Sr Mary Richard Prendergast, who has worked as a chaplain in Norwich Prison and as a parish sister in St George’s parish in Norwich, celebrated her diamond jubilee of profession with other sisters at a gathering in the Bar Convent, York in June. The Bar Convent is the oldest living convent in the UK, founded in 1686.
Sr Mary Richard and the other jubilarians have been giving constant, effective and loving service to the church for over 175 year but she was not the longest-serving member marking the day. That honour went to Sr Gabriel Kenny, celebrating her 100th birthday and an astonishing 80 years of professed religious life.
Sr Gemma Simmonds, for the Congregation of Jesus, said: “There is no retirement age for sisters, and after a lifetime of ministry in teaching, parish, prison and hospital chaplaincy, Sr Mary Richard continues to offer comfort and companionship to those in hospital.”
The congregation’s foundress Mary Ward (1585-1645) said on her deathbed, ‘Cherish God’s vocation in you. Let it be constant, efficacious and loving’.
Also at the celebration was Sister Maria Goretti, the newly-appointed provincial superior of the sisters in Zimbabwe, who has given 25 years of joyful service in a mission where one of its pioneers, Sr Christopher Angell, celebrated her 102nd birthday last December. Sr Christopher was the renowned head teacher of St Mary’s School, Cambridge.
In his exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis wrote: ‘I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world. We have to regard ourselves as sealed, even branded, by this mission of bringing light, blessing, enlivening, raising up, healing and freeing.’
Sr Gemma said: “Mary Ward sisters have been living out this mission for over 400 years. It looks as if, in East Anglia, that mission is still going strong.”
Pictured is Sr Mary Richard (centre) with Sr Kitty McManus (right) and Sr Margaret Leedal (left).