The Bishop of Shrewsbury has invited Catholics to pray that a 19th century religious sister, hailed as “the Mother Teresa of Manchester”, may be recognised as a saint.
Bishop Mark Davies said that Shrewsbury-born Mother Elizabeth Prout was one of the most remarkable of all of the famous people from the town because of her work and witness among some of the poorest people of Victorian England.
The bishop described Mother Elizabeth as an “educational pioneer” who founded schools for the industrialised poor and refuges for factory girls as she “dedicated her life to the service of the most abandoned”.
He said she was inspired by her Catholic faith to confront “the most degrading situations with the confidence of the revolution which flows from Christ’s command: ‘Love one another as I have loved you’.”
The bishop expressed the hope that Mother Elizabeth would be recognised for her witness to the inviolable dignity of all human life, which he described as the “labour of her life”.
Bishop Davies noted that Mother Elizabeth significantly came to Manchester during the same period that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels also visited the city as they prepared to write The Communist Manifesto. While the two revolutionary philosophers sat together “to formulate the violent theory of Communism; an ideology that would bring still greater suffering to humanity”, said Bishop Davies, “Elizabeth risked violence herself to enter Manchester’s darkest and most dangerous streets in order to reach those in greatest need”.
“If Marx and Engels merely observed the condition of the poor, Elizabeth desired to live and die among them,” the bishop continued. “She became a sister to the abandoned so they might recognise their own innate dignity as children of God.”
The words of the bishop came in a homily preached at Shrewsbury Cathedral on Wednesday 2nd September, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Mother Elizabeth at Coleham, Shrewsbury, where her father, Edward, worked as a cooper for a local brewery. The Mass was attended by members of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, the religious institute co-founded by Mother Elizabeth.
Picture: Mother Elizabeth Prout. (Diocese of Shrewsbury).