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International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement

December 20, 2016

The International Work Group on Death, Dying and Bereavement was the brainchild of Dame Cicely Saunders with a Canadian and an American colleague in the 1970s. Membership is by invitation and I joined the group over 20 years ago.

Meetings take place about every 18 months in different parts of the world “to advance and nurture the development of the field”. Meetings I have attended include Oxford, Tucson Arizona, Sao Poulo, Cape Cod, Delphi, Vancouver Island, Boulder Colorado and finally, this month, Dunblane!

It was billed as “The Celtic Meeting”, planned and hosted by members from Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Members numbered about 150 and represented different continents, cultures and faiths.

Plenary sessions are carefully chosen and stimulating, the highlight this time for me being a presentation by John Bell of the Iona Community on Celtic Spirituality and Death.

However most of the work during the five day meetings is done in self-selecting groups. Some groups work towards producing material for publication, while others simply take the opportunity of being stimulated by sharing experience and ideas.

This time I chose a group looking at changes in funeral practise which may lead to more positive outcomes for the bereaved.

Son et luminere at Stirling Castle, kilts and Scottish dancing, whiskey tasting (optional!) and haggis all featured. Perhaps one of the best things about IWG is meeting old friends and making new ones.

Celebrating with the Sisters of Bethany, their 150th anniversary of Foundation

July 19, 2016

Sr Frances and Sr Jane were in Portsmouth Cathedral yesterday the 29th July , to celebrate with the Sisters of Bethany, their 150th anniversary of Foundation.

Brothers and Sisters from many communities, including Roman Catholic and Orthodox communities based locally.

It was a very joyful occasion and many thanks to all the team at Portsmouth Cathedral in making the day run so smoothly!

Ten All Saints Sisters of the Poor, formerly Anglican nuns who converted to catholicism two years ago, prepare for service at the Baltimore Basilica

July 19, 2016

We were very pleased to see our good friend Sister Ilaria Buonriposi and fellow nuns, praised for her work on social issues in their local press in Baltimore. The image shows Sister Ilaria Buonriposi and the other nine All Saints Sisters of the Poor, preparing for service at the Baltimore Basilica. They were formerly Anglican nuns but they converted to catholicism two years ago.

St John’s Summer Fete

July 18, 2016

Lovely sunshine and warm weather encouraged those living around us here in East Oxford to come and take part in our summer fete . There were cakes to buy , a bottle stall and lots of lovely raffle prizes kindly donated by local businesses. For the energetic there was the bouncy castle and other side stalls included ‘catch the duck’ and win a coconut.

We were entertained by the children from Tyndale Community School singing a medley of songs and the Strawberry Fayre Majorettes team putting on a display of their routines.

It was wonderful to see the residents of St John’s , out in the gardens with their family and friends and having such an enjoyable afternoon.

Sister Frances calls for action on false abuse allegations that “destroy lives”

July 18, 2016

SISTER Frances Dominica has called for action to tackle accusations of abuse that are “destroying lives” despite a lack of proof.

She said those who were never taken to court over claims made against them had “no final forum to clear their names”.

Her comments came after a study by Oxford University researchers found even those who refuted abuse accusations at an early stage had their lives “wrecked”.

The 73-year-old founder of Helen and Douglas House was forced to step away from the hospices charity in December after she was accused of sexually abusing two women between 1980 and 2000.

Police halted a year-long investigation into the claims – which she wholly denied and were not related to Helen and Douglas House – in July 2014. The Crown Prosecution Service decided to take no action.

The university study warned policies adopted by police forces to assume all victims of child sexual abuse are telling the truth could prove “damaging” to society.

It says despite “honourable intentions” to listen to victims who have historically been ignored, the approach is creating “a whole new, growing class of victims”.

The study adds: “The road to hell, it is said, is paved with good intentions.

“Unfortunately, that is where the victims of false allegations of abuse are likely to find themselves – in a living hell.”

Sister Frances said: “I very much welcome this research. It voices what I’ve personally experienced.

“It is very timely given the number of people, like myself, who are caught in this awful situation of being accused of something terrible but who are never, finally, able to clear their names.”

Sister Frances said she had been “fortunate in having lots of support” from friends and sisters at the All Saints Sisters of the Poor in Cowley.

But she warned: “This often isn’t the case for people who are accused of abuse. There are a number of cases where people have just lost everything and have taken their own lives.

“This problem urgently needs to be addressed because it is destroying lives, as well as deterring people from entering or continuing with caring professions, including teaching.

“It is massively important that people who have suffered abuse are encouraged and supported to report what has happened to them and for those who have abused them to face justice.

“But it seems to me the pendulum has now swung so much the other way, because accusations are made which often aren’t tested in court and there’s no final forum for people to clear their names.

“This is a major natural justice issue.”

In an exclusive interview with the Oxford Mail in January, Sister Frances called for those accused of sexual abuse to be given anonymity – like alleged victims – until they are formally charged with offences. The issue is also due to be looked at by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse.

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