Other Ministry Stories ...

Anna Marie Zandonà

I come from a large family near Vicenza in Northern Italy . Since I was small I was attracted to religious life and so, with the help of my parish priest, I went to the FCJ Sisters in Turin when I was twelve years old, where I studied and then did various tasks in the house while waiting to be old enough to begin the novitiate.

Anna Maria fcJ with a group of Sisters in Turin.
Anna Maria, fcJ, is the sister at the lower right of the picture

In my more than 60 years of religious life I have carried out different ministries among both young and old with joy and enthusiasm, both in  Switzerland and in Italy.


 

Anouska Robinson-Biggin

Photo of Anouska, fcJ.My name is Anouska Robinson-Biggin and I have been professed as a Faithful Companion of Jesus for three years.  Although my name does not suggest this, I was born and bought up in Yorkshire, in the north of England to English parents. 

I met the FCJs on the internet, and entering with them has really been the best thing I ever did!    Before I entered I was a secondary school teacher so my main ministry includes teaching Religious Education in Maria Fidelis Convent School FCJ, London. 

Living in central London, I also have many other opportunities for ministry.  I work on a team with the Jesuits as part of their Young Adult Ministry – FS Plus, organising liturgies and events for women and men in their twenties and thirties. 

I have also recently completed a Prayer Guides course which enables me to accompany people on retreats and through spiritual direction. 

Alongside all these activities I am also a member of our Vocations Team and a member of the FCJ Spirituality Group.


 

Bernadetta Magagnin

Sr. Bernadetta fcJ.Sr. Bernadette with the children in costumes.My name is Bernardetta Magagnin and I am Italian.  I was missioned to Paris many years ago and have already celebrated fifty years of religious life!

My apostolate in Paris is with the small children in the nursery school of Notre Dame de France . Little children always bring me great joy.

I am also involved with the Italian parish in Paris , where again I help the catechetical team  with the small children by my presence at the parish Eucharist and at retreat days organized for those children preparing to receive the Sacraments of Eucharist and Confirmation.

All this highlights for me the importance of accompanying people, both the elderly and small children.



 

Bernadette Coughlin

Photo of Bernadette with Terrier.My name is Bernadette Coughlin and I am known to many as ‘Bernie’.

I am a teacher of mathematics in Gumley House Convent School FCJ in Greater London. It is a great school and I love being here. I teach mathematics and I am a Year 10 form tutor. I enjoy seeing young people doing mathematics and solving real life problems. I try to assure them that mathematics is not a subject to be afraid of but a subject to enjoy. 

I am a non resident local leader of two FCJ communities in the north west of England and visit them as often as I can.

One of my favourite hobbies is walking, which I do frequently. I love to go for long walks along the river or in the countryside. When I am with my family, I am often accompanied by our family pets, two Border Lakeland Terriers. Walking clears my mind and puts me very much in touch with God at the heart of creation.


Whilst living in London, I developed a love of the theatre and I go to see musicals as often as I can. I enjoy plays too and visit Shakespeare's Globe Theatre during the summer months.  I also enjoy listening to religious music, my favourite artists being Marty Haugen and David Haas.

I try to enjoy life as much as I can and to live it to the full. Our Generalate team have recently moved to Gumley House and this has added another dimension to my life here in community, where we all join in the daily tasks associated with community living.


 

Brigid Halligan

Brigid H.I am Brigid and I am on the far right of the photo talking with another FCJ. I have seen Bellerive School FCJ, Liverpool, evolve from a girls' grammar school to an inner city comprehensive. The evolution has been slow and challenging.

Over the last four years we have moved from being split site to being on one site, (well almost!) Our school occupies four beautiful buildings and is surrounded by magnificent city parks. I think our art and technology rooms must have the best vistas of any art rooms as they overlook Prince's Park. Two of our buildings are already connected by a subterranean walk-way and very soon all our buildings will be interconnected because we have another walkway fast approaching completion. (This puts a new gloss on interconnectedness.)

Brigid H.We face the challenges of any other inner city comprehensive school especially that of promoting high academic standards. We are very proud of our academic attainment and our commitment to community. Girls come to Bellerive from all over Liverpool. We have girls from many ethnic backgrounds especially many black British girls. Eastern Europeans are now joining our ranks, and we have a few from South America.

When Bellerive was a grammar school it had an excellent reputation for science. This is still strong and we have just applied for Science College status. (We had to raise £50,000 as part of our bid and spent a Saturday packing bags at Tesco's. We raked in £1,775! If we spend another 50 Saturdays in Tesco's there is no telling what we might be able to build!)

Whilst the responsibilities of school leadership are quite challenging, they are also most rewarding and I am glad to have the opportunity of leading Bellerive into this new Millennium.

Our school's motto is , "Suaviter in modo fortiter in re" which translates roughly as "Be strong in action and gentle in manner". It is a succinct expression of what we encourage our school community to live out.


 

Carmel Hanley

Photo of Sr Carmel.I live in a community of three in Stretford, Manchester, not very far from where I was born. Being in community with Gabriel and Winefride, being involved in the work — physical, emotional and spiritual — of living companionship, within and beyond the community, is at the heart of my ministry, and has become increasingly important to me since reaching the age of retirement.
Our community is based in St Ann’s parish in Stretford and I love the contacts here with parishioners and neighbours. As a member of the SVP Society I visit elderly and housebound women and men. We try to raise awareness of and express appreciation for the life and contribution so many elderly parishioners have made to the Church and particularly to St Ann’s over countless years. We organise special services, afternoon tea and a wonderful Christmas party for them. We welcome parishioners into our house for a monthly Scripture study group. They also enjoy coming to weekly Advent and Lent prayer and reflection groups and an Easter celebration. About a dozen or so friends from the parish regularly attend and we all find it helpful.

Whatever contribution I could make to community and parish life was seriously challenged when, in September 2011, I began a new ministry as non-resident Local Leader to Kersal community in Salford, and also to one sister being cared for in a home across the city, and to another sister living alone but near to Kersal. There were seven sisters at that time in Kersal. My first two years were truly a baptism of fire. A major new building project had just started, creating havoc both at the front and at the back of our large house, inside and out. We were preparing to welcome a community of elderly sisters from the other end of the country, Broadstairs, as soon as the last nail was in place. Most difficult of all for the sisters has been the loss of six of their companions in twenty months. However, the FCJ spirit is very strong and there is a growing sense of a genuine coming together into a new community, one community. There are many signs of real joy and appreciation of their beautiful surroundings, and of the quality of care that is available for their spiritual and physical health and wellbeing. Contributing to the life at Kersal is now my main ministry.

 

Catherine Bibby

Photo of Catherine.My maing ministries are school chaplaincy and hospice care.

I continue to be involved in Upton Hall School Chaplaincy support.

As well, I work in St. John's Hospice on the Wirral.

One of my 'hobbies' is Holistic Therapy - I am qualified in Reflexology,
Body Massage and Indian Head Massage.

I have been able to give workshops in a local parish and in Katherine House (a small FCJ Spirituality Centre in Salford), as well as
treatment to friends.


