St Bernard's, Westcliff-on-Sea - Memorial Mass for Sister Mary Stephen

On Saturday 7th October, the school hall at St Bernard's, Westcliff, was full to celebrate a Memorial Mass for Sister Mary Stephen who died last January.

Below is S Elizabeth Mary's 'Welcome' .......we hope that photos of the day will follow!

 

 

As Bernardine Sisters, it is our privilege and great pleasure, having been welcomed so warmly ourselves, now to be ‘doing’ the welcome!

This Mass and Reunion were first suggested back in January, on the day of S Mary Stephen’s funeral. It was a recognition of the need to remember and to give thanks ‘back home’ for her life, ‘at the roots’ if you like! S Mary Stephen spent so many years here at Westcliff: first as a student herself, a timid 11 year old (well, perhaps not very timid!) in 1943 with her cloakroom peg next to Sister Mary Lucy’s. After her novitiate at Slough and in France, she returned here, as a young teacher of French and RE (and her A level students will no doubt still have fond memories of her love for and teaching of John’s Gospel), subjects she continued as Deputy Headteacher and, then, as Headteacher, until the Community left in 1983. In these latter years, her influence extended beyond the walls of St Bernard’s. She gave much to Catholic Education in the deanery and diocese. It is a pleasure to welcome her former colleagues from other Catholic schools in the deanery. Thank you for coming.

Thank you, too, to Bishop Thomas McMahon for accepting our invitation. It is lovely to have you with us. I am sure that you have many memories of the Westcliff Community and of Sister Mary Stephen from your days ‘next door’, as a young curate at St Helen’s in the 1960’s. Thank you, too, to Fr Joseph Whisstock, present Parish Priest ‘next door’ and brother of our Sister Maria.

And I would like to express, on behalf of us all, our immense gratitude to Headteacher, Mr Tony Sharpe, and the present staff of St Bernard’s for all the preparations, generosity and organisation for today. Their ‘open door’ welcome has been greatly appreciated as, together, we watched the numbers grow……and grow! Thank you to Carmel Allen for overseeing all the practical arrangements (no mean feat!) and for being so easy to work with – yes, I did promise that I would not mention you! Thank you, too, to Fiona Maltby and the ‘band’ for our liturgy, and to the catering staff, site managers and everyone at the school who has contributed so much to today’s celebration.

Finally, thank you to you all for coming……...and while we enjoy being together, we remember those unable to be with us today. In particular, John Ballard sends his apologies, and has asked me to pass on his greetings to all. He has recently had hip surgery and it is too soon to make the long journey up from Cornwall.

But it is so good to see so many here and each one of us has her (or his) share in the welcome today as we meet each other anew, perhaps after several decades……and please do not worry about not recognising classmates or not being recognised yourselves, as I did in an email to one of my own former 5J classmates whom I have not seen in (cough) 34 years(!) In her reply, she confidently assured me that we still look 16 !!!!!!! I am sure that applies to every year-group!

Welcome was a particular gift of Sister Mary Stephen, although perhaps not the immediate one we recognised on our first day at school here, most of us aged just 11, dressed no doubt in new stiff uniform which was just slightly too big for us. She had a certain ‘look’ that served as a reminder that she was the authority figure.

Some of you stayed in touch with her over many years, recognising that, however stern that ‘look’ might have appeared at first, it soon transformed into one of welcome…..….a loving welcome, a non-judgemental welcome, a sharing welcome, an interested welcome, a caring and concerned welcome…..all qualities with which S Mary Stephen was gifted in abundance. Many of you have testified to the influence S Mary Stephen has had in your lives, comforting you in moments of sorrow, sharing the joys and the goodness of God in your lives, journeying with you in times of uncertainty, challenging you in those moments when you perhaps needed a ‘gentle prod’, sharing your life and faith journey. Thank you for being faithful in your friendship with her for so many years. She really did appreciate it and loved sharing your news with the rest of us in Community. S Mary Stephen quite simply loved ‘Westcliff’…..and would be so pleased that our young Sisters in formation, S Florence, S Reina and Julia are here. The next generation of Bernardines will ‘know’ Westcliff. Please say Hello to them!

For others, she was perhaps the ‘public face’ of the Community of Bernardine Sisters, the Community whose presence reminded you of school and whose ongoing commitment to you, particularly in terms of prayer, has been a reassuring comfort at important moments in your lives. Those prayers continue and Mass is offered every month in both our Communities for our former students, staff, your families and intentions. Please do not lose touch.

