Sister Philomena Purcell BEM helps patients who visit Saint Francis Hospice's day service.

She shares her experience of volunteering and how she escorted a group of patients on a pilgrimage to France.

In 2009 I started volunteering and every Wednesday I served tea to the patients who used to come in for the day.

When my day was changed, nurse Claire Edwards, who used to work at the hospice, said, “Come in as a chaplain, we’d love to have you.”

Since then I have met patients in our day services at Pemberton Place every Wednesday.

During our meetings, we were able to share and discuss our hopes and fears and gain healing from each other.

It was during one of our meetings I was talking about my yearly pilgrimage to Lourdes in France and the group became interested.

I contacted Jenny Micklem, who is a nurse in Broomfield Hospital and a regular nurse on the pilgrimage.

She came and spoke to those interested and, in no time, outdated passports were renewed.

On arriving in Lourdes, we were taken to Saint-Frai Hospital where we had a whole ward to ourselves.

Dr Hamilton Grantham was in charge and he was supported by many doctors and nurses from hospitals across the country who volunteered to give up a week to care for the sick.

Our group made a great impression on all who looked after them so that they were encouraged to return the following year - not that our group needed much encouragement.

When the Covid-19 pandemic started, our Pemberton Place patients were sad, lonely and feeling lost.

So Dr Grantham set up our flourishing weekly Zoom meetings.

It is a lifeline for all of us. We are able to support each other, to laugh, to share, to listen and most of all encourage.

We supported one patient, who had been under the care of the hospice for many years, during his last illness - not only by our weekly Zoom but regular phone calls.

We also had a memorial service on Zoom and prayed for his grieving family.

Thanks to Dr Hamilton, Jenny Micklem and nurses Annie Bowen-Wright and Angela Sadler, our group is able to talk about their illness. We shared our birthdays with great jollity.

We have laughed, we have cried and we have sang.

To sum up what our Zoom meeting has done for us, it has enabled us to be ourselves. Lourdes 2022 here we come!