Canon Law Society pays tribute to two special members


Canon Law Society outside Old Swan Hotel

Canon Law Society outside Old Swan Hotel

More than 110 members of The Canon Law Society of Great Britain & Ireland came together for their five-day annual conference at the Old Swan Hotel at Harrogate on Monday, 16 May.   The Society was honoured to have the presence of His Eminence, Raymond Cardinal Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, which is the highest judicial authority in the Catholic Church and oversees the administration of justice in the Church.

Cardinal Burke, who is also member of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, addressed the Society about the importance of the vigilance of the Apostolic Signatura as a necessity for the right administration of justice in the Church.

There were five other speakers: The Rev Paul Hayward of the Prelature of Holy Cross and Opus Dei spoke about ‘Personal Jurisdictions and Ordinariates’, Mr Michael Ashe QC, SC, addressed the Society on the issue of ‘Human Rights’ and the distinction between Duty and Right; Sister Rachel Harrington, SND, Sister of Notre Dame de Namur, spoke about the ‘Role of Episcopal Delegate for Religious; The Rev Professor Luis Navarro, Dean of the School of Canon Law at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome, delivered his talk on ‘Clergy and New Ecclesial Movements’ and Rev Professor Francis Morrisey, OMI,  eminent canonist and professor emeritus of Canon Law at Saint Paul’s University, Ottawa, Canada, spoke about ‘Can.1099: Error Determining the Will’, asking when does error actually determine the will of a person who is entering into marriage.

At the annual formal Gala Dinner on the Thursday evening the Society’s President, The Right Rev Mgr David Hogan, thanked His Eminence, Cardinal Burke, for gracing the Society with his presence and acknowledged the importance of the Apostolic Signatura in the life of the Church. Also, Mgr Hogan welcomed guests who included the President of The Canon Law Society of America, The Very Rev Michael Joyce, and the President of the Canon Law Society of Australia and New Zealand, The Very Rev Anthony Kerin.  

However a highlight of the week was the President’s special tribute to two members of the Society, Sister Ishbel MacPherson SND and Mrs Margaret Foster, on whom he conferred ‘honorary and life membership’ in recognition of their valuable contribution to the Society.

Sister Ishbel was born and brought up in Fort William, Scotland, and has recently celebrated her diamond jubilee as a sister of Notre Dame de Namur.  She obtained her doctorate in Canon Law from St Paul’s University, Ottawa, and to this day is Scotland's only female Doctor of Canon Law.  She and the late Sister Enid Williamson were the first female members of the Society when they joined 33 years ago. They were also the first female Judges in Britain when they were appointed to Westminster Diocesan Tribunal in 1984.  For several years, Sister Ishbel edited the Society’s publication, ‘Abstracts’.  She continues to work on tribunal cases that originate in several English and Welsh dioceses. Until recently she acted as Co-ordinator for Marriage cases in the Diocese of Argyll and the Isles in conjunction with the Scottish National Tribunal where she held the office of Defender of the Bond. Her other apostolates were teaching and retreat work.

Mrs Margaret Foster originates from Lancashire.  She is married and has two daughters and four grandchildren.  A former lecturer, she holds degrees in civil law and education and in 2004 obtained an MA in Canon Law from Heythrop College, University of London. She was one of the first married women to become a member of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland when she joined in 1980.  Over the past 31 years Mrs Foster has been heavily involved in the activities of the Society.  In 1995 she was appointed a member of the Research Sub-Committee by the then President, Rev Aidan McGrath, OFM. Three years later in 1998 she took on the duties and responsibilities of secretary of the Research Sub-Committee, a post she held until 2002, when she was duly elected as General Secretary by members of the Society.  She was General Secretary until 2007. Since 1980 Mrs Foster has been a member of the Lancaster Diocesan Tribunal, with a variety of canonical offices and responsibilities. In addition to these duties, Mrs Foster has held the office of Vice-Chancellor of the Diocese of Lancaster.

Members of the Society endorsed Mgr Hogan’s tribute with a standing ovation and singing ‘Ad Multos Annos’ for the new honorary members.  Other honorary members of the Society are The Right Rev Mgr Ralph Brown, The Very Rev Mgr Jeff Canon Scott and The Rev Professor Francis Morrisey, OMI.  The late Cardinal Navarrete, SJ was made an honorary member in 2008 when the Society gathered in Rome on the occasion of its Golden Jubilee.

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