A nun described as a "living miracle" received an MBE for her work with a charity she founded which helps thousands of sick and aged people across three continents.

Mother Mary Garson, 83, was honoured for her work as the prioress-general of the Benedictine Sisters of Our Lady of Grace and Compassion.

She was presented with her award by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex Phyllida Stewart-Roberts at a ceremony yesterday.

The Brighton-based congregation's 200 sisters run five residential homes, a nursing unit and 13 schemes of retirement flats in Britain, four foundations in India, three in Sri Lanka and a home in Kenya.

Sisters at the hospital in India helped more than 40,000 patients in a single year.

Shortly before her 82nd birthday, the nun visited Africa to open a new convent at Irundu, Uganda.

Archbishop Pablo Puente, the Pope's representative in Britain, described Mother Mary and her congregation's work as "a living miracle".

Marking the 50th year after she started the Catholic congregation, Mother Mary was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire for "services in the care of others in southern England and overseas".