“The more you go with the flow of life and surrender the outcome to God, the less you seek constant clarity and the more you will find that fabulous things start to show up in your life.”

                                                                         [Mandy Hale – The single Woman]

1848 had been a year of political upheaval in France but in the peaceful countryside of Cuves, the sisters, so far, had seen nothing of the riots and disturbances that were tearing apart the large cities in the north.  However it does not take long for violence and unrest to spread and so it was.  Before long even the quiet, serene village of Cuves was threatened.  Disorder was rampant and the entire country seemed to be on the edge of a bloody revolution.  People were very afraid and danger lurked around every corner.  Things became so dangerous that parents decided to keep their children close to home even at the cost of their education!

By the end of 1849, the boarding school at Cuves was almost empty because of this and the sisters’ income had dropped drastically.  The new socialist government now began to confiscate church property and the sisters waited in fear as they watched the violent events unfold. However, they were granted a partial reprieve for the time being, because they were given permission to stay in their convent but on one condition – that they teach the children of the village free of charge!  They saw their meagre income diminish and disappear in a puff of black smoke.  Soon they were unable to pay bills as more and more demands were being made for money that they did not have.  They were destitute and desperate!

During the months that followed they worked like slaves trying to earn a living.  They cultivated every inch of their vegetable garden in an effort to put food on their table.  They used their skills as laundresses and seamstresses to earn money but they were paid a mere pittance for the work they did.  They were prepared to do anything which would bring in even a few coppers.  All the while they taught in school anxious to keep a roof over their heads!

There were now thirty sisters in community and they knew that things could not go on as they were, something had to be done, so, it was, at this point, that the sisters devised a bold new plan and prayed that it would succeed!

They needed to get out of France away from the violence and turmoil if they were to survive as a community.  Their eyes now focused on the land across the Channel – England and London in particular.  It was decided, to send two sisters to London to prepare the way for the whole community to eventually move there.  The plan was fraught with unsurmountable difficulties it seemed.

They had little or no money, they knew nothing of English ways, let alone speak a word of English and they had heard stories that the people there were extremely bigoted especially towards Catholics!  The question also arose – which two sisters should they send?  Which of them would be able to embrace these formidable challenges and inevitable hardships with courage and determination?

After praying for guidance, the two sisters were finally chosen – Sr. Raphael, an older sister who was experienced and very level headed and the young Sr. Marie [Euphrasie] because she was not afraid of hard work or deprivation, she had proved herself courageous and she was both reliable and generous in everything she undertook.

Sr. Marie was excited at the prospect of going to London for another reason.  She saw this mission as another step closer to realising her dream of going to foreign mission countries to bring the Word of God to those who had never heard it.  She realised that, as well as being one of the largest cities in the world, London, even at this time, was the centre of commerce.  Everyday ships set sail from London to trade and colonise all over the world – America, Australia, New Zealand, India and the Islands of the Pacific.

“We can learn English in London,” thought Sr. Marie,” and then we can travel anywhere in the world!”

However the two sisters were warned to be very cautious as they explored possibilities.  They were advised to lay aside their religious habits, to dress very simply, to present themselves as French Governesses and to tell no one that they were religious sisters.  This was because of the anti-Catholic feelings that were running high in this seemingly hostile country!

After much preparation the two sisters were finally on their way.  They travelled North West by train and coach and it was on a cold bleak blustery day that they left French soil and stepped on board a ship bound for England.  The shabby little ship butted its way through rolling angry, grey water and as it rose and fell, the miserable passengers felt shaken to the pit of their stomachs and some even turned a sickly shade of green!

Sr. Marie [Euphrasie] herself felt so ill on this violent voyage that she wondered anxiously if she would even live to be a missionary!  The pain of leaving home and France was blotted out by the misery of trying to stay alive on this heaving ship!

A wave of relief swept over the passengers when land was at last sighted.  From their viewpoint, as the coast drew near, England looked surprisingly like France.  Soon they were able to see houses, streets people going about their business and all looked surprisingly normal apart from the language!  However they had arrived not in London but in Newhaven!

Sister Louise Shields, Rndm