By John Newton
BBC art historian Sister Wendy Beckett has marked her 70th jubilee as a nun by donating £3,000 to Aid to the Church in Need, the Catholic charity which is also celebrating its 70th anniversary this year.
Sister Wendy, 87, who achieved international acclaim in the 1990s with her art documentary series, gave the charity the money from the proceeds of an eighteenth-century porcelain figurine she received as a gift long ago and money from an advance on a book.
Sister Wendy, a long-time supporter of Aid to the Church in Need, said: “This charity means a great deal to me and mostly I can just support it with my prayers.”
“Receiving the money and getting permission from the prioress to give it was my best jubilee present.
“I’m very conscious of how generous it is of her, so it is really the Carmel who gives it to Aid to the Church in Need, not me.”
She added: “What makes this so moving to me is that it is ACN’s 70th anniversary also.”
Aid to the Church in Need was founded in 1947 by the Dutch Norbertine priest Fr Werenfried van Straaten to provide both material and spiritual aid for refugees who were fleeing Communism in Eastern Europe.
Sister Wendy, who is now a hermit under the protection of the Carmelite community in Quidenham, Norfolk, entered religious life on the 2nd February the same year.
She went on to explain why she has been a long-standing supporter of Aid to the Church in Need.
Sister Wendy said: “From the first, I was struck that this was what I would call a central charity.
“Here is our beloved Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, poor and suffering in so many places.
“What greater charity than to come to His aid?”
Describing the figurine sold to raise funds for ACN, Sister Wendy stated: “It was one of the first beautiful things I was ever given.
“It was very small, a piece of Chelsea porcelain, what they call ‘Girl in the Swing’ type…
“She was delightful with her porcelain flowers and her little motto of ‘Love is All’.”
The rest of the funds came from her new book, The Art of Lent: A Painting a Day from Ash Wednesday to Easter, which is being prepared for publication at the end of this year in time for Lent 2018.
It will draw on images and reflections from four small books Sister Wendy wrote in the mid-1990s on peace, love, joy, and silence.
Sister Wendy said: “The reproductions in those books are beautiful and over the years I’ve had many letters about them, often lamenting that they were now out of print.”
Asked for her prayer intention this Lent, Sister Wendy replied: “My great intention always is ‘Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven’.
“Our Blessed Lord knows how ardently we long for people to love one another and the world to be at peace. Our prayer is all we can do to bring about this Kingdom of Heaven.
“So that’s the prayer I offer for myself and ACN: May God achieve completely what He longs to achieve, may we never block Him, may He be all in all.”
Aid to the Church in Need is a Pontifical Foundation directly under the Holy See. As a Catholic charity, ACN supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in need through information, prayer, and action.
Founded in 1947 by Fr Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope St John Paul II named “An outstanding Apostle of Charity”, the organisation is now at work in 140 countries throughout the world.
Undertaking thousands of projects every year, the charity provides emergency support for people experiencing persecution, transport for clergy and lay Church workers, Child’s Bibles, media and evangelisation projects, churches, Mass stipends and other support for priests and nuns and training for seminarians.
Aid to the Church in Need UK is a registered charity in England and Wales (1097984) and Scotland (SC040748). ACN’s UK office is in Sutton, Surrey and there is a Scottish office in Motherwell, near Glasgow and another office based in Lancaster that covers the North-West.
Please always acknowledge Aid to the Church in Need as the source when using our material.
For more information, contact Senior Press Officer Dr John Newton on 020 8661 5167 or ACN Press and Digital Media Officer Murcadha O Flaherty on 020 8661 5175.