A Remarkable Woman
Post-Reformation England has produced very few religious Orders and Institutes. Perhaps the most famous is the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (or the Congregation of Jesus, as it is now called), founded by that mulier fortis, Mary Ward (whose birthday, incidentally, it is today).
Less well known is the Institute of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God, whose house and archive I visited yesterday at Brentford (across the river from Kew). The Poor Servants were founded by Frances (Mother Magdalen) Taylor in 1869. The Foundress was a remarkable woman. The daughter of a High Church Lincolnshire parson, Fanny (as she was called) volunteered as a nurse during the Crimean War and worked alongside Florence Nightingale. In the Crimea she was impressed by the example of the Catholic soldiers (mostly Irish) in hospital, as well as the nursing nuns, and she was received into the Catholic Church by a Jesuit army chaplain, Fr Woollett, in 1855.
On her return to England, she became known in Catholic literary circles - producing an account of her Crimean experiences (Eastern Hospitals and English Nurses), writing a novel set at the time of the English Martyrs (Tyborne and Who Went Thither) and, rather unusually for a Victorian lady, editing Catholic journals like The Month and The Lamp - she persuaded Newman to publish the Dream of Gerontius for the former in 1865. She continued to write up until her death and later was instrumental in bringing the Apostleship of Prayer and its journal, The Messenger of the Sacred Heart, to England.
Taylor did much work for the London poor and began to think about founding a sisterhood. With the invaluable support of the great Catholic philanthropist and writer, Lady Georgina Fullerton, she considered the Sisters of Charity and the Polish Little Sisters of Mary, before establishing her own Order, under the authority of Cardinal Manning, which founded a number of institutions, including the Providence Free Hospital near Liverpool.
A house was founded in Rome in 1886, just round the corner from the Spanish Steps (which, in the nineteenth century, was the city's English quarter), with an English school for girls. The chapel, dedicated to St George and the English Saints, has an interesting shrine to Our Lady Regina Prophetarum, erected for the express purpose of prayer for the conversion of England. It was in the church that the Guild of Our Lady of Ransom was canonically erected in 1890.
Mother Magdalen Taylor died on 9 June 1900 and the cause for her beatification is currently being considered at diocesan level here in Westminster.