Sister Petronia is one of a group of five sisters who this year celebrate their Golden Jubilee of vows. She is involved in ministry to travelling people in Westminster Diocese, and received an anonymous gift for her jubilee: a place on the Westminster Diocesan Pilgrimage to the Holy Land! Following her visit to Cana and Nazareth, the Diocese posted this Vimeo commentary from her. There is a full blog of the whole Pilgrimage on the Diocesan Website and Sr Petronia also contributed the reflection for Day Five, on the Via Dolorosa.
Sr. Petronia (third from right in photo) is chaplain to the Travelling Community in Westminster Diocese, London. She writes: On Saturday 15th October Bishop Paul McAleenan visited a Travellers’ site in Hackney to bless a new Grotto they built. It was especially joyful, because when he was a Parish Priest in Clapton he had Baptised some of them. In the photo the man standing next to the Bishop designed the grotto and had it built. This has created a beautiful prayer space on the site, which all the Travellers can use. Then the group went on to Bow where a new site for travellers’ homes was blessed. The Travellers there had campaigned for many years to be re-sited when the Crossrail project (high-speed underground rail link that crosses London) started and their existing site was on the direct route. After a long wait, the Government finally accepted to grant them a new site.
Since the reorganisation of our Congregation in 2014, each Community is making strenuous efforts to connect with sisters across the Congregation. The sisters in the United States Community held an Assembly in July, and sisters Anastasia and Shirley went to represent the UK Community. Sr. Anastasia writes:
When I arrived I couldn’t wait to see the department where Sr. Midge and her assistant make the beautiful quilts/bags etc. Sr. Karen showed us her beautiful quilts too.
I found the Assembly very interesting, sitting among the sisters and listening to their various presentations. Many of them were amusing, they gave us many a laugh.
During the day especially at meal times I had the opportunity to share stories with the sisters to talk and laugh. Those who had been to England were able to recall their experience.
The Jubilees were a very special occasion. I found the liturgy to be very moving. The tables were beautifully decorated and a delicious meal was enjoyed by all.
One of my special times was sitting in the Healing Garden, where I had my first encounter with a Woodchuck, he was startled and so was I!
On the last two days Sisters Nancy and Joan took us to the Botanical Gardens, which reminded me of Kew Gardens.
After 57 years, Villa Maria Convent in Bognor Regis is closing. The house first opened as a convalescent home, and became a community house twenty-five years later. Now, the building is no longer suitable for the sisters and a final Mass was celebrated in the chapel for sisters and friends to mark the closing. It was a sad occasion but also one filled with hope for new places and ways in which the gift of Servite community will flourish in the future.
The community at St Mary's, Tottenham, recently supported St Ignatius' Parish and London Citizens in its initiative "Love London - No Place for Hate". Together with other parishioners, they handed out lapel stickers during the morning rush hour at Seven Sisters Station to help raise consciousness of intercultural acceptance in the city.
Sister Eugenia is a member of the Parish Team at St Ignatius’ Parish, Stamford Hill in London, in one of London’s most culturally diverse boroughs. Recently the parish took part in Pope Francis’ request to spend 24 Hours for the Lord and Sr. Eugenia was interviewed about this on the Jesuit's UK website.
Each year there is a celebration of those celebrating particular milestones in their vowed life and this year the Community gathered to celebrate with Srs Ann and Sheila on the 50th anniversary of their vows. We gave thanks for the particular gifts each has brought to our community, the ministries they have carried out and the people whose lives they have touched through their 50 years of service and were delighted to be able to do this in the company of two Servite Friars, Frs Paul and Colm. We know that Sheila and Ann will continue to carry out ministries of service in diverse fields and continue to give thanks with them. (Photo shows R-L Sisters Sheila, Ann and Casimir)
To mark the Year of Mercy inaugurated by Pope Francis the Haringey Deanery decided to make a Pilgrimage of Prayer and visit the six churches within the Boundary of the Deanery. The three members of St Mary's Community, Tottenham, took part (see photo at left).
In total over 60 people took part and the Pilgrimage of Prayer became a wonderful event and a source of unity which can be built on in the future. Despite the fact that we walked 14.5 miles, I enjoyed every minute of it. At each of the churches we enjoyed refreshments and a wonderful welcome and this gave us the necessary energy to begin walking again. The prayer at each place gave us a different sort of energy and as the group bonded the prayer became deeply meaningful.
