Alumna’s inspirational meeting with Pope

Hearing directly from the Pope about the need to live simply and find out what is truly important in life has been inspirational for a member of Digby Stuart College’s alumni.

Posted: 21 July 2014

image for news story Alumna’s inspirational meeting with Pope
Sister Bernadette Porter, an alumna of the University's Digby Stuart college, at her meeting with the Pope
Dr Bernadette Porter trained as a teacher at Digby Stuart, now part of the University of Roehampton, in the early 1970s and subsequently became rector and chief executive of the University after a long teaching career. She met Pope Francis as part of a very small group of people during a conference in the Vatican recently.

The conference debated the ways in which Catholics working in finance and investment around the world could use their funds wisely to support those who are materially poor, in light of the Pope’s Evangelii Gaudium exhortation, where he called for people to live simply and remember the poor. During a private meeting at the event, she was one of a small number able to shake hands with the Pope and spoke to him face to face.

Dr Porter said: “One of the highlights was a private audience with the Holy Father. Pope Francis met with us in the Clementine Hall of the Vatican apartments. He spoke earnestly, and often gave his personal views as well as speaking from a text, about how he really desired a Church that lives simply and is always on the side of the poor.”

Dr Porter said the Pope’s own opinions on living a basic lifestyle, chimed with his many public pronouncements and appearances.

She said: “I hoped at that moment that we might find realistic ways of choosing a lifestyle of simplicity that allows us to put our priorities in order and discover what is truly important.”

Dr Porter trained as a teacher at Digby Stuart College and also holds Batchelor of Education and PhD qualifications. She is a member of the Society of the Sacred Heart, which she entered in 1973 and is now its treasurer general. For the first 10 years of her professional life she taught in schools, including Woldingham and Fenham Sacred Heart, and Kalungu Girls School in Uganda.

She taught in Digby Stuart’s education facility, before being appointed as Principal of the college in 1989. She became increasingly involved in the project to create the University of Roehampton from its four founding colleges, becoming rector and chief executive in 1999. When university status was achieved on 1 January 2000, she led the institution for another four years, retiring in 2004.

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