St Augustine
My God, I give thanks to you, my source of sweet delight, and my glory and my confidence.

I thank you for your gifts. Keep them for me, for in this way you will keep me. The talents you have given will increase and be perfected, and I will be with you since it was your gift to me that I exist (St Augustine, Confessions, 1.20.31)

A very Happy Feast of St Augustine to you all!

It has been a strange few months since our last newsletter in February. So far, we have been very blessed to escape the virus itself: the staff have been wonderfully committed, hard-working and united in Susanne Jonas Masks1protecting themselves and everyone else, the families of our residents have been extremely understanding and supportive, our residents have been positive and full of gratitude, and we have been buoyed up by the prayers and gifts of our supporters and benefactors.

We are also very grateful to all those working people who help and support us in so many, often unseen ways: suppliers, post and delivery people, BT engineers, recycling and refuse collectors, couriers and many others.

A special thank you to Elizabeth for her far-sighted, energetic and experienced leadership throughout this difficult time. We have felt that we are in safe hands.

Masks in Action

For several weeks, we were without any Mass in chapel, though the resident priests were able to celebrate in their rooms.

The Sisters used online Masses, along with so many others, and we came together to watch a Mass on Sunday and on Thursday evenings for the healthcare workers.

One Sister remarked on how this experience had deepened her appreciation of God’s presence in his Word. Recently, it has been a great gift to return to Mass, and even more recently to Communion.

Deo gratias! Long may it last!

Many good things came out of these hard times.

Sr Sue, already an old and good friend of ours, decided that it was the right time to return to her roots and transfer from her order in Italy to join us. So if you knew her already, you will note that she has changed from her bright blue habit (which some of us secretly rather envied!) to plain Augustinian black and white. It goes without saying that we are very grateful for this blessing. She was thrown in at the deep end into helping in the Nursing Home at the start of the COVID period, and has been working there as a Carer and Kitchen Assistant since.Sr Sue
We have also had fun keeping our spirits up and building up our team spirit. Elizabeth and the staff began with a couple of dance performances - they have promised that if they become stars they won’t abandon us! We also had a lovely evening with a rounders match on the lawn (won on the final ball with a cunning backhand into the rose beds!), ending with fish and chips all round.  International Nurses’ Day was very special for us this year, and we celebrated together with prayers, dancing, gifts and cake.

 Exercising Staff 
 Rounders 1
 Bob S Rainbow PictureStaff Nurse Jill Wright, owner of Paragon in Grange, presents Elizabeth with Bob's painting

This painting arrived as a lovely surprise for everyone here at Boarbank.

The artist, Bob Sutcliffe from Witherslack, took up painting to support good causes after serious illness a few years ago. When COVID was at its worst, he asked for nominations for a suitable person to receive this as a gift. It was a real boost to everyone here when our Director, Elizabeth McConnell, was nominated and chosen. The symbolism of the painting, with its rainbow and clasped hands, beautifully symbolises the community spirit here during these last few months.

This has also been a time for us to reflect on the experience of the pandemic, and how we have responded to it. Sr Margaret has written some pieces on this, including an introduction to the new edition of her CTS pamphlet Catholics and Our Common Home: Caring for the Planet in a Time of Crisis. Here are also a few thoughts from Sisters and staff; a fuller version of these will be published in November’s Catholic Medical Quarterly.

“We found that we are such a good team together that it feels more like a family than a place of work ... Throughout, all the staff have stayed positive, cheerful, creative and always go the extra mile for everyone. An exceptional team and I feel safe in the knowledge that we can get through this together.”

“An amazing generation of people, who have given us so much in the past, to cope with a very different world. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the residents who are no strangers to adversity, they are strong, proud and independent people, who, even when you know they are hurting and suffering inside, are determined to carry on despite the prevailing circumstances, a generation of people the like of which I am afraid we will sadly never see again.”

“It has been wonderful - I haven’t felt locked down .... I’m fairly new here - but to be able to walk out in the grounds, it was like being on holiday. As I have said to many - if I had to be in a place like this, you couldn’t be in a better one.”

One Sister summed up the whole experience in the word’s of a famous hymn: “’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far, And grace will lead me home.”

More practically, we have also taken the opportunity for a big tidy up and sort out of the convent, and were very glad to be able to pass on quite a lot of useful items to the homeless in Preston (a big thank you to Sue and Bridgeen), to St Charles’ parish, and to the charity shop. Sr Michael and Sr Margaret M. have done great work sorting out the archives and we have been enjoying the photographs they have unearthed of Boarbank’s past. Some of the Sisters also took part locally in a county-wide litter-picking event to try to counteract the effects of some of Cumbria’s less thoughtful visitors.

 Litter picking Sr Maria GorettiSr Maria Goretti (late sister of Sr Benedict)
  Opening of Boarbank in 1921Opening of Boarbank in 1921

Derek - when not creating imaginative shelters for visitors - has been taking the opportunity of smartening up various bits of the house and grounds, we have had work done on Marymount roof and some of the Guest House windows, and we are currently engaged in a massive improvement to our very complicated radiator system. We hope that our energy bills and carbon footprint will drop dramatically! There are also changes under way in the garden - the biggest being the planning of a full compost system, hopefully making use of as much of our own waste as possible. The gardens have looked lovely, this year, despite the rain, and the vegetables have been much appreciated by Sisters, residents, staff, guests and members of Flookburgh Food Club. We are hoping to provide a bigger variety of vegetables for next year. The bee-friendly flower planting continues, and we will also be planting some more trees this autumn. The poor insects were battered by the wettest and windiest July and August I can remember, but at least they had some food when they were able to venture out.

We are very pleased to be able to start opening up in cautious ways, at least for the time being! It has been a particular relief to be able to welcome the families of our residents. The Guest House is open for small numbers, with various precautionary conditions.

If you are interested in booking, PLEASE CHECK.

We wish all the very best to our regular guests - we miss you all, and love to hear from you!

We have been very grateful for resident volunteers, Georgina, Jacob, Brother Aelred and Peter, who have been helping us in the Nursing Home kitchens and in the gardens. A big thank you to them.

Sadly, we have had to cancel most of our courses, as even now we can only welcome very small numbers to the Guest House.

However, we ran a successful online weekend for Two Wings and Some Prayers, our birding event, and a week for Thinking Faith.  Sr Margaret A. has also given some talks online: to Edinburgh students on Laudato Si’, to a group of young Catholics interested in politics on hope in the current crisis, and to the Salford Diocese on ‘The God Who Speaks through Creation’. We are planning to run a weekend or two on Laudato Si’: Good Practice for Parishes: if you might be interested, please contact Sr Margaret A 

Requiescant in Pace

We have been very blessed by having lost remarkably few residents and other friends during these period. We would ask you, however, to remember Lesley Shaw, Charmian Piper, Patricia Sharratt, Sr Carmel, David Ricketts, Mary Taylor, Fred Burchall, Marie Lennox, Fr David Sanders OP, Dr Robert Walley, Fr Bernard O’Connor OSA, and Fr Peter Gooden, our former chaplain, and all who mourn them.

May they rest in peace.