Our first piece of good news which is happening right now is that the sun has appeared at last and there are signs all around us that Spring is on the way! We were lucky enough not to have any flooding recently, but the rain never seemed to stop and the buckets and basins here and there inside the monastery and guest house were sure signs that our roofs were not immune to the onslaught. During these weeks, we kept in our prayer all those people who were suffering from the floods - particularly staff, students and friends, who live in what the media was calling the “black spot”. We realise, too, that though the rain has stopped, the aftermath of the floods is still there and that it will take all those affected months to get back to normal. We will continue to pray for you all.
Despite the grey weather, the community stayed in good spirits and, looking back on the year since our last letter, there have been times of real joy. In fact, as I write this letter, we are remembering and celebrating the first anniversary of Pope Francis’ election, a moment which heralded a new era in the church. In his exhortation entitled “The Joy of the Gospel” he encourages us to go forward with great hope emphasising by our lives the joy of Christian discipleship.
This very joy was ours at some very special moments during the year. In August, the two Communities of Hyning and Brownshill met together at Hyning to make the annual retreat. Coming together is always a special time and this year it was extra special because, after the retreat, Jane, the novice, made her first vows. Members of her family and many of her friends joined the community in what was a great celebration of thanksgiving and joy. She is now Sr. Hilda.
In September, it was the turn of Sr. Marie Apolline and Sr. Mary Helen, who was in England at the time, to celebrate 25 years of Profession here at Brownshill. Sr. Mary Helen’s family and our friends from the local church and area were able to join us for a lovely Jubilee Mass and celebration.
Sr.Devota, whom many of you will remember from her time at Slough, also spent a couple of months with us last summer and it was lovely to see her again. She, together with Sr. Marie Apolline and Sr. Anastasie who has been with us since September 2012, filled the house with real African joy and we all shared in it.
But there have been sad times too. Sr. Mary Johanna’s father died in May and her brother is ill. Sr. Mary Stephen’s sister died more recently in early March. Both Sisters and their families would be grateful for your prayer. One of the strengths and joys of community life is the great support which we receive in times of sorrow from each other and from our sisters in all the other Bernardine communities.
The death of Sr. Mary Anthony was a shock for us all because, although she had been ‘under the weather’ for a while we had not realised it was so serious. She had been a central and much loved member of our Communities and, of course, a much loved Headteacher at Slough. Some past students and teachers from Slough managed to get to the funeral and we were so pleased that some of them arranged for a memorial Mass to be said in the Slough chapel. Here at Brownshill, we were pleased that Sr. Mary Lucy, who had made profession more than 50 years ago with Sr. Mary Anthony, was able to be with her “pal” when she died and then return to Hyning for her funeral.
We had a wonderful summer, with weeks of sun, which we tried to remember in January and February! However, Sr. Catherine and Sr. Mary Stephen did not see much of the sun as they were both backwards and forwards to hospital at that time. Sr. Mary Stephen broke her knee cap and Sr. Catherine had a couple of serious eye operations. They are both back in action now.
Our retreat house continues to function well and the groups and individuals who take advantage of the silence and peace are very appreciative of our presence here. In our turn, we find the guests good to be with and a witness to living with a certain joy often despite great difficulties in their lives. We also have many visitors and it is always a special pleasure to welcome friends from Slough. So, if you have not been to see us yet, please try to do so if you are anywhere near beautiful Gloucestershire!
All the sisters here have lovely memories of St. Bernard’s, Slough. We keep our past students and teachers in our prayer, and a monthly Mass is celebrated for your intentions. Please keep us, and the people who come to us, in your prayer.
With love from us all,
Sr. Mary Stephen, Sr. Elizabeth Mary, Sr. Mary Lucy, Sr. Catherine, Sr. Mary Philippa, Sr. Anastasie, Sr. Marie Apolline, Sr. Mary Johanna