On June 28th, 1903 our dear Sister Florence was born. She followed her famous namesake into the nursing profession, and was a Ward Sister in an East End hospital during the London blitz. After the war she answered Our Lord's call to work in the mission field, and sailed to India in 1946 to enter the Oxford Mission Sisterhood of the Epiphany in Calcutta (now Kolkata). She looked after the health of the Fathers, Sisters and boys on the compound, and nursed 'the poorest of the poor' in the villages through epidemics of smallpox, cholera and other endemic diseases of the subcontinent. Her especial care was for leprosy patients, taking them in off the pavements as Mother Teresa did, but without the publicity. There she has been ever since, and will be to the end. So a tremendous celebration took place at O.M. Behala on June 28"', 2003. Arijeet Roy, Administrator, worked hard to make it a day to remember - and he succeeded beyond Sister's wildest dreams. H. M. The Queen sent a card, which was presented by the U.K. Deputy High Commissioner. TV, radio and newspapers in India gave maximum coverage, and the London Times published an article about her on the actual day.
The Revd. Alwyn Jones represented the U.K. Committee, and has written his account: Sister adds her own astonished and delighted reaction. She had over 100 cards from all over the world, and is full of gratitude to Arijeet and to all her friends and supporters. Above all she is grateful to God for the opportunity He gave her to serve the poor for so many years in her beloved India.
Mother Winifred, the other remaining Sister of the Epiphany, is now in England but still remembers with affection her time in the subcontinent, and prays for those now carrying on the work especially in Barisal, Bangladesh. May 14,2003 saw her 80th birthday, and prompted memories of another birthday in 1954 which she spent on a trek with fellow missionaries in the Himalayas. Mount Everest doesn't always reveal herself to visitors, but at sunrise on that memorable day the clouds parted and Mother saw the peak in all its glory. She has contributed her diary record of the trek.
Following his Ordination as Deacon by the Most Revd. Michael S. Baroi, Moderator and Bishop of Bangladesh, in May, the Revd. Martin Hira Mondal took First Vows as Brother Martin in the Brotherhood of St. Paul at Barisal on 17 August, 2003. At the same service Sister Sikha and Sister Sipra took their First Vows in the Christa Sevika Sangha.
The C.S.S., founded in 1970, is thriving, with 13 members; the S.P.B., newly formed, has so far only two, but expects many more. The great hope of the Fathers and Sisters of the Epiphany was always for indigenous Orders to follow in their footsteps: how they must have rejoiced on this happy day.
Please pray for blessing on the lives and ministry of all in the Christa Sevika Sangha and the Brotherhood of St. Paul, and especially of those who have just taken their First Vows.
While Bishop Raju, who holds the birthday card from the Queen brought by the Acting British Deputy High Commissioner (left) With Arijeet Roy, who organised a wonderful celebration, and wife Kanchan
Last year we had to forgo the Festival as we had no speaker for the Meeting. Now there is good news: Mr. Arijeet Roy, Administrator of the O.M. compound at Behala, will be here in June - July with his wife Kanchan, and will be able to tell us at first hand all that is going on there.
We are hoping to have the Festival in Winchester, as few people manage to get to London now and we have many supporters in the South for whom it should be an easier journey. Full details will be in the May issue of the O.M. News.
Arijeet is an excellent and enthusiastic speaker, who loves the Mission and has many new plans for it. Please do your best to attend, and give him the audience he deserves. He will be here for about four weeks, and will be happy also to speak to communities and parishes anywhere in the U.K. Let Mary Marsh know as soon as possible if you would like a visit.
Sir Frank Mills, K.C.V.O., C.M.G. has had to resign from the Committee due to increasing ill-health. A member of the Diplomatic Service, his postings on the subcontinent included Karachi, Dhaka and New Delhi. He was appointed High Commissioner in Bangladesh in 1981.
Frank's particular and great service to the Oxford Mission was to undertake yearlong negotiations with the Bangladesh Government resulting in the tenure of the O.M. property in Bangladesh being vested in the Dhaka Diocesan Trust. This cleared up a difficult and anomalous legal situation, after which, as Father George Golding B.E. wrote, "eighteen years of anxiety were over". To mark the Mission's gratitude a special Thanksgiving was held at Barisal, attended by the High Commissioner, by then K.C.V.O., and his wife, in a memorably splendid hat!
Frank joined our Committee in 1984. His wide knowledge of the subcontinent (in many aspects - he played Rugby for Chittagong), and his quietly meticulous approach to detail in matters relating to the O.M. in Barisal and Jobarpar, were of the greatest assistance. We will miss him, and wish him and Trilby, who has also not been well, better health and peaceful years ahead.
In his place we welcome Mrs. Margaret How, who as Margaret Jones was a nurse in St. Anne's Medical Centre, Barisal for a number of years in the 1970s, and on her return to England in 1980 became a member of the General Committee. She left in 1986 for family reasons, and it is good to have her back now the children are older.
We were sad to hear of the death at 85 of Fred Pinn, on 19 July after a long illness. Fred was the founder and first Head of the School on the Oxford Mission compound at Behala which bore his name. Father Theodore Mathieson B.E., who was then in charge of the compound, wanted to give a suitable, less academic education to some of his Mission boys who were not doing well in the formally structured High School. So he called on Fred, who was a pioneer in specialist methods which benefited the late starter and the pupil who needed time to grasp the subject. In 1966 the Pinn School started, and its pupils flourished under Fred's inspired and patient teaching. He left in 1971, having trained an Indian staff to carry on his work which had become widely known and esteemed. He remained in touch with the School and Behala, and was remembered there with great affection.
Fred's friend Bill Markham writes, "I saw him in hospital the evening before he departed...Unsure if he would hear me I quietly spoke the words of greeting and love which Alwyn Jones had brought from some of Fred's old friends at Behala. He nodded and smiled faintly in certain acknowledgement. Apart from a raised hand as I left him...this was the last conscious communication he had in this world".
General Secretary Mary Marsh and the Revd. Alwyn Jones represented the O.M. at Fred's funeral, together with Barbara Mathieson, sister of Father Theodore whose initiative led to the founding of the Pinn School. May he rest in peace.
Now that the O.M. News is no longer a Quarterly Paper but half-yearly, there is a long gap in news between each issue. To fill this gap, the Committee has decided we should have a web-site. Robert Mathieson, a member of the U.K. Committee and nephew of Father Theodore Mathieson B.E., has set it up, and Mary Marsh and Gill Wilson will keep it up-to-date with the latest on Mission activities.
We realise that our older readers may not have a computer, but most public libraries and some parish offices have one nowadays and will help you to access the site. There are also Cyber-cafes: and if you are lucky enough to have young friends or relations they will have no difficulty in showing you what to do!
The web-site will not supersede the Magazine which will continue to be published as usual. But we hope it will bring in new supporters, and show we are not a relic of the Victorian age but a thoroughly modern Mission.
These are now available from the Office. Please let Mary Marsh know how many you need.
Best wishes from the Mission in the U.K. to all our supporters, for a happy Christmas and a more peaceful New Year in our troubled world.