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Sister Philomena's starts virtual support group for patients during pandemic

Sister Philomena had been supporting our patients since 2009, but when COVID-19 hit, she took her weekly support group online. 

Sister Philomena on one of regular Zoom meetings with patients and external mediical team who go on

Sister Philomena Purcell BEM has been volunteering at Saint Francis Hospice since 2009 and during that time she has brought love, laughter and great comfort to patients who visit our day service at Pemberton. Here she shares her experience of volunteering, how she escorted a group of patients on a pilgrimage to France. Their religious affiliation was never an issue. Anyone who wanted to come was very welcome. This was a wonderful opportunity for patients to enjoy a holiday in the sunshine in a beautiful setting with good company and all the support they need.


In 2009 I started volunteering in Saint Francis Hospice and every Wednesday I served tea to the patients who used to come in for the day. When my day was changed, Nurse Claire Edwards, who used to work at the Hospice, said, “Come in as a chaplain, we’d love to have you.” Since then I have met the patients in our day services at Pemberton Place every Wednesday. During our meetings, we were able to share and discuss our hopes and fears and gain healing from each other.


Patients make pilgrimage to Lourdes




It was during one of our meetings I was talking about my yearly pilgrimage to Lourdes in France and the group became interested. I contacted Nurse Jenny Micklem, who is a nurse in Broomfield Hospital and a regular Nurse on the pilgrimage. She came and spoke to those interested and in no time, outdated passports were renewed. It was a miracle! We set off on The Ampleforth Lourdes Pilgrimage and filled one of the Tangney planes.


On arriving in Lourdes, we were taken to Saint-Frai Hospital where we had a whole ward to ourselves. Dr Hamilton Grantham was the Doctor in charge and he was supported by many Doctors and Nurses from hospitals across the country who volunteered to give up a whole week to care for the sick. Our group made a great impression on all who looked after them so that there and then they were encouraged  to return the following year -  not that our group needed much encouragement.




Adapting to the COVID-19 Pandemic 


When the COVID-19 pandemic started our Pemberton Place patients were sad, lonely and feeling lost, so our kind Doctor Hamilton Grantham set up our flourishing weekly Zoom meetings. It is a lifeline for all of us. We are able to support each other, to laugh, to share, to listen and most of all encourage. We supported Bob Ballantyne, who had been under the care of the Hospice for many years, during his last illness - not only by our weekly zoom but regular phone calls. We also had a memorial service on Zoom and prayed for his grieving family.


Thanks to Doctor Hamilton, Nurse Jenny Micklem, Nurse Annie Bowen-Wright and Nurse Angela Sadler, our group is able to talk about their illness. We shared our birthdays with great jollity. Some of us have had Covid-19 and when the vaccine came we cheered.


Our weekly meetings have been a lifeline. We have laughed, we have cried and we have sang. Our beautiful opera singer Aileen Baker sang for us and lifted our spirits.


To sum up what our Zoom meeting has done for us. It has enabled us to be ourselves. Doctor Hamilton, Nurse Jenny, Nurse Annie and Nurse Angela have cured our lowliness and encouraged us to be forward looking. Lourdes 2022 here we come!


How you can help


To volunteer your time to help our patients, or elsewhere in the hospice, please click here to visit our volunteering page. 


If you would like to donate to help pay for the care our patients recieve, please click here to donate to our spring appeal.