Yes, my feet were sore but something kept me moving along. I prayed for peace and mercy in all the troubled areas of the world.
Sister Anastasia Dowling.
Following the engagement of the Community in the Religious Life Vitality Project, and feedback received in October 2015, sixteen sisters gathered in London to continue the conversation. Each one undertook to reflect on the chapters in our Constitutions entitled “Community” and “Call to Conversion” and come prepared to share how she relates to these from her present experience. The day was full, challenging and enriching, and as a consequence two further conversation days are planned, in April and September.
Sr. Catherine Ryan exercises a ministry of facilitation, mainly for other religious communities: a ministry of accompanying groups in their processes of reflection, decision-making and planning for the future. She has just returned from facilitating the Council of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (St Jacut les Pins). In her closing remarks, Sr. Anne Chapell, Superior General, addressed the following thanks to Catherine:
“In any case, the most important thing is that we […] have begun to walk towards new and unknown horizons.
To do this, we have had a sure guide. I would like to thank Sr. Catherine for her skill in facilitating this encounter. She has known how to create a climate of trust among us, taking us through a spiritual process of sharing faith and integration. With assurance and thoughtfulness, she listened to us, sometimes very patiently, adapting her pedagogy to our needs. With her creativity, imagination and spiritual sensitivity, she tailored a pathway that was just right for us, and for this we are grateful. Sometimes we were afraid, but she knew how to help us to dare to go beyond ourselves. A big thank you, Catherine! It seems as if we have known you forever. You have generously put your talents at our service: we recognise in you a TRUE Servant of Mary.”
Following the atrocities in Paris on 13 November, Sr. Rachel attended an interfaith prayer vigil in Central London. The event was organised by Citizens UK, the coalition of faith groups and community groups best known for its living wage campaign and was led by prominent Muslim, Jewish and Christian leaders. Together, they expressed their mourning and outrage at the events in Paris, and exhorted those gathered, of all faiths and none, to work for peace, stand in solidarity and to endorse the values of pluralism and democracy which respect the rule of law and reject terror. The picture shows those attending gathered around London's City Hall on the banks of the Thames.
Sr. Petronia and Sr. Margaret recently participated in the pilgrimage to Rome resulting from Pope Francis’ request to meet members of itinerant groups from around the world. Here are some of Sr. Petronia’s highlights from the pilgrimage:
One of the first challenges was to meet pilgrims in a place – St Peter’s Square – to distribute Pilgrim Packs (Sr Petronia in top photo left). These contained the passes and lunch tickets for the audience with the Pope, programme booklets and scarves. That evening we made our way to the Colosseum; we were all given a candle and a booklet which we carried in the early evening sunshine to the top of the hill where the Stations of the Cross in different languages began. Rose, one of our group had been asked to read the third Station, which she did with confidence despite her nervousness. Some of the men carried our banner and by the time we reached the bottom of the hill it was dark and the flickering candles lit up the faces of men, women and children from all over the world who shared a common culture. It was a beautiful, prayerful exercise which we all treasured.
On Sunday, it had been arranged that Cardinal Vincent Nichols would come out after the closing Mass for the Synod on the Family and the midday Angelus to meet the Travellers. So, after the Blessing and greeting to the Travellers and other groups from the Pope, Cardinal Vincent from Westminster and Bishop Peter from Northampton came out to greet the Travellers. We then walked to Trastevere and the Basilica for some Gypsy music. The Basilica was packed, and as the music got faster we began dancing in the aisles! What an experience to be dancing with Travelling People from so many places. The atmosphere was so joyful and free.
On the Monday we arrived at St. Peter’s for 8am with the queue for the Papal Audience already beginning to form. The hall was enormous and quickly began to fill up. We were entertained by different Gypsy musicians and singers before the Pope came in. The place erupted with cheers and shouts of “Francisco”! as he made his way through the hall, blessing all sorts of things, kissing babies and children, and talking to those in wheelchairs at the front (bottom photo left). Gypsy religious, priests and even a Bishop were in prominent positions as role models for their People, and referred to by the Pope in his speech. It was all very moving, and I felt proud to be part of the Church which acknowledged their existence.
