History was made on 11 March when the Australian and British Provinces of the Daughters of Charity came together to form the new Province of Rosalie Rendu in a special Eucharistic celebration and ceremony at the Sacred Heart Church, Mill Hill. Daughters of Charity and Vincentian priests from Australia, Great Britain, France and Ireland, and many guests attended.
In her introduction, Provincial Sister Ellen Flynn said: "This ceremony formally authorises the beginning of something new, something that we pray today will breathe fresh vitality to our lives as Sisters and most especially to our mission to reach out to those experiencing poverty today, the only reason for our existence."
She explained that the date, March 11th was chosen because it is the anniversary of canonisation of St Louise in 1934.
Sister Marie Raw, from the Mother House in Paris, represented the Superior General, Sister Kathleen Appler. Fr Bernard Schoepfer Director General along with Fr Paschal Scallon, Provincial of the Irish Province of the Congregation of the Mission also attended, together with a number of Vincentian Brothers, Parish Priest Fr Eugene Curran, Dee Mansi and Jo Edun from the AIC, Mark McGreevy from DePaul International and the FamVin Alliance, and Helen O'Shea, President of the Society of St Vincent de Paul in England and Wales.
Sr Ellen particularly thanked Canon Kristian Paver who together with Jo Coleman and Bill D'Apice drew up the Charter of Integration. The entire event was also live streamed to Australia, Ireland, the USA and Paris.
The day was the culmination of ten years discussions and a two-day formal meeting. Sr Ellen explained: "In 1926, when the first four Sisters left Mill Hill for Australia we were one Province. Now in 2020 we come back together as one Province, the Province of Rosalie Rendu; a woman we will come to know and revere more and more; a woman who will challenge and inspire us by her own life and loving."
Presided over by Fr Paul Roche, Director of the new Province, the liturgy began with a visual presentation of the Sisters unity around the world - a red cloth was placed before the altar representing the red soil of Australia, a green one symbolising the rolling hills and green fields of Great Britain, and a blue cloth, depicting represented the oceans of the world.
Sr Ellen said: "Between us, from Australia to Great Britain we span all five of the oceans of the world, the Atlantic, Arctic, Indian, Pacific and Southern Oceans. Between the four areas of our new Province, Australia, Scotland, Northern England, Southern England and Wales we envelop in a unique way the whole world, rotating axes of light and darkness, spanning time zones, crossing the equator."
"As Daughters of Charity our charism is set out in our Constitutions regardless of our geography, our ethnic origins, and our diverse cultures. As an expression of our baptismal consecration these Constitutions form our most fundamental connectedness as women given to God, in Community for the Service of the Poor.
The Charter was signed after a ceremony in which two candles had been lit representing the Provinces of Australia and Great Britain. Sr Celine and Sr Ellen came forward and extinguished them, replacing them with one single light representing the new Province. The new Seal of the Province was presented and a picture of Blessed Rosalie Rendu was brought forward and placed before the altar.
Rosalie Rendu (9 September 1786 - 7 February 1856) was a Daughter of Charity who was a leading worker and organiser of care for the poor of 19th-century Paris' teeming slums, suffering from the rapid migration of people to the cities during the Industrial Revolution. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II on 9 November 2003. Her feast day is 7 February.
At her Beatification, St Pope John Paul II said: "In an era troubled by social conflicts, Rosalie Rendu joyfully became a servant to the poorest, restoring dignity to each one by providing material help education and the teaching the Christian mystery.. Her charity was inventive. Where did she draw the strength to carry out so many things? In her intense prayer life and the continuous praying of the Rosary, which she never abandoned. Her secret was simple to see the face of Christ in every man and woman, as a true Daughter of St Vincent de Paul and like her mother Sister of her epoch, Saint Catherine Laboure. Let us give thanks for the witness of charity the Vincentian Family gives unceasingly to the world!"
There was a great sense of optimism in the church at the end of Mass as the Sisters joined the Recessional Procession, carrying the new light of the Province of Rosalie Rendu out into the world. The Mass was followed by lunch at Hendon Golf Club.
Watch the service here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TW38FGwfLU
Daughters of Charity UK - www.daughtersofcharity.org.uk/
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