|Ali 25 years ago - 1992|
Sunday, 8 January 2017
|8 January 2002 |
Ali's birthday 15 years ago on which she was "well and truly garlanded!"
On the back of the photo shown above Ali wrote the date and "Ali well and truly garlanded!" If the truth be told she found all the attention given to her on her birthday a little excessive and embarrassing, but she knew that the children greatly enjoyed the festivities and so she was happy for their sake. There was a large 'function' in her honour on the night of her birthday, at which the children would perform songs, dances and plays that they had spent weeks and months rehearsing. It was an evening of high spirits and enjoyment for them.
|8 Jan 2002: A group dance by some of the girls|
|8 Jan 2002: Boys who cannot walk dancing while seated|
|8 Jan 2002: A drama performed by some of the girls|
|8 Jan 2002: Ali with many of the children|
|Jan 2002: Ali with Lakshmi, Nagalakshmi and Anuradha|
|Jan 2002: Ali with Santhi and Parvati|
Saturday, 3 December 2016
Disability, pro-life advocate's message continues to resonate after her suffering and death
By Lisa Bourne
December 2, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – Suffering has value, meaning and a purpose, and despite the world’s attitude that it should be avoided and eliminated, suffering is actually good news for Christians.
|Ali and friends|
Yes, I could have shown a more 'sober' photo of Ali; one which might seem more fitting for someone who in due course should be considered (in the view of many people including myself) for canonisation. However, even though there is so much to be said about Ali that is sober and serious and solemn, we can only understand her if we realise that she was not at all stuffy or 'grown up.' In fact, she was extraordinarily child-like, and her child-likeness co-existed with the various serious things she thought and said and did.
Of course, Jesus Christ Himself said that we shall not enter the kingdom of heaven unless we become like little children (Matt 18:3). So today it seems fitting, on the anniversary of the day on which she entered into eternal life, to remember Ali's simplicity and child-likeness and the joy she radiated by just being Ali.
|Ali in El Salvador in 1994. She was very happy to see the picture of Pooh Bear!|
Tuesday, 30 August 2016
|Ali visiting Penny Goater - and her dog Holly - in 2003|
Ali had a great gift for friendship, and gave her time and energy generously. I am happy to publish this piece by Penny Goater who was a close friend of Ali's for thirty years.
Ali and I first became aware of each other in 1983 when she spotted a letter of mine that was published in a Disability magazine. She wrote to me and introduced herself and her work for SPUC as the National Organiser of the Handicap Division, asking if I would be interested in knowing more about their campaigns. I wrote back saying yes, but explaining that I ran an animal welfare organisation for young people and couldn't devote much of my time to other campaigns. Ali loved animals and was interested in my work, so we kept writing and when she moved from Essex to Dorset (I live in Somerset) we were able to meet and our friendship grew from that point.
We shared a great deal in common as disabled women of a similar age and background. But we were also interested in the differences between us - for example, Ali travelled extensively and I rarely did so I loved hearing about all her adventures and seeing her photos. It's always difficult to put a friendship into words because friendship is a feeling and a coming together of 'like minds'. When we did differ, any discussion we had was always open-minded and respectful and this strengthened our friendship, broadened our views and we learnt a great deal from each other.
We both experienced some difficult personal challenges during the time we knew each other but we also had lots of fun together! Ali had a brilliant sense of humour and laughter was a key element in all our get-togethers. Even in dark times there was always something to lift the spirits, and Ali would often have a witty or funny anecdote at the ready. I really miss her sense of fun and her joy in the simple pleasures of life.
When I was seriously ill at various stages of our friendship, Ali was always there for me. She was one of only two people I asked to see after I had major surgery in 1994; even though she wasn't well herself she undertook a long, uncomfortable car journey to be at my side in the hospital, giving me great comfort at a very difficult time.
I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to visit Ali shortly before she died. I didn't want to tire her or make things difficult but that visit gave me the opportunity to sit quietly by her bed, hold her hand and thank her for our very precious friendship during the 30 years we knew each other; we reminisced a little and shared some silent, reflective time.
Ali had an enormous capacity for love and gave her time to others freely and generously, even when she was exhausted or in pain. All of us who knew Ali well have our own special memories of time spent with her, of phone calls shared, of letters and emails written, and these help us to keep her close. She lived her life to the full and contributed greatly to the lives of others. Ali was unique and exceptional; I miss her greatly and think of her every day. I am so grateful that she wrote to me in 1983 and that our friendship blossomed. I feel truly blessed to have known her.
Sunday, 27 March 2016
|Easter Sunday 1991 - Ali on the day she was received into the Catholic Church|
25 years ago, on the morning of Easter Sunday (31 March) 1991, Ali was received into the Catholic Church at St John Payne Church, Greenstead, Colchester. At that Mass she made her first Communion and was confirmed a Catholic.
