Bishop Alan awards missionary nun for life of service

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Bishop Alan awards missionary nun for life of service

Bishop Alan Hopes has awarded the long-serving, Peterborough-based, Italian missionary Sr Letizia Conati with a Diocesan Medal for her exemplary life.

“Sr Letizia arrived in England for the first time in 1963 at the age of 24,” writes Fr Adam Sowa, “having just entered the Congregation of the Working Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth.

“After 55 years of missionary work among us, she has returned to the Mother House of the Working Sisters in Botticino (Brescia), in Northern Italy where their Order was originally founded.”

In 1966 she made her First Religious Profession in Italy and continued to study there for a further two years. When she returned to England, she joined the Peterborough Mission and remained there for 11 years.

She then went back to Italy again for another three years, after which she returned to England, this time in the Bedford Mission, carrying out her service for 15 years.

From the very beginning of her time in England she worked in a day nursery and continued to do so for over 35 years. The nursery school was open from 6am to 6pm, in order to accommodate the children of parents who worked in the local factories.

In addition to her working week, Sr Letizia collaborated closely with the Scalabrinian Fathers carrying out pastoral care duties on different fronts: catechesis, meetings and prayer groups with young people, preparation for the various sacraments, visits to families, organising and supporting of Masses in various cities around England. Every Sunday or at least once a month, the sisters travelled for hours to reach smaller Italian communities, for example in Ipswich, in order to celebrate Mass with them.

There was no shortage of moments of celebration, which the sisters were willing to join in: sharing moments of joy with families who celebrated weddings, baptisms and other joyful occasions. In the same way, sharing moments of pain and mourning.

In 1999, after the closure of the Community of Bedford, Sr Letizia moved to the community in Peterborough and worked for a short time in a factory, and then at St Joseph Day Nursery until her retirement in 2009.

However, she didn’t stop being of service to the Italian community, especially as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist, reaching out to the elderly and the sick, the house-bound and as a volunteer chaplain at the Peterborough hospital.

In the small community of Gladstone Street, she was a welcoming presence, both for those who knocked on the door to greet her or sought support and comfort in her and ask for advice; and for young people and friends who came from Italy to study English and learn about the English culture. For her community sisters, she was a point of reference and a testimony of life given with simplicity, humility and love.

Bishop Alan awarded Sr Letizia with the Diocesan Medal in November 2021 at St Peters and All Souls Peterborough.

“It was, without a single doubt, wholly deserved,” says Fr Adam Sowa. “She has always been part of the Italian Community and the wider community of St Peter and All Souls parish and will remain forever in their hearts and prayers.”

Pictured above is Sr Letizia with Bishop Alan and guests at the award ceremony.