Like Abraham, the most senior Sisters of the English Province of the Daughters of Jesus have been called to leave the secure comfort of a home they have known for many years and move to a new residence. Sr Mary Clare dj tells us about this Paschal experience.
From doubt to hope
By accepting to move in complete faith and trust in God, the Sisters are in fact the perfect illustration of the scenario outlined in the introduction to the Acts of the General Chapter of 2016. At this time, the pandemic had yet to strike but the Congregation had already recognised that :
“The time we are currently living in the Congregation
seems to us to be both a time of grace and of crisis.”
It was seen as a time of fragility but in the sense of a seed which, once thrown into the ground, must die to give life. It could be a positive experience in that:
“This situation allows each of us to live an exodus, a movement ….”
Five years later six elderly dependent Sisters of the English Province now find themselves living out this challenging invitation.
From left to right: Sisters Alma Barrington, Angela Duffy, Bernadette Mulligan,
Maureen Quinn, Katy Clapham, and Veronica Howell
As one door closes …
For over 30 years the Daughters of Jesus in England have been fortunate to have care when needed within the Lourdes Care Home of the Ursuline Sisters at Westgate-on-Sea in the southeast of the country. The latter, however, now find themselves in the same situation as us; they too are being asked to be ready to:
“go anywhere in the world where obedience may send us …”
Rule of Life no 12
The imminent closure of Lourdes in June 2021 meant we had to look for a new care home, taking into consideration the needs of the six sisters. Fortunately, we found St Michael’s which is close to the two other communities of Sisters we have in Westgate, Exbury, and Hengist.
Another door opens
St Michael’s has a history somewhat similar to the Daughters of Jesus. Originally a convalescent home for about 40 working men and women, it was built by the Deaconess Community of Saint Andrew in 1895. These Anglican Sisters were engaged in parish work, nursing and teaching but like Catholic religious orders, they too began to see a decrease in aspirants and stopped accepting new recruits in 1987 when women could be ordained directly as deacons and priests in the Church of England.
Marking the passage
The “exodus” of the Sisters was marked by different signs of affection and appreciation. Just before the move, Lourdes held a special Sunday lunch, with the dining room beautifully decorated. After lunch, the chief cook, Caroline, played the keyboard and led the Sisters in a time of community singing. She loves to see the Sisters animated by singing the songs they grew up during World War Two.
The following week the Sisters left in small groups for their new home at St Michael’s. A televised Mass was celebrated, with “Joseph, Friend of the Angels” at the beginning, and a version of “Let nothing trouble you” at the end. A final lunch in a dining room again decorated for the occasion was followed by a “NO HUG” farewell at the front door which heightened the sadness. Inevitably, a few tears were shed as these were sad days both for those parting and those staying.
“Fare thee well”
Sr Gywn of the Ursulines summed it all up well in this message :
“Dear Mary Clare,
This is a very sad day for us all. It really is part of the community being cut off because the two groups have become unified into one Lourdes community – a micro-inter-congregational community.
The Daughters of Jesus have lived out their mission inspiring others by their graciousness, prayerfulness, and patient acceptance. Bonds of Friendship amongst Residents and Staff have deepened with some staff saying they will visit the sisters in their new home.”
“Follow in His steps”
And so, the Sisters have now moved forward on the Paschal journey outlined in the Acts of the General Chapter 2016. Like all of the Daughters of Jesus, they continue to share “the same mission whatever our circumstances” (Rule of Life no 14).
“The Move” drawn by Sr Alma
We wish them Godspeed in their new mission,
and look forward to hearing from them,
once they have settled into St Michael’s.
Sr Mary Clare Mason dj
Hengist House community, Westgate-on-Sea