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franciscan - May 1999

© The Society of Saint Francis, 1999

Community Routes

On Course

In December, Brother Nolan Tobias received his Master’s degree in Theology from Edinburgh University; his subject was the Study of Non-Western Christianity. It involved a year as a full-time student, attending lectures and seminars, and the production of a dissertation.

Also in December, Sister Chris qualified as a Deaf-Blind Manual Interpreter, an advanced qualification which built on her existing qualification and experience as a Guide Communicator. As an official Interpreter, she can now be asked to undertake this work in settings such as law courts.

Brother Kentigern John gained a certificate in Therapeutic Massage from the Scottish School of Professional Massage.
In March, Sister Gina completed a two-year course at Tower Hamlets College to gain an Advanced Diploma in Counselling and Psychotherapy. This study followed a one-year Certificate course in the same subject.

Canterbury Tales

In the Autumn of 1998, Brother Giles was given the opportunity to spend a term at the Franciscan Study Centre at Canterbury. It proved a worthwhile experience as he describes:

‘The Centre is run by Roman Catholic Franciscans and is open to all kinds of people, who follow courses ranging from academic theology to formation training, spirituality and renewal. I chose to study Renewal, along with Roman Catholic sisters, mainly from Ireland, and we had a happy time together. I studied Christian anthropology, the theology of the Church, Franciscan history and liturgy.

‘I lived in a house at the Centre which I shared with two Capuchin friars from Italy, two more from Kenya and an OFM friar from India, and we enjoyed a good community life. The weekends were free and so I was able to visit family and friends, especially tertiaries and companions in Kent, whom I had first met when I was at the SSF friary at Harbledown (in Canterbury) seventeen years ago. The experience at the Centre has renewed and refreshed me; and now Brother Gregory is enjoying the spring term there.’

Renewal in the spirit of your mind

Sister Chris writes:

‘From 12 to 15 January, more than twenty First and Third Order members met in the peaceful setting of St Katharine's Foundation, East London, to be "Renewed in the Spirit". This was an SSF conference with a difference, because instead of being the Missioners, we were given the experience of being missioned to!

‘Father Nick Mercer was our first speaker who, through a bombardment of sound and vision, showed us how lots of people in modern life receive information. His lively demonstration gave us an idea of the kind of society we were trying to reach out to with the gospel message.

‘Terry-Anne Preston, in a more gentle yet lively way, helped us to understand the effect of change which we create when we go into a parish for mission. She also coaxed us into drama and banner waving in a liturgical context and, in a novel way, we looked at some prayers we use regularly.

‘Bishop Lindsay Urwin, who played a major part in last year's conference, spoke on the subject of "Mission through sacramental action" and much of what he said provided seeds for discussion.

‘We were very grateful to Sister Moyra and Brother Kevin for organising the liturgy and to Father Timothy Peskett for playing the organ for us. Last but not least, to Brother Peter Douglas, who arranged this whole conference so well that he was asked to do the same for next year when we take a closer look at Holy Week.’

Fifty-Five Years

Retirement, it is often said, brings new opportunities. Well, Franciscan brothers and sisters do not retire, but when ill-health led to a move to a Residential Home for Brother Gordon, he certainly made good use of the opportunities there. Besides finding new outlets for ministry, much appreciated by both his fellow residents and the matron, he sat down to write his autobiography and Fifty-Five Years in SSF is the result. Others have written histories of the community itself, and biographies and autobiographies of key leaders, but this, as Gordon says, is the story of 'An Ordinary Brother'. As such, it gives those of us of more tender years a unique impression of life in SSF over more than half a century, whilst another fascinating aspect of this short, accessible book (34pp) is its descriptions of places as varied as Papua New Guinea, Yeovil and Brixton. As Brother Damian says in his Foreword, Gordon's life as a friar has brought credit to the Society and reflects the glory of God in our midst, and so that is the true value of this book. The book is available from Alnmouth Friary (£2.00 + 50p p&p).

Gabriel CSF RIP

In December, Sister Gabriel moved from the hermitage at Compton Durville to the CSF house in Birmingham. None of the current members of Compton had been without her praying presence just up the road, so she left a large hole in the corporate life. But increasing age and the onset of another winter combined to make it clear that it was no longer possible for Gabriel to live alone.
So it was that she left the converted cricket pavilion which had been her home for fifteen years to become part of the Birmingham community. Then she died suddenly at St Francis House on 10 March.

May CP RIP

The last surviving member of the Community of the Presentation, Sister May, died peacefully in the early hours of 9 January 1999 at the age of eighty-five. May's community had been founded in 1927 from the Community of the Epiphany in Truro. It was originally dedicated to Christ the Consoler, with the aim of reviving the vocational approach to nursing, a profession which had been increasingly taken over by the state after the First World War. The community remained small in numbers, growing to eleven sisters at its largest, but it ministered to many people at its nursing home in Highgate and, from 1947, the small hospital, St Saviour's, Osnaburgh Street. As the community grew older, they retired from the London work to Hythe in Kent. When only two were left they asked if any other community could assist them; CSF responded and Sisters Angela Mary and Veronica, and later Elizabeth, went to give support. Sister Bessie died in 1991 and, in 1997, Sister May moved with CSF to Birmingham. She was a happy, gentle person, but memory loss and strokes eventually necessitated full nursing care during her last seven months.

Alfred Barrett, a resident at Hilfield Friary for almost fifty years, died of a heart attack at Hilfield on 26 December.
May they rest in peace and rise in glory.

Round Up

Tom Montgomery was clothed a novice at Hilfield on 31 January, taking the name Brother Augustine Thomas ... Carol Smith was clothed a novice at Compton Durville on 13 February, taking the name Sister Carol.
Jason has moved to Hilfield from Gladstone Park ... John George has returned to the American Province after a happy and fruitful time at the Birmingham Friary ... Kevin has moved from Birmingham to Hilfield ... Peter Christian, from the Australia/New Zealand Province, has been making a welcome visit to this Province and has now returned home ... Robert Coombes has moved from Hilfield to Barrowfield.
Alan has been secularised and released from membership of the First Order.
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