On October 20, 25 members of the UK Community met to receive the feedback from the Religious Life Vitality Project (see below, 2013/14). Catherine Sexton, one of the researchers came to present the findings of the project overall, and the specific findings from the input of our Community. The sessions were informative, encouraging and challenging – they certainly gave us plenty to work on, and sisters will continue to deepen their reflection around the material presented. There was also a follow-up session to the Dreams weekend (see below, May 2015) and at the conclusion of the day Sr. Michelle, Community Prioress, missioned each sister and confirmed each one in her ministry for the following year. The photo shows part of the missioning ritual, when each sister's hands were anointed.
Sister Petronia, who has a ministry to the Travelling Peoples in Westminster Diocese, writes: On Friday 25th September, 300-400 Travellers gathered at Westminster Cathedral, London, for a special Mass celebrated by Cardinal Vincent Nichols. It was to give a Blessing on the Travellers who will be going on Pilgrimage to Rome at the end of October at the request of the Pope to meet Itinerant groups from around the world. This includes Gypsies, Travellers, Show People, Roma and Sinti all of whom have a nomadic culture. The Travellers came from the three London Dioceses, Westminster, Brentwood and Southwark.
A Traveller called Margaret Doran sang songs at the Mass some of which she had written herself. Two young men carried in a banner made by Traveller children in Hackney and a little boy held a wagon, their old traditional mode of Transport which is often used as a symbol of their culture.
Several Sisters from the Community came to offer moral support and it certainly gave me a boost! Sr. Margaret and myself will be going to Rome for the occasion and over a thousand Travellers have now registered to go with the Westminster Diocese. WATCH THIS SPACE!
Sisters are taking advantages of the opportunities offered by Internet communication to participate in online learning opportunities. Sister Joyce-Mary is following free modules offered by Professor Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg on the Jewish background to the New Testament and says “I find that the articles provided by Professor Eli stimulating. They have given me deeper insights into the Scriptures and particularly the Jewish background to the New Testament. I hope that the information will be of interest to a larger audience.” http://jewishstudies.eteacherbiblical.com
Sister Catherine took up running a few years back, as a form of exercise that could be done virtually anywhere, since her ministry of group facilitation takes her travelling frequently. Recently, she ran her first 10k (6.2 mile) race in the grounds of Petworth Park, a stately home in the Sussex countryside. Here she is with members of her running club after completing the race.
The sisters in Chelmsford had a celebratory 'bring and share' meal in June 2015 together with members of the other four Congregations ministering in the city. The idea was to celebrate religious life with those with whom we serve. Fourteen members gathered together, beginning with a shared prayer around the charism, or special gift, of each group. It was a great success, and all agreed that this would become an annual event. Chelmsford is not a particularly big newly created city, and the ministries of the five groups are varied. In the photo are Servite Sisters Michelle, Elizabeth, Ann and Sheila together with Norbertines, Canonesses of the Holy Sepulchre, Srs of Charity of St Paul the Apostle and Brentwood Ursulines.
Earlier this year the Congregational Quilt, which was created to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the joining of our Congregation to the Servite Order, and contains one square created by each sister, came to Sheffield, UK. Sisters Casimir and Clare displayed it in the Church Hall and many came to see and admire it. They were given a brief explanation of its history and origins and many questions were asked. For many it was the first time they realised the extent of our International character.
This photo shows the sisters with some of the visitors.
This photo shows participants on the Spring 2015 Parent Effectiveness Training course, hosted at Villa Maria Convent in Bognor Regis and run by Sister Mary Ghent OSM (back row, second from left).
One of the course members comments: “I am so pleased that I attended the PET course. I've come away with some new and hugely valuable skills and insights, and by the end of the 8-week course I and all the other members already felt there had been an improvement not just in our relationships with our children but in other areas of our lives too. Thank you to Villa Maria and of course to Sister Mary for her knowledge and enthusiasm which made it a great experience.”
Since February 2015, the UK Community has been engaged in planning for the future.
At the beginning, Sisters met to reflect on a text from Pope Francis’ letter for the Year of Consecrated Life, and then each responded to the suggested reflection questions.
In May, 22 members of the Community gathered for the weekend, to bring the individual dreams together and create a plan for the future. Topics include: deepening our shared identity, new developments in living and ministering, and developing the St Peregrine healing ministry.invitation to send in any dream she had for the future of the Servite Sisters in the UK.
This photo shows those who participated, gathered around a statue of St Peregrine which we were given by our sisters in Jolimont.
The planning process continues as sisters meet to explore the topics raised and share their findings with the whole Community.