 

Christine Anderson

Photo of Christine.Christine Anderson lives in Rome and is Director of Faith and Praxisfcj. She works as an Organisational Analyst and Facilitator for International  Organisations and leads training events for lay people and apostolic religious in Rome and in other countries of the world especially Africa. This work focusses on the integration of faith with organisational dynamics.

She is program leader of an International Leadership Development Program in Rome which is a joint program of Faith and Praxisfcj and The Grubb Institute London. The participants are of many different nationalities and cultures.

Christine moved to Rome in 2003 after sixteen years as Founder and Director of the Craighead Institute in Glasgow, Scotland.   This Institute is an extension of the work of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius concentrating on the practical application and integration of the exercises in everyday life.  The Training and Analytic work has a strong discernment and social justice component. Faith and Praxis are at the heart of the methodology. Being Ignatian in outlook the work of the Institute is based on the experience of the participants, social and cultural analysis, Ignatian and scriptural reflection and organisation for action.


 

Christine Frost

Attached is a photo taken 06.06.2010 of the team of staff and volunteers I worked with on a local housing estate.

Photo of Christine with staff and volunteers.

I work with two registered charityies Neighbours In Poplar and SPLASH. The former is engaged with older disabled & isolated people coving a large part of Tower Hamlets and providing them with all kinds of support.

SPLASH works with five council Estates providing community, youth, educational and social services for people of all ages and from access the globe, I also provide some support to some of our fragile and house bound parishioners. It’s a great life, with no time for boredom!


 

Cornelia Vîrgă

Photo of Sr. Cornelia.I am a teacher.. that is my mission.

My name is Cornelia, and I made my vows in September 2008. I first thought about religious life when I was only 8 or 9 years old. I did not give too much importance to it then, but the idea came back into my mind from time to time.

Sr. Cornelia with students.Later after much searching, reflecting and discerning I knew that God could well be calling me to religious life as an FCJ Sister.  This call I felt deep down in my heart, it fulfilled all my desires, and I knew that the source of my happiness was in Jesus, and would not be found elsewhere.
After two years of Novitiate in Paris, I was missioned  to Bucharest in order to study . My first mission was to be a student, and to be prepared to serve God and my neighbour in school. I am now a primary school teacher… having completed a three year course in pedagogy at the University of Bucharest. 

As a student, I enjoyed the companionship of good friends and dedicated teachers who love the teaching profession.A nice custom in our University is that each year at Christmas time the students put on a show for the teachers and their fellow students. Working together drew us closer together. Sharing moments of emotion and joy Photo of Sr. Cornelia's classroom.strengthened and enriched staff/student relationships. Every day there were new things to learn, and I realised that today I am richer than yesterday, but poorer than tomorrow.

I am following a Master’s course in addition to teaching in a primary school not very far from where we live in FCJ community. Each morning I go to school with enthusiasm and joy, and come back home energised and full of hope. Working  with young children, each day is a new adventure!

Being a Sister  at University where so many saw me as someone different, was a challenge for me ( I was different because I am a Catholic, a person under vows, without a Religious habit, and looking like everyone else.)  Being an FCJ student  among students,and now a teacher on a Primary school staff,  for me  means being with them, accepting each one as she is.  We experience wonderful times together, share our learnings, laugh together and encourage each other, and now I have many new friends.

May the Holy Spirit show each one of us how to be a good companion and friend to those we meet every day.


 

Dominique Kaufmann

Photo of Dominique.My name is Rita Kaufmann, I was born in Oensingen,in the  canton of Solothurn in Switzerland.

On  8th September 1967 I entered the convent of the Sisters, ”Faithful Companions of Jesus.” in Broadstairs Kent, England

There I received the religious habit and the name Sister Dominique.

In 1970 I made my first vows and then was sent back to our big international boarding school in Fribourg, Switzerland. There I learned French and looked after the boarders till 1979.

In 1979 I was missioned to our Convent in Jersey, Channel Islands, where we also had a big school.

In the kindergarten.1981-1989 I went back to Broadstairs, where I then did my training as a nursery teacher.

Photo of Dominique in kindergarten.In September 1989 I came back to Switzerland, to Naters in the canton of the Valais, a very beautiful place surrounded by mountains. Here with three Kindergarten teachers we opened the Kindergarten Nursery school where I have been the Principal for 20 years.

I still enjoy each new day, caring for these children, 18 months to 5 years of age and giving them some love and security during the time they spent in our Kindergarten.

I find it a very nice way to serve the Lord through these children who are in my care for the day.


 

Gabriela Lungo

Going right back to the beginning

Photo of Gabi.I work in the day-centre of an ONG where children come to do their homework after school.  They receive help for their homework, as well as having a hot meal in a nearby canteen. The children also have the chance to do other kinds of activities besides those connected with school: collage, drawing, learning practical skills, general culture, role-play, as well as outings to the theatre or to museums.

All the children come from families with very limited means, and more often than not they are very poor from the point of view of affection. Most of the children do not have room at home or conditions in which they could do their homework, and there are some whose parents are not able to help them. Those who live far from the town leave home about 6.30 and get home around 18.00 in the evening. For the children this timetable is not always easy: too much homework and getting home late.

I often see tiredness on their faces.  And I have the impression that they are like grown-up workers, in other words like those who go out to work. And it is true, because for most of them their intellectual capacity is limited and they work more slowly, with difficulty, and perhaps much more than those who don’t need support.

Seeing beyond the more difficult days when they are frustrated because of too much homework, or because of the deprivations at home, or because they are behind with their school work, it is clear that these children are fighters.  Today I heard the joy of  a victory after a struggle.  I have been working for about three months with a little boy who has difficulty learning the multiplication table.  I have sent many messages home asking his mother to help him.  Sometimes she collaborated with me but when she didn’t the child was disorientated and didn’t know whether to listen to his mother or to listen to me.  Today he didn’t know all the tables but to my surprise he knew most of them.  When I asked him “How did you get all these right answers?” “I don’t know, I just let myself do it”, he replied.

Photo of Gabi with children.Often they are struggling with their inner fury which comes from the frustrations, injustices, rejections they live in their families, or from the lack of being valued and trusted, the lack of self-esteem and values, and from the disorientation and confusion which comes from the difference between the way of living and behaving that we offer in the centre, and what they see at home in their family.

When they go home in the evening everything that we have built in the daytime as regards values and responsibility is shattered, and the next day we go right back to the beginning. I feel limited every time I put myself in their shoes to try to understand a bit better what their behaviour means.  And I realise that I do not understand very much; these children have families but they do not have my experience of family.

It is hard to go back to the beginning every day, because the small signs of progress in attitude and behaviour will only be seen over time. It is not hard to go back to the beginning when I say to them every day “Bravo”, “Very good”, “Excellent”, “You’re wonderful”.  I realise that it is more difficult for me when it might happen that I have not loved or encouraged the children with the whole of my being. This is the only thing I can do to make something new and fresh happen in their lives.


 

Photo of Sr. Gabriel.

Gabriel Barron

My name is Mary Gabriel Barron. I live in the FCJ community at Stretford, Manchester.

My ministry is varied. I visit a number of elderly, housebound people in our local parish and take them Holy Communion.

I am one of the parish’s Safeguarding representatives. The role involves ensuring that the Church’s guidelines for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults are implemented.

