The Daughters of Jesus in Westgate on Sea, England, recently invited the Ursuline Sisters to a celebratory tea party. It was an occasion to thank them for over forty years of friendship and collaboration and to reflect on similarities in our histories and missions.
In 1978 the Ursuline Sisters of the Roman Union of the order of St. Ursula (OSU) warmly welcomed the Daughters of Jesus to Westgate on Sea, a small coastal town in the southeast of England. Since then a relationship of mutual support and sharing has developed, which has included the opening of the doors of the Ursuline Lourdes community to accept Daughters of Jesus in need of residential and nursing care.
Like our own Congregation, the Ursulines have seen their situation change and evolve. In 1903 and 1904 respectively, the Daughters of Jesus and the Ursulines were forced to flee to England as a result of the passing of laws which made it impossible for the Sisters to continue their work of Christian education in France. Like us, they founded Catholic boarding schools for girls which eventually became well-respected co-educational academies.
Their school in Westgate is now under the care of the diocese, and the novitiate has been transferred elsewhere. Maintaining the care home has proved a heavy burden for the OSU and the future of the nursing home itself is under consideration. Some of the Sisters are already moving on to new insertions but the Daughters of Jesus could not let them leave without thanking them for over forty years of friendship and collaboration. Hence the invitation to a celebratory tea-party.
A shared Foundation day
By happy chance, the two Congregations share the same feast day, the 25th November. Sr Teresa OSU, the care home administrator, had also learned that we were beginning a special Anniversary year on that day and so included a hymn to Saint Joseph for us in the Mass of the Day. With the big Ursuline Chapel no longer in use, Mass was celebrated in the former community room, now known as a “Sacred Space”. Some of the Care Home residents were present and those in the Care Home watched on the closed-circuit television.
Even the Gospel of the day – St Luke 21, where the poverty-stricken widow gives all she possesses – was apt for the occasion. As the chaplain commented in his homily, Angela Merici, the foundress of the Ursulines in 1535, and the different founders of the Daughters of Jesus in 1834 had given their all to form religious orders in order to meet the needs of the time. The Sisters met these needs again in England in the early 20th century.
Towards the future
As 2020 approaches both Congregations are having to adapt to changed circumstances such as age, and a diminution in numbers. Despite the uncertainty of the future they never the less continue to live out the mission to which they were called and strive to meet the challenges that face them :
- For the Ursulines to “live and serve in union with Christ in the midst of the world”.
- For the Daughters of Jesus to be “sowers of hope”.
Sr Mary Clare Mason dj