From Amma Sue Williams OCMM
Sir, - I was somewhat dismayed by the negative tone of the
reporting of what had been a joyful, enjoyable, and hope-filled day
of celebration for the Society of the Sisters of Bethany
("Declining years of honour", Real Life, 16 August).
The day had seen the gathering of many members of religious
communities, both old and new, and the Service of Celebration had
been as much about looking to the future as about celebrating the
past. Far from being merely a nostalgic looking back at past
glories, it was, in the spirit of Mother Etheldreda, a time of
looking to the future with hope and expectation at new
opportunities and relationships.
The service celebrated the continuing ministry of SSB in
providing opportunities for retreats, quiet days, and parish
visiting, as well as a presentation from a Sister SSB about the
community's growing ministry on Facebook and Twitter, and the ways
in which this ministry reaches out to those whom one would not
expect to be meeting and chatting with a group of nuns.
We, the OCMM Sisters (Order of the Companions of Martha and
Mary), were invited to speak about growing links between SSB and
OCMM, and the opportunities that they have to offer for the
development of our new community, and for the religious life in
Mother Charlotte Hetherington spoke about the development of a
new expression of religious life among the ministry teams of the
parishes in her local cluster group, and the ways in which the
community of SSB was enabling this to grow and develop.
It may, indeed, be the case that, along with other communities
"born" in the 19th century "they have dwindled in recent years";
nevertheless, it is clear that their energy and vision has
certainly not been diminished by time or smaller numbers. (There
are some members of the community who would justifiably be offended
by the inaccurate epithet "elderly".)
Mother Ethedreda was a far-seeing woman with some revolutionary
ideas for her time. The Sisters of Bethany are more than worthy
daughters of this visionary woman.
The Vicarage, Church Lane
Mellor, Blackburn BB2 7JL
From Mr Richard M. Smith
Sir, - I must take issue with the description of the Society of
the Sisters of Bethany. I have been associated with the
Community for the past seven years, and was present at their recent
celebrations in Bournemouth.
It cannot be denied that their numbers have radically declined.
But it is quite wrong to describe the Community as "a group of
fewer than a dozen elderly nuns". There are younger Sisters. The
House of Bethany is not an old people's home.
Even if some of the Sisters are of advanced years, theyare
partof a lively and forward-looking Community, whose contribution
to the life of the Church is immeasurable.
RICHARD M. SMITH
St Margaret's Vicarage, Southsea
Portsmouth PO4 9RP