I do voluntary work at the local Macmillan Cancer Care Centre and visit our sisters at Kersal one day a week.

am also on the Governing Body of Bellerive School  FCJ.


 

Gertrude Hodkinson

Photo of Sr. Gertrude.My name is Gertrude Hodkinson and I am a member of the FCJ Community at St. Aloysius Convent, Phoenix Road in central London.

I am still enjoying life in my 23rd year of retirement. My main ministry now is that of hospitality, welcoming the many FCJ Sisters and others who call in or stay with us as they continue their journeys to our other houses.

We have a group of Companion in Mission in which I am involved and I also enjoy delivering Vocation posters etc. to London churches.

In the parish I support the Readers and Eucharistic ministers and the Traidcraft stall, and at Christmas and Easter, arrange special services for the younger children in our chapel. Recently, the Euro Star and other lines have been developed at Kings Cross/ St.Pancras and our house is conveniently situated on the road linking the latter and Euston Station . When the door bell rings it could be a Sister from any part of the world! Life is full of pleasant surprises.


 

Gloria Calabrese

Photo of Sr. Gloria.Hello, my name is Gloria and I live in the heart of London, between Euston Station on one side and St. Pancras International on the other. Our community home is also the hospitality house for the Province and is presently the Formation house too, which means we have young sisters in training living with us and we frequently accommodate sisters returning from overseas or passing through on their way to meetings.

The main ministry of our house is that of hospitality and welcome. Since our charism is that of companionship, we have a unique opportunity here to offer companionship to all those who come through our door.

I also volunteer, twice a week, in a women’s centre in King’s Cross, called “Women at the Well”, which was set up by the Sisters of Mercy and which provides services and support for women caught up in pavement culture and cycles of abuse – another way of saying drugs and prostitution.  Here, too, I spend my time offering companionship in one form or another, doing art and craft activities or hand/foot massage, or simply sitting and listening to people’s stories.

It seems to me that the greatest gift we can offer is our time and our presence. Being a Faithful Companion of Jesus, I’m also called to be a companion of all those I meet during my day, whatever my activity may be. I think this is a big challenge and also a great privilege.


 

Irene Maria Spinato

Photo of Srs Imelda, Irene and Christine.Suor Irene Maria Spinato FCJ.

MON MINISTERE A PARIS

1. Avant tout je vie avec la Communauté et donc je vie en compagnonage avec mes sœurs — en partageant mes activités apostoliques — en animant nos moments de prière, de réflection — en préparant les repas une ou deux fois par semaine.

2. Dans notre ECOLE « NOTRE DAME DE FRANCE » — en soutenant les chefs d’établissement et, en particulier, en travaillant dans le domaine de la Catéchèse et des célébrations liturgiques avec les animateurs de la Pastorale.

3. Dans la MISSIONE ITALIANA — en préparant les enfants et les jeunes aux sacrements — en partécipant à la chorale qui anime les célébrations à la vivacité toute italienne !


Jo Grainger

Photo of Sr. Jo.Having become an FCJ at a later age than most, my teaching career resumed after a  Novitiate of two years  with a short time in Poles, the FCJ boarding school which has since closed. This was followed by time at Gumley House Convent School, Isleworth, where I was Deputy Head, and then a move to Somers Town, to be Head of Maria Fidelis Convent School.  After eight years based in Salford as Provincial I came to Hartlepool. This was in response to a request to our Provincial for an FCJ sister to help with the collaboration of administrative tasks in the Deanery – the seven Catholic churches in  Hartlepool.

The people here are extremely friendly, especially those I meet in the parish and, of course, our Companions in Mission. I have no doubt that the welcome I received reflected the significant part that FCJ sisters have played in the lives of so many families in Hartlepool. The first sisters arrived  here in 1885 and generations of families were educated by the FCJ Sisters at St Josephs Convent Grammar school, St Joseph’s Primary, Sacred Heart Secondary, St Anne’s Secondary Modern   and English Martyrs Comprehensive School.

Photo of Srs. Claire, Jo and Mary.As a volunteer, I have been able to make contact with a wide variety of people. Each week I help with a soup lunch for refugees and asylum seekers, a breakfast club for the homeless and I go into two schools to give Maths support to some individual students.

We are very pleased to have facilities in our home where groups can meet and  where, in good FCJ tradition, education continues.  We are blessed to  have a lovely little chapel with reservation of the Blessed Sacrament and the regular celebration of Mass. 

Living in Hartlepool has given me the opportunity to enjoy walks along the coast or round the Marina, one of my favourite places. I have also been blessed to have a piano here and so can continue to make my own music as well as listening to concerts on the radio

 

Juliet Ory

Sr. Juliet, fcJ.My name is Juliet Ory. I am English, and I came to Bucharest, Romania from Brussels in September 2003.

My interest and support for Romania began in the late nineties when I came for a short visit with the Head of Notre Dame de France, our school in Paris, where I was teaching catechetics and English. That visit, my first to an ex-communist country of Eastern Europe, made a deep impression on me, I was changed by it and challenged by it. Helping young people in need in Romania, that was our Jubilee year project in Paris in 2000.  I came back to Romania for an apostolic experience in the summer of 2001, and again in August 2002, for the FCJ International Youth Camp in Roman, in the Catholic northeast of the country.

I feel a sense of deep peace and joy being here on mission, that I am where the Lord wants me to be…  enjoying the challenge of living and working in Bucharest , very conscious of the widening gap between rich and poor.  It took some time to learn the language and  I now feel closer to understanding  the mentality of a  people who suffered so much under the communist regime, and to appreciate the richness of Romanian culture, the giftedness of its people and the beauty of this country. 

We are a small international community of FCJ Sisters, living in the north of the city.  My ministry I would say is “companionship” … reaching out in little ways to those in need. ..     I am teaching English at St. Joseph’s  Catholic Nursing School for nurses in training, adults ranging from 18- 50 years of age !  I usually enlist the help of one or two Romanian students who have studied English and are looking for some experience of teaching a small group of adults. There is always  time for listening, encouragement, sharing ideas and ideals.  A number of students ,including some Religious Sisters, come to our apartment for English too, and these lessons are always a joy for me.

Juliet with the children in church.I coordinate the catechetical programme for children and young people preparing for the Sacraments of Initiation in the Sacré-Coeur parish, English-speaking community. The children preparing for First Holy Communion, often come from very different cultural backgrounds, but all speak some English, and their spontaneity and enthusiasm in getting to know Jesus is a joy and a challenge for me. It is good too to get to know their families and to encourage a lively participation in the Saturday evening liturgy in English.

Our little community shares our Ignatian spirituality with a group of women who come regularly to our apartment here in Strada Monetăriei for prayer meetings when  we share our experience of personal prayer and support each other in our seeking to give God a central place in our lives. Sometimes, we meditate on  a spiritual theme, like Epiphany or the I AM sayings of Jesus or the O antiphons, or the new theology of the Cosmos, using a power point presentation.   Always a keen photographer, I really relish creating these power point presentations where with the help of  visual images and  music, we can enter into Scripture in a deeper way and encourage a creative personal response from each one.    We have had the opportunity too of sharing these presentations with a larger group both of priests, Religious and lay people.

