Friday, 14 September 2012

A Congregation Day

                                         Sisters gathered for first session

On 13th September, Sisters from five of our communities gathered in the Mother House, Littlehampton, for a Congregation Day with input by our novices. The topic was 'needs' and we discussed what was essential for our lives as Sisters in today's world. After Morning Prayer, coffee and welcome, novice Sisters Attracta and Innocentia gave a presentation on various types of necessities which human beings could experience and how these were ordered in Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs. They also demonstrated the difference between needs and wants in a drama sketch about shopping. After this, Sisters divided into two groups to discuss the question of what was essential for us and how we might prioritise our needs.
From the summary of feedback from the two groups, it was no surprise that all agreed on God, understood as Love, as our most essential need, and all other necessities we could identify flowed from this. As the closing reading from our Form of Life (chapter six) reminded us, Jesus showed us that, by emptying ourselves for others, we would have all we could ever need in the love of God, as 'heirs and kings of the kingdom of heaven'. And so, our father St. Francis urged us to follow His example and 'neither possess nor defend anything' as our own. Of course, the greater goal, which we always have to strive for, is to express the gospel priority of love in our lifestyle, rather than the opposite priority of consumerism - the 'need' of acquiring goods and money, which shapes the society in which we live. The ongoing challenge of authenticity - of wholeness or 'holiness' of life, is that we continue to question ourselves in the light of the Gospel, as individuals and as a community. This means we have to remain open to change, in a lifelong process of conversion to Christ.
After lunch and some free time, the day concluded with tea together, while our novices entertained the group with their own version of the Channel Four News!

Presentations by our Novices: Sr. Innocentia
and Sr. Attracta
Our two groups in discussion

Monday, 3 September 2012

A Unique Retreat

Sisters arrived in Canterbury for their retreat at the FISC, pictured outside the FMSL convent where they will stay for the week. 

On 30th August, four FMSL Sisters: Susan, Innocentia, Rose and Attracta, came to Canterbury from Littlehampton and Bradford to have a unique retreat at the Franciscan International Study Centre (  It is a Franciscan directed retreat.  During this week, each retreatant will meet daily with an assigned spiritual director from a newly-trained team.  The experience of giving a directed retreat will complete these students' course in Franciscan spiritual direction.  During the retreat, the four Sisters will stay in the FMSL convent in Canterbury, which is ten minutes walk from the Study Centre. At the Centre they have meals, communal prayers and the daily meeting with their directors.  It is a special opportunity to listen to God's voice in times of silence and share their spiritual journeys.

Comments from retreatants:
'"It was a very good preparation for my renewal of vows."'
'"It was good.  I learned more about myself during the retreat."'
'"It helped me to know better what Jesus is asking me to do - just to be, like the jonquil."'
'"The directors were very good.  Everything was very well prepared."'

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Rest In Peace Our Willie Anderson

Remembering Our Willie (William Neil Anderson) with love and gratitude to God. May he rest in the peace and joy of heaven.

