Sister Aloysius A Woman Whose Faith Moved Mountains
Sister Aloysius, founder of Francis House Children’s Hospice died on 29th August 2012 aged 85 years. From the age of fifteen, Sister knew she wanted to consecrate her life to God. She entered the congregation of the Franciscan Missionaries of St. Joseph and made her first vows just before her 18th Birthday in 1945.
In the 1950’s she was appointed to Didsbury where the Sisters, working within the Catholic Children’s Rescue Society cared for over 100 children in a large children’s home. Sister Aloysius became responsible for the work of re-uniting children from the large home with their own families where possible and for the setting up of the new work of the Fostering Department.
The development of the work in finding foster families increased enormously and so for twenty years of her life, Sister put her heart and soul into developing the provision for children in need of care in the Salford Diocese. Her maxim was that ‘good child care is good family life.’ Later she was appointed to the Social Welfare Committee of the Bishops Conference for England and Wales.
In 1975 Sister was elected Superior General of her congregation, a post she held for twelve years, being responsible for the whole mission of the congregation in England, Ireland, Scotland, the Netherlands, Kenya, Malaysia, the Philippines and North and South America. During these years she maintained her links with the work of the Rescue Society and remained a member of the Rescue Council, rarely missing one of their monthly meetings.
In 1989, as the Rescue Society’s work had developed to provide respite care for children with disabilities who were with foster parents and it was soon became apparent that a number of these children had a short life expectancy. Sister Aloysius was appointed to a small sub-committee to investigate the needs of such children and their families. As a result, the need for a Hospice for children in the North West became clear.
In March 1990 it was decided that a separate charity should be formed to support parents of all faiths or no faith, who have a child with a life-threatening or life-limiting illness. In July 1990, the Rainbow Family Trust was given charity status. Sister Aloysius was appointed as Company Secretary and Administrator and her work to raise awareness of the need for a children’s hospice and raise the necessary funds to build the Children’s Hospice, known as Francis House, began. Building work commenced in December 1990 and Francis House was officially opened by HRH Princess Diana on 25th November 1991.
The fact that Francis House was built and operating in so short a time tells of the great drive of Sister Aloysius, this came from her compassion for the children and families already known to her who could soon suffer the loss of their children. The people and businesses of the North West and beyond rallied behind Sister and gave superb support for the project. Largely due to her love for the children and their families, combined with her leadership skills, Sister has inspired many, from all walks of life, to support Francis House which is held in great affection and esteem.
Sister retired in 2005 at the age of 78 but remained a member of the Council of Management until recent years when ill health took its toll but right to the end she was interested in all the new developments planned for Francis House and the provision of age appropriate care for the adolescents and young people at Francis House.
2014 saw the completion of a new seven bedroom extension, doubling the size of Francis House. Bedrooms are equipped with the latest technology in PlayStations, televisions and self-lowering wash basins, there is a recording studio, cinema room and gardens. At the heart however will be the determination and commitment of all the trustees, staff and volunteers to continue to provide support to the children, young people and families that come to Francis House when they need it most.
Francis House is determined to celebrate the remarkable life of Sister Aloysius by continuing her work in providing a home from home, a place of fun and happy memories. Her vision transformed the lives of thousands of families from across the North West, and continues to do so today.
Father Thomas Mulheran, Founder, Trustee and Chaplain of Francis House knew and worked with Sister for 41 years said “Sister Aloysius had tremendous grit, an iron will, and focus. She was a woman of outstanding faith and if she hadn’t been a Sister, she’d have been top of her profession. She was the most loyal, supportive person and if she was behind you things were going to go right. She was the sort of person who told you what she thought, and she didn’t miss a thing. But everything was for the benefit of the children and their families”.
The late Robin Wood CBE, Chairman of Francis House and one of the early founders of the Association of Children’s Hospices, referring to the opening of Francis House Children’s Hospice in 1991 said: “She was a lady of great determination who once assured of the pressing need in the Manchester area pursued that goal with such speed it was achieved within 18 months. This was at some risk to the normal timescale of a charitable appeal for a large building project but her faith was not to be denied and she lived to see all debts paid off.”