We have contact with elderly poor people who are often alone, and also with university students needing financial support. Salaries here are low, and many live below the poverty line, struggling to survive. Romania is now a member of EU, but there is much to be done to raise living standards and restore  a sense of dignity and  hope, especially in this time of economic crisis.

I feel blessed to be here on mission, striving to be the human, gentle face of God to all I meet on my way, as our recent Chapter decree invites.


 

Kate Frost

Sr. Kate fcJ.It is interesting to look back at one’s life and remember all the people we have met on the journey. I have such happy memories, of all the places and the people I have walked with. 

I arrived in Adelphi House Grammar School for Girls, Salford, September 1963, to replace a teacher who had died suddenly a few weeks before.  I took her subjects, History and Geography, and had little time to adjust to my first teaching position!   I was soon taking girls to retreats in Liverpool and Leeds, geography field work in the Lakes where we climbed Helvellyn, and in Wales where we climbed Cader ldris, among other things!! Trips to Walsingham and Silts in Austria. I was so young then! It was such an enriching time for me and always great fun with the girls. I am still in contact with many of these past pupils.

I moved to The Newlands School, Middlesbrough 1974. It was a Mixed Comprehensive School with the Marist Sixth Form College next door.  I was Head of Rievaulx House so got involved with all sorts of games and inter house challenges.  There were lots and lots of retreats in Salford and Minsteracres - what memories and fun!  I went to the Sixth Form on the RE team.

Then in 1982 I went off to Preston, to Cardinal Newman Sixth Form College situated on the Lark Hill site, which was previously the FCJ Secondary School. There were about a thousand Sixth Formers, all full of energy and desire to know themselves and take on the challenge of life. I was part of a wonderful RE staff and ran a Third World Group. There were retreats in Castlerigg and Ushaw, Taizé and Lourdes as well as hundreds of UCAS forms and discos at Tokyo Joe’s! What wonderful memories and so many past students with whom I keep contact - what a privileged life to touch so many young people. I spent one summer in Sierra Leone with Sr Agnes an had a great experience.

I retired from teaching in 1997 and moved to Liverpool, where I volunteered in our two Schools in the area: Bellerive FCJ, in Liverpool, and Upton FCJ, on the Wirral. I also helped with Asylum Seekers in this area and was involved with three summer schools in Romania.

In August 2003 I was given the opportunity to have sabbatical time and I spent it with our Sisters in Manila, Melbourne, and Yogyakarta in Indonesia. It was an enriching time which I really appreciate.

I went to Glasgow in November 2003 where I lived until I moved to Gumley in Greater London. Scotland was wonderful! I enjoyed the 6 years in London as Local Leader and Spiritual Director to some young adults. One of the greatest joys was organising Weeks of Guided Prayer in Enfield and Palmer’s Green Parishes.  These weeks are still a great blessing which I am part of every year.  I continue to meet with the people I directed in London by Skype, emails and visits. The wonder of technology!

“Go north my friend go north!” and I did in 2010!  So I came to Hartlepool in the North East. It is the first time I have not had a school in the grounds or near but I often to go Middlesbrough and Peterlee when they invite me to take classes. I also meet with past students of my days in Middlesbrough so keep contact with their lives.  There is so much to do with parish and inter Church plans.

It has been and is a good life, which I have enjoyed, such variety and wonderful people. I feel I have walked with people on the road of life as a Faithful Companion to them and to the Lord. I know that if I did not have Him as the Companion I would not have been able to keep up with the wonderful people I had with me !


Sr. Klara fcJ.

Klara Brumann

My name is Klara Brumann and I am a Swiss fcJ sister.

After having spent eight years in Paris, I am now missioned back to Switzerland.   There  I will be working as a member  of the chaplaincy team.    

I am looking forward to this new mission in the home for the elderly of the village of Naters. I will be praying with and accompanying  the sick and the dying.

I am going back to the same house where I worked as a nurse eight years ago.  But I will be meeting new people and  many things have changed; this means that it will be a new beginning.


 

Sr. Loretta fcJ.Loretta Madigan

I have always considered myself very fortunate to have grown up on a farm. From an early age I absorbed a great love and appreciation of nature. I still find it a constant source of awe and wonder and a very faithful teacher.

I spent thirty-three stimulating and challenging years working in secondary education and three years in pastoral ministry.

I now devote most of my time and energy to supporting Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Initiatives at local and national level.

I also welcome the opportunity to retain an involvement in secondary education as an FCJ Governor.


 

Lucia Gonzo

Sr. Lucia fcJ.I have been a Faithful Companion of Jesus from more than fifty years. My first meeting with the FCJ Sisters was in the summer of 1947 when I was more or less obliged by my family to go to Turin to visit my sister who had already been an FCJ for four years.

The warmth with which I was welcomed, and the atmosphere which filled the convent really touched me and I decided not to return to home.

Sr. Lucia in the market.Even if my decision was as quick as lightning I have never regretted my “Yes” to the Lord.

As an FCJ I was involved in various ministries, service in community and teaching in the Kindergarten School both in Turin and in S. Mauro. In Livorno my ministry was that of homemaker in community and assisting Sr. Anna Maria in the Church of St. Giulia . I am back in Turin now where my main ministry is prayer; I do what I can in the community and I am a companion to the other sisters in Community.

I am happy doing what I do because I feel of use to my sisters and it gives me the opportunity to be a companion, through prayer, to many persons in their journey to the Lord.


 

Lucy Sacco

Sr. Lucy fcJ.Greetings!   My name is Lucy Sacco.

For almost forty years, I was engaged in the apostolate of teaching, until I retired at the age of sixty-two, having loved every minute of that wonderful time.

In 1993, I came here to Crook, Co Durham, to help in the Parish of Our Lady and St Cuthbert. I am involved in most of the Parish activities, but the highlight of my week is to take a little "Bible Prayer Service" at one of the Residential  Homes, here in the town. The appreciation of these old people, of all denominations, is so great that it fills me with joy and makes me wish I could do more.

There is a very good ecumenical spirit in the town, and the leaders of all the Churches often come together to organise various activities and to pray. I have frequently had the opportunity to lead one of the Christian Fellowship Services for a congregation of sixty people or more, in our local Salvation Army Hall.

Because of my involvement with the other Churches, and because I have been here seventeen years, I am known to the townspeople, and I greet everyone with a smile.

I consider that my main apostolate here is to be a LOVING PRESENCE in the Community, and a JOYFUL WITNESS to the truth that GOD IS LOVE.

In August 2013, after twenty years working in Crook, I have retired to the community in Middlesbrough. The last six months have been hectic! At the end of January, the sister with whom I lived moved to our community in Salford. Since then we have been sorting out the paperwork and contents of the Convent, ready to vacate it when all was accomplished.

I had many wonderful farewell celebrations in the parish, where the FCJ Sisters have been loved and appreciated. My move to Middlesbrough happened in the second week of June and since then I have been unpacking and taking lots of rest because I am extremely tired. The ‘Bible Prayer Service’ at the Residential home always gave me great joy and before I left I managed to persuade another parishioner to replace me in this great apostolate.

So now I am retired!



