2013 has been an eventful year for us, beginning as it did with the celebration of Sr. Mary Joseph’s 80th birthday in the company of her family from all generations down to the newest baby. Soon afterwards we were united with the universal Church at the unexpected news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and awaited with interest the election of his successor. The white smoke came quickly and, conveniently for us, around 6 p.m. which allowed us to gather for supper in the community room and watch the proceedings. We were joined by Dom Eamon, Abbot General of the S.O. Cistercians and his secretary Dom Thomas, normally resident in Rome, but spending a few days with us following the meeting of the Region of the Isles. The name of Jorge Bergoglio was not immediately familiar to some of us, but soon became so as the new pontificate began. It was momentous to have the inauguration of the Pope and the installation of the new Archbishop of Canterbury in the same week. Right from its beginnings Hyning has always had excellent ecumenical relationships in our area and this was a time to intensify our prayer for Christian unity.
Undoubtedly the three events which stand out this year are the deaths of Sr. Mary Anthony and Sr. Mary John and the profession of Sr. Hilda. On May 16th, on a still sunny evening, there was a very loud crash as the holm oak tree outside the community refectory fell without warning. Fortunately no-one was nearby and the only damage was to other shrubs and flowers. We thought this was the event of the day, but later that evening Sr. Mary Anthony was taken to hospital. She had been feeling tired for a couple of months but put it down to age finally catching up with her. It was, therefore, a great shock some hours later to have a diagnosis of terminal cancer, a diagnosis which she accepted with great faith and serenity. She expressed a desire to see Sr. M. Lucy who came from Brownshill together with Sr. Elizabeth Mary and Sr. M. Johanna (the latter two sadly en route for the funeral of Mr. Irwin, Sr. M. Johanna’s father) Sr. M. Lucy and our own community were able to visit Sr. M. Anthony over the next few days until her death on 22nd May. So many people wished to attend her funeral Mass that we had to turn the church around and have the furniture facing lengthways in order to accommodate them all. Bishop Brian Noble kindly presided at the Mass and Mgr. Paul Hypher, who had known her family for many years, preached the homily.
It was at the end of October that Sr. Mary John’s health began to deteriorate but she was able to stay in Dolphinlee House in Lancaster where she has been so well looked after these past four years and where she died peacefully on 8th November. Her sister Agnes and brother-in-law Andrew had spent a lot of time with her during that week as had the community. Her funeral mass was celebrated by Fr. Michael and the homily preached by Fr. Peter Watson MHM on 17th November.
It is fitting that our sisters rest together in our cemetery, both undertook the role of guest mistress and the numerous cards and messages that we have received attest to the help they gave to so many people and the selfless way in which they undertook their task of hospitality.
Meanwhile the summer months brought happier occasions. In August the majority of the community went to our Generalate House just outside Lille for meetings which brought together sisters from all our monasteries. On their return we had our community retreat, preached this year by Dom Brendan from Belmont Abbey. Several sisters from Brownshill joined us for this as did Sr. Mary Helen and several African sisters currently in Europe, Sr. Marie Daphrose, Sr. Bibiane and a novice Sr. Germaine who originates from Benin. The end of the retreat coincided with Sr. Mary Helen’s silver jubilee of profession and a few days later we had the joy of Sr. Hilda’s (Jane’s) first profession. Her parents, who had celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this year, joined us as did her brother Hugh, his wife Sora and young daughter, Anya. We were pleased to have Bishop Hugh Gilbert as main celebrant together with Fr. Duncan Campbell OP, Fr. Peter OCSO and Mgr. Slattery. Close friends, many with young children, from different places where Sr. Hilda had studied or worked were able to share her special day, which was happy and joyful for us all.
Another joy was the reception of Julia, our young German helper, into full communion with the church on the eve of Pentecost during the visit of her parents to England. She looked lovely in Bavarian dress. During this year we were also happy to have six Oblates make their permanent commitment and two renew their commitment for 3 years. The Hyning community is greatly enriched and supported by the presence of so many people: our Oblates in particular, our resident chaplain Fr. Michael, our resident helpers Julia, Elizabeth and Sr. Samia, Pamela and John W. who give us daily help and others, too numerous to name, who help us significantly on a very regular basis and who are valued and appreciated. During the year we have also received help from Fr. Dave, from Jessica, and from Vanessa. We thank you all for your generosity and your friendship.
An interesting innovation has been the involvement of children in the icon studio following on from Bishop Michael’s initiative in having two icons ‘touring’ the schools during the year of Faith. Sr. M. Stella has been involved with 6 primary schools giving workshops on the spiritual meaning of icons. One school sent 6 children between the ages of 5 – 11 over a period of several months and each wrote an icon for their school. These were blessed during our Midday prayer in July and later chrismated by Bishop Michael at a ceremony in their school. Sr. M. Stella was also asked to write an icon of the feeding of the Five Thousand for a parish in South Carolina, U.S.A.
Alongside our work with guests we do try to keep up with necessary improvements and maintenance. 2013 will go down in history as the “Year of the Windows and Chairs”. Most of the outside of the house was painted in the summer and windows re-pointed. Some of this work necessitated scaffolding and cherry pickers. Earlier in the year cottage 2 was painted and had new carpets and kitchen units and the units were also replaced in the Little Sitting Room. In June we changed the chairs in the guests’ dining-room, the old ones being heavy and cumbersome, in July we added new chairs to the lounge for those who find the armchairs too low and recently the chapel chairs which were ‘temporary’ thirty years ago when the church was built were also replaced. All seem to have added to the comfort of our guests.
Sr. Josephine Mary has recently returned from a visit to our monastery in Burkina Faso where their church was dedicated on 10th October. She was accompanied by Edwina from the parish in Ansdell who have been very generous in financial support for the new church. We have enjoyed seeing photos of their celebration.
The sisters in Vietnam will move into their new monastery in the first week in December, together with the young woman living with them, four of whom are postulants. Sr. Anna Maria spent ten days with us in September, it was wonderful to see her and have first hand news and she enjoyed catching up with so many friends from her years here.
2014 promises to be an interesting year for us. In January we look forward to receiving Irene as a postulant, in August we will hold our General Chapter at our Generalate House in Lille and in November we will celebrate the 40th anniversary of our arrival at Hyning. We confide all these intentions to your prayer as we wish you a Happy Christmas and New Year.