Others of you have not been in contact, perhaps have not darkened these doors since the day you left school and, yet, are drawn back by wanting to be part of ‘today’, perhaps simply out of a certain curiosity, or a feeling of wanting to be back in a place where you once ‘belonged’, perhaps by the desire to re-ignite friendships. S Mary Stephen treasured friendship and would have delighted in today. She would have chatted non-stop in the car going home about everyone she had met…..until she fell fast asleep, or, in her own words, just closed her eyes for a moment!

Yes, her mind and her spirit were alert to her last conscious moment; it was her body that failed her in those last 18 months. Months first of denial then of growing frustration when she had no choice but to give in to the decreasing mobility and increasing dependence….not easy for her and, ‘old age’ really suit her, as you can well imagine ! It was a journey we lived with her, but could not live for her. She died peacefully, simply slipping into the Lord who awaits each of us in Love.

But, today, in faith, we celebrate her life with gratitude. We entrust her to the Lord’s unconditional and infinite Love……..He who, in the words from her beloved John’s Gospel, came ‘that we might have life, and have it to the full’, He whom she loved and served so faithfully throughout 61 years of monastic life. Death is part of the Paschal Mystery we are to celebrate now in this Eucharist: Christ’s Passion, His Death and His glorious Resurrection.

Posted on October 9, 2017 .

CONGRATULATIONS, Sister Mary Lucy

Last weekend we had the great joy of celebrating Sister Mary Lucy's Diamond Jubilee surrounded by five generations of her family!

Her choice of Readings for her Jubilee Mass spoke primarily of God's love, revealed in His creation (Wisdom 13), revealed in Jesus (Eph 3 : 14 - 21) and his invitation to 'Remain in my Love' (John 15 : 9 -17).

Fr Peter in his homily, reminded us that 'when we join someone for a jubilee we do them a disservice if we do not allow their life, with its joys and sorrows, to speak to us, to challenge us and to lead us to reflect on our own journey through life'

CONGRATULATIONS, Sister Mary Lucy.......and DEO GRATIAS

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Posted on September 21, 2017 .

AMICIS

Last week we had the great joy of welcoming the AMICIS group to Brownshill . S M Helen, our Prioress General, hosted the meeting here this year. The group composed of Abbots and Abesses from France, Spain Switzerland, Austria and Hungary, with the Abbot General O.Cist., Dom Mauro, from Rome.

The Community enjoyed hearing about life in each of our guest's monasteries.

We enjoyed a day out at Littlemore, following the footsteps of Blessed John Henry Newman, and Oxford where we were warmly welcomed by the Dean of ChristChurch and were the guests at the College's beautifully sung Evensong.

We celebrated the group's time with us with a very English Fish and Chip lunch.

Some of the group had been here in 2008 and marvelled at all the developments of the last 9 years: the building project, the Chapel renovation, all the work in the garden, the tree project.......

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Posted on May 31, 2017 .

Sr. Mary Stephen

Message from Sr. Elizabeth Mary for all those who knew Sr. Mary Stephen

"I think that many of you have now heard the news that S M Stephen died very peacefully in her sleep at 5am on Thursday. There was no distress, no struggle, no pain..........she very simply 'slipped away' into the Lord whom she had loved and served all her life.  In many ways, this was unexpected as she had picked up a little in the last week, getting down to Mass both Monday and Tuesday mornings. But she was very very frail.....

Sorry to all those for whom this message will come as a shock. We would love to speak to you all personally, but it is not possible. The Community is keeping you all in our prayers as the news filters through various friendship groups, social media networks etc.......

S M Stephen's Requiem Mass will be celebrated this Wednesday (25th) at 11.30a.m. at the Parish Church of the Immaculate Conception in Stroud (GL5 4AA). All are welcome, but please be prepared to squeeze up as necessary and perhaps even stand. There is no parking at the Church but it is in the centre of the small town so any of the town's car parks are suitable. Alternatively, it is a shortish walk from both the train and bus station.

After Mass, there will be tea/coffee and sandwiches in the Church Hall (have plucked a number out of the sky for the caterers!) so please do join us.

We are VERY grateful to Canon Tom Gunning for his generous welcome in the Parish and for all that he and his parishioners are doing to facilitate the funeral.

On Wednesday afternoon after the funeral Mass, the Community will drive up to Hyning. We have a beautiful cemetery there in the corner of Hyning's lovely garden, overlooking Ingleborough and the other north Pennine peaks. Thursday is, for us, the Feast of the Cistercian Founders, Saints  Robert, Alberic and Stephen Harding and S Mary Stephen will be buried after Mass there, on coincidentally her own feast day.

With our gratitude for all the messages of loving prayerful sympathy.....and with our best wishes and prayers for all of you saddened by this news......

