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Community Routes

Brother Ronald makes a century

Br Ronald with Brothers David Jardine & Benedict

Br Ronald with Brothers David Jardine & Benedict

Since the Society of St. Francis was founded it has produced many remarkable people.  Amongst those is Brother Ronald, who has been a member of the Society for over seventy years.  So it was absolutely right that on Saturday, 18th August, 2012 his 100th birthday should be a real celebration of a life well lived for God.  The Three Towns Nursing Home in Stevenston, near Saltcoats in Ayrshire, where Ronald has lived for a number of years, helped to make it a wonderful occasion.  The afternoon began with a short service of Holy Communion in Ronald’s room, a beautiful little service with Benedict, David Jardine and some friends present.  Then after some community singing in the common room the Deputy Lord Lieutenant and the Provost arrived to present Ronald with his telegram from the Queen.

Ronald is now profoundly deaf and almost completely blind, but in spite of that he seemed to be aware of the significance of the occasion.  Benedict and David Jardine both had a chance to speak, and thanksgiving was offered for Ronald’s years in SSF, his long-standing contribution to industrial chaplaincy and his years teaching at Adelaide College in Saltcoats.

Because of his disabilities and difficulty in communication Ronald spends most of his time in his room.  But that does not mean his work for God has ended.  He has never lost his lovely nature and that speaks volumes to the staff.  Some of the women who work there said that Ronald is the most peaceful person in the Home, testimony to the fact that his faith and spirit are still very much alive.

Hilfield’s rooftops

Rooftops have featured significantly at Hilfield in 2012.  In February – March, 26 solar PV panels were added to the existing 18, covering most of the St Francis’ chapel roof.  Overall, over 1

0% of the total friary electricity used is now solar. Visitors to the friary are encouraged to look at the meter giving all t

he figures, including how much CO2 is avoided.  SSF were thankful to several very generous donors and for the installer, Heavers of Bridport, who worked very hard to finish the work just in time for them to claim the higher rate of Feed in Tariff.

In his Canticle of the Creatures, St Francis wrote

Chapel Roof Panels

Chapel Roof Panels

‘My Lord, be praised by Brother Sun, who through the skies his course does run, and shines in brilliant splendour; with brightness he does fill the day, and signifies your boundless sway’ so it is great that the chapel is now a powerhouse of Brother Sun as well as of prayer.  The photo shows the completed panels before the removal of the scaffolding, with community members and two of the installers.

During the spring rains, there was dismay when it was realised that the thatch roof on Bernard House had come to the end of its life.  Buckets were to the fore until funds could be released to enable it to be renewed, the work for that being completed in the summer.

Ascension Day saw a different kind of activity on the rooftop: singing!  Half a dozen community members climbed onto the roof of St Francis House to sing Ascension hymns while an appreciative(?) audience watched in the courtyard below.

We have a Facebook page!

Over the past few years a new dilemma has reared its head in Religious Life; not anything to do with ‘traditional’ tensions but, instead, something presented by the (relatively) new phenomena of ‘social media.’  That this is the case may be seen by the plethora of articles and (appropriately) websites which explore the parameters of appropriate interaction between social media and religious communities.  In one such website, Gott im Web, ( the Archdiocese of Vienna, in conjunction with the religious community at Stift Heiligenkreuz notes that ‘… the internet and the new social media have placed communication in a new era.  In everyday interaction the new media is indispensable.  The Church must take account of this: where people are the Church must be…’  Whilst recognising that ‘social media’ is not an unmixed blessing and that it can cause one to replace ‘real’ friendships grounded in relationship and shared experience with ephemeral ‘virtual’ friendships, the website development group decided that it was time to utilise this new form of communication and to open a Facebook page on behalf of the ‘European Province of the Society and Community of St Francis.’  This Facebook page is accessible through our website ( and on Facebook itself and will, hopefully, enhance the website and allow us to be a presence in the increasingly popular world of social media.

With the assistance of Mark Gould-Coates, our information technology consultant, the website for the First Order in the European Province has recently had a makeover.  The content remains similar, though the design has been slightly changed.  The website also has a ‘RSS feed’ on it, informing people that something new has been added to the website.  As a large proportion of people under the age of 30 no longer use a computer to access a website, but they use a mobile device – phone, tablet, i-pad etc. – it is vital that we are accessible to such people.

Greyfriars restored

Sue writes:

Greyfriars Chapel in Canterbury, built on the site of the first Franciscan dwelling in England in the thirteenth century, and incorporating some ancient friary buildings, was re-opened after extensive restoration work, and blessed by Bishop Trevor, Bishop in Canterbury, on 26 April, 2012 Austin, Master of Eastbridge Hospital and Guardian of Greyfriars welcomed us, and Jonathan Carey, of Donald Install Associates, the Architect to Eastbridge Hospital, gave a most interesting insight into the history of the building which is now Greyfriars Chapel, and its recent restoration.  Peter Williams of Viridor,one of the donors, also spoke at the ceremony, which was followed by refreshments in the Eastbridge Hospital.

Blessing Greyfriaars

Blessing Greyfriars

Those attending included Reginald, Benedict and Sue, local clergy, tertiaries, companions and friends, and Roman Catholic friars and others from the Franciscan Study Centre.

Austin thanked all those who had contributed financially to the Restoration Fund: – Franciscans from around the world, including SSF, OFM, and TSSF, Viridor, Colyer Ferguson Trust, Friends of Kent Churches, The Don Beerling Trust, The Tory Family Trust and many individuals.






The wettest Greenbelt yet?

As the summer continued and the drought conditions were replaced by records for rainfall, the thought of camping at Cheltenham racecourse for the annual Greenbelt Festival became a bit disheartening.  However, commitments for input into the Festival were in place, and there would be opportunities for renewing friendships as well as enjoying the special atmosphere of Greenbelt which is not weather-dependent, so the Franciscan team was at full strength when the August bank holiday weekend got under way.  The ground was remarkably dry under foot until the deluge on Saturday afternoon, which left large puddles of water, or mud, in some areas, temporarily disabled the electrical supply to G-Source where the Third Order had a stand, and generally made ‘wellies’ essential footwear for the rest of the weekend.  Our tents were made of sturdy stuff, and withstood all that the weather threw at them (a hailstorm, and winds, too) so we were thankful to remain dry, and to be able to offer assistance to a couple of other folk whose tents were less weather-proof.

The two Morning Prayer worship sessions which we led in Soul Space, in the dry at the top of the grandstand, were packed out with about 150 people.  Helen Julian and Hugh spoke to an attentive audience on Monday afternoon, in a venue which hosted a variety of speakers on Christian approaches to ecology; their title was ‘Brother Sun, Sister Moon and Cousin CO2’.  Abbott Stuart OSB from Mucknell Abbey also spoke in that venue, so it was a good witness to efforts that religious orders are making with regard to managing their buildings in ways that are more caring of our environment.

Round up

Thomas Anthony has moved to the friary at Alnmouth.  The SSF flat in Assisi is being staffed by members of the Third Order, who are also maintaining the chaplaincy for the Anglican congregation at St. Leonard’s Church.  Helen Julian has begun training for ordination at Ripon College Cuddesdon. Catherine Iona has withdrawn from the novitiate.

In the European Province of the Third Order SSF, elections have resulted in new officers for many of the Areas, and Averil Swanton was elected Minister Provincial TSSF.  John Reynolds, who is also a member of the community at Hilfield, was elected Provincial Treasurer.  f