We followed our star and it took us Eastward
An invitation to reflect on and recall those who have urged us to find the ‘more’ and strive for greater self-knowledge and self-awareness
... the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love ...
June is traditionally the month that we dedicate to the Sacred Heart of Jesus...
This month we celebrate three special women.
Easter is a time of great joy. It is a time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and to reflect on the amazing love that God has shown us...
We reflect on Mary’s wholehearted response to God’s request to become the Mother of Jesus.
The seasons are changing and every day, small signs of spring move us out of the darkness of winter.
Strengthen in us, O God, the work you have begun in us…
Marking anniversaries remind us of what matters to us and they provide opportunities to look back over the years since the event we are marking, to reflect with gratitude on how it has shaped us as an individual and a group.
We followed our star and it took us Eastward
An invitation to reflect on and recall those who have urged us to find the ‘more’ and strive for greater self-knowledge and self-awareness
... the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love ...
June is traditionally the month that we dedicate to the Sacred Heart of Jesus...
This month we celebrate three special women.
Easter is a time of great joy. It is a time to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, and to reflect on the amazing love that God has shown us...
We reflect on Mary’s wholehearted response to God’s request to become the Mother of Jesus.
The seasons are changing and every day, small signs of spring move us out of the darkness of winter.
Strengthen in us, O God, the work you have begun in us…
Marking anniversaries remind us of what matters to us and they provide opportunities to look back over the years since the event we are marking, to reflect with gratitude on how it has shaped us as an individual and a group.
The first Superior at the new foundation in Berrymead, Lucie was born in Cherveix in southwestern France. She entered the Society in 1831 at Amiens, and had only recently made her Profession (1841) at the time she was chosen. A measured and enterprising person, she oversaw the transfer of the convent school and community to Roehampton in 1850, went on to be the first vicar of England-Ireland, and then took charge of the Belgian vicariate.
Image: the early logo for the Society of the Sacred Heart
The only English member of the group, Laura was an Aspirant, having entered the Society in Paris in 1838. She returned to Paris in 1843 because of her health, and died at Nantes on 9th December 1844. Her sister Georgina had also entered the Society, in 1834, but left as an Aspirant in June of 1844.
Image: Berrymead, site of the first Society of the Sacred Heart school and community in England
A Belgian RSCJ who had entered the Society in 1839, at the time of coming to England Constance had only recently made her First Vows; she made her Profession at Berrymead in 1848, and remained in England until 1857, becoming Mistress of French and English, needlework, home economics, and finally Assistant Superior. She was Superior at Glasnevin in Dublin (1857–1862), then was recalled to France to spend the next 17 years as Superior at Society boarding schools in Orleans, Poitiers and Bordeaux, and Assistant Superior at Perpignan, where she passed away.
A French Aspirant born in 1807, Jacquemine entered the Society in 1838. Her tasks at Berrymead included domestic work and cookery. She left the Society in June1844.
One of the first students at Berrymead, Helene’s record does not include her date of birth, but does note the fact that she made her First Communion in 1836. Her parents’ address is noted as Chateau de St Lambert, près Marogol (Lozère). She left the school in August of 1843. Hélène later took the habit at Conflans. There is no further mention of her in Society records, so it would seem she joined a different Congregation.
Image: One of the earliest photographs of Society of the Sacred Heart students in England, 1859
Another of the earliest students at Berrymead, Mina’s date of birth is given as 29thAugust 1827; the date of her Confirmation was 18th July 1838. No address is listed for her parents. She left the school in August of 1845. A Child of Mary – the Children of Mary being an organisation established by St Catherine Labouré in 1830 and comprised of young people between the ages of seven and eighteen who wish to consecrate themselves to the Blessed Mother – Mina was also a recipient of the Blue Ribbon, to this day awarded to students for outstanding practice of the five Sacred Heart goals: faith, intellect, social awareness, community, personal growth.
Image: Society of the Sacred Heart students, 1881
Part of the second group of RSCJ who arrived in England on 15th December 1842, Olympe had entered the Society at Amiens in 1818 and made her Profession in 1823. She remained at Berrymead until 1850, when she returned to Amiens and then went on to Paris and finally to the day school at Niort.
Image: Society of the Sacred Heart Convent, Amiens, France
Born in Madras, Hélène entered the Society in Paris in 1840, and made her First Vows at Conflans in June of 1842. Six months later she made the voyage to England. She left the Society in 1859.
Image: Berrymead, site of the first Society of the Sacred Heart school and community in England
A former Brigidine Nun born in 1819, who had entered and made her First Vows at the Society in 1842 (at Roscrea, in Ireland) and came to Berrymead as an Aspirant. She left Berrymead and the Society on the 26th of March 1844.
Formerly a Brigidine Nun named for Saint Philomena, she entered the Society at Roscrea in August of 1842. At Berrymead for part of 1843, she is mentioned in Mother Adèle Cahier’s biography of St Madeleine Sophie Barat as having been sent to Conflans for her noviceship. She died in Conflans in 1843.
A convert to Catholicism who entered the Society at her birthplace in Metz in1825, Catherine made her Profession at Berrymead in 1843. She remained at Berrymead, undertaking household employments, until 1845, when she was transferred to Jette-St-Pierre, Brussels, Belgium. She was at Jette until the time of her death.
Born in Le Mans, Françoise entered the Society in 1836 at Le Mans, took her First Vows in September of 1838 and made her Profession at Lille on 21 November 1853. At Berrymead she undertook household employments from 1843 to 1852. She died in Lille in December 1882.
An Aspirant on arrival at Berrymead, having entered the Society in 1838 and taken her First Vows in 1842, Marie was engaged in household employments at Berrymead from 1843 until 1848, when she left to make her Profession in Paris. She remained in France – in Paris from 1848 to 1855 and then in Amiens until her death, aged 77.
Image: Society of the Sacred Heart Convent, Amiens, France
One of the first English pupils at Berrymead, Mary was one of four girls from the same family, two of whom went on to become RSCJ themselves. Mary took her First Vows in 1850 and made her Profession in 1857. She taught English classes at the boarding school in Jette before joining the teaching staff at Roehampton (the Sacred Heart school moved to Roehampton from Berrymead in 1850) to help with the day-pupils; later she was Mistress of needlework and religion. After 25 years at Roehampton she taught English at the Sacred Heart schools in Brussels (1875–1881) and Calais (1881–1882). Her great-niece Muriel Noel Morgan also became an RSCJ. Mary Catherine was also one of the signatories on the contract for the school and convent buildings at Roehampton.
Image: Sacred Heart Convent students at Roehampton, 1881
Like her sister Mary, Leonora was a Sacred Heart student who later made her Profession (in 1864). She taught English and Music at the Sacred Heart School in Amiens from 1855 until her death in 1867.
Image: Sacred Heart girls, Roehampton, 1885
The next 15 years in the history of the English vicariate of the Society witnessed the opening (and closing) of a school and convent at Cannington in Somerset (1843-1844), and the move of the school and convent from Berrymead to Roehampton (1850), where it would remain until the Second World War. Elsewhere in the Society, both St Philippine Duchesne, who had established the first Sacred Heart schools and communities in the United States (from 1817) and the Society’s foundress, St Madeleine Sophie Barat, passed away (in 1852 and 1865 respectively).
In her short life, the English-born Irishwoman Charlotte Goold was the first Superior at Cannington, and later Superior at Berrymead (1844-1848) and Mistress General at Berrymead (1848-1849).
Image: the document declaring the establishment of a Sacred Heart school at Cannington in Somerset
Sister of Charlotte Goold, Marcella succeeded Lucie Mérilhou as Provincial Superior (1867-1872) and was Vice-Vicar from 1864. She was the first Irish Vicar of the Roehampton vicariate in 1866, which at that time consisted of three Irish convents and one English one. Recalled to Paris in 1872, she was succeeded as Vicar at Roehampton by Mabel Digby.
Also among the first ‘cohort’ of English-born RSCJ, Eleanor took her first vows (at the Villa Lante in Rome) in 1840 and after three years of teaching at the Society boarding school in Paris at the Hotel Bîron, she left with Mother Charlotte Goold for the foundation at Cannington. Her father, the 7thBaron Clifford of Chudleigh, had been educated at Stonyhurst and was of huge help with establishing the school and community at Cannington. Eleanor went on to teach at Berrymead (1844-1848) and then, after the move from Berrymead to Roehampton, at the school there until 1867. After this she was librarian at Society schools which existed at the time in Germany.
Image: Hotel Bîron (now site of the Rodin Museum)
Born in England and orphaned at the age of 16, Madeleine entered the Society in 1839 in Paris. After making her First Vows she was sent to teach at the Society school in Roscrea, Tipperary - the first Sacred Heart school and community to be established in Ireland, the same year (1842) as the English foundation at Berrymead. She made her Profession in 1850, by which time she had sadly become incapacitated through ill-health. She died at Roscrea.
Born in Bristol, Emma entered the Society at Berrymead in 1849 and made her First Vows in 1851, by which time the school and community had relocated to Roehampton. She was Class Mistress and Mistress of Studies at Roehampton for many years. Her record states that she ‘spent her religious life between England and Belgium’ – there being a Sacred Heart school (and later site of the Mother House) at Jette, Brussels.
Born on the Isle of Wight, Sophie entered the Society in on the 1st of January 1841 and made her Profession in 1854. Mistress of Discipline, she also taught English while at the Society boarding school in Nantes (1850-1859), and French at the school in St Louis, Missouri – a school established by St Philippine Duchesne – from 1859 to 1863. She returned to England to be Sub-Mistress General at Roehampton for the next four years, and then was sent to work as Sub-Mistress General, councillor and teacher of French and religious instruction at the Society school in Chile. She died in Concepcion, Chile.
Image: Villa Duchesne, Convent of the Sacred Heart, St Louis, Missouri
Born in Crosby, Lancashire, and one of ten children, Clementine entered the Society aged 31 and took her First Vows at Berrymead in 1844. She made her Profession at Roehampton in 1851 and, as a Coadjutrix Sister, was Portress at Roehampton up until the time of her death.
Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, Evelina’s father was a Protestant who converted to Catholicism. She was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in St Michel, Louisiana, and entered the Society at St Michel in 1828. Part of a large family, four of Evelina’s sisters also entered at St Michel. She took her First Vows and made her Profession at St Michel, before going on to be a class mistress at the first Society foundation in Canada, at Sault-au-Récollet. Her various employments took her to New York, Paris, Nantes, Calais and Roehampton. She died in Beauvais, France
Image: Sault-au-Récollet, Montreal, Canada
Born in Waterford, Ireland, Charlotte entered the Society at Roscrea (Tipperary) in 1836. A Coadjutrix Sister, her duties during her time at Roehampton (1851-1867) included being Portress and ‘Vestiaire’. From 1867 until the time of her death she was at the Society’s school and community in Armagh, teaching needlework.
In the England/Wales Society archives Emilie’s surname is given variously as Froumy, Froumi and Fourmy, and her first name as Madeleine Emily or just Emilie. Born in Champagne (France), she was a Coadjutrix Sister who took her First Vows in 1839in Paris. She undertook various domestic tasks at the Society boarding school in Berrymead (1842-1848) but then was transferred back to the Mother House at rue de Varenne, Paris. She died as an Aspirant (i.e. before she was Professed as a religious Sister) in March of 1851.
Born in Wales, Eliza entered the Society in 1831 and took her First Vows in 1833. She made her Profession in 1839. After being Mistress of Class and of Needlework, Mistress of Health and then Assistant at the boarding school in Rue Monsieur, Paris (1831-1842), she went on to be Foundress and the first Superior at the school at Roscrea (1842-1851).
Genevieve entered the Society on the same day as her younger sister Filomena (17 October1858). Her long and distinguished career saw her employed as sacristan at the boarding school at Trinità dei Monti (1860-1865) and going on to fulfil various roles at Roehampton, Mount Anville (Dublin), Paris, Chicago, Maryville, Havana, St Louis and finally becoming Superior Vicar of the West and Louisiana Province. From 1896 she was at the Kenwood Sacred Heart Convent in Albany, New York, where she died in 1898.
Among the first RSCJ to be from Malta (at the time a British Crown Colony), Filomena was born in Valletta. Educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Trinità dei Monti, Rome, she entered the Society in 1858 and made her First Vows in 1860. While still a novice she taught Italian and looked after the community linen room at the Society boarding school in Roscrea, Tipperary. She was professed in 1868 at the Mother House in Paris, then returned to her duties at Roscrea until the time of her death.
Image: Trinità dei Monte
Soon after the first school was established student numbers grew rapidly, and prestigious Catholic families from the UK and Europe such as the Bellasis family, the Stonors, the Herberts and the Silvertops sent the first of generations of their daughters to be taught by the nuns at Roehampton.
Orizia was one of 13 girls from the extended Leite (and Pinto-Leite) family who would attend the school at Roehampton. She started at the school when she was 11, in 1855 - just five years after the school had moved from Berrymead to Roehampton - and left in June of 1860.
