‘We are encountering Christ at each bedside’

Sister Sheila Moloney, a nun of 60 years, is recognised for her hospital ministry

A religious sister of 60 years has been recognised by the Archdiocese of Southwark for her inspirational ministry in Croydon Hospital.

Sister Sheila Moloney, a Daughter of Mary and Joseph, has spent all her religious life in the Archdiocese of Southwark. In her life she has been a teacher and headteacher at Coloma Convent Girls' School, and she continues to serve her community as part of the Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care team at Croydon Hospital.

Video about Sister Sheila and her work at the hospital

The Chaplaincy and Spiritual care team is a multi-faith set-up, with each faith looking after patients from their own beliefs. Sister Sheila is responsible for the Roman Catholic patients in the hospital, of which there are many.

Archbishop of Southwark John Wilson has thanked Sister Sheila for her tireless efforts in putting the words of the Lord Jesus into action. The Archbishop said:        

“Sister Sheila is a remarkable woman who has brought so much joy to people throughout her many years of caring, by showing them the compassionate face of the Lord Jesus, often at difficult times in their lives. The Lord Jesus calls us to show His love and mercy to all those whom we meet, and Sister Sheila’s life is a clear example to us of how to do exactly that.

“I would like to thank Sister Sheila for all that she has done for the Archdiocese and I look forward to celebrating the anniversary of her religious vows with her later this year.”

Sister Sheila and Archbishop John

Her work means so much to the patients, as Frances – a carer for one of the patients, Marion – Sister Sheila has supported in the hospital, attests:

“Marion was very traumatised and poorly when she came to hospital, but what lifted her was when Sister Sheila walked in. For Marion she was an absolute God send.

“Marion said to me that Sister Sheila prayed and prayed that my legs would get better, and Marion said: ‘they did!’”

Marion recorded a video message thanking Sister Sheila for all her help, where she described Sister Sheila as like a mother to her. Marion expressed her gratitude for Sister Sheila, especially in ensuring she was able to receive Holy Communion in hospital.

As Frances added:

“It’s so important this prayer connection, because Marion feels obviously the doctors healed her, but through Sister Sheila and the team, prayer and communion have healed her spirit.”

Sister Sheila is very humble about her ministry, but she is truly putting the words of Christ and her Catholic faith into action. Sister Sheila says she “just does what she can”, but it’s her devout faith in the Lord Jesus which guides her, which shines through when she speaks about her Ministry:

“I’m not taking Christ to them, Christ is with those people already. We are encountering Christ at each bedside.”

Sister Sheila has been with people in happy moments, but also in their darkest too. In an interview with the Archdiocese, Sister Sheila spoke movingly about a family she supported. A woman, expecting twins, had unfortunately lost one of the babies and had to give birth to a still-born baby. Talking about the experience, Sister Sheila said:

“It was such a difficult day and you just have to cling to your faith and know that God is with you in that ministry. You ask God to speak through you, so you can be there and say the right things to someone who is going through something terrible.”

Sister Sheila

The impact Sister Sheila had on the family, by showing them the love of Christ, is shown by the fact she continues to remain in contact with them. Sister Sheila is the God Mother to their youngest child.

Sister Sheila embodies what it means to show the love of Christ to all you encounter, telling us that she makes a point of saying to the patients that:

“God loves them, individually. They are precious to God. Many people have never heard that, they’ll say they don’t go to Church any more or they’ve given up on God. To which I say, luckily God hasn’t given up on you!”

Anglican Reverend Andy Dovey, Head of Chaplaincy and Spiritual Care at Croydon Hospital praised Sister Sheila’s contribution to the chaplaincy team, saying:

“She’s a very determined lady, who works rigorously following her faith. She entrusts God to guide her in her life and this shines through in her ministry and provides an example to others in how they should trust in God.” 

Sister Sheila also helps to train Roman Catholic seminarians, including Stephen Trafford – a fifth year seminarian – who is currently based at the hospital. Stephen said:

“She’s been a great support and she is a wonderful thing for this hospital. The ministry gives her so much joy.”

The work of hospital chaplaincy is so important, as are tremendous people like Sister Sheila who make this work possible. The joy she has got from her life, showing the mercy and love of Christ to all she meets, came through clear when she reflected back on her experiences. Sister Sheila said:

“I know I’ve had a great life and I’ve loved my life and I’ve had great joy.”

Rev Andy also spoke about the importance of hospital chaplaincy, because people would otherwise be unable to receive their sacramental rights, which is so important to their lives.

The enormous difference chaplaincy teams make to patients is underlined by Frances, Marion’s carer, who said:

“These lovely people came in, listened and prayed with her. That is what was important and I think Marion would just say an enormous thank you. From the bottom of her heart.”

The Chaplaincy team at Croydon Hospital provide a vital source of pastoral and spiritual support for patients. Their multi and no faith approach allows them to offer a space of solace and a sense of connection to all during what can be extremely challenging moments. Their work extends beyond patients, by providing confidential counselling and emotional support, whether religion-based or otherwise, to staff at the hospital. The breadth of their work was described as “ecumenism in action” by Sister Sheila.

Sister Sheila Moloney has been recognised as a ‘Saint of Southwark’ by the Archdiocese, as part of its initiative to highlight unsung heroes in communities. The whole of the Archdiocese of Southwark congratulates Sister Sheila on her extraordinary ministry in putting the words and love of Christ into action.

You can find out more about the Chaplaincy team at Croydon Hospital, including how to volunteer at: https://www.croydonhealthservices.nhs.uk/chaplaincy-and-spiritual-care/