Tuesday, 23 January 2007

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.



Blogger Mary Jane said...

I must say, Father, that a visit to Roman Miscellany is always improving in a very enjoyable way. I hadn't thought of Mary Ward for years. And then I scrolled down to a Nigerian blessed. And a bit of lovely singing.

And now, back to planning the cantor rotation for February and this week's rehearsal. Thanks for lightening (and enlightening) my evening.

12:22 am  
Blogger Hebdomadary said...

With due respect, holy woman that she was, I wish London would tend to Bishop Challoner's cannonization first. That man's lengthy Catholic life and the work he did engaging in controversial apologetics, pushing the boat out, as it were, during a time of potentially aggregious antagonism (witness the Gordon riots), was truly heroic. As Canon Edwin Burton says in his introduction to the Life of Bishop Challoner, he truly scoured clean the channels of the faith, lest the waters run waste when the rains of the second spring were to come. He is an inspiration to all of us who wait for the rains of a second spring in our own time. Is there anything you can do to bump the process along, Father?

Venerable Richard Challoner, ora pro nobis!

2:41 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

Of course, Mother M. Taylor has the advantage of belonging to a religious Order that is willing to put resources and money behind the cause. That's why so many Mother Foundresses have been raised to the altars and so few bishops or secular priests (dioceses don't see beatification as a priority - and the whole process is jolly expensive!). I would love to see Challoner beatified!

3:17 pm  
Anonymous elena maria vidal said...

I love Mother Magdalen's "Tyborne" which has been republished in the USA by The Neumann Press (which also happenes to be my publisher.)

I think Maisie Ward wrote a biography of Mary Ward (they are no relation) or at least she wrote the foreword, because I remember her saying how she appreciated being educated by the sisters of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Thank you, Father, for reminding me of such holy English Catholic ladies.

4:04 pm  
Blogger Hebdomadary said...

When I first came to London in the early '90's, I lived in Old Gloucester Street, near Queen Square in Holborn. There is an institute of adult continuing education called the Mary Ward Centre on the south side of the square, and I always wondered whether there was a connction, but even their website gives no indication as to who the centre is named for, or why. Does it have something to do with 'our' Mary Ward?

2:33 pm  
Blogger Fr Nicholas said...

No, it's another Mary Ward. According to the Centre's website: 'Mary Ward was a dynamic late Victorian who acquired fame and riches through her best selling novels. She founded the Mary Ward Settlement with the aim of providing cultural and educational opportunities to those denied them through circumstances of birth. She was instrumental in setting up Somerville College, the first women's college at Oxford and also introduced the first school for physically handicapped children and the play centre movement to England.' A worthy woman mevertheless!

6:27 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe there is a plan to erect a stained glass window representing Mother Taylor in St Patrick's, Soho. Apparently, she started work in the parish.

10:02 pm  

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