The Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary at Chigwell Convent celebrated the 150th anniversary of the order’s arrival in the UK with a Thanksgiving Mass presided over by the Bishop of Brentwood, Alan Williams.
With numbers restricted at Mass, the service was streamed live to the order’s 29 communities worldwide.
On the altar was a book of remembrance, detailing the sisters who have served since 1870 – to be included in the prayers during Mass.
Sr Mary Mangan, leader of the congregation said: “There are at least 600 names in the book – and we must always remember that we are standing on the shoulders of those who went before us.”
She referred to the story of the nuns’ arrival in England as refugees during the Franco-Prussian War. “Just think for a moment about their situation then: not knowing what was going to happen when they left Germany or France, simply having to trust in the Holy Spirit.”
In his homily, Bishop Williams referred to the “wonderful gospel of the visitation” that had been read during Mass. “It marks the beginning of the adventure of Mary, the Mother of God. It is a very personal moment when Mary looks towards God, questions, and then says a grace-filled ‘yes’ to him. As Elizabeth will say when she visits her, ‘blessed is she who believes’.”
While the gospels narrate the work of Jesus, there are precious moments about Mary, he said. “Remarkably, in the really important, critical times, we hear about her. At the wedding in Cana, for example, and at the cross of Jesus, when the apostles have fled, it is Mary and the faithful disciple who remain.”
He added: “Most of Mary’s witness, her work, was hidden, but 2000 years later that wonderful work of mercy is still continuing in this congregation. The book of remembrance contains the names of all the sisters. Many lives have been changed by the witness, faith and goodness of these sisters. We give thanks for that.”
He read a prayer that he felt was very apposite, derived from the Order’s own mission statement.
Faithful to our call to an everlasting faithful God,
We devote ourselves to our share in the mission of Jesus.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit, we deepen our relationship with God and each other.
Attentive to the needs of the world, trusting in God’s goodness and inspired by the fidelity and Faithfulness of Mary, we open ourselves to Spirit-filled newness of life.
We live in this blessed moment and move forward in hope to serve the living, all powerful, Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen, Amen, Amen
The Bishop concluded: “The Sisters have the heart of Mary as they respond to the gospel and they take it all on trust – yesterday, today and tomorrow.”