Image: Roehampton Lane c.1848
Lady Florence was a pupil at the Sacred Heart school at Roehampton from the age of eight, and went on to become a highly respected author, war correspondent and feminist. Her nephew was Lord Alfred ‘Bosie’ Douglas, whose father (Florence's brother, the infamous 9th Marquess of Queensberry) initiated the court case (in 1895) that led to Oscar Wilde’s imprisonment.
Image: Lady Florence Dixie (née Douglas)
The years 1872–1887 saw much growth and change in the Society of the Sacred Heart in England and around the world, and Mother Digby was central to much of this. A major figure in the history of the Society, while Superior at Roehampton (1872–1894) she established the elementary school for the poor (1872; now Roehampton Sacred Heart Primary School), a secondary school in Brighton (1877) and the teacher-training college then known as Wandsworth College and located at West Hill. This college relocated in 1905 to North Kensington and was renamed St Charles’ College; after the Second World War the site and name of the college changed yet again: this time moving to Roehampton and renamed Digby Stuart College, today one of the four constituent colleges of the University of Roehampton.
A convert to Catholicism (1853), Mabel was born in Staines and educated at home with a governess. She entered the Society at Marmoutier in 1857, taking her First Vows in 1859 at Conflans. She made her Profession at the Mother House in Paris in 1864, and served as Superior at Marmoutier 1865–1872.
In 1895 Mother Digby became the fifth Superior General – and the first Englishwoman to serve in this post – of the international Congregation, a position she held until her death in 1911. She guided the Society at a time when the anti-clerical French government expelled all religious congregations. From a temporary Mother House in Ixelles, Belgium, Mother Digby directed the Society’s growth, relocating some 2,500 French RSCJ to other countries.
Mabel Digby is buried in the Sacred Heart Chapel on the Digby Stuart College campus.
Image: Mabel Digby. A biography written by M.K. Richardson RSCJ is available online or from the Provincial Archives
Charlotte Leslie RSCJ was the first Principal of Wandsworth College in West Hill, established by Mother Digby in 1874.
Born in Wandsworth, she entered the Society at Conflans in 1859 and took her First Vows at Marmoutier in 1862, teaching English, Italian, drawing and needlework there until 1867, when she made her Profession. After serving as Assistant at Mount Anville and at the novitiate in Roehampton, she was appointed Superior and Principal at Wandsworth College (1874–1879). After this she was Assistant at Sacred Heart schools in Bois l’Eveque, Armagh, Roscrea and Carlisle, ending her days as Choir Mistress at Hammersmith Sacred Heart Day School (1902–1915).
Image: West Hill, site of Wandsworth Sacred Heart Teacher Training College (c.1900)
Born in Courtrai, Belgium, after completing her education with considerable distinction at the Sacred Heart Convent at Jette, Fébronie indicated her desire to become a religious – her family, however, objected. She persisted in reaffirming her intention to enter the Convent, and after ten years, aged 27, Fébronie entered the novitiate at Conflans. During the Franco-Prussian War she organised and directed a hospital to care for the wounded. In 1874 she was Econome – similar to a Bursar/Administrator – first at Roehampton and then at Brighton, supervising the building of the Sacred Heart school there (1877). She went on to become Superior and foundress of the SH school and foundation at Rose Bay, Sydney, Australia, where she remained from 1882 to 1894. She spent the final year of her life as Assistant at the Sacred Heart school in Brighton.
Image: Mother Vercruysse and the first RSCJ at Rose Bay (1882)
Johanna Bumann RSCJ was born in Germany and entered the Society at Riedenburg, Bregenz, Austria in 1862. She made her First Vows in 1864, also at Riedenburg, but made her Profession at Roehampton in 1873. A Coadjutrix Sister, for the next 34years she worked as a cook at the Sacred Heart communities and boarding schools in Roehampton, Brighton and Dublin.
Image: SacredHeart school, Riedenburg (Friedrich Böhringer)
Born in Devon to Lord Henry Kerr and Louise Dorothea Hope, Henrietta Kerr was educated at the Convent of St Margaret in Edinburgh from the age of 11 and entered the Society at Conflans in 1862. After a time as organist and teaching English at the Sacred Heart boarding school in Rome (at Trinità dei Monti, site of the original fresco of Mater Admirabilis painted by Pauline Perdrau RSCJ in 1844), she became Mistress General at Roehampton from 1872 until the year before her death. During her relatively brief life she wrote several influential works including ‘Meditation in Preparation for the Feast of Mater Admirabilis’, ‘Notes of Instructions on the Sacred Heart, Our Blessed Lady and Love of the Church’, ‘Instructions to the Children of Mary (Enfants de Marie)’, two Novenas for the Immaculate Conception and other Notes of Retreat.
A biography, written in 1886, can be found in the Provincial Archives.
Image: Henrietta Kerr, 1876
The foundations of the Sacred Heart Chapel at Roehampton were laid in 1856; however, plans for its completion could not be carried out due to a lack of funds. The architect was William Wardell (1823–1899), a disciple of Augustus Pugin(1812–1852). The interior work of the chapel was begun as a result of the wishes of Sister Lucy Worswick, who was Professed on her death-bed at the age of 26. A former pupil of the school, Lucy had entered the Society in February 1864. Dying of tuberculosis, she asked the Superior (Lucie Mérilhou) to write to her father to express that her last wishes were for him to provide the means to enable the Sacred Heart Chapel to be completed. Her father donated a considerable sum in memory of his daughter, and it was with this money that the altarpiece and reredos were added in 1868. The origin of the reredos is unclear, though there is an undated note in the Society’s Provincial Archives that states that it ‘came from Germany’. The figures, originally unpainted (as shown in this photograph c.1870) portray Jesus revealing his Sacred Heart to the French Visitation nun, St Margaret Mary Alacoque.
The Laprimaudaye family play a significant role in the history of the Society in England. One of seven brothers and sisters – her sister Madeleine was also an RSCJ; two others were religious Sisters in the Society of the Holy Child Jesus; a brother was a Jesuit priest – her parents Charles and Anne had been converts to Catholicism in 1851. Lucy was educated at the Society’s schools in Rome and Roehampton. Hers does not seem to have been an easy decision to become a religious Sister, as the records show that she initially entered in November 1867 but promptly left in December of the same year, entering again in 1873 and taking her First Vows in 1875 at Roehampton. She taught at the Convent school in Roehampton 1875–1877, and was Mistress of Studies at the brand new teacher-training college (established by Mother Mabel Digby) in Wandsworth from 1877–1883, during which time she made her Profession (1880). After this she returned to teach at Roehampton up until the time of her death in 1884.
Image: The chapel at West Hill, Wandsworth
Anne Gertrude Mary Pollen RSCJ came from a family of artists. Her mother Maria (another member of the Laprimaudaye family) was a respected authority on the history of textiles and particularly on antique lace; her father John Hungerford Pollen was a writer and decorative artist (and former Anglican priest). They had settled in London the year after Anne was born, and took active roles in the artistic and literary community there, renewing a friendship with members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood which led to John Pollen’s role in the decoration of the Oxford Union debating chamber.
Anne entered the Society in 1881 at Roehampton and made her Profession in 1889. She taught religious instruction and mathematics at the Sacred Heart schools in Roehampton, Brighton and Hammersmith from 1884 to 1914, and wrote well-researched and insightful biographies of her father (1912) and of Mother Mabel Digby (1914). From 1915, however, the records show that she was unwell, and from 1918 she is no longer listed in the annual catalogue of the Province. A later record indicates that she was in a hospital for those suffering mental health problems for the last 16 years of her life, first in England and then in Ireland. She is buried at the Sacred Heart cemetery at Mount Anville, Dublin.
Image: portrait sketch of Maria Margaret Laprimaudaye Pollen by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, 1857
Known affectionately as ‘Nellie’ by her family and fellow RSCJ, Mother Rumbold was born Helen Hopewell and was raised Protestant by an aunt and uncle when her parents separated; she converted to Catholicism aged 16. In 1868 she married Sir Arthur Rumbold but he died less than a year later, leaving her with a baby son who also died some eight years later. After travelling for the next ten years to Italy, France and the West Indies, she entered the Society in 1882, took First Vows in 1884 and made her Profession in 1889. She was Mistress of Novices at Roehampton (1896–1899) and Superior at Hammersmith (1899–1903) and then at the new foundation in Malta (1903–1907). She became Superior Vice-Vicar of the province of Algiers, Malta and Cairo, then Assistant General at the Mother House in Rome, ending her days back at Roehampton in the summer of 1921.
Image: Mother Rumbold’s sketch of how to adapt one’s habit for playing cricket!
Born in Melbourne, Australia, Mary ‘Minnie’ Murphy was the eldest of 12 children. Educated at home until the age of 14, she was then sent to Roehampton and the Sacred Heart Convent school from 1872 to 1876. She entered the Society in 1880 at Roehampton, taking her First Vows in 1882 before returning to her native Australia and the new Society foundation at Rose Bay, Sydney, in 1883. For the next 40 years she worked as Mother General, Mistress of Studies and in charge of the poor school at the Sacred Heart communities in Australia and New Zealand. In 1923 she was sent to Tokyo to be class mistress at the international school there, then was librarian and Mistress of Studies at the Sacred Heart boarding school in Kobe, Japan, from 1924 until the time of her death.
Image: Rose Bay
Many of the most distinguished Catholic families in England and from all over Europe, such as the Keppels, Stourtons and Bunburys, continued during the years 1872–1887 to send their daughters to the Sacred Heart Convent schools at Roehampton and Brighton. Among these were another member of the Pinto-Leite family: Arizia, who attended the boarding school at Roehampton from 1881–1889.
This photograph of Arizia is from 1886.
Annie was born in Dublin in 1857 and was a pupil at the Sacred Heart school in Roehampton from 1874–1875. A note in the register tells us she received the blue ribbon marking her out as a Child of Mary (Enfant de Marie) and that, ‘if she can master her emotions, she will prove to be of great promise.’
Image: Annie Dunne, c.1874
Born in Bristol in 1864, Sarah Busteed was a student at the Sacred Heart school in Roehampton from 1880–1881. A note in the margin of the school register reads 'Lady Holt'. A bit more digging leads us to the information that she became Lady Holt after having wed Sir Maurice Percy Cue Holt (1862–1954), Major-General and specialist in operative surgery, on 9thFebruary 1887.
The photograph here of Sarah (and her frankly magnificent coat and hat) was taken in 1880.
Christina was born in Kensington in 1866 and attended the Sacred Heart Convent school at Roehampton from 1879 to 1883. An exceptional student, a note in her records praises her singular judgement, virtue and distinction. Christina went on to be one of the very first members of the Roehampton [alumnae] Association, serving at different times as President, Vice-President and Treasurer. She was also Secretary and Treasurer of the Children of Mary at Hammersmith for some years. Upon her death in 1938, the Association received many warm tributes including, from a lifelong friend, ‘I think all her many friends will join in saying ‘‘She spent her life in doing good.’’’
This photograph of Christina was taken in 1881.
Mary was born in Croydon in 1867 and was among the first pupils educated at the recently-established Sacred Heart boarding school in Brighton, where she was a student between the ages of 11 and 13 (1878–1880). The picture of her here is from 1882.
For this International Women’s Day we continue our celebration of 180 years of the Society of the Sacred Heart in England.
The years 1887-1902 continued to see the growth of the Society in England. Two new schools and communities were established – at Carlisle in 1889 and in Hammersmith, London in 1893. The Carlisle foundation relocated to Gosforth in1903 and then to Fenham, Newcastle in 1905. In addition, the wider global community meant that many women who started their vocation in London ended up in far flung places like the US, Egypt, Mexico or Japan.
The philanthropist, biographer and benefactor Lady Georgiana Fullerton was considered one of the foremost Roman Catholic novelists of the nineteenth century. She was a convert who, after the tragic death of her only son, devoted her life to philanthropic and charitable works. Georgiana assisted Frances Margaret Taylor in founding, in 1870, the school and community of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God Incarnate, and was a benefactor of that Congregation and of the Society of the Sacred Heart. She is buried in the Sacred Heart cemetery in Roehampton.
Image: Lady Georgiana Fullerton
Born in Dublin, Mother Errington entered the Society at Roehampton in 1878 and made her Profession at the Mother House in Paris in 1884. Her uncle George Errington was Archbishop of Trebizond and Coadjutor Archbishop, with Nicholas Wiseman, of Westminster. Josephine served as sub-Mistress General, Mistress General and Mistress of Studies at Roehampton (1884-1895) and at the teacher-training college at Wandsworth (1895). She was then sent to the Society boarding school in Manhattanville, New York, where she served from 1895 until her death, and was there for the Manhattanville school’s 50th anniversary celebrations in 1897.
Leopoldine was born into the distinguished Coutts Keppel family. Her father was Viscount Bury who served as an MP and Under-Secretary of State for War (1878-1886); her mother Sophia was daughter of the Premier of the Province of Canada; her niece Hilary Davidson was also an RSCJ; and her great-great-niece is Camilla, Queen Consort. Leopoldine worked as a writer before she entered the Society in 1887,and made her Profession 1896. She was Secretary of the Vicariate over many years, while also serving at the Society schools in Hammersmith and Brighton. She helped in the General Secretariat in Conflans (1908-1909) during the time that the Mother House was there, and in Rome at the Trinità dei Monti, teaching French and English to converts. She organised the men’s retreats at Hammersmith(1928-1938), and in the last ten years of her life was at the Society’s community and school in Hove, writing and engaged in translation work. Mother Keppel’s books include biographies of St Madeleine Sophie, St Philippine Duchesne, Pauline Perdrau RSCJ (painter of ‘Mater Admirabilis’), Janet Erskine Stuart RSCJ and Anne du Rousier RSCJ; she also was editor of the first publication of Mother Stuart’s ‘Prayer in Faith’ (1936) and translated the work of Josefa Menendez RSCJ.