Sr. Lynne fcJ ar MAGiS.Lynne Baron

My ministry is full of surprises and new experiences!

I am currently responsible for Vocations ministry for the Province of Europe - quite a chane from my previous ministry of teaching secondary school physics! The role takes me to all the places where our sisters are living and working across Europe, and it involves a very wide variety of things:

Lynne fcJ at a Vocations Weekend.In the last six months for example I have been on TV in Malta, helped with retreat work in Wales, given workshops in Romania and even walked the Camino to Santiago.

Working with young adults who are at the point in their lives where they are making choices is a very privileged and exciting ministry - no two days are the same and I am constantly amazed at how God is present and active in our lives.

I have recently been appointed as Chaplain to London Goldsmiths and Southbank Universities, and am looking forward to developing those ministries as part of a chaplaincy team with Anouska fcJ and Rita fcJ.


 

Maeve Shannon

Sr. Maeve with the working group.PROSTITUTION NOW HAS A FACE…  This was the title given by one of my colleagues to her reflections on the experience we had in the Ukraine last May, courtesy of the Justice and Peace Commission. For me, this title captures in a nutshell what it meant to actually live with someone who had been trafficked for 3 full days.

Vikki (this is not her real name) comes from a very dysfunctional family in north-west Ukraine. Her father was murdered by a villager at 39 and her mother died of alcohol-related disease at 49, leaving Vikki, an older sister and 2 young brothers to fend for themselves. After Primary School, Vikki worked in the village bar. There, a ‘so-called friend’ offered to send her to Dubai to earn American dollars and create a better life for herself.  Unwittingly, she accepted this unexpected offer, only to find herself on arrival, caught in a web of prostitution that had no outlet, where she was physically, psychologically and sexually abused over a period of three years, culminating in an abortion, several weeks in hospital, a prison sentence, followed (happily) by expulsion from a country where abortion is a crime!  

On return to her country, Vikki underwent a rehabilitation programme and then, assured that her trafficker was now in prison, she  accepted to meet us and tell her story so that others might be helped to avoid such a horrific experience. Vikki is a pretty young woman of 25, one of hundreds of young Ukrainians who in order to escape dire poverty and improve their quality of life, are exposed to this modern form of slavery.

The Trafficking of Persons is a crime, the existence of which we can no longer deny and the struggle to combat it is something in which Marie-Madeleine would have surely been involved, had she lived in our times. Now a world-wide phenomenon, no one knows the number of victims of this crime against humanity, although recent identified figures esteem the number to be at least 4.000.000,  500.000 of whom alone are found in Europe. Indeed, after the estimated budget spent on Arms-deals and drugs, it is thought that the 3rd largest ‘chiffre d’affaires’ is that spent on Human Trafficking. Vikki could tell us that she knew her ‘boss ‘had made at least $20.000 on her services..

Another invitation from Justice and Peace to talk about the situation on Romania, took me to France for the 3rd European Day (hopefully soon to be known as ‘World Day’) dedicated to raising awareness to this evil in our midst. Through film, round-table discussions, power-point presentations and exhibitions of various DVDs, posters and articles on this subject, it was evident that a joint effort by the 25 or more Christian and Humanitarian groups involved in this struggle was a sign of hope to all.  An interesting encounter was with a singer who has decided to use his talent to further this awareness and combat.

Combating Human Trafficking is a Ministry in which we FCJs can all be involved, irrespective of age, infirmity or busy schedule. Let us join forces in praying for victims of trafficking all over the world, in raising awareness and educating the young to a deep respect for their bodies, to the hidden dangers that can lie behind enticing advertisements - and in always showing the gentle face of Christ to those who have been deprived of their basic human dignity.


 

Margaret Frain

I was born in West Hartlepool in the North East of England and went to school there. This is where I first met the FCJ sisters and when I was twenty I entered the FCJ novitiate in Kent. In fact, Broadstairs is where I have lived for most of my religious life. The only other community I have lived in is Stretford in Manchester, where I spent thirteen years nursing in a local hospital. I enjoyed living in a small community. From Stretford, I moved to Stella Maris community, living in the same house as the General Superior and her assistants, the ‘mother house’. I shared in a variety of ministries within the community as well as beyond it. I liked to visit our older sisters in Redriff and take them out shopping, or simply to have a drive by the sea, coffee and a chat. I belonged to the parish SVP group and was a member of the chaplaincy team at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother Hospital, visiting men and women of all ages. These apostolates were worthwhile, I felt, as people who are ill or incapacitated often enjoy and need a little personal attention. Living in Stella Maris was an apostolate in itself as the community offered opportunities for prayer and reflection to local and parish residents and frequently welcomed FCJ and other groups for meetings and holidays. As a community we also supported similar activities in neighbouring parishes.

Around Eastertide 2011 I joined the Middlesbrough community, moving back nearer to my roots, and that is where I am at present. We are a group of four sisters, Moira, Josephine, Lucy and myself. We form one North East Community with the two sisters who live in Hartlepool. I still enjoy living in a small group, and combining ministry in community – quite challenging as we all get older! – with ministries in the parish. I took on the house accounts a year ago and learning the computer accounts programme has been quite a challenge, even though I have a very good teacher. I belong to a lively, active SVP group, involving meetings and visits to elderly and housebound people.

Margie with some members of the SVP group.      Margie visiting at Carter Bequest.

In the past year, as a result of the recession, there has been a great emphasis on clothes shops and food banks and I have been regularly involved in transport to collect and deliver items for these needs, either for individuals or for centres. I am a member of the hospital chaplaincy team and as such I visit patients in Carter Bequest, a rehabilitation centre connected to James Cook hospital. Since coming to Middlesbrough I have been intending to develop my drawing and painting. I have only just joined a local painting class – so here’s hoping!


 

Margaret Hill

Sr. Magaret fcJ.I am living in Stretford, Manchester in a community of three, with Carmel and Gabriel. I came to Manchester in 2001. We are very lucky because we have Victoria Park at the back of our house.

My ministry is one of companionship to my Sisters in Stretford, to my Sisters in Salford for whom at present I am their local leader, and also to some elderly and housebound people whom I visit in their homes.

I love nature, walking, reading and watching sport, especially football. I was born in London, and have lived fourteen years in Birkenhead. So my favourite teams are Arsenal, Tranmere Rovers and Liverpool.

I am a member of the Holistic group, which raises awareness of health issues in the Province, and the Website group.


 

Maria Katherine McDermott

Sr. Maria Katherine fcJ.One of my ministries is working as Provincial Bursar for the British Province of our Society and I work from my office in Salford. 

This work means that I am engaged in administration and care of the resources of the FCJ Sisters in Britain.

I also work as a Counsellor and Play Therapist; meeting with adults and children who are experiencing difficulties of one kind or another in their emotional lives. 

Through this work, I am able to assist individuals to resolve issues, make adjustments or changes to their lives and gain healing or a better sense of well-being. 

This is very rewarding work and I am happy to be able to use my gifts and skills to help both adults and children in this way.


