Sr Maria Coates is on a Mission

Tell us a bit about your life
I was inspired by Mother Mary Aikenhead and her works ever since I was a young child and she continues to inspire me today. I joined the Religious Sisters of Charity and after my profession of vows I trained as a teacher.

I always wanted to work in Africa and my dream came true when I was asked to go and work at a school for blind children in Lagos, Nigeria. After a couple of years we handed over the school to a local order and I moved to Festac, just outside of Lagos. There I helped to establish a school so I put on my hard hat and got to work.

When I came back from Africa I worked in many places throughout the UK and did a year of spiritual studies in the USA.

When did you come to St Joseph's Hospice?
I first came to St Joseph’s 17 years ago. I had trained in Pastoral Care and Counselling and worked as a Chaplain. I loved working here, I have such happy memories of St Joseph’s. It was such a privilege to visit patients and their families on the wards, and to spend time with staff. I’m so happy to be back. The work we do is wonderful, it’s all about people and I’m delighted to be part of it again.

What is your role at St Joseph’s?
I’m assisting Carolyne Barber in the Mission Team and I’m working Tuesday to Friday. I’m really proud of the new Heritage Centre in the reception area as it’s important to show our history, where we came from and the events that happened along the way to make us who we are today. Our role is to help people to understand and live out the Core Values in their everyday work.

Mary Aikenhead used to say ‘Give to the poor for love what the rich can buy for money’ and that’s what the Religious Sisters of Charity live by, service of the poor.

Do you visit the wards?
Absolutely. This is an important part of my role at St Joseph’s and not just visiting patients. If staff and visitors want to come and talk to me or Carolyne our door is always open.

Tell us one of your memorable moments as a young nun
When I first became a nun we wore the Habit. I remember back in the 70’s we went to see the musical The Sound of Music. On reflection we were asking for trouble but after the performance we went next door for fish and chips and suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a crowd of people asking us for autographs. Now I’m no Julie Andrews but they thought we were part of the cast!

You no longer wear the Habit, when did that change?
The Habit used to be black and then it was changed to grey, to be honest neither did anything for my pale skin. It was in the 1970’s when the General Chapter, which meets every six years, decided that we didn’t have to wear the Habit any more. I was delighted as I love colour, pinks and mauves are my favourite. I have a lovely pair of pink boots that I wear at the weekend.
 
And finally ….
Our door is always open.

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