Ursuline Convent Forest Gate News 2017


Annual review produced for Past Pupils association

By Sister Una

On 8th May this year we will celebrate 25 years with 38 Grosvenor Road as home. It doesn’t seem that long even to me, the only one who has seen all 25 years!  The house, however, has decided to remind us of its longevity. Our heating system was the first to speak of obsolescence, so it has been replaced on the promise that the new one will be less costly to run. Then the oven began to creak, next came the telephone system and finally insurance caught up with us suggesting that after 25 years of non-use the fire extinguishers needed upgrading, so it has been an expensive year.

Hopefully we are now set for another 25 years of peace -which of course none of us is likely to see! Despite the expense and upheaval, the house has served us well. We all appreciate being more proximate to our local community.  We like our beautiful garden and enjoy our convenient and more modern home.

Last year I reported several changes in our community. These have continued this year and are set to do so the next. Sister Alice has spent the past year in our community in Bratislava, Slovakia where she went to teach English and experience a different way of life.

Sr Ruth from Bratislava reversed the process and came here to improve her English, work in our schools and share our way of life. She has a five-day a week programme, spending two days with the chaplain at St Angela’s and two with the chaplain at Ilford Ursuline Academy, Cleo Jones, a past pupil of here. The remaining day she works with the Friars of the Renewal at Killip Close, Canning Town, helping with their homelessness project.  

In September Sr Mary Charles Conway who reaches 90 as we go to press decided to join our infirmary in Lourdes as she was becoming frailer.

In June we expect to welcome Sr Margaret Lyth, a former Brownie, and Sr Felicity Young, a former French teacher here. Both currently live at Ilford where they carry out a mission of Spiritual Direction, which they will continue with us. Our convent at Ilford, 10 Coventry Road, will be set up as a centre for our Ursuline Links project. We have recently appointed a new Youth Minister for this, Hannah Wood who has had experience with the Sion Community in Brentwood.



Sister Catherine Kelly celebrated her Golden Jubilee last April. There were several celebrations. She still has a group of school friends from Wimbledon Ursuline who meet regularly.  Our Chapel of Ease at Durning Hall is her preferred place of worship and they celebrated in style after their 10.30am Sunday Mass.

We had a joint celebration on Easter Monday at Westgate for all the Jubilarians in the province and on April 16th  we had a special day for Sister Catherine’s family and our community which we celebrated with afternoon tea  á la Ritz.  Her family gave us a birdbath which has provided an endless source of fascination for us. At first it proved too squeaky clean for the birds to touch. After various attempts to ‘antique’ it, a few tried it out. Now we have a whole new bird life and a wonderful mobile phone video of eight of them having a bath together.


Community building

We have had two new developments this year which I am sure will be of interest to you. A few people in our street have set up a community group with a view to being more friendly with each other and taking more care of our environment. As we have the largest house in the street they asked us to host it. This has been very good for us as it means we are seen as part of the local community and not the only people who can organise things.  We meet about every three months.  It is a completely open forum where an amazing number of people find a voice. So far we have had our local councillors and community police at some sessions and there has been a real sense of getting things done. But the biggest change of all is how much more we talk to each other.

Our second change has been, or is on the brink of being, our involvement with the Jesuit Refugee Service.  This is an organisation set up in Wapping. Its aim is to offer a human face to the many refused asylum seekers who are unable to return to their country and who are forced to shift as best they can in the hinterland of our communities. At night time that is often the buses or the streets! JRS have appealed to convents and religious houses to offer hospitality for three months to a refugee.  We have signed up to the programme and are awaiting our first visitor. Everything is in place pending our updated DBS certification! The shortness of the stay is part of the legal arrangement and does beg the question ‘Where do they go next?’, but even a brief period of stability is better than an eternal life on the streets. We hope to give a fuller picture next year.