April 9, 2011

UK: Elderly nuns suffered in silence as they were 'starved and abused by convent care staff'

LONDON, England / The Daily Mail / News / April 9, 2011

By Emily Andrews

* Nuns did not speak out to emulate Jesus's behaviour
* Some victims as old as 102 years

Elderly nuns endured more than a decade of abuse by carers at their convent in silence because they believed their suffering brought them closer to Jesus, an employment tribunal heard yesterday.

Care assistant Christine Sheldon was sacked after allegedly starving one nun and bullying and abusing 14 more, some as old as 102, the tribunal was told.

The details emerged because Mrs Sheldon, who denies all the claims, is suing St Mary the Virgin Convent in Wantage, Oxfordshire, for unfair dismissal.

The tribunal heard that some of the allegations about Mrs Sheldon’s behaviour towards the vulnerable sisters in her charge dated back over a period of 12 years.

The experienced care assistant, who had worked at the convent since 1992, was accused with three other carers of creating an atmosphere of bullying and intimidation which most seriously led to one elderly nun, Sister Margaret Jean, not being fed.

Mrs Sheldon, who is thought to be in her mid-50s, was also accused of being abusive towards colleagues and the elderly nuns.

The convent’s Mother Superior, Reverend Mother Winsome, told the tribunal in Reading: ‘When a sister joins the community she is giving her voice to God and trying to emulate Jesus. As part of his life we know he suffered the passion and suffering. For some of the older sisters in particular they would understand that (not complaining) is living in conformity to Jesus.’

Reverend Mother Winsome, a former lawyer, said that Sister Jean was so averse to complaining that when she was suffering heart attack-like symptoms she refused to tell inquiring paramedics how much pain she was in.

Reverend Mother Winsome told an employment tribunal about the mistreatment of the elderly and infirm nuns being looked after by care assistants

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