Image: Mother Keppel’s book about ‘Mater Admirabilis’
Born in Ghent, Constance was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Jette St Pierre, Belgium. Her elder sister was also an RSCJ, and Constance made her Profession in 1853. She worked as Sacristan throughout her life, first at the original Society foundation in England, at Berrymead (1844-1850), then Roehampton(1850-1872). After a time as Sacristan at Roscrea (1872-1879), she returned to hold this post again at Roehampton up until the time of her death.
Educated at the boarding school at Roehampton and the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Pau (France), Mary Anne made her Profession in 1891. She studied for a university degree at Mount Anville, Dublin (1899-1905) and worked as a lecturer at the Society’s teacher training colleges in West Hill (London), Fenham (Newcastle) and Craiglockhart (Edinburgh) for most of her life. She was the author of several books including ‘The Little Ones’, ‘The Faith for Children’, ‘Our Inheritance’ and ‘The Bible Beautiful’.
Image: cover of ‘The Little Ones’
Born in Georgetown, Guyana, Marie entered the Society at Roehampton in 1884 and made her profession in 1891. Mistress of French at Roehampton, Hammersmith, Mount Anville and Brighton 1894-1902, she was then sent to Havana, Cuba and worked as Mistress of English in various places throughout Mexico including Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo for the next 34 years. The school founded at Monterrey is today part of the University of Monterrey.
Image: University of Monterrey, Mexico
Aline followed her older sister Marie into the Society after being educated at the Convent school in Roehampton. She took her First Vows at Roehampton in 1889,then was sent first to Mount Anville to work as class mistress, and from thereto Grand Coteau and the community and boarding school founded by St Philippine Duchesne. She went on to serve as Mistress General of the day boarding school in New Orleans (Rue Dumaine) 1904-1912, and as Mistress General at the Society boarding school at St Michel, Louisiana (1912-1913).
Image: Grand Coteau, Louisiana
Born in Straffan, County Kildare, Elizabeth was the eldest of nine children and converted to Catholicism (she had been christened in the Episcopalian church) a few years before she entered the Society at Roehampton in 1886. She took her First Vows and studied at the teacher training college in Newcastle in 1892, then taught in Society boarding schools and colleges in the UK and US, working at Kenwood (Albany, New York); Providence and Elmhurst, Rhode Island; Roehampton; Gosforth; Hammersmith and Fenham, Newcastle. From 1911-1947 she served exclusively in the United States, in St Louis and St Joseph Missouri; Chicago, Illinois; Ohama, Nebraska; and Detroit and Grosse Point, Michigan. Infirm for the last two years of her life, she spent this time at the university college in Omaha.
Françoise was born and baptised in Plédrau, Côtes du Nord, France, and entered the Society (1886) and made her First Vows (1888) and Profession (1896) at the Society convent in Le Mans. She worked as cook and ‘dépensière’ at Le Mans (1886-1903) and as cook in Wetteren, Belgium (1903-1924) and Aberdeen (1914-1917) before being sent to work at the Society community in Bonchurch, East Dene, Isle of Wight, which had been founded in 1904.
Clara was born in St John, New Brunswick, Canada and was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She entered the Society in Halifax in September of 1886. After her clothing (in December 1886) she went to Manhattanville for her Noviceship, returning to Halifax for her First Vows in1889. She taught at the boarding school in Le Sault-au-Récollet (Montreal) for five years, then made her Profession in Paris before returning to Le Sault and moving from there to Bordeaux, Quadrille and La Ferrandière. From 1901-1903 she was at Roehampton, serving as ‘Surveillante’. From here she returned to Le Sault for over 25 years, and from there to Manhattanville for the last three years of her life. For a period of six years she wrote short stories for the American journal 'Messenger of the Sacred Heart' under the name ‘Bride Clare’.
Julia was a native of Altdorf, Switzerland, and was educated at the convent schools of the Franciscan Sisters and the Sisters of the Cross before completing her secondary education at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Chambéry. She entered the Society at La Ferrandière in 1886, and made her Profession in 1894. Her employments brought her to Malta (then part of the English vicariate) 1903-1906, and from there to Egypt, where she worked in the Sacred Heart boarding schools in Cairo, Alexandria and Heliopolis from 1906-1930.
Born in Peckham, London, Mary Anne trained as a lay student at the Society’s teacher training college in West Hill, Wandsworth (1881-1882) before entering at Roehampton in 1887 and taking her First Vows in 1889. She made her Profession at Hammersmith in 1899, and taught there for the next 11 years before being sent to teach in Tokyo (1910-1913) at the school founded there in 1908. She was in charge of the kindergarten at the Sacred Heart Junior School in Japan from1913-1942. Interned with the Dames de St Maur in their large school building with 86 other nuns (27 of these RSCJ) during the Second World War, she returned to the school in Tokyo from 1944 until her death in 1954. The 1963 edition of Digby Stuart College’s Chronicle has a lovely four-page obituary and tribute to Mary, which mentions that during her internment, when she was then some 81 years old, she had ‘used her age and her charm to obtain all sorts of concessions from the authorities’. The article also mentions that she lived to enjoy her Golden Jubilee and her 90th birthday, as well as a visit to the new Society foundation at Susono.
Image: Society of the Sacred Heart school, Tokyo
Katherine was born in what is now a suburb of Barrackpore in West Bengal. She went to primary school at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Dublin (Harcourt Street) and to secondary school at Roehampton, where she was Head Girl in 1876. She entered the Society at Roehampton in 1887, and made her Profession in 1895. After teaching at the boarding school in Armagh and being in charge of the Poor School at Mount Anville, she was Superior at the day school in Leeson Street, Dublin (1901-1903) and Mistress General at Roscrea 1903-1908. From 1908 to 1926 she taught English at the Sacred Heart school in Tokyo.
Image: Kuni Palace campus, Japan
Blanche was born in Sudbury, Suffolk and attended the boarding school of St Mary’s Sisterhood in Brighton, after which she studied music in Germany for four years, and painting and music in Florence, Italy for two years. She entered the Society at Roehampton in 1885, and after teaching at Mount Anville (1888-1889) she was sent to New Orleans for four years, returning to Europe to make her Profession in Paris in 1893. For the next 23 years she taught in Sacred Heart schools in the US, chiefly in Louisiana (at Grand Coteau and St Michel) but also in Missouri (Maryville and St Louis) and Ohio (Cincinnati). For the last four years of her life she was sadly infirm and was looked after by the community in Maryville.
Image: Maryville, St Louis
Edith was a student at the Society’s teacher-training college at West Hill. On the occasion of her marriage, in 1890, she was gifted with a commemorative album filled with drawings, poems and other works of the imagination created by her friends and relations. Albums of this kind were all the rage in Victorian and Edwardian times, and this particular one is now in the Provincial Archives, offering a fascinating record not just of how accomplished Edith’s friends were but also of what the Victorians found beautiful, amusing or otherwise important enough to be included in a commemorative album such as this.
Image: a caricature from Edith’s album
The years 1902-1917 saw more growth and change within the English Vicariate of the Society of the Sacred Heart. The year 1903 saw new schools and communities sprouting up in Leamington, Paignton, Gosforth and Malta; in 1904 a community was established at Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight; in 1905 the school and community opened in Fenham, Newcastle. By 1917 the teacher-training College had relocated from West Hill to St Charles Square in Kensington (1905), and a school and community had been founded (1914) at Tunbridge Wells.
This was also the period when Mother Janet Stuart took over as Superior of the Province from Mother Digby (during the years 1894-1911), whom she then also succeeded as Superior General from 1911 until her death in 1914, aged just 56. One of the most important and influential figures in the English province, then and now, much has been written about (and by) her, and her work and legacy continue to be studied by and an inspiration to educators, historians and religious communities throughout the world.
Image: Mother Stuart
Born in County Carlow, Ireland, Mother D’Arcy entered the Society in 1872 at Mount Anville. After one month as a postulant there, she went to Conflans for her Noviceship. Three months before taking her First Vows, she came to Roehampton. She made her Profession only three years after her First Vows. By 1895 she was Mistress General at Roehampton, after having been Assistant at the Society’s day school in Dublin, and was Mistress of Novices at Roehampton from 1911 until 1917.
Image: Mother D’Arcy
Born in County Meath, Ireland, Rose Thunder was one of 15 children and was educated at home by a governess. She entered the Society at Roehampton in 1874, and made her Profession in 1882. Superior at Hammersmith (1903-1907) and at Mount Anville (1907-1911), she succeeded Mother Stuart as Superior Vicar at Roehampton 1911-1923. A biography of Mother Thunder, written by Maud Monahan RSCJ in 1930, is in the Provincial Archives.
Image: Mother Thunder
Born in Middlesex, Gwendoline was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Roehampton 1876-1877 and at the Convent of the Sisters of the Assumption, Kensington Square 1877-1879. She entered the Society at Roehampton in 1886, and made her Profession in 1893. She was Mistress of Discipline at the day school in Leeson Street, Dublin, then Mistress General at the Sacred Heart schools in Brighton (1893-1897) and Mount Anville (1897-1899), after which she was Superior at Aberdeen (1899-1903), at the new foundation at Leamington (1903-1904) and at the day and boarding schools at Wandsworth (1907-1909). Mistress of Novices at Roehampton (1909-1911), the years 1911-1928 saw her as Superior first at Bonchurch and then Mount Anville, Leeson Street Dublin and St Julian’s, Malta. Finally, she served as Superior at the Sacred Heart boarding school that then existed in Budapest (1928-1934).
Image: Gwendoline Walpole
Born in Münster (Germany), Franziska entered the Society in 1887 at Riedenberg and made her Profession in 1895. She served for many years as Mistress of Health at Society of the Sacred Heart schools in Cincinnati, Mount Anville, Maryville and St Charles (Missouri) and Grand Coteau (Louisiana). For the last 20 years of her life she was in charge of religious instruction at the boarding school in St Louis.
Image: St Louis
One of three biological sisters to become Sisters in the Society of the Sacred Heart, like her sisters Gertrude was born in Kirk Hallam, Derbyshire, to parent who were converts. She herself converted to Catholicism aged 14 and was educated at the Sacred Heart school at Roehampton 1875-1877. She entered at Roehampton in 1881 and took her First Vows in 1883, but then sadly died as an Aspirant in 1888.
Image: aerial view of Roehampton
Born in Derbyshire, Agnes was educated at the Convent of the Sisters of Charity of St Paul for primary school and received her secondary education at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton. She entered at Roehampton in 1889 and made her Profession in 1897. Her long career in the Society saw her teaching drawing and needlework, and serve as portress and choir mistress at the Sacred Heart schools in Roehampton, Hammersmith, Leamington, Brighton, Bonchurch, Levens Hall (the site where the Roehampton school was evacuated to during the Second World War) and at St Charles teacher-training college in West Kensington.
Image: Agnes Newdigate
The third Newdigate to become an RSCJ, Edith attended the Sacred Heart school in Roehampton 1883-1890 and entered in 1894. She made her Profession in 1902. Mistress General at Leamington 1902-1906, Edith went on to teach and serve as Assistant and Sacristan at the Sacred Heart schools and communities in Roehampton, Tunbridge Wells, Brighton, Bonchurch and finally, when the school at Roehampton relocated to Surrey, at the Sacred Heart school in Woldingham (1946-1965).
Image: Edith Newdigate at Woldingham
Known as ‘Daisy’, Margaret Clutton was born in Chislehurst, Kent and after an initial education at home with a governess came to the Convent school at Roehampton from 1885 to 1892. She followed her older sister May into the Society in 1893 at Roehampton, and was Professed in 1902. Before making her Profession she taught religious instruction and drawing at the school (1896-1901) and then was lecturer in drawing and religious instruction at the Sacred Heart teacher-training college in West Hill (1902-1906). Between 1906 and 1920 she taught at Roehampton, except for the years 1913-1914 when she taught at the Sacred Heart school in Riedenburg, Germany. From 1920-1928 she was Mother General and Mistress of Studies at the newly-established Sacred Heart school at Tunbridge Wells. After this she served as Mother General and Mistress of Studies at the teacher-training college (1928-1933) and as librarian and teacher of religious instruction at the Sacred Heart school in Brighton (1933-1939). From 1939-1941 she taught at the Sacred Heart teacher-training college in Fenham, Newcastle, and then during the later years of the Second World War (1941-1945) she was class mistress at Lutwyche, where the students of the Brighton school had been evacuated. From 1945-1964 she taught history of art and again served as librarian at the school in Brighton.
Mother Clutton wrote a lively and informative series of memoirs beginning with ‘Memories of My Childhood, 1874-1885’ which are kept in the Provincial Archives.
