“She was absolutely at the heart of the creation of the hospice”: the nun who led the founding of St Gemma’s in Leeds has died at the age of 97

Sister Seraphine Bermingham was the provincial leader of the Sisters of the Cross and of the Passion, the order that established the hospice in 1978.

Sister Seraphine Bermingham was the provincial leader of the Sisters of the Cross and of the Passion, the order that established the hospice in 1978.

Along with other nuns, Sister Séraphine noticed the need for a hospice to care for the sickest patients in the city in their last weeks.

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They identified an order-run school in Moortown as a suitable site for the hospice, and the project arose after a meeting at Leeds Town Hall that requested funding for the new site.

The hospice was opened with nine beds, but has grown over the years and now supports around 3,000 patients with life-limiting conditions each year in Leeds and West Yorkshire.

In addition to palliative inpatient care, the hospice also provides community care and bereavement support.

And Sister Séraphine remained at the heart of Saint Gemma’s work until a few years before her death, ensuring that the hospice was “the best it could be”.

Hospice CEO Kerry Jackson said, “They didn’t have a strategy, they didn’t have a business plan, they just had that vision and that faith. I guess this is something that has really been passed on to me, having a vision and having a belief that you are doing the right thing, and it will work. This is something that was really instilled in me.

“She was therefore absolutely at the heart of the creation of the Hospice.

“She used to go to the patients in the ward, she used to talk to the staff and support them.

She was a lovely person but very determined, very determined and very committed to making Ste Gemma the best she could be.

“She would regularly ask me what the hospice’s plans were.

“She was really anxious to make sure that the hospice that the sisters had started was in good hands and to continue living with that vision.”

Sister Seraphine passed away at the Elmleigh Convent residence earlier this month.

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