"She was absolutely at the heart of setting up the hospice": Nun who led the founding of Leeds' St Gemma's dies aged 97

Tributes have been paid to the nun who led the founding of St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds after her death aged 97.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 3:46 pm
Sister Seraphine Bermingham was the provincial leader of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, the order which set up the hospice in 1978.
Sister Seraphine Bermingham was the provincial leader of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, the order which set up the hospice in 1978.

Sister Seraphine Bermingham was the provincial leader of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, the order which set up the hospice in 1978.

Together with other nuns, Sister Seraphine spotted the need for a hospice to care for the city’s most sick patients in their final weeks.

They identified a school that the order ran in Moortown as a suitable site for the hospice, and the project was born after a meeting at Leeds Town Hall which called for funding for the new site.

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The hospice was opened with nine beds, but has expanded over the years and now supports around 3000 patients with life limiting conditions each year across Leeds and West Yorkshire.

As well as palliative in-patient care, the hospice also provides care in the community and bereavement support.

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

The hospice’s chief executive, Kerry Jackson, said: “They didn't have a strategy, they didn't have a business plan, they just had this vision and this faith. I suppose that's something that was really passed on to me, that having vision and having belief that you're doing the right thing, and it will work out. It's been something that's been really instilled in me.

"So she was absolutely at the heart of setting up the Hospice.

"She used to go see patients on the ward, she used to talk to the staff and support them.

She was a lovely person but very determined, very resolute and very committed to St Gemma's being the best it could be.

“She would regularly ask me about what the plans for the hospice were.

"She was really eager to make sure that the hospice that the Sisters had started was in good hands, and continuing to live with that vision."

Sister Seraphine died at Elmleigh Convent residential home earlier this month.