Sr Elizabeth FOX (Sr Mary Benignus), 1929 – 2023

Sr Elizabeth died on the 4th of March, 2023, at Longueville Court Care Home, Orton Longueville, Peterborough, England, at the age of 94, 69 years in religious life.

A Requiem mass was celebrated for her on the 30th of March at St Luke’s Church, Orton Malborne, Peterborough. Burial will be at a later date at Margate cemetery.

 Elizabeth was born on the 10th of January 1929 in Dungannon, County Tyrone, Northern Ireland.  She enjoyed a happy childhood on the home farm with her family.   She was a bright pupil at her local Convent school, and gained her Northern Ireland Junior and Senior Certificates, before progressing to a B.A. in Maths – a subject in which she showed a special interest and ability.

Although educated by the Sisters of Mercy in her hometown, Elizabeth did not feel an attraction to join them in community as she considered her future.  She had her heart set on teaching and was told by a friend that a Convent school in Colne, England, was advertising for teachers.  This was an unknown quantity to Elizabeth, but she was one to give anything “a go”, so she applied, and was taken on!

Sr Elizabeth used to recall the enjoyment of many a prank and evenings out that she and a few other young girls on the staff used to organise – all unbeknown to the Sisters, or so they thought!   It was a good time for Elizabeth and she was impressed by the spirit of the Sisters:  friendly, simple, prayerful, and hard-working.  In those days financial resources were scarce and the Sisters had to cover the housework, cooking, laundry as well as their classes.  Elizabeth often recalled the baskets of laundry that had to be carried up three flights of stairs to be dried in the attic.

After several months in Colne, she asked to be received into the Congregation and joined the formation house in Brittany, France. She had picked up some French from the French Sisters in the community and this, along with her adventurous spirit made her adaptation a bit easier.  She made her vows in 1953 and returned to England to teach in St Joseph’s convent, Abbey Wood.

In 1973 she was invited to join an international group of sisters in Rome to implement the new ways of thinking of the Church, and Religious Life after the 2nd Vatican Council.  This experience made a deep impression on Sr Elizabeth, especially the pilgrimage to the Holy Land which would mark the rest of her life.

On her return to England, Sr Elizabeth was offered a place at Manchester University where she deepened her studies of Maths and obtained a Diploma in Education Guidance.    By 1975 she returned to St Joseph’s Convent to teach maths and take up the Headship of the school.

In 1979 Sr Elizabeth moved to the Sidcup community where she continued as Head Teacher and was responsible for the community.  Added to her Headship duties, Sr Elizabeth was asked to take on the task of Bursar for the English Province in 1983. There are many stories of Sr Elizabeth’s travels and encounters during the 17 years of her successful bursarship – too many to tell, and during all these years she continued supply teaching and taking part in  Kairos Retreats for students.

In 2000 the community in Sidcup closed and Sr Elizabeth opted for a sabbatical year at Maynooth In Dublin.  Here she was able to renew her cultural roots as well as deepen the faith which was very dear to her.  She also found several outlets for her energies – in the Church, in coaching children and visiting the lonely.  At the end of her sabbatical, unforeseen circumstances meant that she was unable to join her intended community, and she was asked to remain in Dublin.  After a slight hesitation about being out of an ordinary community, she accepted, and as many of you know “the rest is history”.

 She devoted herself wholeheartedly to the Marino Parish: – preparing children and adults for the sacraments, and being present in the sorrowful and joyous moments of parish life.   She also found time to work in the St Vincent de Paul charity shop and to deliver meals on wheels.

  For any visitors to Dublin, she delighted in taking them to visit interesting and historic places and experience the beauty and hospitality of the people.  Her great devotion to Our Lady took her to the shrine at Knock as often as possible.

The time came in 2016 when Sr Elizabeth regretfully saw that it was time to return to community in England  – this time in Peterborough.  It was a hard adaptation, but she soon found her place in the Parish.  When the community closed in 2019 Sr Elizabeth was there to help with the clearance of the house with her usual goodwill and generosity.  Rather than travel to another community she chose to move into a pleasant flat in Lincoln Gate where another D.J. was also a resident.

Eventually, in 2021 Sr Elizabeth’s health deteriorated, and she moved into Care in Longueville Court – a move she found hard, but gradually came to terms with, and made friends among the staff and residents.   She missed the Parish but was deeply grateful for the weekly visits of Fr Tony bringing Holy Communion, and the visits from her nephew and friends. During these visits, Sr Elizabeth would often express her thanks for the good care and competence of those caring for her.

In her full and busy life, Sr Elizabeth lived the values she had first recognised in her family and in the community in Colne. Through all her many services she communicated the Good News of God’s love and his closeness to each one. She lived by Jesus’ words:  “Whatever you do for the least of my brothers and sisters, you do unto me“….May she help us to do the same!

1 Comment

  1. Fr Liam Durrant MHM
    I am from Abbey Wood and I got to know Sr Elizabeth through working with her in the Kairos Retreatsin the late 1980’s I found her to be a very gentle and perceptive person, I was a young priest at the time and I was impressed by her gentleness and spirituality.
    Many of the girls I was at Primary school with in Abbey Wood went to St Joseph’s Convent and Sr Elizabeth was their Headmistress. I believed she took over from St Margaret who was killed in a car crash along with some Sisters visiting from France. I lost touch with Sister Elizabeth, but often enquired about her.
    There were two Sisters in the community, surname, Kennedy, they were cousins of my Headmaster , Mr Sankey, St Austin’s R.C. Secondary Modern School in Charlton. I attended Sr. Madeline Kennedy’s Jubilee celebration in 1970 and was shocked when my Headmaster walked into the reception room at the Convent, I was wearing my school uniform and he came over and remarked, ‘I recognised that badge from somewhere’ and laughed.
    Abbey Wood Convent St, Joseph’s was very much a land mark in our part of South East London. it was a great loss when it closed and the Sisters moved away.
    I will keep you all in my prayers, the Filles de Jesus did great work in Abbey Wood and other places in the UK. Our missionaries (Mill Hill Missionaries) worked with some of your French Sisters in Cameroon.
    May Sr. Elizabeth rest in peace.

    Reply

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