Rest in Peace
SISTER MARJORIE JEAN CHN
Born 17th April 1924
Professed 24th February 1955
Died 6th April 2022
Marjorie Jean was born in 1924 and spent her early years in East Finchley, London. She was an only child and moved with her parents to Evesham where they set up a market gardening business and she began her great love and plants and all things agricultural and horticultural.
She wanted to study and enrolled herself at Queen Mary College, London (where she found the cheapest course – Biology/science/maths – we think). The college was evacuated to Cambridge during the war. She was called to do ‘war work’ in aircraft manufacturing and became adept with engineering plans – which proved useful in later years. She always loved diagrams and maps. She also trained as a teacher.
She joined CHN in the early 1950’s and was professed in 1955. Initially her time at the convent in Malvern was spent working in the kitchen, looking after the hens and a brief spell at the Home of the Good Shepherd (where we cared for girls who were on probation).
MJ was always a bit of a pioneer - in 1959 CHN was invited to Liberia to work alongside the American Holy Cross Fathers and she was one of the first group to travel there. She spent most of her time teaching but also went ‘on trek’ to remote villages. After 2 years she returned to the UK and worked briefly at St Albans Retreat House. In 1962 CHN were invited to Basutoland (now Lesotho) initially to live alongside a small group of Basuto sisters and integrate with them. Again MJ was among the 1st group who went there and worked wonders in the garden, initiating an irrigation project. After 5 years she came back to England and taught at St James’ School West Malvern until 1970.
Later that year MJ returned to Lesotho to begin what was to be her ’life’s work’. At the Convent in Leribe she became the Bursar, responsible for finances and buildings. She pioneered the Leribe Craft Centre (which is still in existence today), encouraging local women weaving with mohair and selling their goods – involving and supporting handicapped workers in the project. She also travelled far and wide with Fr Brown (the community’s chaplain) to find new outlets for their wares. This ‘business enterprise’ began to flourish.
Later MJ became the Principal of St Mary’s Home Economics School in Leribe and continued there until 1995 when she came back to England. She was given a great send-off and a lovely hand-woven banner ‘Farewell Lesotho - 33 years’.
Sister Marjorie Jean with her farewell banner
By this time the convent had moved to Derby where she became the assistant bursar – spending a lot of her time fixing things, often in a rather Heath-Robinson way.
By now MJ was in her 70’s but the pioneering spirit had not left her and she and Sister Judith were the first sisters to set up house on the Welland estate in Peterborough – where they were involved in the local church and in the local community. In addition MJ gardened and grew a lot of vegetables. After 5 years there she moved to the community’s house in Keswick where she endeared herself to the locals and joined an art group where yet another talent was able to flourish.
The Keswick house closed in 2009 and the sisters returned to Derby. MJ, now well in her 80’s, hosted the meetings of the Julian group which met at the convent. She joined several art groups in nearby villages and had a weekly session teaching an elderly lady to draw and paint. She also went to Keep Fit classes and was an intrepid traveller round Derbyshire with her bus pass as she was around the Lake District when in Keswick.
Last year CHN moved to Hessle. Like most of us MJ was excited, though maybe slightly apprehensive, about the move and she would exercise, walking round the perimeter of the house on her ‘pusher’, several times a day, viewing the garden with her critical eye as she went. Gradually her health began to fail – angina, loss of hearing and sight, then mobility – she began to say ‘All I can do now is to pray’ which of course she did. I hope she could also look back over her life and ministry with great thanksgiving. She has touched the lives of so many people, both in this country and in Africa – we have had many letters in appreciation of her – even in her 90’s people enjoyed her conversations, her encouraging words her ‘wicked’ sense of humour and her lively personality, her extensive breadth of knowledge and awareness of the world around her. Hers was a full and rewarding life.
May she rest in Peace – and rise in Glory.
SISTER VIVIENNE JOY CHN
Born 7th July 1929
Professed 2nd October 1964
Died 20th February 2022
Sister Vivienne Joy died peacefully on 20th February. She had moved into a care home in Hessle in the summer of 2020 when the Community relocated to Hessle. She was 92 and had been very active well into her 80’s but a series of strokes and diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease really slowed her down, mentally and physically. She remained cheerful in spite of the frustrations of old age and disability and increasing fragility.
VJ (as she was always known in community) was born in Oxford. Her family moved to Abingdon when she was 4 or 5 and that was ‘home’ from then on. She was not too happy when a new baby came along but VJ and her ‘little’ bother Norman became great friends. VJ went to the local primary school and then to St Helen and St Katherine’s School in Abingdon – a convent school run by Anglican sisters. She has kept in contact with the school over many years. She says that they were given ‘a very healthy approach to life and faith – religion was about daily life, not staying in the sanctuary’.
VJ went to on Whitelands College to train as a teacher and then to Kings College to do a theology degree. She taught general science in a secondary modern school, then biology in a high school and finally went back to her own school as Senior Biologist.
Later VJ did a diploma in Experimental Educational Psychology at Cambridge. After that she was a novice at the Community of St Mary the Virgin at Wantage for a short time. She joined the Community of the Holy Name at Malvern Link in 1961 and was professed as a sister in 1964. During her many years in Community VJ moved around a fair bit to different parts of the country where we had smaller ‘branch’ houses’ - Chester, Newcastle, Basingstoke, Nottingham and Oakham. She worked as a hospital and university chaplain as well as being involved in parish ministry. She was a good preacher and led many groups on prayer. She wrote interesting theological articles and always enjoyed reading and study.
She spent 2 years with our sisters in Lesotho where she was on the staff of St Catherine’s College (teacher training). She borrowed the bishop’s horse on her days off to explore the environs.
VJ always tried to have some work in the garden and loved having an allotment. She was very knowledgeable about plants. The allotment was frequently her salvation.
She had a wonderful sense of humour and could keep us entertained for ages with anecdotes from her childhood and beyond. She had a real gift of words and has left behind a 3 volume life story, all beautifully hand-written and interspersed with photographs.
VJ had a very full address book - which was rather out of date! The Community received some lovely cards and letters about her. The son of one of her college friends wrote that VJ ‘radiated the peace, joy and love of someone who had found their true vocation.’ She brought many gifts to our community and we give thanks that she is now free of her frailties and has met her Lord face to face.
Her funeral was on Wednesday 16th March at Quarry Bank followed by burial at Tranby Lane Cemetery, Kirk Ella.
May she rest in peace and rise in glory.