Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Foundation of Clapham (London)

Reverend Mother Marie-Gertrude of the Incarnation, who had succeeded Mother Marie-Jeanne de la Croix in the direction of the Monastery of Dublin, was destined by God to bring a project of foundation in England to a good end.

Having submitted her project to the Most Reverend Father Raus, the Rector Major of the Redemptorist Fathers, to the Cardinal Archbishop of Dublin, and to Mons Bourne, then the Bishop of Southwark, [1] she had the joy of receiving a favourable response from all of them. Rev. Father Bridgett was enchanted to learn that the Monastery whose foundation he had always ardently desired, was finally to be established.

It was ruled by the Diocesan authority that the foundation would take place at Clapham, in the very parish served by the Redemptorist Fathers. All the necessary permissions were granted, and then Father Stevens, the Rector of the house at Clapham, took possession of the house at Rectory-Grove in the name of Reverend Mother Marie-Gertrude, and placed in it the pictures of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour and Saint Alphonsus. This was on 23rd January 1897. On the following 7th May, Reverend Mother was elected Superior of the new foundation by the community of Dublin, assembled in chapter. The same evening, she left for London, accompanied by Sister Marie-Alphonsine. The last arrangements were made to give the house at Rectory Grove a truly conventual appearance, and Rev. Father Vaughan, the Provincial of the Redemptorist Fathers, ruled everything concerning spiritual help.

On 28th May, Mother Marie-Gertrude returned to Dublin for several days and resigned her superiority into the hands of the Archbishop. He greatly praised the charity, prudence and all the virtues which had shone there so brightly during her government, and then the Reverend Mother prepared herself to say farewell to her dear daughters in Dublin and take in hand the new charge that had been confided to her. Her departure then took place on 4th July. That morning the Archbishop was kind enough to celebrate the holy Mass in the Monastery, and once again bless and encourage Reverend Mother and the Sisters who were to accompany her. For everyone the separation was the occasion of a great sacrifice, but every pain faded away before the great thought that the Sisters about to depart for England were soon to commence their work of prayer and reparation in the very place where their divine Spouse had been so outraged, and where the fruits of His abundant Redemption were still being denied to so many souls through heresy and cold indifference.

* * * * *

On 18th July, the feast of the Most Holy Redeemer, the holy red and blue habit of the Redemptoristines was brought into the pretty and devout church of iron, which had been blessed the day before by the Very Rev. Father Vaughan. At seven o’clock in the morning, the holy Mass was celebrated there for the first time by the venerable Father Provincial, and Our Lord was placed in His new tabernacle, the gift of the dear community of Bruges. The convent was thus to undergo a complete transformation, sanctified as it was by the presence of the divine Host that was now to be the object of the love of every heart. The ceremony of installation took place at four o’clock in the afternoon. The Most Rev. Father Vaughan preached a fine sermon on the contemplative life, and then Rev. Father Stevens intoned a solemn greeting. The service was well attended by the relatives and friends of the Sisters and a sympathetic crowd who afterwards visited the Monastery.

On Tuesday 20th, at the meeting of the ladies of the Archconfraternity of the Holy Family, Rev. Father Stevens in his turn preached in eloquent terms about the contemplative life, and invited all those attending the meeting to go and see the Sisters. On 21st, the vigil of the feast of Saint Mary Magdalen, Vespers were chanted in choir, and they began the public recitation of the Divine Office, to the great joy of the religious.

Finally on Sunday, 25th July, the ceremony of the establishment of the enclosure took place. His Lordship Mons Bourne arrived a little before four o’clock. The church was already full. It was the Rev. Father Bridgett who preached his admirable sermon on the contemplative life. We shall quote only the conclusion.

“It is now thirty-eight years since the monastery was established in Dublin of which this house at Clapham is an offshoot. It has been with us a long cherished wish to see a community of these zealous and holy sisters in England, and I thank God that I have lived to see it begun. May He grant this house a long and prosperous life. May it quickly grow in numbers, as well as in fervour and in the abundance of God’s gifts, and may it send out, in God’s good time, its daughters to other parts of the kingdom and of the empire.

“Our hopes for the return of England to the unity of the Church are greatly based on the number of communities of fervent nuns everywhere engaged in prayer and works of mercy. Several houses of nuns devoted to a contemplative life have been long established in England – Bridgettines, Benedictines, Poor Clares, Carmelites, Augustinians, Trappestines, and others, varying in austerity and divers points of religious discipline, but rivalling with each other in the service and love of God. Yet there is room and work for the daughters of St. Alphonsus. They will be welcomed from heaven by the Hildas, the Ediths, Eadburgas, and Ethelredas, who were the glories of the contemplative life in the England of earlier days; and on earth they will also receive a cordial welcome from those who have preceded them, whether in the contemplative or active life.

“May our dear Immaculate Mother, to whom this diocese of Southward is specially dedicated, set firmly this foundation as a gem in her ancient Dowry. [2]

* * * * *

“After the sermon,” says an eye-witness, “Mons the Bishop, followed by the clergy and the crowd, entered the Church by the side entrance, and the procession was formed. His Lordship had manifested the desire for Reverend Mother to go first and indicate the route to be followed. Then the bishop and the priests and the other Sisters proceeded out, singing the Miserere. Next came the ladies.

“After the Bishop had gone through the whole convent, sprinkling each room with holy water, he stopped at the door of the enclosure, waiting for the end of the procession.

“When everyone had come out, His Lordship closed the door and spoke with great goodness to our dear Reverend Mother and the Sisters. He said that he welcomed them very cordially into his diocese, that he would do everything he could to help the community, and that Reverend Mother had only to seek His Lordship whenever she was in need, because he would always want to show the Sisters the same care and attention that Saint Alphonsus himself would have shown them. His Lordship also said that as at this moment they were the only religious contemplatives in this part of London, he would rely on them in a very special manner.”

[1] Today the Archbishop of Westminster.
[2] Allusion to the beautiful work by Rev. Father Bridgett called: England, the Dowry of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

This necrology is translated from Fleurs de l'Institut des Rédemptoristines by Mr John R. Bradbury. The copyright of this translation is the property of the Redemptoristine Nuns of Maitland, Australia. The integral version of the translated book will be posted here as the necrologies appear.

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