Before being received into the Church Ali was invited to give a 'testimony', which is reproduced below. She had longed to be a Catholic for what seemed like an eternity, but there had been difficulties that appeared to be insurmountable. When Ali says that her journey of faith had been "long and tortuous" she was not exaggerating. It seemed to her to be a miracle when the obstacles suddenly disappeared during Lent 1991, and when Fr John McGrath, then parish priest at St John Payne Church in Colchester, arranged for her to be received into the Church on Easter Sunday.
Ali always spoke highly of Fr McGrath's kindness and patience when, from the mid-1980s, she sought him out when she had queries about the faith. Having received her into the Church it was fitting that he conducted the rite of committal at her burial in Dorset on 13 December 2013.
Ali's Testimony on Being Received into the Catholic Church.
My journey of faith has been long and tortuous, and it is certainly by grace rather than personal effort that it has reached this point of being received into the Church.
I grew up in a loving Christian family. My parents, who are here supporting me as ever, are members of the United Reformed Church. After school I went to University and got married. As I grew in confidence, my gaze was set increasingly strongly in the direction away from God. I believed all things were possible for me by my own efforts, and that by striving for 'success' I could 'overcome my disability.' There was no room for spirituality in my world then. I rejected Christianity, which had become completely irrelevant to me, and declared myself an atheist. I believed that the power to change my world lay with me - it was up to me what happened. It certainly did change, but usually for the worse.
The turning point came through trauma. My husband left me suddenly and totally unexpectedly. At the time of my greatest brokenness I became aware in a very special personal way of Mary the mother of Jesus. She has been with me ever since guiding and healing me.
Fr McGrath suggested I join the parish group going to Lourdes in 1987, and with some trepidation I agreed to go. It is perhaps a measure of my distance from God that I had to ask him how to pray, although while we were there I discovered that the answer was simply to love God and speak of my love to Him.
Fr McGrath recently reminded me of this, and he also commented that I had begun my 'spiritual journey' from nothing. I think he was just being kind because in fact I started from less than nothing. Nothing would have been a blank page, a total uncertainty and a preparedness to consider all possibilities seriously. That, however, was not my position, since I had been certain that there was no God, and that I was entirely in control of my own destiny. So I had to be drawn back from less than nothing - a negative - to nothing (willingness to consider even the possibility of the existence of God) to beilef in the truths deposited in the Church.
An important step for me was changing my mind on abortion - a move I made while still an atheist. I realised the necessity of protecting the weakest human beings, whatever the personal cost, but it took me a long time to work through that, and realise that if life was of infinite value, there must be an infinite being to imbue it with that value!
In Lourdes I learned the importance of loving myself - not for what I could do or what I had achieved, but because I was the creation of a loving God. Having discovered this and realised that I was after all loveable just as I am, it came as rather a shock to find out that even within the Church there is much misunderstanding of disability. I became so upset by constant questions about what was 'wrong' with me, and by insensitive comments like "you are in the way" (wherever I sat!) that I temporarily ran away even from the Church, and felt that there was no place for me within it. It has taken me a long time to recognise the answers to this: that what is 'wrong' with me is the same as what is wrong with every human being - sin; and that while I am sometimes in the way, in the sense that concerns about my temporal body (which happens to be disabled) sometimes get in the way of my soul recognising the God who made it, if I am physically "in the way" in a Church it is a fault in architecture and not a fault in me!
From the despair of separation from God and the feeling that I have nothing to offer Him I have come almost full-circle. I certain have "no thing" to offer, but that is not the same of "nothing." What I have to offer God are my deficiencies, my weaknesses and my fears, and I ask him to fill my deficits with His grace. In this I have come to recognise the advantages a disability like mine offers: it is obvious, it cannot be ignored, and it is an opportunity to share in the sufferings of the crucified Christ. Through it I learn to use my weaknesses as a measure of the great love of God - the more we are forgiven the more we marvel at God's mercy, and the weaker we are the more aware of the strength of His love for us.
St Paul tells us that God's power is made perfect in weakness, that God's grace is sufficient for us, and that "when I am weak, then I am strong." Maybe I have to run to God on my desires and not on my two feet, but it is the same God who has come to meet me just the same, and He who my soul strives to reflect.
I have seen through the eyes of Mary our mother, the love of God; through confession I have been washed clean by His mercy; and I can now offer my "no thing" to God blindly - with my eyes closed in prayer the better to see Him. I know he will fill me up and compensate for my weaknesses with His strength, and I know that His Church is the place where, in the Eucharist, I can encounter at last the real presence of my saviour.
Easter Sunday, 31 March 1991
Tuesday, 22 March 2016
|Ali at the Carmelite Priory, Oxford, March 1991|
The good priest who received her into the Church, Fr John McGrath, recommended that she make an eight day retreat beforehand, so we made our way to the Carmelite Priory, Boars Hill, on the outskirts of Oxford, for eight days, from Sunday 17th to Monday 25th March.
During the retreat Ali made her First Confession - 25 years ago today on 22 March. She prepared conscientiously for the Confession, recalling all she had done during the 36 years of her life up to that point. Afterwards she exhibited much joy and gratitude, knowing that her sins had been fully forgiven.