Image: Margaret Clutton
Born in Poland, Julia entered at the Sacred Heart Convent in Riedenburg in 1902 and was Professed at the Mother House in Ixelles, Belgium in 1911. Her employments with the Society took her to Lemberg, Graz, Lwow, Jette, Warsaw and Budapest, and she also served at Roehampton for two years (1920-1922) teaching French. She died in Warsaw.
Mary Agnes was the cousin of Charlotte Hornyold RSCJ and is among those commemorated on the Grade II Listed Sacred Heart War Memorial located on the campus of Digby Stuart College. A devoted music teacher, describing music as ‘a supreme and international language, understood of all peoples and nations, and continually enriched with the best products of human thought,’ Mary published the landmark article ‘A Plea for a Broader Treatment of Music in our Schools’ in the Catholic educational journal The Crucible in 1908. Mary volunteered as a nurse during the First World War and was stationed at Tidworth Military Hospital. On 09 February 1917, she died while on active service of an illness contracted while on duty.
Image: Sacred Heart War Memorial plaque
Born in Aberdeen, Letitia worked as a governess in Russia before entering the Society in 1911. She made her Profession in 1920. In the course of her distinguished career she served as Mistress General and Mistress of Studies at West Hill (1924-1931), Mistress General at the school at Roehampton (1931-1945) – a period that included the years that the school was evacuated first to Newquay and then Stanford for the duration of the Second World War – and as a member of the Council at Froebel College (1945-1951). The last 15 years of her life saw her teaching religious instruction and acting as Secretary at the day school at Hammersmith. A relation of Lettie Burnett’s has compiled a collection of her letters; a copy is stored with the Provincial Archives.
Image: Lettie Burnett
Known as Catherine, Ashburnham was born in 1890 and was a pupil at the Sacred Heart Convent school in Roehampton (1899-1908). She entered the Society aged 22 in 1912, but then due to family commitments she had to leave in 1913 as a novice. Although she had left, she kept in touch with Mother Stuart and, upon Catherine’s death, Catherine's family kindly donated a collection of letters sent by Mother Stuart to Catherine, now held in the Provincial Archives.
Image: letter to Catherine Ashburnham from Janet Erskine Stuart RSCJ
Born in 1892, Mary Chisholm was a student at the Society school in Halifax, Canada. In 1910 she came to study at the Convent school in Roehampton; over the next year she kept a diary of her experiences. After her death, her grand-daughter found this diary, transcribed it and kindly donated the transcription to the Provincial archives. The diaries recount not just events at the school but Mary’s trips to other communities, including this extract recounting part of a visit to the Mother House at Jette in Belgium:
Tues. Sept. 13 
Awakened at about eight and went down to breakfast in the pupils’ refectory. There are some beautiful paintings … one in particular of Mother Barat with the children under her favourite cedar tree. Everything is so different here – French windows everywhere, funny doors with still funnier handles and so on. After breakfast the Mistress General took us for a little walk in the garden and then to the chapel where we disgraced ourselves and our country laughing at a man who was dancing up and down the chapel. So it appeared to us at any rate but he was really polishing the floor with some sort of a machine on one of his feet which he held on with a cord. This house has so many lovely statues from the houses that have been closed in France.
Image: Roehampton Convent School alumnae c.1912
Claire Coveliers was born in 1902 and was a student at the Sacred Heart school in Roehampton. She and her family were Belgian refugees, one of many thousands who fled to Great Britain when Belgium was invaded by the German army at the start of the First World War. She entered the school in September of 1916 and left in July 1917.
Image: page from the Roehampton Convent School register
The years 1917-1932 continued to see change, in Britain and around the world. For the Society, new foundations were established at Oxford (in 1929 and1932), and Madeleine Sophie Barat was canonised as a Saint on 25th May 1925. In the wider world there was revolution in Russia and Ireland – as a result of the latter, a distinct Province in Ireland was created separate from the English one. Finally, on 11th November 1918, the First World War came to an end. The War Memorial at what is now Digby Stuart College in Roehampton was dedicated on the 24th of May1918 – one of its many unique qualities is that this was done before the war had ended. Erected to commemorate relatives and friends of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and staff members and students of the Society’s primary and secondary schools in Roehampton, Hammersmith and Brighton, and of St Charles College in Kensington (which would relocate in 1946 to Roehampton and be renamed Digby Stuart College), the Sisters started raising funds for the Memorial in August of 1917, when there were already over 180 lost sons, brothers and fathers – and in one case, a daughter – whose families donated between £1 and £5 (the equivalent of £55-£275 in 2023) for a commemorative plaque. There was no set pattern for the inscriptions: families of those honoured were free to compose their own. In 2017 the Memorial was given Grade II Listed status. In its report, Historic England described the Memorial as ‘especially poignant for the individual tales of loss and their honest unmediated expression’.
Philomena Blount RSCJ was born in Newport, Wales, and educated at the Convent of the Religious of the Holy Sepulchre, New Hall, Chelmsford, Essex from 1860-1876.She entered the Society at Roehampton in October of 1887. In a long and distinguished career she was Superior at the Sacred Heart school at Blackheath, London (1905-1906), Superior at the teacher-training school at Wandsworth (1906-1907), and Vicar at the newly-created Vicariate of Newcastle, Aberdeen, Leamington, Bonchurch and Hammersmith (1907-1911). She went on to be Superior at St Charles’ teacher-training college (1918-1922) and at the boarding schools at Brighton and Bonchurch (1922-1928 and 1928-1929 respectively). She gave instruction to coadjutrix novices at Roehampton (1935-1940) and then was evacuated with the Brighton community and school to Lutwyche Hall (1940-1944).
Image: Mother Blount
Born in Liverpool, Wanda’s mother was the concert pianist and author Juliana Scott, among whose accomplishments were her contributions to Charles Dickens’ journal ‘Household Words’. Wanda's maternal grandfather was the portrait painter William Scott (1797-1862); her half-brother was the engineer and inventor Sebastian de Ferranti, whose daughter would also be an inventor and also a student at the Sacred Heart school at Roehampton. With this background, it should come as no surprise that Wanda was herself a gifted artist.
Wanda entered the Society three times between 1882 and 1887, making her First Vows in 1889 at Roehampton. She was professed in 1894. Her employments during an active life included teaching drawing, painting, music, French and English classes and working as portress, in the Community linen room and helping in the school infirmary at Sacred Heart boarding schools in Brighton, Roehampton and Mount Anville (Dublin). Among the paintings and frescoes she created was a portrait of Blessed Philippine Duchesne, shown here.
Image: Portraitof St Philippine Duchesne by Wanda Szczepanowska RSCJ
Born in Drogheda, Ireland, Mary was educated at the Convent of the Assumption, Kensington Square, London, and got her teaching diploma at the Society’s Wandsworth College in 1890, having entered the Society in 1882 at Roehampton. Mistress of the ‘poor school’ at Roehampton 1890-1891, she went on to work as lecturer in French, dressmaking and the organ at Wandsworth (1891-1902) and then served as Superior at Goodrington, Leamington, Aberdeen and Bonchurch between the years 1904 and 1928. From 1929 until the time of her death she gave private tuition at the Sacred Heart school at Tunbridge Wells.
Cecilia was the mother of ten children including Agnes Feilding RSCJ and her sons Henry and Hugh, killed in the First World War and commemorated – as is Cecilia – on the Sacred Heart War Memorial at Roehampton. A supporter of the Catholic Women’s League, before the outbreak of war Cecilia was one of only a handful of women to be a member of the Central Committee for Territorial Nurses and worked closely with the Red Cross, as well as being the county head of the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Families Association. When war broke out, Cecilia turned her home– Newnham Paddox – into a Red Cross hospital complete with 80 beds. Another of her daughters, 24-year-old Lady Dorothie Feilding, served at the Western Front in Belgium as an ambulance driver. Dorothie was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French and the Order of Leopold by the Belgians, and would also become the first woman to be awarded the British Military Medal.
Image: War Memorial plaque commemorating Cecilia Feilding
Honora was born in Dublin and was educated at the Convent of the Ursulines in Waterford (1873-1875) and then at the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton (1875-1880). She entered the Society at Roehampton in 1881, taking her First Vows there in 1883. While still a Novice she taught at the Sacred Heart schools in Roehampton and Brighton. She made her Profession in1889 at the Mother House in Paris. She went on to teach French at Mount Anville, Leamington, Bonchurch (where she was also in charge of guest pupils)and then was Chair of English Studies, singing and organ at the Society’s schools in Egypt and Malta. Honora died in Cairo on 25 May 1951.
Image: Sacred Heart school, Heliopolis
Helen Bodkin was one of five biological sisters who became RSCJ. Born in Limerick to Dominic Bodkin and Marian (nee O’Kelly), she was educated at the Convent of the Dames de l’Instruction Chrétienne at Doorsele Abbey, near Ghent. She entered the Society at Roehampton in 1887 and made her Profession in 1895. Over the course of a long and distinguished career she served as Mistress General and Superior at the Sacred Heart boarding schools in Carlisle, Brighton, Newcastle and Hammersmith.
Image: Helen with her sisters Gertrude, Madeleine and Minna
Born in Staffordshire, the sixth of eleven children Constance Winifred Mary Perry was educated with the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Jette, Belgium (1882-1884), entering the Society at Roehampton in 1888. After teaching singing and organ at Hammersmith and Brighton, she became Assistant at the teacher training college at West Hill and then lecturer and Superior when the college moved to St Charles, Kensington (1906-1923). From 1923-1930 she was Superior of the Province, having taken over this role from Rose Thunder. She then served as Assistant General at the Mother House in Rome for the next16 years, returning to England as Superior at Brighton from 1947 until the time of her death.
Image: Mother Perry
Grace Sheil's mother Mary Leonora married Justin Sheil in Paris in 1849. Justin, a younger son, had a long career in the British East India Company and later in the Army including being a member of the British legation to the court of the Shah of Persia. He and Mary Leonora travelled to Teheran after their marriage and their first four children were born there. Mary Leonora published an account of her time in Teheran, Glimpses of Life and Manners in Persia, in 1856. Justin Sheil was later knighted and the family returned to Britain in 1854, moving between Dublin and London for the next few years. Mary Leonora died just five months after giving birth to Grace; Grace’s elder brother Edward, 18 years her senior, was guardian to her and his other younger siblings. Edward was a MP for a short time in the 1870s.
Grace entered the Society in 1889 and was professed ten years later. She taught at Sacred Heart schools in Armagh, Hammersmith, Roehampton, Leamington, Newcastle, Wandsworth, Aberdeen and Dublin. She attended the canonisation ceremony in Rome of St Madeleine Sophie Barat, and during the Second World War was evacuated with the Tunbridge Wells Sacred Heart school to Allbrighton Hall. Among her writings are a biography of Mother Forbes and many plays composed for the Sacred Heart students.
Image: Grace Sheil RSCJ
Born in Killarney, Gertrude was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart schools in Roehampton and Carlisle. She entered the Society in 1894 and was Professed in 1902. For the next 64 years she served tirelessly as Mother General and Mistress of Studies at the boarding schools in Brighton and Wandsworth, and as Superior at Blackheath, Aberdeen and St Julian’s Malta (1902-1909). In 1909 she was sent to the New York to be Mistress of Novices and Mistress of Choir at Kenwood, posts she held until 1932 when she was made Superior (1932-1935). From 1935-1945 she was Superior at Manhattanville University College and Albany-Kenwood boarding school, then served as Superior Vicar of the U.S. province, based primarily in Greenwich, Connecticut, from 1945-1955. She died in Albany.
A published biography of Mother Bodkin written by Margaret Williams RSCJ is in the Provincial Archives.
Image: Gertrude Bodkin RSCJ
Remembered with great fondness by all who were taught by her and were novices she looked after, Winifred Archer Shee served as Provincial Superior (a role then known as Vicar General) from 1930-1946, taking over in this duty from Constance Perry.
Born in Birmingham, Winifred studied at Bristol University and entered the Society aged 26 in 1908; she was professed in 1916. She founded the Society’s community at Oxford in 1929 and was Superior there for a year before becoming Vicar General. During the years of the Second World War she oversaw the evacuation of the Sacred Heart schools to various places throughout England. After the war she was Superior at Tunbridge Wells for five years, then Mistress of Novices at Roehampton until 1971.
Winifred’s father Martin and her half-brother George were participants in the cause célèbre that was the inspiration for the play ‘The Winslow Boy’ by Terence Rattigan. While a Royal Navy cadet, George was accused of stealing a five-shilling postal order. At the trial George was successfully defended against the charges by the noted barrister, judge and politician Sir Edward Carson. When war broke out, George joined the Army and was commissioned into the 1stBattalion, South Staffordshire Regiment. He was killed at the First Battle of Ypres, aged just 19, and is commemorated with a plaque at the Sacred Heart War Memorial in Roehampton.
In her memoirs, held in the Society’s provincial archives, Mother Archer Shee writes, ‘This place [Roehampton] has always meant more to me than any other place.’