 

Mary Campion MCarren

Sr. Mary Campion fcJ.Increasingly the British Province Archive is being called upon by family members researching their great- aunts and great-great aunts and it is a privilege to be able to provide them with material from Catalogues, Annals or biographies. We have a detailed electronic catalogue which enables searches and cross references to be made very quickly and from time to time it throws up some very interesting connections.

One grateful grand -nephew wrote immediately to say that tears were streaming down his cheeks as he read what he had received…  A unique project is that of a family who have had members at Lingdale House and Upton Hall from the foundation in 1849.  The first generations all came from Brazil and we actually had photographs of some of them as school girls and as brides!  One 90-year old past pupil of Poles was delighted to have details of her fancy dress costumes provided by the Accounts Ledger.

School and Parish historians continue to ask for information and from time to time graduates of Sedgley Park College still need verification of their qualifications.

The role of Provincial Archivist is a vibrant and rewarding ministry with great pastoral outreach.


 

Mary Condron

Srs. Mary ,Rachel and Mary Anne  examine the recent Marie Curie Newsletter.I have been in Liverpool now for three years.

My main ministry is being part of the Pastoral team at Marie Curie Cancer Care in Woolton. There I try to be a Companion to the patients and their relatives at a very vulnerable time in their lives. While there it is a privilege to lead a multi-faith service where we often grapple with mysteries like the meaning of life and the existence of a personal God.

I also try to be a companion to the residents at a Nursing Home nearby, to the housebound at St. Hugh’s and St. Claire’s parishes, and to the patients in the Royal Liverpool Hospital. I learn more every day and I am more grateful to God for the energies I have while also understanding more and more how God can use our frailties and weaknesses to further the Kingdom.


 

Sr. Mary fcJ.Mary Costello

I am Mary Costello and am spending my years of retirement here in Nantes, France.

I accompany students (18-23) who live with us. Over the years I have been a prison visitor and have given English lessons to some groups.  Now I am in contact with ex-prisoners.

Sr. Mary with other FCJs and friends.We have here in our parish (Notre Dame de Nantes) some very active and enthusuastic adults involved in evangelisation and I collaborate with them in running sessions of the Alpha course which is designed to help people who are hungry for spirituality, although they may not have an allegiance to the official Church.

My ministry can take the simple form of giving support to an unmarried mother alone with her baby or visiting a lonely person.


Sr. Mary fcJ.

Mary Galvin

I was a teacher for a number of years. My last teaching post was at Xaverian Sixth Form College, Manchester.

I was a volunteer at Her Majesty's Prison, Strangeways, from 1982, and in 1986 I went into prison ministry full time, first of all with what is now The Bourne Trust.

In 1989 I was appointed full time RC Chaplain at Her Majesty's Prison, Holloway, where I remained until 1996.

I also have a counselling/supervision/spiritual direction, private practice. I am a BACP (British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy) accredited counsellor.


 

Mary Philomena Lyons

Mary Philomena.Towards the end of October 2012 our FCJ Generalate re-located from Stella Maris, Broadstairs to Gumley House in Isleworth.  For three years I had been living and working as a support office assistant at Stella Maris and currently I am doing the same general office work at Gumley.

For 12 years prior to 2009 I had been working with the Jesuits in Mount Street in their Provincial Offices engaged in the various office jobs of typing, photocopying, answering telephone calls etc.

In 2004 I retired from the teaching profession having been head teacher for 24 years – 11 years at St James’s Infant School in Salford and 13 years at St Aloysius’ Infant School at Euston, London.

As bursar for St Aloysius Convent, Euston for the past seven years I sometimes meet some of my former pupils and their parents and it is wonderful to learn just how well they have done since leaving the Infant School and what good qualifications they have achieved and how proud of them their parents are.


 

Sr. Mary fcJ.

Mary Shepherd

I taught for 34 years, mainly in two very different schools: an independent boarding school and an inner London comprehensive. I think this gave me the experience of dealing with many different kinds of people.

When I retired from teaching, I spent four months in the Holy Land and then trained for retreat-giving and spiritual direction.

For a time I lived at Gumley House, Isleworth, near London and worked part-time at a Jesuit retreat centre. I also worked as a bereavement counsellor. I love this work and feel very privileged to have had the opportunity of a second career, which I hope, is of benefit to people.

I now live and exercise some ministry in Salford.


 

MaryAnne Francalanza

Sr. MaryAnne fcJ.My name is MaryAnne Francalanza. I have recently moved to St.Hugh's FCJ House in Liverpool. I come from Malta - a little island in the Mediterranean Sea. How did I get here? Well, I travelled from Malta to England to meet the FCJs because I discovered them via the internet. :-)

I have now been living in England for over four years. I never would have imagined that my journey with God would bring me here - and yet it feels like home.

I was attracted to the FCJ society for several reasons. I was looking for Ignatian women whose lives are rooted in God and whose work is a continuation of Jesus' mission. I was looking for a group of people who embrace the world with all its joys and sorrows, and are not afraid to "live fully''. I was looking for a place where I could use the gifts God has given me for God's kingdom, and where I could do this with like-minded people who journey together. For me, the FCJ Society is this place.

MaryAnne fcJ hiking.I started my two-year novitiate year in September 2001. It was a blessed time full of new challenges and insights, moments of joy and of pain. I have discovered some very beautiful things inside me, and I have realized that I still have a lot to learn.

Companion of Jesus. I cannot describe the moment when I pronounced my vows and received the FCJ cross. Wonderful!

Sr. MaryAnne with students.I now live in Liverpool and teach mathematics in Bellerive FCJ Catholic College, and I enjoy it immensely. There is something very life-giving in working with children. It is both a huge responsibility and a great privilege. And every day is different.

I am also involved in the area where I live. It is a pleasure to welcome our friends and colleagues for Mass in our Chapel every week. After Mass we take time to share a simple meal and companionship.

Our house is always a hive of activity. We organise various opportunities where different people can come and reflect, pray, meet, laugh ... We often have visitors: women who want to come and live community with us for a while, as they try to make space to listen to God's call.

Our motto - Never a dull moment!


 

Maura Foley

Sr. Maura fcJ.I am a member of the Parish Team at Our Lady of Hal Church, Camden Town. This is a deprived and very lively area of North London, only fifteen minutes walk from where I live at St Aloysius Convent FCJ.

Our church is one of the few churches in the area open all day and every day. There is a constant flow of people coming in to pray quietly and light a candle or have a snooze!  Our parishioners are multi-cultural. The Portuguese centre, served by their own chaplain is based in the Presbytery. We also have a number of Irish, mainly of an older generation.

At our Sunday morning family Mass there is a great variety of people, young and old of varied nationalities and colour, including Filipinos, Afro-Caribbeans and Asians. It is a very lively Mass showing how all-inclusive is our Parish.
As a Eucharistic minister I visit people in their homes. I accompany those who are bereaved. Parish catechesis plays an important role. The Sacraments are all prepared for through the Parish. I am involved mainly with the RCIA Programme (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). Each Easter we have had five or six young adults received into the Church.

On a daily basis, tea and sandwiches are served to the homeless – about seventy men and ten women. This is done by parishioners on a rota basis. I am on duty every Wednesday. Marks and Spencer and Prêt-a-Manger provide food. However, our clients prefer our home made cheese sandwich and sausage, thanks to our local butcher.

