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Sr Margaret

It’s strange how memory works. I’ve got a distinct memory of an anecdote, but realised the person I thought had told me, couldn’t have done. Which makes me realise I may have miss-remembered it - just to warn you. However, it is very relevant, so here is my memory of someone else’s memory! Margaret first visited All Hallows’ with a friend who was interested in joining the Community; the person who told me was staying at the same time. Later she met one of the Sisters, and asked if the friend had joined? No, the answer was given, but Margaret had.

Sr Margaret was a Novice in the 1960s, and I think was present for the visit of the Archbishop of Canterbury for the centenary of the school. We have a photo of him with the Community, and I’m fairly sure Margaret is on there; as is fellow Novice Sr Jean Margaret, who was called out of her Profession retreat to be there! Sr Margaret’s profession date was chosen because that was when the Bishop could come - but it fell in Lent. M. Mary remarked afterwards that we would never again have a profession in Lent - and we never have. Thankfully, the timing meant that her anniversary did sometimes fall before Lent began.

I’ve picked up more of what some Sisters did than others, so I’m not entirely sure where Margaret worked at this stage. I do know that she went to our hospital at some point; it must have been out of this experience that it was decided she should train as a nurse. Quite an unusual decision; most Sisters who had professional training of some sort trained before they joined us. Nevertheless, Sr Margaret went to Norwich, where I believe she lived with the Sisters there and trained at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. I can see that she would have been a good nurse, but I don’t know how long she was able to practice before problems with her back forced her to stop. By the time I joined the Community in the late 1990s, these back issues had made her quite infirm, and she was limited as to what she could do physically. Chairs were bought that she could sit in comfortably, so she was able to join us for the main meal, and in the Sisters room, where she would keep us updated on news items, as well as the latest from her family - and, depending on the time of year, with the athletics or Strictly Come Dancing. She was loyal to the Divine Office, and as she usually had holiday at the Convent, would willingly join us for Evening Prayer while on holiday, if we were going to be short. She had a lovely voice, although lacked confidence in singing. When I was a novice, she would often join us for choir practice, which was helpful for both us and her. She was one of our regular cantrixes, and would join with Sr Elizabeth in singing over Holy Week. She also read well, and was the regular reader of one of the readings on Holy Saturday, which I can still hear as she read it.

It is probably true to say that her ministry at this time was largely hidden. She would produce the guides the visitors used at services, and would always willingly proof read anything if asked. She became Associates Sister, and regularly sent cards, and stayed in touch with some. She was also a member of the smaller group we had to discuss our Rule and Customary, which would often meet in her room, where our ginger cat, Vincent, would also often be found - he’d chosen Margaret as his favourite Sister. But beyond all that, I think her contribution was much wider; in those Sisters who would seek her out to talk to; in her quiet presence in the Convent and in Chapel; and in her prayer. One of our Oblates once asked us to pray for someone she knew; as time went on, it was Sr Margaret she kept updated, because it was Sr Margaret who was faithful to that prayer over many months and possibly years.

When we dispersed, she moved to Holmewood Residential Home in Bungay, where she settled well, and when I visited her in the summers before the pandemic, I would often find her sitting outside in the garden. She joined in trips, and would sometimes sit with another resident who was dying. So when she went to the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, and I had the message that she wasn’t expected to last, I knew that spending some time with her was my priority. It felt somehow appropriate that, if she had to die in hospital, it was in the same hospital that she had trained in (even if it had moved sites in the meantime).

Later in the week after she died, I was reading through the Community Diary, where the deaths of Sisters are always mentioned. It struck me that they never used the word ‘died’. Neither did they use any of the euphemisms common today. A Sister had ‘entered her rest’ or ‘moved into the fullness of life’. And so with Sr Margaret: after many years of suffering, she is at rest, and has entered into the fullness of life with her Lord.

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