Image: Mother Archer Shee
Daughter of the barrister, art historian, nationalist and Papal Count, George Noble Plunkett, Moya was born in Dublin and entered the Society at Roehampton in 1914; she took her First Vows in 1916. Back in Dublin, her brother Joseph Mary Plunkett (born 1887) was executed at Kilmainham goal in Dublin for his part in the 1916 Easter Rising. After teaching religious instruction and singing at St Charles’ teacher-training college in London and at the Sacred Heart school and college in Fenham, Newcastle, Moya left the Society as an Aspirant in 1923. She worked as a qualified midwife in Uganda for six years, but died in 1928 enroute from Uganda with the Franciscans back to Ireland.
Image: Joseph Plunkett and his wife, the artist Grace Gifford, who were married just hours before his execution
Winifryde was from Fife where her family had built Inzievar House in the mid-nineteenth century. They owned the coal mines there and were a prominent Roman Catholic family. Two of her cousins – Helen and Susan Fletcher – were Sacred Heart pupils at Roehampton; this would seem the most likely reason that both Winifryde and her brother Archibald have plaques on the Sacred Heart War memorial.
Winefryde joined the Women’s Legion in 1918 and was assigned to work as a mechanic and driver. While on duty at Aldershot she crashed her car, apparently having fainted. She survived the crash, but she would not survive the cause – she had come down with influenza. She died just a few days before the First World War ended.
Image: War Memorial plaque dedicated to Winefryde
Born in Mexico, Muriel’s great-aunt Mary Morgan had also been an RSCJ and was one of the signatories on the deeds of the property at Roehampton where the school and community were established in 1850. Muriel was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton 1911-1919 and entered the Society in 1922. She was Professed in 1931. She taught needlework and served as Sacristan and in the linen rooms at Brighton and Fenham. In later years her duties centred round social work at the school in Hammersmith and in the Society’s community in Surbiton, where she passed away in 1978.
Image: Mother Noel Morgan with Jean Kirkpatrick and unnamed novice, c.1966
Maureen O’Sullivan was a pupil of the Convent school at Roehampton who entered the school in September of 1922 and left in July 1926, going on to study at Trinity College, Dublin. A note in the register states that she was a ‘good child, but wanting in energy’ – this she clearly made up for later in life, starring in several of the ‘Tarzan’ films (as Jane, no less) and raising seven children including the actor Mia Farrow.
Image: Maureen O’Sullivan class photo, c.1922
The famed actress, born Vivian Mary Hartley in Bangalore, India, was the daughter of a general in the Indian cavalry; her mother was Gertrude Yackje. Sent back to England to the Convent school at Roehampton, she began her life at the school on 21 September 1920, aged not quite 7. She later recalled, ‘I was the youngest child there and so I imagine I was rather spoiled. I remember I was allowed to take cats to bed with me. I’ve always been mad about cats.’ She remained at the school until July 1928. Notes in the school register give an address for her grandparents in Bridlington, Yorkshire, and note that ‘Vivian improved very much during her last year. Went to school at our house at San Remo.’
Image: Vivien Leigh class photo, c.1922
The years 1932-1947 were cataclysmic for the world as well as for the Society. The ENW Province played its part, first in taking in RSCJ fleeing the ravages of the Spanish Civil War, and then shepherding students and teachers to various evacuation points – St Charles College to Cold Ash (near Newbury); the Tunbridge Wells school to Albrighton; the Hove/Brighton school to Lutwyche; Hammersmith Primary to Lutterworth; West Hill and Hammersmith Juniors to Llanarth; Fenham Secondary to Sizergh Castle and Brettagh Holt; Fenham Primary to Kendal; Fenham Teacher Training College to Swinburne; Roehampton Convent school first to Newquay (1939-1940) and then Stanford Hall, near Rugby (1940-1945); Roehampton Primary to Reading. After the war, the Convent school did not return to Roehampton, but moved to new grounds purchased by the nuns at Woldingham, Surrey. In its place at Roehampton was founded Digby Stuart College.
Born 90 years before the outbreak of the Second World War, at Petworth, Madeleine’s father Charles was a Protestant Huguenot who had converted to Catholicism in 1851. Madeleine was one of nine children: two sisters became Sisters of the Society of the Holy Child Jesus, another, Lucy, four years Madeleine’s elder, was also an RSCJ. Madeleine was educated at the Convent of the Holy Child Jesus in St Leonard’s in East Sussex (1855-1857) and at the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Marmoutier (1857-1858). She entered at Roehampton in 1870, took her First Vows in 1872 and made her Profession in 1878. She was never sent abroad but lived and taught at the English Sacred Heart schools and colleges at Roehampton, West Hill, Saint Charles Kensington and Hammersmith, serving as Mistress of Studies and finally as Mother General (1918-1939) of the 'poor school' at Roehampton.
Image: Sr Madeleine Laprimaudaye
Born in Yorkshire and taking cathechism at the Society school at Trinità dei Monti in Rome in preparation for her First Communion, then taught by governesses as the family travelled throughout Italy, Germany, Austria, Switzerland and France, Charlotte entered the Society at Roehampton in 1877 and was professed in 1885. For the next 50 years she served as Sacristan and in Community linen rooms, and taught needlework and English, in Sacred Heart schools at Roehampton, Brighton, Moulins (France), Trinità dei Monti, Rennes (France), Brussels (Belgium) and finally at West Hill in Wandsworth.
Image: Wandsworth College, West Hill
Gertrude was born in Torquay and educated at home with a governess. She entered at Roehampton in 1883 and was professed at Mount Anville (Dublin) in 1906. She taught French and worked in the Sacristy, linen room, refectory, dispensary and library at the Sacred Heart schools in West Hill, Brighton, Mount Anville, Fenham and Armagh.
Both Gertrude and her sister Charlotte (also an RSCJ) were cousins (on their mother’s side) of Mary Alice Langdale, who is commemorated on the Sacred Heart War Memorial on the University of Roehampton campus. Their family was also significant for providing a home for Fenham Sacred Heart Secondary School when its students and staff were evacuated during the Second World War, offering up the family home at Sizergh Castle in Cumbria.
Image: Sizergh Castle
Josefina was one of several Spanish Sisters who came to England to escape the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939). Born in Madrid, she was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart located in the Chamartin district of that city, and entered there in 1880. She made her Profession in 1888. She taught French, religious instruction and singing at the Sacred Heart schools in Madrid and Bilbao (where she was also Mistress of Discipline 1898-1903) before going on to be Mistress of Studies at Godella and then at Seville. Appointed Mistress General of the school in Barcelona (1937-1938), at age 75 she came to England and worked at various employments at the Sacred Heart teacher training college then located in St Charles Square, West Kensington. She returned to Madrid to teach French and English from 1939 until her death, aged 91.
Image: contemporary press cutting: the caption reads 'Twenty-eight Spanish refugee nuns arrive at Victoria Station in London with their luggage'
The second youngest of the four Bodkin sisters who became RSCJ, Madeleine was born in County Kerry and was educated at the Convent of the Dames de l’Instruction Chrétienne at Doorsele Abbey, near Ghent, and then at the Sacred Heart schools in Roehampton and Carlisle. She entered the Society at Roehampton in 1894 with her sisters Gertrude and Minna (their eldest sister, Helen, had entered seven years previously) and made her Profession in 1902. Over the course of a long and distinguished career she served as Superior at the Sacred Heart school in Tunbridge Wells (1915-1917), Mistress General and then Superior of the Society’s practice school in Brighton (1917-1922) and served terms as Superior at the Society’s schools in Mount Anville, Tunbridge Wells, Hammersmith and Brighton before returning the classroom at the Hammersmith Primary School from 1947until the year of her death.
Image: (left to right) Helen, Gertrude, Madeleine and Minna Bodkin
Another of the RSCJ who escaped the Spanish Civil War – on a ship organised by then-U.S. Ambassador to Britain, Joseph Kennedy Sr, who at that time had three daughters at the Sacred Heart school in Roehampton – Elvira was born in Bilbao. She entered the Society at Chamartin (Madrid) in 1903 and was Professed in 1912 at the Mother House, then in Ixelles, Belgium. She was Mistress of Discipline and Director of Studies at the Sacred Heart schools in Larrauri, Saragossa, Algorta, Chamartin, Seville and Madrid St Denis, and was teaching at the school in Barcelona when the Civil War made it imperative that she quit Spain for the safety of London. After a year helping out at St Charles’ teacher training college, she returned to Madrid and worked as Assistant and writing teacher at the Sacred Heart boarding schools in Madrid from 1939-1960.
Image: Roehampton community House Journal entry recording the arrival of the RSCJ from Spain
Born in Hong Kong, the eldest child of an Army officer, when her father was transferred to Halifax, Nova Scotia Eileen attended the Convent school of the Sacred Heart for two years. The family then relocated to England and Eileen was sent to the Sacred Heart school at Roehampton. She studied for a degree in Science at St Charles College and entered the Noviceship while Reverend Mother Stuart was Superior. She was professed in 1911 and returned to St Charles as Mistress of Discipline and tutor in Doctrine, Science and Geography. After two years she went to Fenham, first as a lecturer and then in 1918 as Mistress General and Principal. In 1936 she became Principal of St Charles College, and when war broke out she took the College to Cold Ash. On the death of Reverend Mother Watts in 1945, Sr Eileen became Superior of the Community, and in this capacity brought the College back to London, to be faced with bombed-out buildings and other hardships. There is now a building on the Digby Stuart College campus named in her honour. In 1951 Eileen returned as Superior to Newcastle, and then in 1953 was sent to look after the convent at Oxford. She spent the last 15 months of her life at Woldingham School.
Image: Fincham Building, University of Roehampton
Born in Morley in Yorkshire and educated at the Park School and Laurel Bank School in Glasgow, Margaret entered the Society at Roehampton in 1921. While still a Novice Margaret Shepherd studied for an undergraduate degree, gaining a B.A. in 1928. She made her Profession in 1929. During the years of the Second World War she held the pivotal post of Mistress of Novices, first at Kinross, where the Novices were first evacuated to, and then at Stanford Hall, where the Roehampton school students and staff spent the war years. After this she was Superior at the Society’s community and university hostel at Oxford (1944-1947).
Image: students attending lessons in an outbuilding at Stanford Hall (drawing by Sr Catherine Blood)
Agnes Feilding was the daughter of Lord and Lady Denbigh; one of 11 children. She was born in Rugby and entered the Convent at Roehampton in October of 1912, making her Profession in 1920. She taught Maths, Religious Instruction and Latin at Sacred Heart schools in Brighton, Roehampton and Tunbridge Wells. In 1936, just two years before her untimely death, she was awarded a BA from the University of London.
Two of Agnes’ brothers were killed in action during the First World War – they and their mother Cecilia are commemorated on the Sacred Heart War Memorial in Roehampton.
Image: Sr Agnes with her father, Lord Rudolph Denbigh Feilding
Eleanora attended the Sacred Heart schools at Carlisle and later at Leamington before entering the Society in 1913. She took her First Vows in 1915. Mistress of Discipline at Roehampton and later at Tunbridge Wells and then Brighton, Eleonora went onto be appointed Mistress General of Fenham Grammar School 1933-1941. From 1939-1944 she was Superior at Fenham, and therefore oversaw the students’ evacuation to Sizergh Castle (where they took lessons) and Brettagh Holt (where they slept). From 1944-1946 she was Mistress of Novices at Stanford Hall, home to the Roehampton community during evacuation. In 1946 she was made Vicar General of the Province. In 1950 the England-Malta Vicariate was divided (until 1966); Mother Bennett was Superior of the division that included Woldingham, Newcastle, Oxford, Mumbai(then called Bombay), Bangalore and Malta. Known as hard-working, direct and matter of fact, but with a good sense of humour and patience as well as energy, Mother Bennett was said to have taken an interest in everything. From 1966-1969 she was Superior at Tunbridge Wells; until 1972 she was at Woldingham before moving on, first to Fenham (1972-1983) and finally to Duchesne House (1983-1984).
Image: Sr Eleanora Bennett at a reunion of Sacred Heart students at Brettagh Holt, 1973
Another of the 28 RSCJ stranded in the Spring of 1938 in Barcelona,suffering heavy bombardment during the Spanish Civil War, Maria was evacuated to Roehampton and spent the next year at the Sacred Heart teacher training college in St Charles’ Square, West Kensington, helping out in the community refectory. She returned to Spain in 1939 – first to Granada and from there to Madrid. From 1946-1971 she supervised the workmen at the Sacred Heart Convent in Pontevedra.
Image: page from the Roehampton House Journal for 1938
Before she joined the Society, Sr Catherine studied for six years at the Birmingham School of Art and was a successful commercial artist and illustrator, whose humorous and accomplished drawings were used in magazines including Punch and in works of fiction. She entered the Society at Roehampton in 1925 and was professed in 1933. Evacuated with the Roehampton students to Stanford Hall during the Second World War, Sr Catherine sent engaging, amusing and brilliantly illustrated letters describing the lives of students and staff back to the Superior in Roehampton.
