Search

Saint Francis Hospice volunteer awarded British Empire Medal for work helping prisoners

PUBLISHED: 10:12 27 December 2017 | UPDATED: 10:29 27 December 2017

Sister Philomena Purcell (left) with Sir Trevor Brooking at the hospice. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Sister Philomena Purcell (left) with Sir Trevor Brooking at the hospice. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Saint Francis Hospice

A volunteer chaplain at Saint Francis Hospice has collected her British Empire Medal after being honoured by the Queen for her work helping those behind bars.

Sister Philomena Purcell's British Empire Medal. Picture: Saint Francis HospiceSister Philomena Purcell's British Empire Medal. Picture: Saint Francis Hospice

Sister Philomena Purcell, 77, was awarded the British Empire Medal (Civil Division) for her work within HMP Chelmsford.

On her day off, she volunteers at the Broxhill Road, Havering-atte-Bower charity hospice, which provides free care to those with life limiting illnesses.

The middle child of 17 children from Mullinavat in County Kilkenny, Ireland, Sister Philomena came to England as a teenager in the 1950s, where she joined Ursuline Convent in Brentwood, Essex.

She trained and worked as a teacher in schools in Elm Park and Dagenham, retiring in 2001.

But she decided she wasn’t quite ready for a quiet life and the following year joined the chaplaincy service at HMP Chemlsford, where she is now affectionately known as ‘Sister P’.

Her duty to helping those behind bars does not end over the festive season, having lead services at the prison on Christmas Day for the last 15 years.

“This can be a difficult day for the men and I am grateful that I have the support of my Ursuline community when I return home,” she said.

“The most rewarding part of my job is the people I meet, I see them through highs and lows and I get to accompany them on their good days and bad days.

“Sometimes I get to tell them good news, like the birth of a child or I may have to deliver bad news like the death of a loved one.”

Earlier this year she received her second High Sherriff’s Award for Lifetime Achievement, the first awarded 10 years previously for her work on Fathers Inside, a training programme helping prisoners become better fathers.

Governor Rob Davis said the Sister had “a natural gift for raising people’s spirits” with “an enthusiasm and energy which is seldom seen in people thirty years her younger”.

“Sister P is a great advocate for all the prisoners of all religions and none,” he added.

“Chelmsford prisoners have a great respect and love for her.”

Fittingly, her medal was present at this week’s prison carol service.

Latest Romford News Stories

Yesterday, 15:00

Audiences are invited to rediscover the true meaning of Christmas at Brookside Theatre’s festive musical, A Christmas Carol.

Yesterday, 12:00

A Gidea Park shop owner has been told by the council he has to apply for planning permission for a mural outside his shop or he could be fined £2,500.

Yesterday, 10:00

The further delay of Crossrail forced members of staff who were waiting for jobs at Romford station to resign.

Yesterday, 07:20

A Newbury Park man alleged to have torched a £260,000 Ferrari outside a house in Emerson Park was taking revenge for a property deal that went wrong, a court has heard.

Tue, 17:00

Rainham and Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas has called for the prime minister to “move over and allow Labour to secure a deal that works for working people” after she called off a Parliamentary vote on her Brexit withdrawal agreement.

Tue, 15:04

A Hornchurch theatre will be getting into the festive spirit this December by hosting a special Christmas Fayre fundraiser.

Tue, 14:03

Longer weekday late evening trains are being put on the Fenchurch Street network through east London and Essex to help Christmas shoppers and partygoers get back home.

Tue, 13:00

A Collier Row widower has been invited to speak about his wife’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer at the House of Commons by Pancreatic Cancer UK.

PROMOTED CONTENT

From November, The Mercury in Romford begins to celebrate Christmas. The mall has plenty of gift ideas, fun events and activities for everyone

Vauxhall has completed its sport utility vehicle range with the third, and largest, Grandland X. We put the SUV, now available at Tony LeVoi in Romford, to the test.

“The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining,” so the saying goes. So if some warm weather is making your conservatory uninhabitable, think about replacing its roof with a flat one and adding a roof lantern instead.

Newsletter Sign Up

Romford Recorder twice-weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Most read news

Hot Jobs

Show Job Lists

Education Promo

News from your area

Digital Edition

cover

Enjoy the
Romford Recorder
e-edition today

Subscribe

Education and Training

cover

Read the
Education and Training
e-edition today

Read Now