St Stephen Lewisham

3rd March 2016

 

R.I.P Anne Ward

  

There are many reasons to thank God, as well as to be grateful to Anne herself, for allowing me to minister to her during her last illness. Let me tell you just a few of them

First and foremost Anne was, and still is, someone who believes unhesitatingly in the ‘Communion of Saints, the Forgiveness of Sins, the Resurrection of the Body, and the Life Everlasting’ – as the Apostles’ Creed says. This meant that we were talking the same language – the language of the Christian Faith. When one is talking to somebody one’s never met before about Death, Sin and Forgiveness, and the Life Everlasting, it’s often difficult to know where to begin.

But Anne made it clear from Day One that we could talk freely, in terms we both understood. Instead of just teaching Anne about Life, Death and the Resurrection (as a parish priest has to do with someone who is terminally ill), Anne herself taught me as much as she learnt from me.

Secondly, we had it in common that we both believed in the Sacramental Life. Every week she received the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion, and thus the two of us took our part in His Eternal and once-for-all Sacrifice ‘for us men and for our salvation’; and month by month it became more evident that Anne was both being blessed, and growing spiritually. There was also the Sacrament of Anointing with Oil which she received on two or three occasions when her health was deteriorating seriously. On each occasion God allowed an extension of her earthly life, until her final Anointing when God was saying to her ‘Enough! Anne – you are now ready to come to Me’

Thirdly, alongside those Sacramental signs of Anne’s spiritual growth, were the intercessions which she offered aloud, before and after making her Communion. She prayed fervently, for her family and her Church, but also (and especially) for those known and unknown to her, who ‘in this transitory life are in trouble, need, sickness or any other adversity’. These prayers came straight from her heart, with a sincerity which put my own efforts to shame. She prayed for her Family, Church, and friends, for the sick and destitute; but especially for the beggars and drug-addicts on the streets of Lewisham.

Let me mention one other ministry which Anne helped me to develop, and you might find helpful if you should find yourself visiting someone who is house- or bed-bound. It was really very simple. Every week Anne let me read a book aloud to her. It gave both of us much pleasure. One book was called All Glorious Within, by Bruce Marshall. It’s a fictional account of the ministry and experiences of Father Joseph Smith, a typical priest in a back-street parish Glasgow in the early 20th Century. It’s written with a sensitivity, insight and humour, and  made Anne laugh a great deal – and laughter (as you may know) can be a great help to some people who are ill and have to spend much time alone.

So my debt to Anne Ward is great – because of what ministering to her taught me about Living and Dying: she was (and still is) someone whose Faith was securely grounded in the saving power of the Incarnation, Life, Death, Resurrection and Ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

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