FAITH MATTERS: Letters – Telling Stories, Creating Relationships

I first came to know Sally Connor through letters. In the 1970’s and 1980’s letters were the most common form of mass communication, especially over long distances. Back then the post was generally anticipated with a sense of joy, letters, postcards, birthday cards would land in the letterbox, unlike today when generally only bills arrive!

The written word helped to create relationships, you would get a sense of the writer and their personality, through their turn of phrase, their paper choice, the handwriting, the way the stamp was attached! In the digital world in which we now live have we lost the art of letter writing, of sharing our life with others? Or, do we overshare and present a “perfect” façade to the world?

At the Human Library gathering on June 28 2024, we invite people to share letters they have received and the relationships that are attached to those letters. I am sharing my relationship with Sally Connor and her life story with you. Whilst not a traditional letter, it is in essence a love letter.

When you are a young midwife riding a bicycle into the English night to deliver a baby you must have faith. Faith in your bike, your medical tools, your nursing skills, the goodwill of those you will encounter on your travels and most importantly your God. You hold the lives of the mother and babies and often time the ongoing survival of their families in your hands. This was the life of Sally (Sarah) Connor in late 1950’s Birmingham & Worcester England. Sally died in February 2024 after a long life of faith and service.

Sally was my aunt, and in some ways, she was my European mum, for whenever I headed across the sea, I saw her and was mothered (always well fed) and nurtured by her. Before meeting her in person in 1983, I felt I already knew her through her letters, letters that travelled via sea mail, written on the thin blue paper that allowed for much to be communicated, but cost less to post. Letters that told of family news, community news, children born, and people who had gone to their eternal rest. The letters were peppered with PG and TG and I remember sitting with my dad and asking him about the people in the letters and what PG and TG meant. His reply, in his beautiful Irish accent; ”Ah sure, that’s your Aunty Sally saying Please God or Thank God, she’s a good one for the prayers”. And it was true, her life was lived in relationship with God. God was present in all she did in her daily life, her hospitality, her appreciation of nature – God’s creation, her faithful worship, her devotion to the Rosary and her abiding love of family.

Sally’s faith and her love of family stood together, literally. The picture of the Sacred Heart at the top of the sideboard, with a papal blessing alongside and then numerous pictures of her husband, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, siblings, nieces, and nephews.

Sally was born in County Galway, Ireland in the 1930’s, to a large Catholic family. Life in Ireland at this time was not easy, jobs were scarce, the troubles were many, but throughout this her and her family’s faith endured. In the early 1950’s Sally left Ireland to train as a nurse in England. After completing nursing training, she then trained as a midwife and the style of her work in that area is known to many who have watched the show “Call the Midwife”. At a dance in Rotherham, England she met my uncle, Joseph Connor, two shy young ones from Ireland, they “hit it off”, they were devoted to each other and when apart would write to one another every day. They eventually went home to Ireland to marry. They lived for many years between Ireland and England, before eventually settling in Chorley. Their life centred around family, having 4 children, working hard and participating in the life of their parish, St Joseph’s Chorley, with the children attending the parish school and St Joseph’s Catholic Club being a favourite place to socialise.

Her faith sustained her through the deaths of her parents, her husband, when she was only 54 years old and one of her daughters only a year before she herself died. In her last illness, her knowledge of impending death was not faced with fear, but with trust, trust in God. She stood strong, knowing that at that time she was enduring earthly troubles, but there was peace and love in the eternal life that the Gospels revealed. The Gospel selected for her funeral Mass, John 14, says “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God still and trust in Me”

Aunty Sally will be missed, but her life, lived in faith and love has created an extended family who have been touched by her spirit, raised with faith and a knowledge that “God is near, Always guiding your way” as sung by one of her granddaughters in the Recessional Hymn “May The Road Rise To Meet You”.


To register for the June 28 Human Library – “Letters – Telling Stories, Creating Relationships” please scan the QR Code or click on the link.

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