S Elizabeth Mary and the Community at Brownshill

Posted on January 23, 2017 .

Sr Reina's First Profession

Earlier this month, S Elizabeth Mary, S Hilda and S Immaculee had the joy of participating in S Reina's First Profession at Hyning .....S Reina was 'Irene'......

The celebration, as all professions, was moving. We were delighted to join S Reina's friend to witness this important step in her response to the Lord's call. Monastic life involves the radical gift of oneself to God - there are no short cuts!

Please join us in thanksgiving, and in prayer for S Reina during these first weeks and months as a Professed Bernardine.....

Posted on October 27, 2016 .

Community's Jubilee of Mercy Pilgrimage to Prinknash Abbey

Last Tuesday, on the feast of the Visitation, the Community of Brownshill traveled across the beautiful Cotswold vallleys to the Benedictine Abbey of Prinknash, just half an hour away.

First, we were warmly welcomed by the staff at the cafe where we enjoyed a coffee or hot chocolate with a toasted teacake - highly recommended!

We then travelled down to the Abbey, some in the car, some on foot, where the monks of the Community were waiting for us. Abbot Francis welcomed us with reading from the Gospel  of John before we entered through the Jubilee Door of Mercy. The Prinknash Community led us through the Stations of the Cross (using Hyning's version based on writings from the Cistercian Fathers) and we culminated by singing the Prinknash Mercy hymn 'Mother of Mercy', accompanied by guitar for the first time. Congratulations to Fr Mark and  Fr Martin for composing this lovely hymn.

After praying Sext together in choir, we joined the monks in their monastic Refectory for a delicious lunch.....soup, ham with potatoes and wonderfully colourful veggies followed by strawberries and cream, coffee, cheese and biscuits. We were certainly very spoilt and really enjoyed being with them again.

And then there was, of course, the photo of the occasion taken for the archives..........!

A very big THANKYOU to Abbot Francis and each one of the Community for your warm welcome ......

Next time together..........chez nous!

Posted on June 4, 2016 .

S Marie Apolline's return

Last Thursday, we were delighted to welcome S Marie Apolline back to Brownshill. She had left us just before Easter to return to Goma, a town on the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda. 

Thankfully, she was successful in renewing her UK and she enjoyed catching up with family, friends and the Sisters in our Bernardine Community at Goma.

 

It is good to have her back and she has already been seen out in the garden weeding the flowerbeds that she has so lovingly cultivated over the last few years.

Posted on May 19, 2016 .

HOLY WEEK and EASTER TIMES 2016

 

You are very welcome to join us for the following celebrations:

Monday 21st - Wednesday 23rd March:        

8.20 a.m. Terce;  8.30 a.m. Mass

 

Maundy Thursday

8.00 p.m.  Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper......adoration until Midnight

 

Good Friday

11.15 a.m. Stations of the Cross

3.00 p.m.   Solemn Commemoration of the Lord's Passion

 

Holy Saturday

9.00 p.m. Paschal Vigil

 

Easter Sunday and Easter Monday

10.00  Terce followed by MASS

 

Easter Tuesday - Easter Friday

8.50 a.m. Terce,   9.00 a.m. Mass

 

Easter Saturday (2nd April)

8.20 a.m. Terce;  8.30 a.m. Mass

 

 

Posted on March 19, 2016 .

Chapel refurbishment - complete!

The Community is delighted to be back into Chapel. Have a look at these photos then come and pray with us to admire the much brighter and lighter space.....we are grateful to all who have worked so hard these last few weeks.............

.............. to our hardworking builders, Yorkes, for another successful project here, to electricians Neil and Peter of Anthony J Smith Ltd (Gloucester), decorator Keith, soundman, Don and to the team at Carpet Hotline Superstore.....

Posted on February 27, 2016 .

Good news........Moving back into Chapel

On Saturday 20th February, we started the big clean-up and moved the first pieces of furniture back into Chapel.......the carpet still needed finishing, but we were getting very excited about moving back in........

Posted on February 27, 2016 .

Mass of Thanksgiving - Clifton Cathedral

On Tuesday,  the feast of the Presentation of the Lord, several sisters of the Brownshill community joined the Religious of Clifton Diocese for a Mass of Thanksgving to mark the closure of the Church's Year for Consecrated Life. The main celebrant was the Rt. Rev. Declan Lang. There was a great turnout and the Religious enjoyed meeting each other again  and renewing friendships over a delicious lunch.......