The UK Community celebrates with Sister Shirley Kelly on her nomination for a Star Award by St Thomas of Canterbury Primary School, one of the places where she ministers as an Art Therapist.
The Star Awards were given to students and staff at schools in the London Borough of Merton “ to celebrate pupils' and staff achievements and reward effort, positive attitude to learning and the quality of work produced during school and beyond”.
The awards were presented in a ceremony at the end of February.
This year, 2015, the Church highlights the role of consecrated women and men by celebrating the Year of Consecrated Life. On the annual day set aside to celebrate Consecrated Life, 2 February, many sisters participated in local and diocesan gatherings of consecrated persons.
This photo shows sisters Clare and Casimir from High Green, Sheffield, in Hallam Diocese, together with their bishop, Ralph Heskett, himself a religious, at their celebration.
Christmas begins at St Juliana’s.
The Sisters at St Juliana’s always feel that Christmas begins when the children from St Mary’s, the local Catholic Parish school, arrive to share some festive singing with the Community. Two weeks before Christmas a group of about 40 children, together with some staff and parents, arrived to present their concert of carols. From the youngest who was five, to the oldest from the top class of eleven year olds, they sang with great skill and enthusiasm. The Sisters listened and applauded with equal enthusiasm.
When the concert was over, the children enjoyed some refreshments while the Sisters chatted with them, thanking them for coming and extending an invitation for next year!
On March, 2014 the Servite School in Fulham celebrated the annual ‘Art Show’ and each year group had produced art works that could have been housed in the Tate Gallery in London. There were portraits, models and many techniques on display. The Choir opened the show with a song from Sister Act and they sang with great gusto accompanied by their Music Teacher, Mr. Francisco. The art exhibition was a credit to all the pupils and staff who had worked tirelessly to produce such a high standard of creative works.
Twenty six Servite Sisters gathered at the Dorking Halls to select three names for the UK International Councillor /Community Prioress. Sr. Catherine Ryan provided excellent facilitation and the Sisters appreciated her calm, professional approach to this serious discernment within the Province. A good day was had by all and three names were suggested for the role.
World Book Day was celebrated in St. Mary’s Infant and Junior School by the children dressing up as ‘Book Characters’ The whole school enjoyed the opportunity to enter into the literary world of imagination. Dressing in character allowed the children to celebrate the wonder of reading. Congratulations to everyone who took part and to all who organised the day.
On Monday 17th February, 2014 an invitation from the Servite Friars at Fulham Road London to celebrate Eucharist was extended to the wider Servite Family. 8 Sisters attended and a number of the Servite Secular Institute members and friends were also present. The Celebration was joyful ending with the playing of the rousing chorus: “Ave, Ave Mater Dolorosa, Hear your Servants Prayer” Composed by Chris O’Brien osm Following the Liturgical Celebration the fraternal gathering provided a feast of food courtesy of Rene and Geraldine two Servite stalwarts in the Parish.
Sr. Rachel O’Riordan osm produced a magnificent calendar to commemorate the 150th year of aggregation to the Servite Order. Copies were distributed throughout the Congregation, to our Servite brethren, Associates and friends. It was a true work of art with symbols, pictures and quotes to help us focus on a month by month basis of our varied cultures. Each month was dedicated to a different geographical area of Communities throughout the Congregation of the Servite Sisters of London. Well done to Sr. Rachel we all appreciated the great effort and extensive work that went into producing such a unique masterpiece.
The Hilton Foundation has funded the Project for the Religious Life Institute and the Servite Sisters Community in the UK are taking part in this study ably led by Sr. Catherine Ryan. There are 200 participants involved, including individual sisters and communities. It is hoped that this unique piece of research will produce a reflection resource for all Religious within the UK and Ireland. There were sixty one signs of vitality identified ranging over six main areas: Ministry, Community, and Working collaboratively, New forms of membership, Prayer & Spirituality and Recognising our frailty with the challenges of aging.
A phoenix rises from the ashes….. On the Feast of St. Francis of Assisi the school re-opened in the new state-of-the-art premises. Mrs Jane Gray, the Head teacher had invited many local dignitaries, governors, friends of the school to launch the official opening of the new school buildings. A wonderful day of Liturgy, Musical and Choral Interludes, Refreshments and Tours of the new premises by well-informed students was planned. A day to be remembered and celebrated is recorded in the annals of history. Congratulations to everyone who made this new venture possible. Adapted from an account of the day written by Sr. Joyce Mary Fryer osm