Willie's Canterbury History
by Sr. Elizabeth
We moved into this house, Monte Bre in Dec 1974. The Sisters in the convent worked at the Franciscan Study Centre in Giles Lane - a place of Formation and Studies for the Franciscans of the Order of Friars Minor, of Friars Minor Conventuals and of the Capuchin Friars the three branches of the Francisan men - Franciscan Friars. Sr Agnes saw Willie sleeping rough at the woods behind the Study Centre and asked the superior of the convent, Mother Angela, if she could have a blanket for the man. Approval was given for the blanket - and then when it had been raining, Sr Agnes asked again about him as the blanket would be wet and now no use to him. So permission was given for him to come and have shelter in the shed at the bottom of the convent garden. In the meantime because he was of no fixed abode, Willie had to walk each day to Military Road to collect £1.25 in Social Security Benefit. Being a smoker and an alcoholic Willie then had to beg in the town for extra cash. Many times when he would be under the influence of alcohol while begging within the City Walls, the police would take Willie to the Police Station where he would spend some time until he was sobered up. All of the local police knew him and some would hand in blue shirts to the convent door for him. All the bus drivers knew him and would stop and pick him up and drop him off at the bus stop outside of the convent front gate.
Prior to coming to Canterbury he had been homeless and sleeping rough in Folkestone.
Someone advised Sr Immaculata, another sister of the community here, that since he could give the convent as his address, then he could claim the full amount of weekly social security benefit. This was back-dated to the date when he first moved to the shed - and the arrears of benefit paid for his first caravan. Electricity was connected up to his caravan and a heater and tv bought for him from his weekly benefit.
He would go up to the Franciscan Study Centre kitchen for his main meal at lunch time and receive breakfast and supper from the convent; and on a Saturday night the OFM friars would allow him into the Friary to have a bath. In later years he stopped going to the Study Centre for lunch and his bath and had everything here at the convent.
Over the years he has been banned from every shop, pub and the local Catholic Church: St Thomas'. He could be very disruptive during a service when he attended while under the influence of alcohol. Also similar behaviour at the Study Centre Mass on a Sunday.
He helped in the convent garden and did a lot of work re the grounds etc and became a sort of voluntary caretaker and groundsman in gratitude for being allowed to stay in his caravan and have some sort of stability in his life.
He was born with rickets of the spine and so did not have good posture; he was sort of hen toed as a result and it was easy for him to trip up and fall over. His Dad died when he was 5 or 6yrs old. He had what would now be called dyslexia - and spent most of his schooling in special schools and institutions because of his physical and what was seen as a mental disability. He told me recently that he spent some time in Carstairs Mental Hospital in Scotland. He rendered himself homeless at a young age although I don't know exactly when - and would get involved in petty crimes so that he would be sent to prison - which gave him board and lodgings - least of all a roof over his head. He was an ideal inmate and behaved as he was no criminal and therefore was given a lot of privileges and as a result learned a lot of skills during short spells in various prisons through the UK.
In recent years he stopped going down the town - and the furthest he would walk would be to Rough Common Post Office for his weekly pension and daily papers. He would only really get drunk on his pension day.
In recent years he stopped going to the town to beg
In the last three years of his life he did not take any alcohol at all during the day and would have half a bottle of wine dry white ... and nothing other than that would do!] at 8pm each night and that would pacify him.
In the last two years he befriended a friend's puppy chihuahua by the name of Maximus who would spend the odd weekend here when his owner was away for any reason. Max and Willie became the best of friends. So much so that last summer [August 2011] Willie was missing the dog so much that I took him to Cornwall to visit with Max - as he was there for the summer with a mutual friend, Mary, as the owner of the dog is an American friar and goes home to USA for the summer.
Max and Willie were inseparable for the few days that we were there and Willie told me that it was his first ever holiday... at 75.
In December 2010 for his 75th birthday we had a celebration Mass and dinner at the Franciscan International Study Centre - a great day enjoyed by Willie and all present.
He has had a relatively short illness - admitted to K+C hospital on Jan 8th until 20th and came home to the convent for palliative care. When he knew that there was no treatment for the malignant tumour in his throat - he said that he did not want to die in the hospital - that he wanted to die at home. He knew that he could not return to the caravan - that we would have a room here for him in the convent.
While in hospital for the two weeks - he was overwhelmed by everybody's kindness and care towards him. He said to one of the specialists: " I have been a failure all my life."
I have known him 21 of his 37 years here at the convent - and yes when he was drunk he was a nuisance. When sober he was and is the kindest- hearted person you could ever hope to meet and know.
He was always very faithful to the sisters here at the convent. He didn't like with when anybody was moved to another community.
Last year he wanted to go visit Sr Fidelis who used to be here. She was based in Bradford and had been diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease. She had been very good to him when she was based here and he returned that kindness by making the effort to go up to Bradford to visit her. It was a long, long journey for him in the car with his back being very aching with the rickets problem. He was a gentleman and was so loving towards her when he was there for the weekend...
In Kent and Canterbury Hospital where Willie spent one week after he was taken ill.

Allowed outside for a smoke

Maximus was very popular with all the staff on his visits to Willie

Willie enjoyed watching his favourite comedies on DVD and listening to Mario Lanza.

And a visit from Max's little brother, Alphie

Back home in 'William's Pad' in the convent

Sr. Rose came from Bradford and stayed to help care for Willie. Rose's family also visiting here.

Preparing for Willie's Requiem Mass at the Franciscan Study Centre on 27th February

Sr. Innocentia led an African Mass setting with drums
In the chapel, displays of photos told the story of Willie's 37 years at Monte Bre, from as early as 1975.
After Mass, a collection was made for Catching Lives, a charity tackling homelessness in Canterbury.

At a private meal following the crematorium Service
Pat and Debbie, who served Willie a burger from their van every week and became his firm friends.

Br. Ninian, who knew Willie from his early days in Canterbury

Below: Br. Marc (left) who helped carry Willie's coffin and Br. Seamus (centre) who preached at his Mass.

Br. Jack also a coffin bearer and Mary, who also knew Willie and brought Willie's old friend Sean (below, centre) to his funeral.

Marjorie (top right) a Canterbury resident, had known Willie for many years.
Sr. Veronica (top left) knew him from her time in Canterbury.Angie (centre) became Willie's friend when she began to do the gardening at Monte Bre.

Srs. Rose and Attracta who helped care for Willie in his illness.

Sr. Paul (bottom left) beside Sr. Clare who both knew Willie from living in Monte Bre Community.

Left: Sr. Innocentia, who helped care for Willie and Jodie, a resident student in Monte Bre


Sr. Concepta (left) knew Willie from his earliest days at Monte Bre.
Sr. Anne, Mother General shared a few fond words about Willie at the end of Mass

Above: Sr. Elizabeth, who cared for Willie for many years at Monte Bre and arranged his care during his final days and his funeral celebration, toasts his happy memory.

Monday, 6 February 2012

First Snow of the Year

Sisters Innocentia and Attracta were excited by the first snow of the year, especially as it was a new experience for Attracta. They braved the cold to go out and get some photographic evidence.