I have been working at Our Lady of Hal over the past four years. What attracts me most is the openness and inclusiveness of the Parish. I feel it is a good place to be, for living ‘with conviction and joy the vision of Marie Madeleine, appreciative of God’s call to make a   difference in the world’. (Acts of FCJ General Chapter 1998)


 

Rachel Duffy

Sr. Rachel fcJ. My first ministry assignments were as a teacher in two FCJ secondary schools in England: Adelphi House FCJ in Salford (1974-79) and Poles Convent FCJ boarding and day school, Ware, Hertfordshire (1979-1985). I taught English and Religious Education. Then came the FCJ tertianship, (a year for spiritual renewal) and a year of pastoral theology study. My next ministry was a year in Craighead Jesuit Retreat Centre, near Glasgow, Scotland (1987-88) gaining some experience in the ministry of retreats.

Rachel fcJ with a student at Liverpool University.In September 1988 I was sent to Manila in the Philippines where I remained – apart from a sabbatical year 2003-4 - until January 2005 when I moved to Yogyakarta, Indonesia.  My ministries during my years in Asia included accompanying young women in the early stages of FCJ religious life, organizing Basic Christian Communities and volunteer catechists in an urban poor setting, supporting our FCJ program to help young people from very poor families to complete their schooling, a bit of university campus ministry, and teaching English speaking classes in the English Education department of Sanata Dharma Jesuit university, Yogyakarta.

In November 2011 I returned to my homeland, England.  (I was born and grew up in Preston Lancashire, where I studied from age 11-18 at Lark Hill convent FCJ grammar school, now Newman College.) My new community is St. Hugh’s, Wavertree, Liverpool.  I did not have to search far for my main ministry, as even before I arrived back in the UK there was an invitation to volunteer in the Liverpool Universities Catholic Chaplaincy.  It is a ministry of welcome and hospitality, which fits so well with our charism of companionship.  I studied in Liverpool University myself (English Language and Literature) in 1970-73, immediately after my first vows.  Liverpool has changed quite a lot but still there is a sense of homecoming and, although I am so much older than the students, I feel we have a lot in common, for I too am beginning a new life with so much to discover and learn. 


 

Rita McLoughlin

Sr. Rita fcJ.I live in Somers Town, London, well situated between stations serving the Continent and the north and south of England. My main ministry is Initial Formation and I love this ministry! It is never dull, often challenging and always a great privilege to be involved in the journey of young women desiring to become FCJs. I am also involved in other ways in Formation in London and I am on the FCJ European Network Formation Team, which has been devising programmes or guidelines for each stage of initial formation.

One evening a week I try to teach English in the Olallo Centre, a residential project, supported financially and administratively by the St. John of God Brothers, Poor Servants of the Mother of God, and the Passage. It brings in, Eastern European men off the streets, and aims at regularising their papers and helping them to find a job and accommodation. I love my time with these men. It is a good balance to formation work, and certainly helps me to keep things in perspective, when I hear their stories and see their struggles.

I am very happy to have been asked to give spiritual accompaniment to a number of men and women, both Catholic and Anglican. I often find it inspiring and very humbling, and I am continually amazed at how God works in such different ways in people. I really appreciate directing shorter or longer retreats occasionally.

Whether for our group of Companions in Mission, Advent or Lent reflective evenings or simply community Eucharist or prayer, I enjoy preparing sacred spaces and creative liturgies. This lifts ‘my soul’, but hopefully gives meaning to other peoples’ experience. From time to time I include circle dancing or Dru Yoga gestures in prayer sessions.
I am most grateful for the opportunities I have had to share what I have learnt about spirituality, accompaniment or formation, in France, Lithuania and Kenya, and to be enriched by the different expressions of these, arising from culture or mentality.

In contrast, perhaps to some of these aspects of my ministry and life, I enjoy ‘helping to keep the home fires burning’ in the practical ministry in community of cooking and shopping! For me, this is not just about taking my share I community living. Preparing a tasty meal is an art which answers my need to be creative, and to say ‘thank you’ for what I receive from God and my sisters in community. It is clearly about being a ‘companion’.


 

Ruth Casey

Sr. Ruth in the snow in Romania.I came to Romania three and a half years ago and lived first in Bucharest and now in Galaţi, a town on the Danube, which sometimes really is ‘blue’.

Galaţi is an industrial town and quite poor especially in this time of financial crisis in the whole of Europe.  Here we have a shipyard, and a steel works, but already there have been many redundancies in both these domains.  There is high unemployment and many people lack the basic necessities of life.  We are in contact every day with poor children and poor families.  The child allowance is 40 ron per month, which is the equivalent of about 10 euro!  You can imagine how many pampers this would buy!  And many single mums who are poor and without work have only the child allowance as a regular income.  So begging and looking for help every day, is a way of life for too many here.  We can give a certain amount of help in food-stuffs and part of my ministry is answering the door to those who come for food.

Sr Ruth and Sr. Gabi fcJ.One of my great loves is retreat work and the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola.  There are various ways in which I have been able to use these experiences here in Romania.  In our parish I have been able to run 2 series of evenings of ‘prayer through dance’.  Using sacred circle dance, and building into the evening some moments of reflection and prayer has been a great joy for me and I think the participants have enjoyed it too. We have even danced on days where the temperature was in the 30s, and also in the winter when we had to keep dancing to stay warm!  This is a beautiful way to use some of the insights of St Ignatius very simply.

I have also been involved in a course run by the Craighead Institute in Scotland.  Two trainers from the UK have run the Integration of Life and Faith course here for a second year, and some of us were lucky enough to be invited to train to give the course in the future.  This is a course based on Ignatian Spirituality and a provides a rich experience for participants and those giving the course.

Sr. Ruth with three companions in mission.Another way of sharing FCJ spirituality and that of St Ignatius is the training programme for our Companions in Mission –  the lay-group associated with our congregation.  Galaţi, we have a group of three parishioners who are going through the formation programme and we hope that they will be making their commitment as Companions in Mission in the autumn.

In the last few weeks a group of refugees from Myanmar has come to Galaţi, as part of a European scheme where 8 countries have welcomed a group of Myanmarese who were in Malaysia waiting for re-settlement.  It will be a hard transition not least because of the language – but we hope to be able to support in some way and this is a privileged way of living our charism of Faithful Companions of Jesus.


 

Veronika Schreiner

Sr. Veronika at a Sowodi display.Since 2007, I have been working with SOLWODI, an organisation founded 20 years ago which now has centres in 12 cities in Germany. We deal with women who have become victims of forced prostitution, human trafficking, forced marriages, women who have problems of integration or residence, women who are victims of violence in the family, women who live under the threat of so-called ‘honour killings’.

Last year, in our office in Munich, the three part-time workers dealt with 51 different cases, some of which we carried into the New Year. Some of the stories of the women concerned I will carry in my heart for the rest of my life. It is good that occasionally we have a real success story, like an African student who got pregnant by a European national. She fought for the right of the child to become a European citizen and now she and her son can have a future in Europe. At present, she is continuing her university studies with the help of a loan from the German government.