In his homily, Bishop Declan compared the Religious Sisters and Priests to Anna in the Gospel who was 'prompted by the Spirit' and met the child Jesus in the temple. Each Religious, too, has been 'prompted by the Spirit in her/his encounter with Jesus and has responded to the invitation of the Lord to give herself/himself completely to the Lord in love.

Posted on February 4, 2016 .

Chapel Project......

The project of re-wiring, new lighting, redecoration and a few other 'little' things is coming on fast...the Community is eagerly watching the progress.......

Posted on February 4, 2016 .

WELCOME......to Sr Immaculee

It is with great joy that we have welcomed S Immaculee to Brownshill. She is from our Congolese Community in Goma and, having never left Congo before, is finding the English weather a little cold - even when the sun breaks out!

It was lovely to have her here with us for Christmas and to introduce her to all the traditions of an English Christmas!

S Immaculee is one of our young sisters in formation, having made first (temporary) Profession two years ago. We wish her every blessing as she continues her search for God with us in the monastic life.


Posted on January 13, 2016 .

Photo shoot........

Last month we welcomed a young student for the day. Amy Griffin is in her first year of studies for a Photojournalism degree at Falmouth. She spent the day with us for her project entitled 'Touched'.........

Having taken literally hundreds of photos, she needs to select five to submit for her project.

Good luck, Amy......we look forward to seeing the final selection........

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Posted on May 2, 2015 .

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

It's an important week........Jesus prayed 'that they might all be one' and our disunity causes much pain.

 

We welcomed several members of the Mucknell Community yesterday for Unity Vespers. It was good to see them again and to pray together.

On Thursday we will celebrate a Votive Mass for Christian Unity and each day we pray for unity at Midday Office.........

Posted on January 19, 2015 .

Talks.......January and February

Come and join the Sisters for

talks by

 

GAVIN D’COSTA

 

(Professor of Catholic Theology at Bristol University)

 

 

Tues 13th January    Vatican II on Ecumenism

Tues 20th January         Vatican II on Jews

Tues 17th February       Vatican II on Muslims

 

3 p.m. talk

followed by questions then tea/coffee

(4.45 p.m. Vespers)

 

 

Exploring the future of interreligious relations in the modern world …..based on the doctrinal foundations that will serve Catholicism in the 21st century.

 

 

Posted on January 4, 2015 .

Midnight Mass intercessions

Please join us in prayer....here are our intercessions at Midnight Mass:

Let us pray for the Church. We pray for Pope Francis, Bishop Declan and all bishops and priests as they lead their people in the celebration of Christ’s birth. May they always model their ministry on that of the Servant King, born this night in a stable.

Let us pray for all Christians throughout the world. May we all witness in our lives to the simplicity and humility of Christ’s birth and may the love of God, that Christ came to reveal, break down the barriers that keep us apart.

Let us pray for our world. We pray in thanksgiving for all those who will spend this season spreading joy and peace, and we ask that those who are embittered and can think only of violence and hatred will be touched by the spirit of peace that only Christ can bring….we pray especially for the conflicts in the Middle East.

Let us pray for all families. May the Holy Family be our inspiration today so that we may spend the time generously making the happiness of others our priority. We remember, too, all those families who have been affected by the tragedy of war, natural disaster and accidents, thinking very especially of those involved in the Glasgow road accident.

Let us pray for those who have been bereaved this year and feel a deep sense of loneliness this Christmas and for those who are seriously ill. May we remember them as we celebrate in the warmth and love of our homes.

We ask our Lady to pray with us that the message of unconditional love brought to us by her Son may inspire us to witness to the world that we are indeed His disciples by the way we love one another.

 

Posted on December 24, 2014 .

CHRISTMAS MASSES

Midnight Mass.....at Midnight !

Christmas morning at 10 a.m.

Boxing Day morning at 10 a.m.

 

Posted on December 20, 2014 .

Card making Day - Christmas

Our first card making day was fun and we were delighted to welcome Sharon Elliott who shared with us her enjoyment and experience of hand made greetings cards

..........so we are offering another on Monday 10th November. This will focus on Christmas cards. Sharon will not be with us but will send some demonstration ideas.

The day starts at 10.30 a.m. 

To book: please contact Sr Mary Johanna on 01453 883084 or brownshillbookings@bernardine.org

Suggested offering: £15 - includes cooked lunch

Posted on October 12, 2014 .

WELCOME BACK - Sr Anastasie

Sr Anastasie returned to us after three months back with our Community in Goma (DRCongo), having successfully renewed her UK visa.

We are delighted to have her with us again and she has been warmly welcomed by our many friends.....for those of you coming to the guesthouse, she is waiting to serve you with a smile!

Posted on October 12, 2014 .