Image: watercolour by Sr Catherine depicting the ballroom at Stanford Hall
In a long and distinguished career Margaret Thornton gained several academic degrees and spent over 30 years teaching in China, Japan and Korea. As a girl she attended the Sacred Heart Convent school in Roehampton, graduating with prizes in all subjects. She entered the Convent in 1917 and made her Profession in 1926. By 1929 she was Mistress of Studies at the school in Tunbridge Wells, and then Mistress of Discipline at Hammersmith (1933-1937). In 1937 she was sent to be lecturer and Dean of the Women’s College in Shanghai, where she remained throughout the years of the Second World War, which included a period in an internment facility (1943-1945). From Shanghai she was sent to Tokyo in 1952, serving as Head of the English Department at the Sacred Heart boarding school there and at Susono until 1964. After this she held the post of Dean of Studies in Chun Cheon and Seoul, Korea, until 1971. She returned to England and, after taking a degree in Archive Studies, worked in the Provincial Archives up until the time of her death.
Image: Sr Margaret with students of Aurora College for Women, Shanghai, 1949
One of three biological sisters – the others being Frances (1907-1994) and Mary (1902-1989) – who all became RSCJ, Violet was born in Eltham and attended the Sacred Heart schools in Brighton and Tunbridge Wells. She entered in 1921 and made her Profession in 1929. She taught religious instruction, needlework, drawing, singing and science at the Sacred Heart schools in Wandsworth, Tunbridge Wells and Roehampton 1923-1941 before being evacuated with the other staff and students to Stanford Hall (1941-1946). After the war she took her place at the new location for the school in Woldingham, Surrey for two years before moving to Brighton where she was Mistress General (1948-1953). She went on to be Mother General and Mistress of Studies at West Hill (1953-1956), Chair of the Junior School at Tunbridge Wells (1956-1958) and Sacristan at Woldingham (1958-1969) before being sent to teach at the Sacred Heart college in Tokyo (1969-1976). After this she served as Parish Apostolate at the communities in Ash Vale and Guildford; undertook various employments at the community in Portsmouth and enjoyed an active retirement living at Duchesne House, Roehampton from 1994 onwards. Celebrations were held for ‘Vidie’ at Duchesne to mark her 100th birthday in June of 2000.
Image: Sr Violet Allpress in 1992
Eunice and her sisters Pat and Jean attended the Sacred Heart school at Roehampton in1938 while their father Joe Kennedy was U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St James. Prior to this they had been pupils at the Society of the Sacred Heart at Noroton in Connecticut. According to the 2018 biography written by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Eileen McNamara (and researched, in part, in the Society’s Provincial Archives at Roehampton), it was Eunice who alerted her father to the plight of the Spanish RSCJ trapped in Barcelona, spurring him to action: ‘after months of negotiation with Spanish officials, [Joseph Kennedy] prevailed upon the British to send a destroyer to evacuate the twenty-eight women. It was to Kennedy that the Roehampton School Association gave credit.’
Image: Roehampton as it looked in 1938
Maud Monahan was born in Stillorgan Park, Dublin and went to the Sacred Heart school in Harcourt Street, Dublin and then to the school at Roehampton (1885-1889). Two of her biological sisters, Edith and Emily, also became RSCJ. Maud entered the Society in 1890, when Mother Digby was Provincial, took her First Vows in 1892and made her Profession in 1899, by which time Mother Stuart had succeeded Mother Digby as Provincial.
While still a Novice she helped with the foundation of Hammersmith school (1892) and then taught at the boarding schools in Roehampton (1894), Mount Anville (1895-1898),where she was also Mistress of Studies, and Hammersmith. She made her Profession at Roehampton on 8th September 1899. She then served as a lecturer at the Sacred Heart teacher-training college in West Hill, Wandsworth (1899-1903), after which she was Mistress of Studies and Mistress of the Juniorate at Roehampton 1903-1912. Her Circular reports that the death of Mother Digby and the subsequent departure of Mother Stuart for Brussels were cruel blows for Maud, but then Mother Stuart called her to teach English and study German first at Jette for a year and then in Vienna for a further year. After this she moved to be Mistress of English Studies at Cairo and Heliopolis boarding schools (1914-1919). It was at this time that she began what she called her ‘life work’, The Life and Letters of Janet Erskine Stuart.
From 1919 to1955 she was in charge of the Province’s own printing press, which published works by Mother Stuart and other RSCJ, and rebound handsome editions of classics and books on religion and history given as Prizes to deserving students. She completed her Life of Mother Stuart in 1921 and added to her role as chronicler of the lives of RSCJ by penning a Life of Reverend Mother Thunder (1930); during these years she also wrote The Children’s Saint (1945); On the King’s Highway (1927); A Boy’s Choice: the story of Saint Luigi Gonzaga (1926), all with illustrations by ‘Robin’/Mother Catherine Blood.
Image: Maud Monahan RSCJ (left), with Constance Perry RSCJ
Born in Austria, Rosa Wilberforce-Guerini was the great-granddaughter of William Wilberforce, the philanthropist and abolitionist. She received her secondary education at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Roehampton and entered the Society in 1895. She made her Profession in 1904. She taught English, French, German and singing, maths and Italian at Sacred Heart schools in Venice, Brighton, Hammersmith, Leamington, Newcastle, Cairo, Malta and Bonchurch between the years 1897 and 1945. From 1945-1949 she was Sacristan and Portress (while continuing to teach singing) at Oxford, then spent a year at Hammersmith before spending the years 1950-1967 at Roehampton, working in the library at Digby Stuart College. The obituary in the Digby Stuart Chronicle recounts, ‘Right to the end this need for giving something of herself to others found expression in making calendars for those who worked for the College, and bookmarkers to be given to the students.’
Image: the library at Digby Stuart College (c.1950)
Born in Fife to James Paul Smith and Marguerite Steinmetz in 1880, Mother Pauline was educated at the Sacred Heart Convents in Paris, Carlisle and Roehampton. She entered the Society in 1900 and made her Profession in 1908. She served for many years as Mistress of Studies at the Sacred Heart schools at Aberdeen, Craiglockhart teacher-training college and Kilgraston before being sent to Armagh (1937-1938) to teach French and Latin. She was then Mistress of Studies at Mount Anville (Dublin) from 1947-1958. After this she gave instruction to the coadjutrix Sisters and to converts at Hammersmith and Brighton from 1958 until the time of her death.
Image: Mount Anville Society of the Sacred Heart School, Dublin
Alice McVeigh RSCJ was born in South Africa and was educated at the Convent of the Ladies of Christian Instruction at Sherborne, in Dorset.
She attended the Sacred Heart teacher-training college, then located in West Hill, Wandsworth, from 1899 to 1901, and returned to her old school in Dorset to teach. She entered the Society in 1907, aged 26; between 1910 and 1915 she was in charge of the English Studies department at the Sacred Heart teacher-training college in Lima, Peru. She made her Profession in 1915 and then returned to Lima for eight years before being chosen to be Mistress General, and then Superior, at the Sacred Heart school in Fenham, Newcastle. From there she was Superior and Principal at St Charles College (1929-1935), at the day school at West Hill(1935-1944) and at St Mary’s teacher-training college in Newcastle (1944-1951). In her seventies she served as Assistant at Woldingham School and then West Hill, and ended her days with the community in Newcastle. The Digby Stuart Chronicle for 1963 notes that ‘People of all classes and conditions were won by her kindness. She was ready to listen to anyone who needed help and spared nothing for the benefit of a single soul.’
Image: Alice McVeigh RSCJ
Born in South Shields, Catherine Andersson was educated at the Convent of the Sisters of Notre Dame in Tirlemont, Belgium (1893-1896) and then at the Ursuline Convent, Alnweiter, Germany (1896-1900) and, for her secondary education, at the Convents of the Sacred Heart in Turin (1900-1903) and Bloemendal (1903-1905).
She studied for a diploma in modern languages at the University of London and, upon obtaining this, studied medicine for a year. Before she entered the Society in 1924 she had travelled widely and taught at the Notre Dame Teachers’ Training College, Mount Pleasant, Liverpool, and at schools in Sheffield and London. While still a novice she taught French, German and Italian at the Sacred Heart school in Roehampton (1926-1933) and served as Mistress of Studies at Tunbridge Wells (1933-1939). In 1939 she accepted her greatest challenge: to become Superior and foundress of Sophia College in Mumbai, a role she fulfilled for the next nine years. After this she was Superior and Mistress General of the day and boarding schools in Bangalore, from 1948 until her death in 1961. A biography of Mother Andersson, written by Sara Grant RSCJ in 1962 and held in the Provincial Archives, speaks of her having about her ‘something of the [sea]’ which had ‘played so large a part in her early life … its vastness, its strength and its depths, as well as the vivacity, the variety, the ‘‘myriad laughter of the deep’’, that drew all kinds of people irresistibly’.
Image: Catherine Andersson RSCJ (second from the right)
Elizabeth was born in York Town, Surrey and was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Roehampton (1905-1909). After some years of ‘life on a ranch in Canada’ (according to the records held in the Provincial Archives), Elizabeth entered the Society at Roehampton just before the start of the First World War. She made her Profession in 1922, and for the next 50 years teaching and acting as Assistant at Sacred Heart schools in Roehampton and Newcastle, and being Mistress General at the school in Tunbridge Wells (1931-1933). Evacuated with the school during the Second World War, she also served in various support staff roles in Oxford, Bonchurch and West Hill. For the last 13 years of her life she is listed as ‘helping at the Lodge’ in West Hill.
Image: Convent of the Sacred Heart, Tunbridge Wells (now Beechwood School)
Mother Ogilvie Forbes saw the English Province through some of its most challenging times in the years leading up to and following on from the Second Vatican Council.
Born in Aberdeen, she was educated at the Sacred Heart Convent schools in Roehampton(1905-1907) and Brighton (1908-1911). She received a BA in History (1921) from the University of London, after having entered the Society at Roehampton in 1915 and taken her First Vows in 1917. She made her Profession in 1923.
She was Superior Vicar from 1951 to 1970, and helped lead the Province through the enormous changes brought about by Vatican II. Reflecting on this time some ten years later, in 1977, Becka wrote: ‘Through the traumatic experience of the '67 Chapter, and all it involved, the Society was brought to its knees ... And thus, through pain and travail, a new life was born. We were to become again the ‘‘mere children’’ of Christ's words, the ‘‘little Society’’ of the Heart of Christ, of Our Holy Mother's vision.’
Mother Ogilvie-Forbes celebrated her Platinum Jubilee in 1993, and passed away on the29th of August 1995, just over a month short of her 100thbirthday.
Image: Rebecca Ogilvie Forbes RSCJ
Born in Bradford, Angela Ward was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Newcastle (1907-1915) and at St Mary’s College, Fenham (1915-1917). She entered the Society at Roehampton two months before the end of the First World War; her biological sisters Monica and Winifred were also RSCJ. She taught at the Sacred Heart schools in Tunbridge Wells and Hammersmith (1921-1925), and was a lecturer at the teacher-training college in Newcastle from 1925. She made her Profession in 1927. She got a BA in English and an MA in Education from the University of London.
She served as Principal of St Mary’s College from 1936-1963. After this she was Superior at the Sacred Heart school in Tunbridge Wells (1963-1968) and then worked as Librarian at Digby Stuart College in Roehampton (1969-1973). For then ext eight years she was in charge of the ‘Old Students’ Association’ for Newcastle’s teacher-training college and school. For the last year of her life she was lived and studied with the Sacred Heart community in Fenham.
Image: Angela Ward RSCJ, at Fenham
Mary K Richardson RSCJ (1903-1983) was a writer, educator and Principal of Digby Stuart College (1949-1968). She wrote many books and radio plays for children, broadcast by the BBC.
Mother Richardson was born in Streatham, South London and educated at Streatham Secondary School (now Rosa Bassett School) 1913-1920. She attended East London University (1920-1923) and London Day Training College (1923-1924). She achieved a BA Hons in English and a Diploma in Education from London University. She taught English at Alderman Newton’s School, Leicester 1924-1926 and was Head of English at Sidcup Secondary School 1926-1931. She entered at Roehampton in 1931, aged 28, and was Professed in 1939. She was Mistress of Discipline at Hammersmith Sacred Heart School, evacuated to Cold Ash during the years of the Second World War. She then served as lecturer at the Sacred Heart teacher-training colleges in London and Newcastle, returning from the North to be Principal of Digby Stuart College (1948-1968). After a brief sojourn lecturing at Tokyo University, she undertook education research in London (1970-1982) and worked at the Westminster Religious Education Centre (1982-1983).
Her published works – many written for children – include The Family Liturgy Book (1977); Heaven on Thursday: The Life of St Madeleine Sophie Barat (1948); biographies of the saints including St Anne (1960)and St Barbara (1959); Caterina’s Kittens (1972) and The Snail Who Climbed Mount Fuji (1970).
Image: Mary Richardson RSCJ
Born in Manchester and educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Tunbridge Wells (1938-1940) and at St Charles’ teacher-training college (evacuated to Cold Ash) 1940-1942, Joan Loveday entered the Society in 1946. She took her First Vows three years later, and was professed in Rome in February of 1955. For the next 17 years she taught at the Society’s schools in Hove, Woldingham, Tunbridge Wells and Newcastle, before being appointed Bursar at the college in West Hill and then with the Society’s community in Oxford. From 1974-1979 she worked as Resource Librarian and in the college Audio-Visual Department at St Mary’s College, Fenham, Newcastle. From 1979-1990 she worked in the Provincial Archives.
