On Wednesday 21st November, several of us had the joy of being at the Thanksgiving Mass at our school, St Bernard’s Prep, in Slough. The Mass was celebrated by the Rt. Rev. Peter Doyle, Bishop of Northampton and had been beautifully prepared by staff and children. It was a moving occasion to mark the end of our Trusteeship of the school (ranked 4th in the Sunday Times listing last week of Independent Prep Schools - just sharing our pride!). The Bernardines founded the school in 1945 and will transfer the Trusteeship to St Benedict’s School Trust, Ealing, from 1st January 2019. Thus, the Benedictine monastic ethos will continue…..
Sister Elizabeth Mary enjoyed a lovely three week stay with our fledgling Community in Vietnam, sharing their life and helping with the beginning of the coffee harvest……..
Following their move from Slough in 2006, the Trustees of the Bernardine Cistercian Sisters are pleased to announce that St. Bernard’s Preparatory School, Slough, will be transferred to the lay Trusteeship of St. Benedict’s School, Ealing, with effect from 1st January 2019.
The Headmaster of St. Bernard’s Preparatory School, Mr. Nathan Cheesman, said, ‘We welcome this exciting new development in the history of St. Bernard’s. We look forward to continuing our commitment to the highest quality of Catholic Education under the trusteeship of St. Benedict’s School, celebrating the talents and gifts of each child, enabling them to develop to their potential spiritually, morally, academically, socially and physically.’
Mr. Andrew Johnson, Headmaster of St. Benedict’s School, confirmed, ‘We are delighted to be assuming the Trusteeship of St. Bernard’s, and can see significant benefit to both schools coming from this new partnership. We look forward to working together with the excellent team at St. Bernard’s to help the school go from strength to strength’
3rd September 2018
A day of rejoicing and thanksgiving...sharing some photos below........
Monday 26th – Wednesday 28th March
8.20 am Terce
8.30 am MASS
8.00 pm Evening MASS of the Lord’s Supper
9.45pm Holy Hour with watching until Midnight
11.15 a.m. Stations of the Cross
3pm Celebration of the Lord’s Passion
9.00 pm Easter Vigil
Please do not park around the back of the monastery – Easter fire!
Easter Sunday and Monday 2nd April
10am Terce followed by MASS
Tuesday 3rd – Friday 6th April
8.50 am Terce
9.00 am Mass
Saturday 7th April
8.20 am Terce
8.30 am MASS
Another heavier than expected snowfall......but beautiful in the afternoon sunshine!
Spent the morning 'digging' out our Christmas Guests - thankfully it thawed enough to get them out, but the forecast is for below freezing tonight........
The countryside was transformed.........!
Here is Sister Florence who arrived at Brownshill in August from our Community in Goma (DR Congo) with our 'snow-nun'.......her first ever snow and we thoroughly enjoyed it with her!
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.
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
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.......
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
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.....
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!
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.
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
8.00 p.m. Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper......adoration until Midnight
11.15 a.m. Stations of the Cross
3.00 p.m. Solemn Commemoration of the Lord's Passion
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
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.....
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........
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.
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.......
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.