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RIP – Alison Mary CSF

Alison Mary CSF died on 23rd January 2003 and her funeral Eucharist was in Birmingham. She was aged eighty two, and in the fortieth year of her profession in vows.
From a sermon preached at her funeral mass at St Francis House, Birmingham, by Sister Elizabeth CSF

Sister Alison Mary CSF, ‘Allie’, was born 12 May 1920 in Sydney, Australia, and died in Birmingham 23 January 2003. She was an only child, baptised Alison Mary, convent educated and trained as a Nursery Nurse. She was very good with babies and small children. Later she became secretary to the Dean of the Cathedral in Brisbane where the family had a continued connection.

Inspired by the visits of friars to her homeland, she left employment and country in 1961 and came to join CSF in England when we were still at Dalston in London’s East End. Pronouncedly extravert, she was friendly with all comers and excelled at one-off encounters and short-term projects, or giving talks and acting as hostess to the many day visitors. She was, for two years, on the staff of St Mary-of-Eton parish in Hackney; and subsequently for a while in the parish of North Weald. She also joined the Brothers in running the hostel for young men in Ashton-under-Lyne and later was for a time at Alnmouth Friary. Allie loved cooking; and assisted at the Northern Camp, where she made some good friends among the young participants. She was a member of numerous parish mission teams. After the sudden death of Br. Randall at Hooke, she filled in for a term, being very supportive to staff members, doing most of the driving and picking up on many ‘odd’ jobs, which would otherwise have been left incomplete.

Her travels took her back to Australia at the invitation of a succession of bishops and clergy, to be a kind of itinerant missioner. She longed for CSF to start a house in Australia, but it was not to be; though she was encouraged by the coming of four more women from her own country and then a couple from New Zealand, to think we might one day go ‘down under’. In between the travels she managed the orchard and part of the vegetable garden, mowed the field at Compton, and relished the outdoor opportunity.

Described by a friend as ‘a typical Aussie, but a bit over the top’, there was that about Alison which did not resonate with the more reserved and private English temperaments among us; though, knowing other Australians, we might not wish to generalise about any national characteristics. As with any of us, her less acceptable traits arose from her own needs and insecurities and were an exaggeration of reasonable norms. For some, she did not come over well. Others found her easy to talk with, a sympathetic listener interested in their doings, someone who always had time for them and to whom they mattered. At one time she kept up a huge correspondence.

In her later years Alison almost visibly diminished, a cause of great frustration to her. The garden at Birmingham did not lend itself to her talents as she had little understanding of flowering plants(!) but she was happy and faithful in taking Veronica or Lizzie (the dog) for daily walks, if rather determined as to route and timing. About a year ago, and already with some considerable deterioration of co-ordination and function she, who had never been at a loss for words, lost the ability to put a sentence together. After experimental respite care, she moved into a Residential Home close to the sisters. Pneumonia eventually took her to hospital where she died very peacefully. She will be missed. May she rest in peace and rise in glory. f