Image: Joan Loveday RSCJ in the Provincial Archives, Roehampton
The inventor Valerie Hunter Gordon (née de Ferranti) was a pupil at the Convent of the Sacred Heart at Roehampton from 1931 until 1938. Her grandfather was the inventor Sebastian Ziana de Ferranti; her great-grandfather was the classical guitarist and composer Marco Auerlio Zani de Ferranti and, on her mother’s side, her great-grandmother was Juliana Scott, a concert pianist. Valerie’s inventions included the PADDI, a sustainable nappy system considered to be the world's first disposable nappy, and Nikini, an early mass-produced sanitary towel. Her development of the nappy was said to have come about because, after having her third child, Valerie wanted to find a way to prevent the hours of drudgery and wasted resources spent on washing, drying and ironing the traditional towelling nappy. Her creation was a two-part system consisting of a biodegradable disposable pad worn inside an adjustable, reusable waterproof outer (the PADDI). Boots started selling the PADDI in 1950; in 1952 the BBC featured the invention as one of the six most interesting products at the Ideal Home Exhibition that year.
Image: Valerie Hunter Gordon
Ruth Woakes was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Rose Bay, Sydney, Australia (1939-1942). She entered the Society at Rose Bay in 1944. She got her teaching certificate from St Mary’s College Fenham in 1951 and a further teaching certificate in Australia. She made her Profession in 1953. She taught religious instruction, needlework, science and maths at Sacred Heart schools and colleges in Brighton, Newcastle and Woldingham between the years 1947 and1957, then joined the teaching staff at Digby Stuart College as an art lecturer from 1958-1969. She studied weaving and pottery for many years, gaining a certificate from City and Guilds in weaving. A lifelong interest in drawing led her to study botanical illustration at the London School of Gardening in 1996.
Image: watercolour sketch by Ruth Woakes RSCJ
Born in Sumatra in 1929, Elizabeth Graham was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Tunbridge Wells (1941-1945) and gained her teaching certificate from Digby Stuart College in 1950. She entered the Society in 1952 at Woldingham, and made her Profession ten years later. In 1974, having gained a BA from the University of Newcastle, she studied for and was awarded an advanced Diploma in Education with a focus on Special Educational Needs from the University of Lancaster.
Throughout a30+-year history teaching at Sacred Heart schools in Woldingham, West Hill, Tunbridge Wells, Newcastle and Malta, Liz undertook voluntary work and employment as a medical receptionist and doing counselling work and serving as a hospital chaplain. She also found time to edit and be a regular contributor to the Provincial newsletters known as SHOC and SHOClet – her gift for poetry and felicity with language were hallmarks of her contributions.
Image: Elizabeth Grantham RSCJ
Velda Lee RSCJ was a Governor of DigbyStuart College and member of the University Council.
Educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart of Mary, Billingshurst, Sussex 1941-1953, she then was an undergraduate at Digby Stuart College (1953-1955) and studied with Trinity College of Music (1955-1956). She entered the Society at Woldingham in 1956 and was Professed in 1964. She taught at Society schools in Woldingham, Brighton, St Julian’s (Malta) before serving as Provincial Bursar and Superior at the Communities in St Lawrence Terrace and Wandsworth, London. She acted as CHERP (Centre for Higher Education Research and Practice) Co-ordinator from 1997. In 2004 a building on the Digby Stuart College campus was named in her honour.
Image: Velda Lee RSCJ
Clarissa Theresa Philomena Aileen Mary Josephine Agnes Elsie Trilby Louise Esmerelda Johnston Dickson Wright (!) was a student from age 11 at the Convent of the Sacred Heart school in Brighton, and then at the Sacred Heart school in Woldingham. She went on to study for a law degree at University College London and undertook her pupillage to become a barrister at Gray’s Inn. She is best known, however, as a celebrity cook, presenting, with Jennifer Paterson, the BBC programme Two Fat Ladies. She was also an accredited cricket umpire and one of only two women to become a Guild Butcher. She was the first female rector of the University of Aberdeen (1998) and published her autobiography, Spilling the Beans, in 2007.
Image: Clarissa Dickson Wright
The years 1962-1977 saw great changes for Catholics world-wide. The Second Vatican Council (also known as Vatican II) was opened on 11th October by Pope John XXIII and was closed on 8th December 1965 by Pope Paul VI. Brought about because it was felt that the Church needed ‘updating’ in order better to connect with people in an increasingly secularised world, its aims were in part to improve and present in a more understandable and relevant way the Church’s teachings and practices. The end of the Latin Mass was just one of the changes. For women religious, including the Sisters of the Society of the Sacred Heart, Vatican II meant no longer being required to wear the habit, and included a call for every order, whether contemplative or active, to renew itself. After the Second Vatican Council, the elimination of cloister opened new fields of apostolic work to the Society. In her book The Society of the Sacred Heart in the World of Its Times 1865-2000 (trans Frances Gimber RSCJ; 2016), Monique Luirard RSCJ shows how the congregation developed amid internal crises, which did not differ from those in the Church and civil society, and how from these crises there emerged little by little a new way to be a Religious of the Sacred Heart.
Hilary Davidson RSCJ was 73 years old when the Second Vatican Council began. Born in London, her maternal grandfather was Viscount Bury, who served as Under-Secretaryof State for War (1878-1886); her aunt Leopoldine (1866-1948) was an RSCJ who penned biographies of Mothers Barat and Duchesne; Camilla, Queen Consort is descended from this same family.
Hilary was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart Roehampton from the age of ten; her secondary education began at the Bar Convent, York, followed by six months in France, a term at the Society’s school in Brighton, then back to Roehampton for her final year. Hilary entered the Society in 1910, aged 21, at Roehampton. She taught French and singing at Roehampton 1913-1915; maths at Wandsworth 1915-1916; maths and singing at Tunbridge Wells 1916-1918; exam prep at Roehampton (1918-1919). She was Professed in 1919 at Roehampton, then continued tutoring for exam prep at Hammersmith Sacred Heart Grammar school 1919-1922. From 1922-1939 she was lecturer at St Charles teacher training college; evacuated with the school to Cold Ash (1939-1946), she carried on as lecturer, returning to the newly-founded Digby Stuart College where she continued as a lecturer from 1946 until she passed away in 1969.
Image: Students in the Library at Digby Stuart College, 1957
Born in Bradford, Monica Ward was educated at the Sacred Heart school in Fenham, Newcastle (1905-1914) and entered the Society at Roehampton in 1915. She taught singing at Roehampton and Brighton 1918-1922, and received her BA from London University in 1922. She made her Profession in 1924. In 1927 she gained the Cambridge Diploma in Education.
Monica was Mistress of Studies at Tunbridge Wells, Mistress of Discipline at Hammersmith, Mistress of Studies and Mistress General at the Sacred Heart schools in West Hill, Tunbridge Wells, Hammersmith, Brighton, Newcastle and St Julian’s (Malta) between the years 1924 and 1960. From 1960-1969 she served as councillor and taught religious instruction and singing at Hammersmith and Tunbridge Wells.
Sacristan and secretary at Woldingham School 1969-1977; she next was librarian and music assistant with the Society's community in Newcastle.
She celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1984 at Duchesne House, where she lived from 1983 until her death, aged 100, in 1995.
Image: Monica Ward RSCJ
Born in Newcastle, Winifred Ward entered the Society at Roehampton in 1920 and made her Profession in 1929, the same year that she began a degree course at Oxford, gaining a BA in English Literature in 1932. An accomplished musician, she taught singing and organ as well as maths, French and religious instruction at the Sacred Heart schools in West Hill, Oxford and Roehampton 1923-1939. In 1939 she was sent to India, where she remained for the rest of her life, teaching singing and going on to be Mistress of Studies and then Assistant to the Provincial and lecturer at Sophia College in Mumbai. From 1971 she was in Pune, undertaking various pastoral care roles and working as Provincial Archivist for the Society. She died in Pune, aged 101, in 2000.
Image: Winifred Ward RSCJ, 1954
Grace Hammond was born in Thames Ditton to Anglican parents. Receiving her secondary education at Lady Eleanor Holles School in Hackney 1910-1914, she studied for a BA/MA in French at Somerville College, Oxford 1920-1923 and received her Diploma in Education in 1924. She then studied for a year at the Ecole Normale in Bordeaux (1924-1925), during which time she was received into the Catholic Church.
For the next ten years she held teaching posts at state schools in Hackney, Newcastle and Plymouth.
Grace entered the Society in 1935 at Roehampton, and made her Profession in 1943 at Mount Anville. She served as Mistress General and Mistress of Studies at Sacred Heart schools in Hammersmith, Hove and Roehampton between the years 1945 and 1969. From 1969-1971 she was Superior with the community at Oxford. Her book Over to you: Schemes for the Secondary Years was published in 1970.
From 1972-1981 Grace was in charge of the Provincial Archives. She spent the last six years of her life with the communities at Marden Lodge (Woldingham), Hayes and finally Duchesne House.
Image: Grace Hammond RSCJ
Dorothy Mary Olive Eyre was born in London and educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Roehampton (1911-1920). She entered the Society in 1924 and taught French, religious instruction and needlework before making her Profession in 1933. She studied Theology at postgraduate level and was Mistress of Discipline at the Sacred Heart schools in Brighton (1933-1934) and Roehampton (1934-1935) before becoming Mistress General at Tunbridge Wells (1935-1954). She next served as Superior at the schools in Brighton (1954-1958), Fenham (1958-1964) and Woldingham (1964-1968). From 1968 to 1971 she was Provincial Superior, helping the Province in its continuing adjustments to the changes brought about by Vatican II. After serving as Chair of Hospitality (1971-1973) and on the Catholic Teachers Bureau (1973-1975), Dorothy was Superior for the Paschal Community at Roehampton (1975-1977). After a year in Princeton, New Jersey, she returned to work as Sacristan and with Provincial Hospitality in London (1978-1990) before moving to Duchesne House while continuing to offer local community and pastoral support. She celebrated her Diamond Jubilee in 1993 while living at Duchesne House, and passed away in 1994.
Image: Dorothy Eyre RSCJ, 1983
Born in Newcastle, Margaret Joan Beresford Bunbury was educated at the Convent school in Roehampton 1919-1929, and entered the Society in 1930. She taught religious instruction and needlework in the day school at West Hill between 1933 and 1936, then was sent to Malta to teach religious instruction and Maths at the boarding school at St Julian’s (1936-1938). She made her Profession in 1939, and served as Class Mistress at the Sacred Heart school in Hammersmith during its evacuation to Oxford (1939-1941). From 1941 to 1944 she was librarian and supported students at the Society’s University hostel in Oxford. In 1944 she gained a BA in History from Oxford. From 1944 to 1951 she was Mistress of Discipline and again taught Maths and religious instruction at St Julian’s. in 1951 she returned to England and became Mistress General and Mistress of Studies at the day school in Fenham, Newcastle, posts she held from 1951-1964. Between 1964 and 1975 she was Mistress General and Mistress of Studies at Hammersmith school; after this she served as Bursar at Oxford (1975-1977) and then Superior and Archivist for the community at Tal Virtu, Malta (1977-1982). For the next five years she worked in the Provincial Secretariat in Hammersmith before joining the community at Duchesne from 1987until the time of her death.
Image: Margaret Bunbury RSCJ and feathered friend
The editor, writer, archaeologist and activist Marion Pascoe Sarafis was educated at home until the age of 12 by her mother Anne, who was interested in the education theories of Charlotte Mason. From 1925-1931 Marion was a pupil at the Sacred Heart school in Tunbridge Wells. Her ambitions to go to University led to a priest being employed to coach her in ancient Greek, and in 1932 she succeeded in gaining a place at Oxford University to read Classics. She went on to study archaeology at Cambridge and then joined the British Archaeological School in Athens. In 1939 she met General Stefanos Sarafis (1890-1957), then in exile on the island of Milos for his Republican politics. Marion returned to Britain throughout the Second World War, establishing the League for Democracy in Greece. She was reunited with General Sarafis in 1952; they married and had one child, but he was killed in a car crash that also left her with mobility issues for the rest of her life – a life spend dedicated to the causes of the democratic left, particularly in Greece but also closer to home.
Her archives – including her school reports from her time at Tunbridge Wells – are held by the V&A Museum of Childhood.
Image: Marion Pascoe on a protest march in 1973
Known as ‘Jose’ and born in St Julian’s, Malta, this RSCJ was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in St Julian’s and entered at Roehampton in 1934. From 1937 to 1939 she was Sacristan and taught religious instruction and needlework at the Society’s’ day and finishing schools in West Hill. Between 1939 and 1945 she was in Malta, working as Mistress of Health at the Society’s boarding school in St Julian’s. Jose made her Profession in Rome in 1946. For the next 18 years she held posts as Mistress of Health and Mistress of Discipline and taught singing at St Julian’s, before returning to West Hill to serve as Sacristan and Infirmarian (1964-1969). From 1970 to 1974 she supervised a playgroup and undertook social work in Southall, then was Infirmarian at the Society’s communities in West Hill and Portsmouth (1974-1977). After a year engaged in Catechetics and as Parish apostolate, Jose joined the Parish Team Ministry with the community in Durham (1978-1981) before again serving as Parish Apostolate in the communities of Slough, Southall and Hayes between the years 1981 and 2000. She continued to help in the communities where she resided (Hayes and Duchesne) from 2000 until her death in 2010.