I have great respect for women who have the courage to leave, with or without a child, a violent husband. To do this in one’s home country is difficult enough, but to dare to take this step is tremendously daunting in a foreign country, where the woman does not speak the language well and most of the time has had no schooling or training of any kind. It is always a great relief when we find a safe house for her, with psychological counselling to help her deal with her traumatic experiences. Then we try to get the children settled in kindergarten or school, look for suitable language courses, and try to find work experience for her or even a good job.

The most difficult situations are always connected with trafficking and forced prostitution. It becomes dramatic when the woman does not want to talk about her experience at all. She can be so traumatized that she closes up totally and starts living in a dream world in which she becomes terribly vulnerable again. She can invent a life story which no official in government or the court will believe. It is then almost impossible for a lawyer to find arguments to convince the German authorities not to deport this woman. In such a case, the only hope we have is to find a doctor who will testify that this person badly needs psychotherapy. At times the victim herself, in her dream world, does not feel the need for therapy and that complicates matters again. It is hard to believe but true, that if such a woman had Aids she would have no problem staying in the country (it would be against human rights to send her back to a country where treatment of this illness is not guaranteed), but even if she were pregnant, that would not be a reason for not sending her back. Often the women victims of trafficking, especially if they come from Africa, are afraid to speak about their experience. Not only are they afraid that they might be caught by the traffickers, but they are even more afraid of spiritual threats that were held over them before they left their country.

My own most traumatic experience was when I accompanied a woman to a hearing by the police. She was brought to Europe under false pretences, ended up in prostitution, escaped, and filed a case against those responsible for her situation. The police, eager to get details which would help them to find the three men involved, had to ask very difficult questions. The questioning did not take just a few hours, but went on for several days. The policeman was helpful and understanding, but he had to do his job. The woman was reliving her story. In doing this, she was reminded of thousands of events which she would have liked to forget and erase from her memory. She found herself talking about things which she had not yet told to anybody, as she relived her humiliation, her fear, her anger, her helplessness. If the case is closed because there is not enough evidence to find the culprits, then the woman will in most cases be send back to her home country. There she will face new problems. Often the family will be in debt because of a loan taken on to pay the ‘middle man’. The woman returns without any money, sometimes with a child whose father she does not know, and she carries her traumatic experiences of which she cannot speak. In one word: her life is ruined and nobody seems to be able to help or support her. Occasionally we manage to get the woman back into another part of her own country with help to start a new job and in cooperation with a local organisation. Sometimes we engage a clever lawyer who manages to keep the woman here. Then we can continue to support her until she is able to take responsibility for her own life in Europe, earn money, pay her debt in her home country and even send money back to help her family. But until then it is usually a long and hard struggle.

What I have learned too is that one is not able to do this work alone. It is important to link up with a recognized organisation, one which is also lobbying the government and can propose changes in the law. Solwodi has certainly contributed greatly to the fact that the problem of women in distress is now being discussed in public. Yet most people still consider it a problem which does not concern them directly. It is rarely a topic in church circles. The 500,000 women victims of trafficking in Europe every year, are hidden away, kept out of the public eye in clubs and brothels, in so-called ‘wellness centres’, in hotels and, more often now, in private houses. They are sold from one town to another, from one country to another, since fresh ‘goods’ are always needed and are more appreciated on the market. Every government spends more money on its own security than on stopping this crime against humanity. Many shrug their shoulders and declare that it is ‘the oldest profession’ and that it will always be with us. Does it have to be so? Should it be so? Others are convinced that the women do this job voluntarily. Some do, yes, but the majority do not. 80% of prostitutes were sexually abused as children. Many would do another job if they had one. Many do it for economic reasons, especially many women coming from Eastern European countries. Therefore education and prevention in these countries are of prime importance. A girl who has training and a job will not so easily allow herself to be hired as a dancer and, as happens in many cases, end up in prostitution. Church organisations have an important role to play in spreading information, offering alternatives and contributing to changing the self-image of many women who still believe that men own them. Often girls do not see themselves as equal to boys and men. We know that in the business world, in politics and also in the Catholic Church, it is sad but well-known fact that women, even with the same training, do not have the same opportunities in their work and professions as men.

It saddens me deeply when I think of the thousands of women who work as prostitutes in Munich and whom we cannot reach. We can only help those who voluntarily come out and seek help. All those who do not find a way to do that, either through lack of courage, or freedom or knowledge, have no alternative but to continue to be used and exploited unless, by chance, an escape route offers itself.

There is a lot to do but the workers are few.

Beyond the open door our attention is drawn to great gatherings of people,
many of them impoverished, trafficked,marginalized, despairing or far from their own country.
With them, we cry
out for justice.

(General Chapter Decree 2008, page 3)


 

Victoire Finlay

Sr. Victoire fcJ.My name is VICTOIRE, taken from one of our Foundress' names whose life I had studied in school and which attracted me and sustained me through some very difficult situations leading up to my joining the FCJs.

Most of my religious life has been spent in teaching; but since my retirement, I have been involved in pastoral, parish work. Fortunately my own temperament is steady and happy, humorous and fun-loving - with a reflective streak. I love being with people but I have a leaning towards the needy, spiritually and materially. I hope I can bring them joy and a deeper friendly-spiritual relationship with God (as well as a little sweet-something occasionally).

Sr. Victoire with Parish group.Confirmation classes and youth are also an enlightening part of my work - enlightening because of the way they interpret and view life and the Church. (It's a good thing that I'm shockproof!) the highlight of my parish work is being with the Union of Catholic Mothers at their meetings. About 50 attend and their ages range from 40 to 80 years. They're all very vibrant and we don't just sit around knitting and gossiping. We have a very varied programme of monthly events with two concerts a year, put on by the members to which we invite everyone. Our work for the Hospices makes about £1,400 annually and it's great fun. I'm usually the 'stand-up comedienne'!occasionally!).

So, what keeps me going?? Well, I’m quite active and mobile and it would be a pity not to share the richness of my life with others; a richness which I owe to my life as a Faithful Companion of Jesus.


 

Winefride Mulroy

Sr. Winefride fcJ.When I entered the Sisters of the Faithful Companions of Jesus in 1957, I was already a trained Primary School teacher. After my Novitiate and Vows in Broadstairs, Kent I spent 5 years in Salford teaching and then returned to Broadstairs where I made final vows in 1965. From 1965-1973.

I taught in Middlesbrough and then returned to Salford in 1973-1993. My mission as a teacher was to educate all children and to ensure that they reached their full potential. Many of these children needed constant encouragement and praise. During these years, it was necessary to keep abreast of current trends and changes in education, so I availed myself of any courses that would help to improve standards and work in the classroom.

We always liked to have a bright cheerful classroom, clean, full of colour and plants. It was essential that both girls and boys had an all-round education. I tried to make learning fun and to treat all children in the same way. I felt I achieved a very happy and co-operative learning environment.

In 1993 I took early retirement and after a short sabbatical in Ireland, where I did a Scripture Course, I returned to Salford and was missioned to work with the elderly sisters at Kersal Hill (an FCJ care home). It was a very different situation from teaching but I loved this work, helping and caring for our very elderly sisters who had given so many years of their lives to working and caring for children and families in many different ways. This work has been very enriching for me.

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