Sister Teresa-Joseph Pegus RIP

Sister Teresa-Joseph Pegus, O.Carm

Sister Teresa-Joseph Pegus, O.Carm

Sister Teresa-Joseph Pegus, O.Carm, of the Corpus Christi Carmelites, died peacefully in Leicester yesterday, 1 February, aged 80. She was one of the best-known sisters of her congregation, and much loved by the people whom she served in a variety of apostolates. In 2008 her contribution to society was noted by the Queen who bestowed on her the MBE. In 2010 her contribution was noted by the Vatican, which gave her the highest honour available to a lay-person, the Holy Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (as previously reported on this website).

Sister Teresa-Joseph joined the Corpus Christi Carmelites - a congregation of apostolic sisters affiliated to the Carmelite Order - in Trinidad at the age of 17. After her profession three years later, she taught in Guyana for the next decade, before returning to Trinidad to serve as Assistant Novice Mistress for three years.

In 1973 she was sent to England, where she worked for ten years at the children's home run by the Corpus Christi Carmelites in Kirby Muxloe, on the outskirts of Leicester. When the home closed she did pastoral work in various parishes, serving as the Regional Superior for her religious congregation in England.

Eventually Teresa-Joseph became involved in outreach to young people at Glen Parva, a Young Offenders' Institute near Leicester. For 20 years she loved working at Glen Parva, and she in turn was much loved by the young people she served, who - inspired by the film Sister Act - referred to her affectionately as "Sister Whoopi". Sister Teresa-Joseph was greatly admired by inmates and staff at Glen Parva, who nominated her to received the MBE from the Queen in 2008. In the same year Sister Teresa-Joseph joined her congregation in celebrating its centenary. The Corpus Christi Carmelites were established in Leicester in 1908 and affiliated to the Carmelite Order in 1927.

In 2009 - shortly after celebrating her Diamond Jubilee of religious profession - Sister Teresa-Joseph's health took a turn for the worse. She spent several months at the Corpus Christi Carmelite Community in York, convalescing from a leg amputation. Whilst in York she came to be known and loved by the various branches of the Carmelite Family in the city.

A highlight for Sister Teresa-Joseph during her time in York was the visit of the relics of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux. With her birthday being 1st October, the feast of Saint Thérèse, she was delighted that the relics of the Carmelite saint nicknamed "The Little Flower" were brought to York Minster on that day.

By the end of 2009 Sister Teresa-Joseph was preparing to return to the Corpus Christi Carmelite Community in Leicester. However, a diagnosis of cancer meant that she had to spend long periods in hospitals and a hospice. It was in hospital that in October 2010 Teresa-Joseph was presented with the Holy Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice ("For the Church and the Pope"), a rarely-bestowed recognition of distinguished service to the Church.

Sister Teresa-Joseph spent her final days in a nursing home just round the corner from her convent and parish church of St Thomas More, receiving many visitors and well-wishers.

Speaking the day after Teresa-Joseph's death, the superior of the Corpus Christi Carmelites in York, Sister Ann Parker, O.Carm., said: "We are greatly saddened by Sister Teresa-Joseph's passing, but glad that her suffering is now over, and I am sure that there's a great party going on in Heaven. In many ways Teresa-Joseph's whole life was that of a missionary. She lived in various different places and cultures, but wherever she went she touched so many lives. She had a real zest for living, and a great love for people. She could make friends with anybody. She'll be greatly missed, especially by the folk of Leicester. She had such love for Jesus, for Carmel, and the Carmelite Family, and was particularly pleased to meet regularly with lay members of the Carmelite Order in York and in Leicester."

Sister Teresa-Joseph's funeral will take place at St Thomas More parish church in Leicester, provisionally on 14 February (tbc).

May she rest in peace, and rise in glory.

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