Norwich Sister was a powerhouse of action

Sister Francis North, a nun who spent the later years of her life on pastoral duties helping the disadvantaged, marginalised and sex workers of  Norwich, has died aged 82.

Sister Francis, who died peacefully at her convent home in Norwich, spent most of her working career in education, then became involved in parish work in Cambridge and, from 1998, at Mary Ward House, Norwich.

Also, she was assistant vicar for religious orders in the Roman Catholic diocese of East Anglia.

Sister Francis was born at Romsey, Hampshire, where her father was land agent on Lord Louis Mountbatten's Broadlands estate. She served in the Women's Royal Naval Service before being called to join the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

She taught English and Latin for 20 years at St Mary's School, Shaftesbury, becoming headmistress between 1972 and 1976.

She was also superior of the religious community that ran the school from 1976 until 1979. One of her tasks in that role was to modernise the dress of the religious sisters, a step which was finally accomplished in 1986 as they began to dress in ordinary clothes.

The driving force of her life as a religious sister, teacher and then as a leader of her order as provincial was the influence of the works and writings of a 17th century woman, Mary Ward. In an era of religious intolerance and conflict, she had founded Catholic schools across Europe, and her communities showed that women could work in education and spread the Catholic faith without the guidance of men - a revolutionary idea for both church and state at the time.

Sister Francis was a leading light in the Mary Ward Association, which works to spread her life philosophy.

After serving at her order's house in Ascot as novice director, she became head of the English province on September 1981 until January 1991.

Fr Tony McSweeney, of St George's parish in Norwich, said Sister Francis, of the Congregation of Jesus - formerly known the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary - had endured a brief battle with cancer. He added: “Sister Francis was a powerhouse of action in the tradition of her congregation's foundress, Mary Ward.

“She worked with those living with HIV/Aids; she visited the sick and the elderly and the housebound.”

A requiem mass and funeral will be held at St George's Church, in Sprowston Road, Norwich, on Friday, June 13 (11.30am).

Article and picture courtesy of www.edp24.co.uk



Published: 04/06/2008