Heart of RNDM Spirit and Mission
23 September – 7 October, 2016
Pilgrimage in England
After a special visit to France and following the early life of Euphrasie Barbier and her first years as the Foundress of our Congregation – Our Lady of the Missions, the Pilgrimage Group arrived in England. This time to trace not only her early years as a Sister of Calvary- Compassion between the years of 1851- to 1861 but also to experience those first years when Euphrasie brought her sisters to Kent – Deal. When the pilgrimage group arrived they were welcomed by the Sisters in Beechcourt and under guidance of Sr Kathleen McGuire they were able to see the town and places associated with our first mission in England – Middle street – the house of Miss Boys, now a historical heritage and the site when the first convent of St Ethelburga’s and school was built. But more poignantly, it was important to visit the resting place of our pioneer sisters and young novices who died during these early years of the 1870s.
With the theme of Euphrasie: woman with a Missionary Heart, the group then moved to Sturry where Euphrasie’s spirit lives on and can be tangibly experienced with her personal belongings and with her tomb in the Convent Chapel of St Anne’s. Those hours spent in Sturry would have been very inspiring and thanks to the welcome of the communities in Sturry, Euphrasie Barbier and St Anne’s, and with the guidance of Nicola Waddington, our archivist, the group was able to take time to reflect on the spirit of this remarkable woman. The Heritage House allows each one to see how the Congregation unfolded and how the spirit of Euphrasie spread to the four corners of the world.
The Mother House of the Congregation – after being closed in France was moved to Hastings and so no visit to England can be complete without visiting Old London Road and its place in our history of the province. Sisters Yvonne Pepper, Pauline McDonald and Rose Mary Harbinson accompanied the group to Hastings and they were able to visit aspects of RNDM life to include a visit to Sacred Heart Primary School, Old London and St Mary, Star of the Sea Primary School, St Leonard’s. St Marys really prepared well and had a welcoming team to take the small group of teachers – mainly from Bangladesh and India – around the school to each class and then treated us with a wonderful assembly and such singing to cheer any heart. Sr Rose Mary was able to introduce each of the visitors and to ask the pupils to cheer when they heard their language being spoken as St Mary’s prides itself with such a variety of cultures.
After the school visits the group left for the Cemetery in Hastings and then on towards London. The next day they gathered outside the hotel on Tottenham Court Road to join with two teachers from Sacred Heart Language College, Wealdstone to trace the steps of Euphrasie Barbier while she lived as a Sister of Calvary and later renamed to Sisters of Compassion as Sr Marie Barbier – 1851-1861. The weather allowed us to walk most of the route and we visited Great Titchfield Street, the site of the Old French Church – Carton Street, and then we could only look at the place that was formerly Dunne’s Passage (the site of the Old Ragged School) now under reconstruction. We then took the tube to visit Queen Square and the local historical surroundings that would have been there in Euphrasie’s time.
To bring the pilgrimage to an end the group gathered in Wealdstone to meet the four communities, 192 and 176 High Street, 108 Spencer Rd and New Southgate for morning coffee before going into Sacred Heart Language College. Miss Geraldine Higgins and staff had invited the group to visit for lunch and to meet some staff and students and to take part in the group’s final liturgy of parting and thanksgiving. Year Seven entertained us with fantastic singing and the talents of the girls were highlighted by a delightful choir a very gifted harpist. The RNDMs were not without talent as we were blessed with a beautiful dance and chant by our Bangladeshi teachers.
Our photos show just a glimpse of a magnificent historical visit and we are sorry that we cannot represent all the places the group visited with visuals. The photos shown have been sent by the schools visited with their permission but not for reprinting/ copying without permission.
Rose Mary Harbinson, Rndm