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Chislehurst: Community celebrates a special Nun

2015 Inspire Awards runner-up Clare Herriot shares a story of a special celebration for a nun truly making a difference to her community ...

2015 Inspire Awards runner-up Clare Herriot shares a story of a special celebration for a nun truly making a difference to her community ...

On a gorgeous sunny Thursday in Chislehurst, the new Chislehurst Society building, The Old Chapel, was being prepared for an extra special, top secret celebration for an incredible Nun, Sister Josephine Udie, known to us as 'Sister Jossi'.

Sister has been living in the Alms Houses in Chislehurst for 18 months and had absolutely no idea a surprise celebration was taking place; she only knew she would be interviewed by The Sun newspaper on that day.
    
The journey to this event began when local resident and photographer, Duncan Raban, met Sister Jossi in a greasy cafe some four years ago. Duncan was blown away by Sister's passion for helping others and swiftly set up a photo shoot on Rupert Murdoch’s boardroom table and arranged for her to be featured in the newspaper.

Ever since then, Duncan has regularly mentioned the amazing Sister Jossi to his colleagues, so when they were approached by Morrison’s Supermarket who wanted to celebrate someone in the community, they were keen to suggest Sister Jossi due to her life long work in the community as a full time Nun.

Sister Josephine is a member of a pontifical order of The Handmaids of the Holy Child Jesus and has been a nun for more than 40 years.

She is a qualified health and behavioural change professional, a lifestyle coach, and Project Coordinator for a youth charity called SteerRight.

Even though Sister is quite used to being interviewed, she called me the day before to pray for her; that she would have the right words to say and to ask if I thought it was all right to just offer tea and biscuits ready for the TV crew rather than cake!

With only a week to organise this hush hush event, I went to work with Duncan, Atomized TV, and Morrisons to put together a guest list and venue.

We wanted to make sure that we invited those who had personally experienced Sister's help or had seen others impacted by her work. This was not an easy task, and having only known Sister for a short while I had to call on some key friends and family to help.  

The day arrived. With invitations sent, taxis ordered, food prepared, TV crew travelling from London and Morrison's team coming down from Leeds there was a lot of excitement!

Duncan had his son, Tom, busy making 'I love Jossi' heart badges for all the guests, to bring a personal fun element. Throughout the whole evening we were filmed and interviewed, telling our stories about Sister Jossi.

At 8pm, Sister arrived and pulled open the curtains, and everyone was cheering 'Welcome Sister Jossi'. She was ecstatic and truly surprised! (Watch the video above)

For about 10 minutes she kept spotting people she had not expected to see and for the rest of the evening we continued to enjoy the food and drink laid on by Morrisons and listening to each others' personal speeches on why we love Sister!

Finally, the evening ended with a very unexpected gift of a car covered in pink bows. With Sister learning to drive, the car has been given for a short time so she can practice freely.

This night was a beautiful tribute to someone who makes a difference wherever she is. She is not afraid to practically care for others, especially young people and is an example and inspiration to whoever she meets.

We hope you like the film; a snapshot of a very special day.

I am sure there are people we all know who deserve celebrating; so don't forget to thank them, especially those who are quietly making a difference to the lives of others day in day out.

Sister has organised another workshop for the young people in Chislehurst on Friday (17 June). There will be a confidence-building workshop and the opportunity to learn basic first aid skills.

To see lots more photos from the event, head to http://www.visitchislehurst.org.uk/about/surprise-celebration-sister-jossi

Got a great story from your community? Send it in to editor@inspiremagazine.org.uk

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