"Still bearing fruit in old age, still remaining fresh and green." (Ps. 92)

Birmingham is the second largest city in England with a population of over 1,036,500 people. The area in which I am living and working – Nechells – is not very far from the inner city and houses some of the poorest and most deprived families .The rate of unemployment is high and the number of immigrants is on the increase. I am a member of the Kingstanding community of the Little Sisters of the Assumption but my mission field is here in the parish of St. Vincent in Nechells where I live in a Council Flat surrounded by young and old, native English and immigrants from various countries. The greater number of immigrants around here is from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda and the Congo most of whom are Christian. 
 
 
There is also a fair number from Iraq, Iran, Palestine and Pakistan, many of whom are Muslim. Here Christians and Muslims live and have lived in relative harmony. However, in August there was widespread rioting in some of our big cities and Birmingham was no exception. Unfortunately one Muslim man lost both of his sons who were killed as they tried to protect their father’s property from looters. Instead of seeking revenge on the killers this Muslim man made a plea for peace and called a Peace rally which attracted persons of all religions; there was an open air prayer service which certainly brought about a certain solidarity and reconciliation and did more to bring Peace than any other method used. 
When I entered the Congregation at Christmastide in 1957, I was already classed as a late vocation. I had been attracted to the Congregation because of the example of a fellow student nurse with whom I trained. She had entered with the Little Sisters of the Assumption immediately after her training and just prior to her Final vows she transferred to the Poor Clare Sisters with whom she served until her death. I had the privilege of being with her at the time of her death in the very hospital where we trained. Little did I ever think in 1957 that I would be blessed with such good health and longevity to be living and working amongst these wonderful people and living alone at 89 years of age.
 
I am the parish sister in St. Vincent’s parish and besides being a Eucharistic minister and taking Holy Communion to the sick I am involved in Catechetics, pre-paring adults for the reception into the Church at Eastertide. As you will see from some of the photographs I am also involved with the children in the nursery and primary depart-ment of our local school. I take part in the educational trips to various places of interest and this helps in the integration of our immigrant children. 
 
 
 
Some of these photos depict the children visiting a farm in Lichfield on the outskirts of Birmingham. It is an opportunity for the children who otherwise would seldom have the occasion of visiting a farm or of being in close contact with farm animals. I was the child of immigrant Irish parents so I can empathise with the children and immigrants in our midst.
 
Living as I do in this Council estate has many advantages, very much so for me. Having the Blessed Sacrament in my home is a source of strength not only for me but for all my neighbours as well. Some have strong faith, others have lapsed from the practise of their faith and others have little or no faith, but all can and do join in a spirit of neighbourliness .The simple acts of kindness which we share daily help create a sense of belonging and no person is excluded I believe this is certainly building the Kingdom right where we find ourselves. The prayer and suffering of the sick and elderly sisters in Kingstanding support me daily and the sisters in turn feel very involved in the mission here. I visit the community on a regular basis and those who are able come to me.
 
I feel a deep sense of gratitude to God who blesses me daily with the strength to continue in His work with the poor and the little ones. At 89 years of age I am still quite mobile and I get great support within the parish from the parish priest and also the parishioners. 
 
This is a very special time for all of us in the Congregation as we look to the future with hope. With all of you who may read this I am open to the future wherever it may lead us, knowing that with the Lord all things work together unto good.
 
Let us remain united as we pray: "My God, unite all minds in Truth and all hearts in Charity." 
 
Sr. Mary Carroll
 
19/01/2012
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