Obituary for Sister Cecilia Mary Birdwhistle, FMSJ

Posted on: 21 May 2021

Author:Sister Joan Kerley


Your prayers are requested for the repose of the soul of
who died at the Royal Blackburn Hospital on Wednesday 19th May 2021

Grace Cecilia was born in the Wirral to Edwin and Grace Birdwhistle on 8th October 1922. She is predeceased by her Sister Maud, who was an FCJ Sister, her brother Hugh who was a diocesan priest and her Sister Margaret who died in Franciscan Convent Blackburn in 2017.

Grace entered the Novitiate on 28th August 1943 receiving the name Cecilia Mary. She made First Profession on 8th September 1944 in Altrincham and her Perpetual Vows on 8th December 1949 in Kumba, Cameroon.

After training as a teacher Sister Cecilia went to Cameroon until 1961 and then to Seria in Brunei. In 1966 she was moved to the Philippines and appointed Novice Mistress to the Mensa Domini Sisters founded by the late Bishop de Wit MHM. She returned to UK in 1969 as Novice Mistress and remained until 1975 when she was appointed to the United States and served six years in Hartford, Albany and Woodbridge. In 1981 she was elected as a General Councillor and appointed to Latchford until 1984 when she went to Leyland as local leader. In 1987 she became Assistant to the Superior General and was at various times in Market Drayton, Eccleshall and Franciscourt until she returned to parish ministry in Leyland in 2000. The parishioners were delighted to have her return and she remained until poor health led to her retirement to Blackburn in 2006 aged 84.

Sister Veronica who lived in Leyland with Cecilia said “She was full of energy and enthusiasm – at times she made me tired just looking at her and that takes something! She loved being part of the parish and any new groups. When she retired I missed her enthusiasm, encouragement and support and most of all her careful listening and wise advice that came only after prayerful consideration.”

In 2012 despite failing health she was able to accompany Sister Maureen to the Philippines for the Golden Jubilee of the Mensa Domini Sisters. She had a marvellous time meeting all the Sisters she once trained and even wishing to help them with preparation for their forthcoming General Chapter.
The Sisters were thrilled to have her with them and shared many happy memories. By this time Margaret, Cecilia’s elder Sister had moved into Blackburn because she needed care and the two of them had several happy years together as members of the community. On the evening of 17th May Cecilia was admitted to Blackburn hospital with an infection. Sister Nuala was allowed to stay with her the following day and Sister Maureen took over and stayed the night. Cecilia died very peacefully just after 6am on 19th May. She was greatly loved and will be missed by everyone. Many Masses have been offered in Leyland. The funeral arrangements will be announced in due course. MAY SHE REST IN PEACE