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.

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