Sister Ursula Burley, R.I.P.

Your prayers are requested for the repose of the soul of
Sister Ursula Burley FMSJ
who died at the Franciscan Convent Burnley on the 14th February 2017.
Sister Patricia in Burnley reminded me that when Sister Ursula had her stroke seven years ago she had to let go of two of her great loves – talking and visiting the elderly – many of whom were younger than her!
Sister Ursula was born on 27th October 1922, baptised two weeks later and given the name Agnes. Agnes was the third child of Jane and Thomas. She is pre-deceased by her parents and her sisters Jane and Mary and her brothers Thomas and John. John was drowned in the river as a small child and his body never found. Sister Ursula often spoke about this tragic time for the family.
Agnes attended school on the site of our convent in Burnley and she clearly remembered helping the Sisters with the cleaning after school. Agnes was confirmed when she was ten years old. On leaving school Agnes became a weaver in a local mill as many of her contemporaries will have done. At the same time she enrolled in Night School taking Courses in Needlework and Cookery. Her parish was always central to her spiritual and social life.
Just after her 23rd birthday Agnes entered the Novitiate in Altrincham. A year later she was clothed in the habit of a Novice and received the name Ursula. The following year on September 8th 1947 Sister Ursula made her first vows.
Her first appointment was to ‘Patricroft’ as cook for the children being cared for by the Rescue Society. I think Sister Ursula will have enjoyed this very much. From there she was asked to cook at St Bede’s school. Ursula was to return, over the years, three more times to St Bede’s. In 1953 after making her Final Vows Sister Ursula accepted an appointment to ‘Tilburg’ in the Netherlands as the cook in the Mill Hill Seminary. This began a long relationship with the Mill Hill Missionaries in ‘Tilburg’, ‘Herbert House’, ‘Burn Hall’ as Community Leader and ‘Courtfield’.  Ursula was to accept four more appointments to ‘Herbert House’ and in 1980 as Community Leader.
Sister Ursula’s Ministry as cook and her willingness to accept appointments took her back to the Rescue children – to ‘Bryn Eithen’, the holiday house in North Wales and to ‘Franciscourt’. Ursula also spent a year in the Bishop’s house, Nottingham, two years in ‘Broughton Hall’ and two years in Rome at ‘John Lateran’ in a small community which had been established to assist the Franciscan Friars in their Ministry.
In 2002 Sister Ursula accepted her final appointment to our convent in Burnley where she was to live the rest of her life. For the next eight years Ursula was so happy wandering the streets of her home town and parish – visiting older people, renewing friendships with old school friends and spending time with her sister Jane. Sister Ursula really enjoyed her semiretirement and loved having visitors herself – always thanking her visitor for coming to see her. Ursula loved to spin a good yarn. She was always warm and friendly in her approach and simple and prayerful in her attitude.
In January 2010, and without warning Sister Ursula’s life changed overnight. She had a severe stroke and it soon became evident that recovery was out of the question. Sister Patricia asked to bring Ursula home where she has been lovingly cared for by the Sisters and staff ever since. The Care Team will miss her so much. Ursula was never able to speak to us again in a way we could understand but she was able to show her pleasure with her eyes and in her chuckle. She also responded when anyone sang with her. Sister Ursula lived in the present moment – of necessity – but taught us more lessons than she ever knew.
Sister Ursula died peacefully on Tuesday 14th February 2017 at home in the Convent. Her funeral will take place at 10am on Tuesday 21st February at Franciscan Convent Burnley.


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