PEREGRINATIONS - Canadian Catholic Perspectives and Reflections by members of the PERSONAL ORDINARIATE OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER
Monday, 16 June 2014
Another Anglican Patrimonial Saint
Frances Taylor worked alongside Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War
The following report appeared in the CATHOLIC HERALD:
A nurse who tended dying soldiers alongside Florence
Nightingale in the Crimean War could become Britain’s next saint after the Pope
declared that she lived a life of “heroic virtue”.
Pope Francis has given Frances Taylor the title “Venerable”
and authorised the Church to search for the two healing miracles needed to
proclaim her a saint.
Frances, the youngest of 10 children of an Anglican vicar
from Lincolnshire, was 22 when she volunteered to join the “Lady of the Lamp”
in Scutari, Turkey, in 1854 when Britain, along with France and the Ottoman
Empire, was at war with Russia.
She converted to Catholicism after she was impressed by the
faith of the dying Irish soldiers she was caring for.
She went on to establish a religious order – The Poor
Servants of the Mother of God – which under her direction opened refuges for
prostitutes and homeless women and children in London before spreading
As Mother Magdalen Taylor, Frances also founded the
Providence Free Hospital in St Helens, Lancashire, and she took over the
running of St Joseph’s Asylum in Dublin. She died in her convent in Soho Square
in 1900 after falling ill en route to Rome and she is buried at Roehampton,
south west London, after establishing 20 institutions in her own lifetime.
Today her order continues to work particularly with the
poor, the elderly and the disabled.
One miracle is needed for her beatification, when she takes
the title “Blessed”, and a second miracle at her intercession is needed to
declare her a saint.
If her Cause progresses swiftly she may become the first
British woman to be declared a saint since 1970 when Pope Paul VI canonised
Anne Line, Margaret Ward and Margaret Clitheroe, the 40 English and Welsh
Martyrs of the Protestant Reformation.
Sister Mary Whelan, the leader of the Poor Servants of the
Mother of God, said: “We are delighted by this good news.
“In proclaiming Mother Magdalen as Venerable, the Church has
recognised her as a woman of profound faith, who devoted herself to serving the
spiritual and practical needs of the poor and vulnerable.
“In her life and work Mother Magdalen embodied a respect and
compassion for every person she encountered.
“She famously said: ‘Oh that someone will rise up to plead
the cause of the poor and help them.’ That call and her life continue to
inspire us as Sisters, associates and friends throughout the world as we
respond to the challenges of today.”
Taylor was born in 1832 in Stoke Rochford and volunteered
for the Crimea amid claims that, as casualties mounted, the French were nursing
their wounded while the British were letting theirs die.
Florence Nightingale left for the Crimea in October 1854 and
Frances followed her two months later.
Frances would later recount her experiences in a book called
'Eastern Hospitals and English Nurses', which describes how there were just
three nurses allotted to every 1,500 patients.
She was publicly critical of the maladministration of the
war, especially in the failure to properly equip and feed the British Army.
She describes how she grew weary at the “scenes of sickness
and death”, saying the nurses witnessed “hourly” the “flower of the British
Army cut down in the prime of their youth and strength”.
She persuaded The Times newspaper to ship out urgently
needed medical supplies to soldiers in field hospitals.
She often worked alongside nuns from the Sisters of Charity
who were consoling wounded and dying Irish soldiers and was inspired by the
depth and simplicity of the faith of the sisters and their patients.
Because she was well educated, fatally wounded soldiers
would ask her to write their last letters home to their mothers but often, as
she wrote, her tears would fall on to the page and mingle with the wet ink.
On returning to England she joined her widowed mother in
London but committed herself to working with the poor of the slums around Tower
Hill. At the age of 36, after her mother had died, she began to think about
founding a religious institute and following a tour of convents in Europe set
up her order in London on September 24 1869 with three other women.
She was helped by her close friend, Lady Georgina Fullerton,
herself a convert, and some London-based Jesuit priests. In under a year more
than 50 women had asked to join the Poor Servants and Frances began to open
convents in Brentford, Roehampton and Streatham, London.
With the help of the Jesuits and Cardinal Henry Edward
Manning, Archbishop of Westminster, she succeeded in persuading Pope Leo XIII
to approve the order’s constitutions in 1879.
Her order spread throughout Europe and continues to flourish
in Britain, America, Ireland, Italy, and Kenya.
It recently established the Olallo Centre, a hostel for East
European migrants sleeping rough on the streets of London, helping them to
either find work or return to their own countries.
Other British women who are being considered for sainthood
include Elizabeth Prout, a 19th-century Passionist sister who worked in the
slums of Manchester; Mary Potter, a Londoner who founded an order of nursing
nuns in Nottingham in the same period, and Margaret Sinclair, a 20th-century
Scottish nun who died of tuberculosis after tending to the poor of Edinburgh.
Rome has also opened the Causes of London-born Riccarda
Beauchamp Hambrough, a Bridgettine nun who hid about 60 Jews from the Nazis in
her Rome convent during the Second World War, and her colleague Mother
Katherine Flanagan, also a Londoner.