparison between Jesus, the Man of Sorrows and the often despairing, isolated and disempowered person in prison. He introduced us to a picture of the Man of Sorrows in which he said we can often see a likeness in prisoners. This talk, which brought the conference to a close was a perfect finish as we were left with an image to take with us to our ministries, of the Man of Sorrows and the many men of sorrows who abide in our prisons.”


Hackney Carnival 2017

Sr Nuala McGinley writes about the Hackney Carnival 2017 that saw 30,000 people line the streets between Hackney Town Hall and Regent’s Canal and where the first ever Carnival Elders bus, organised by St Joseph’s Hospice, made an appearance.

Sunday 10th September marked the day for celebrating difference in Hackney. We celebrated different countries, different colours, different cultures. There was spectacular colour, imaginative designs and unbelievable energy displayed by all who took part. It was a real showstopper, brightening the borough’s streets like a ray of tropical sunshine. For the first time St. Joseph’s Hospice took part. A beautifully decorated bus full of people, mainly elderly, travelled on an open-top bus to the Town Hall. Everyone entered into the fun. It was wonderful to see many of these otherwise lonely people having such enjoyment. They rose to the atmosphere of the occasion and had their faces painted and their hair coloured. Our bus was the second float of twenty three. We had pride of place as we were positioned right opposite the Town Hall. The costumes were fabulous. Many of them depicted flowers of every hue from daffodils to orchids, from daisies to sunflowers. It was so beautiful, really marvellous to behold. The dance routines were extraordinary as the dancers kept a steady rhythm in time to their particular drum beat. What I found really amazing was the dancers on stilts some of them as tall as ten feet. Gyrating did not seem to bother them much. It truly was breath-taking.

Along the way there was a minute’s silence to honour those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire and those affected by recent hurricanes in the Caribbean. Most of the people taking part are of West Indian origin. It was really heartening to see how the people of Hackney supported and appreciated all the hard work that had gone into organising such an outstanding display of human solidarity and friendship. It was great. I was particularly impressed by the numbers of families who came out and lined the streets. Thirty thousand people attended. There were young children wearing brightly coloured outfits in keeping with the occasion, many of them waving flags. There was a wonderfully joyous atmosphere with many teenagers enjoying the fun. The camaraderie was palpable. I was so happy to experience so many teenagers enjoying one another’s company in love and peace. It was a big change from hearing of young people killing each other with knives as we have heard so often in the Hackney area in recent times. May this peace continue!

The weather held up quite well until the last float had performed and displayed their unique style of dress and dance. As we drove towards Ridley Road, drizzly rain started. Those who had been in the open area on top of our bus, quickly moved either down to the lower deck or to the covered area on top. When the procession ended, the carnival atmosphere continued with a finale in Ridley Road where live music was played, D.J.s performed and a host of food stalls were set up till 8pm. They say Hackney massive carnival event which is funded by the Council and organised by its culture team together with local carnival groups was the best ever this year.

Gathering In

Over most of the past year we have been discerning together as a Province about our future viability. During that time, we have been praying a prayer of Discernment:

‘Father, it is you who invites us into the future. Everything is in your hands, time, circumstances, all that is, our whole lives and what they have yet to become. As we deliberate on our future as a Congregation and Province guide us along the right path, reveal to us all that we need to know and consider. Encourage us and fill us with hope. In all of our deliberations remind us that you go before us and that you are a God of Mystery, Surprise and Transformation.
We make this prayer in Jesus’ name. Amen’

To further share the fruits of our discerning and to gather in the harvest of those months we met as a Province in May, in Clydebank, for two days.

Each morning we began with an opening prayer. This was set around the account of the encounter with Jesus at Emmaus, as we were still in the season of Eastertide. It raised the questions: What things make us sad on our journey? What were we hoping?

After the prayer, we settled into a series of sessions which lasted the day. Over the two days we looked at our houses, past and present, our ministries and how they have developed, we recapped on our experiences, acknowledged change and its consequences and, in the light of all of that, envisioned the future.

We enjoy getting together and it appears that this time was special as Sisters expressed they found a level of honesty, openness and sharing deeper than before. There was a sense of ownership of our future together as we discussed possibilities and possible changes to facilitate the viability of the Province into the future.




At the end of the second day, after what had been a very intense, spiritual and prayerful couple of days together, the Sisters enjoyed a trip to Loch Lomond Shores, which is a beautiful shopping mall on the banks of the Loch. We all travelled by coach together down to Loch Lomond and then came back to Clydebank enjoying the scenery of Helensburgh and a lovely supper in the restaurant at St Margaret’s.