Image: Jose Calleja Gera RSCJ
Born inVevey, Switzerland during the First World War, Marie Andrée Meylanreceived her secondary education at the Ecole Supérieure de Jeunes Filles in Lausanne. She studied for the Diploma in Montessori Teacher Training 1935-1937, and also underwent training in nursing in Fribourg (Switzerland) 1937-1940. Before she entered the Society, Andrée worked in nursing, social work and as a school nurse. She entered at Woldingham in 1950, and served as Surveillante and Mistress of Health for her fellow Novices 1953-1958, before making her Profession in Rome in 1959.
She was Infirmarian and helped in the Economat and Library at Tunbridge Wells Sacred Heart school, then was sub-Assistant and worked in the Infirmary and as a lecturer at St Mary’s teacher training college in Fenham. In 1963 she was appointed Superior of the community in Roehampton; she served in the same role at Fenham (1964-1966). From 1966-1969 she served as Secretary General in Rome; after this she once again had responsibility for the Novices, now based at Woldingham (1969-1971).
Andrée succeeded Dorothy Eyre as Provincial Superior (1971-1977), then, after a time of ongoing formation and renewal work, was Superior of the community at Roehampton and then Duchesne (1982-1985). The years 1985-1989 saw her return to Lausanne to nurse her mother and work for the educational organization KAIRE. In 1989, aged 72, she undertook work in Greece before returning to do hospitality work for the Provincial Team, then enjoyed an active retirement in Oxford. From 1999-2011 she lived in community at Portsmouth, Hayes and finally Duchesne House.
Image: Andrée Meylan RSCJ
In a brief autobiographical statement written by Elise Brooke RSCJ she thanks Mother Becka Ogilvie-Forbes ‘to whom, under God I owe my vocation’. Elise was a student at the Sacred Heart school in Hove from the ages of six to eight, and again between the ages of 11 and 17. The intervening years were spent with her family in Egypt, where she attended the Sacred Heart school at Heliopolis. She entered the Society in 1943 and made her Profession in 1949.
Elise taught English, French and religious instruction at Sacred Heart boarding schools in Hove, Roehampton and Tunbridge Wells between the years 1943 and 1965. In 1965 she went to the University of Leuven (Louvain) in Belgium to study Theology, and from there to Oxford where she took an Honours degree in Theology in 1970. Her book Theology and Fantasy was published in 1977. She taught in the Divinity Department at Digby Stuart College [1971-1973], after which she lived with the Community at Oxford, teaching private pupils Scripture or French. She moved to Duchesne House in 1992, where she worked as a researcher, editor and translator for the last three years of her life.
Image: Elise Brooke RSCJ
Born 1920 in Oldham, Lancashire, Bertha Mary Wilcox was 24 when she entered the Society at Stanford (where the Roehampton Sacred Heart school and community had been evacuated during the Second World War). Between 1947 and 1950 she taught drawing, singing and religious instruction at the Sacred Heart boarding school in St Julian’s, Malta. She was Librarian for the Society’s University hostel at Oxford 1950-1952, then made her Probation and Profession in Rome 1952-1953. For the next 47 years, with the exception of a year (1974-1975) on sabbatical at the Sacred Heart International Community, during which time she was based in London, she lived and worked for the Society in India: as lecturer, librarian and teacher of singing and religious instruction in Mumbai (1953-1959); teacher and then Mistress General and Mistress of Studies at Bangalore (1959-1972); as Superior, Provincial Secretary and Dean of the hostel at Sophia College, Mumbai (1972-1974); undertaking research and teaching in a Jesuit school (St Xavier’s), Bokaro (1976-1986); helping with pastoral care in Pune (1986-1987); serving as Provincial Treasurer and Archivist at Pune (1987-1996), and finally working as Provincial Secretary and Treasurer and leading classes for the Noviceship community in Pune (1996-2000).
Together with Stefan Reynolds, Bertha wrote a piece for the Bede Griffiths Shangha Newsletter regarding Sara Grant RSCJ and Sister Vandana Mataji (1921-2013), published posthumously in 2011.
Image: Bertha Wilcox RSCJ
Born in Shrewsbury and educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Hove (1935-1940), Sara’s maternal aunt Margaret Thornton was also an RSCJ. She also had a cousin and a biological sister who joined the Society. Sara entered in 1941 at Kinross, Scotland, where the Noviceship had been evacuated during the Second World War. She gained at BA in Literature from St Anne’s College, Oxford in 1949, and made her Profession in 1950. From 1949-1956 she taught religious instruction, philosophy, Latin and Greek and then was also Mistress General and Mistress of Studies at Brighton.
In 1956 Sara was sent to act as College Warden and lecturer in philosophy and religious instruction at Sophia College in Mumbai, a post she held for four years. She studied once again as an undergraduate and then for a doctorate, first at Harigaon High School and then Sophia College (1970-1972), and lectured at Sophia College while also being on the Formation Commission at the Ashram in Pune 1972-1973, returning to Sophia College as Co-principal 1973-1974. After a sabbatical she served as Superior of the RSCJ community and head of the Ashram at Pune, undertaking research and continuing to teach (1976-1996). Between 1996 and 2000 she was engaged in theological reflection and the Ashram ministry in Pune.
She said of her 1991 book, Towards an Alternative Theology, ‘This book was born of a conversation ... In 1983, in London, at the end of one of my last meetings with him before he died, that wise Scottish Jesuit and man of God, Lachlan Hughes, urged me to write ‘‘something autobiographical’’ about my experience of being ‘‘reborn’’ into a totally different cultural and religious situation, and the transformation this, and especially my encounter with Sankaracarya, the great ninth-century Hindu theologian, had brought about in me and my understanding of the mystery of Christ.’
Sara died in Pune in 2000.
Image: Cover of Sara Grant RSCJ’s book Towards an Alternative Theology
Dorothy Bell’s obituary in The Tablet (written by Bernadette Porter RSCJ) is headlined ‘A devout sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart and a lifelong passionate educator, as much at home with a cardinal or a student, believing that fidelity in relationships was key to God’s love’. The tribute to her on BBC Radio 4’s Last Word programme spoke of her as having ‘devoted the first part of her life to education, then became a campaigner for AIDS awareness’.
Born in London, Dorothy attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart school at Roehampton between the ages of 11 and 17 – a school chosen for her by her parents because it was the only school that allowed teddy bears on the beds! Dorothy then travelled with her parents to India, her father having been appointed a Judge within the Indian Colonial Service of the High Court in Madras. Later she travelled to China where she worked in the Embassy there for two years. In 1947 she entered the Society of the Sacred Heart, taking her First Vows in 1950. She then studied at St Anne‘s College, Oxford, receiving her BA/MA in Geography in 1954. Dorothy was professed in 1956, joining the teaching staff at Woldingham School and subsequently being put in charge of the curriculum of the school, and its implementation. In 1967 she was appointed a lecturer in the Geography Department at Digby Stuart College, taking over as Principal from Mary Richardson RSCJ the following year. As Principal during a time when education was undergoing massive changes, Dorothy oversaw the College’s amalgamation with three other teacher-training colleges that today make up the constituent parts of the University of Roehampton. It was also during her time as Principal that, in 1982, she welcomed Pope John Paul II to Roehampton.
Following her retirement from the College, Dorothy was as active as ever. As well as being chair of the Sixth Form College Employers Forum, she was chair of governors at several Catholic schools and colleges, including Heythrop College, and was also a member of the Westminster Diocesan Education Commission. In addition, in 1989, aged 65, Dorothy became Co-ordinator of AIDS-related matters in the Diocese of Southwark, working tirelessly with people living with AIDS, and their families.
Dorothy was awarded the OBE for outstanding contribution to education in 1999.
As described at her Memorial Service, in her later years, and as a member of Duchesne House community, Dorothy led a very full life, enjoying the company of faithful friends and family members, never tiring of advising, helping and networking, as well as expressing her gratitude to them for all that she received.
Image: Dorothy Bell RSCJ
The educator known universally by her students always as ‘Miss Shaw’, Joyce also served as Deputy Principal of Digby Stuart College between the years 1945 and 1980. Former students of her History classes recall her ‘towering intellect and the superb grounding she gave us in the first year on the Greeks and Romans’, and for the fascinating field trips she led. One student has a particularly vivid memory of ‘being driven through Durham on the first day of our trip and stopped at traffic lights on an extremely steep hill. As we were about to set off again, the gear stick completely snapped off in Miss Shaw’s hand and we started rolling backwards down the hill towards the queuing traffic in a cacophony of hooting and gesticulating. Miss Shaw was frantically heaving on the handbrake, everyone on the bus was terrified and convinced we were about to meet our end and after what seemed like ages the combined brakes halted us and I think somehow the cars behind us had managed to reverse out of trouble … I do remember being very impressed by Miss Shaw’s calmness.’
Miss Shaw was awarded the OBE for services to education in 1975. In 1996 Shaw House, named in her honour, was erected on the campus of Digby Stuart College, University of Roehampton.
Image: Shaw House (2016)
The broadcaster and writer Libby Purves was a pupil at the Sacred Heart school at Tunbridge Wells in the mid-1960s.
In her memoir Holy Smoke, published in 1998, Purves writes, ‘When I think of theT.W. nuns, and how their religiousness impinged on everyday life under their rule, the brightest thread in the bundle of memory is a sense of their dedication … it was impossible to be unaware of their total commitment. They accepted us wholeheartedly as their responsibility: caring for us was as much part of their vocation as chanting divine office.’
Image: Front cover of Libby Purves’ memoir, Holy Smoke
Born in Hammersmith, Maud Warren RSCJ entered the Society in 1928 and was Professed in 1936. Throughout her life as an RSCJ she served as a cook and in community infirmaries. Before she was Professed she was ‘Second Cook’ at the Society’s teacher-training college in St Charles’ Square, Kensington, and then for the pupils and community at the Convent school in Roehampton. She was First Cook at the Society school in Brighton, then made her Profession. For the next ten years (1935-1945) she was First Cook at Roehampton and, when the school was evacuated during the years of the Second World War, continued in this role at Newquay and Stanford Hall. After the war she was Cook and in charge of the poultry yard for the community and university hostel in Oxford. From 1946-1947 she was College infirmarian at Digby Stuart College. After this she was First Cook at the teacher-training college in Fenham. For the next 20 years (1952-1972), Maud was employed in the kitchens at Woldingham School. From 1972 to 1989 she worked at collecting stamps for the Missions, first based with the Paschal Community in Roehampton, and latterly at Duchesne House.
Image: Maud Warren RSCJ
Joan Blanche Beatrice Ponsonby entered the Society in 1920 and was Professed in 1928. Before she entered she had trained (1914-1918) as a nurse, and qualified as a State Registered Nurse (SRN) at St John and St Elizabeth Hospital, London. She served as Mistress of Health at several Society schools including the boarding schools at Roehampton and Bonchurch from 1928-1939. She was evacuated with the Society school from Newcastle to Swinburn during the first years of the Second World War; then from 1941 to 1946 she served as Lecturer in Health at St Charles teacher-training college, which had been evacuated to Cold Ash. After the war she was back at Roehampton, and worked for the next 16 years in the infirmary and linen room, while also having special charge of students from abroad. From 1962 to 1983 she took on several posts in Newcastle including infirmarian and community librarian. During this time she celebrated her Golden Jubilee at Fenham (1978).
Image: Joan PonsonbyRSCJ
One of four biological sisters who were RSCJ in England (we will meet the other three next month), Odilia was born in Birmingham, the eldest of a family of one brother and four sisters. Her father, Elphege Pippet, came from a family of designers and artists based in Warwickshire and Birmingham, who specialised in Catholic decorative schemes for churches, ecclesiastical metalwork and stained glass windows as well as textiles. Part of the British Gothic Revival, Elphege, together with his brother Oswald, designed chapel decorations at St Anthony’s Convent, Hull, the Sacred Heart Chapel in St Mary’s, Chorley, the shrine chapel decoration at York Oratory, the English Martyrs Chapel in Nottingham Cathedral and the stained glass in the Sacred Heart Chapel at Roehampton.
Educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Leamington until 1910, Odilia received her secondary education at Notre Dame School, Northampton, and then from governesses. Her other training included a course in tailoring and embroidery.
She entered the Society in 1942 at Stanford (where the Roehampton community and school had been evacuated during the Second World War), and was Professed in 1950. From 1951 to 1968 she worked in the school dispensaries at Hammersmith, St Julian’s boarding school (Malta), Newcastle and Tunbridge Wells. For the next five years she was a member of the House of Prayer in Santos Road, West Hill; after this she served as Sacristan at the community in Burnham (1973-1976) and was then engaged in needlework for the Sacristy in Roehampton (1976-1983) and at Duchesne House.
Image: Odilia Pippet RSCJ
Born in Eltham, London, Mary was one of three biological sisters to enter the Society in England – her sister Violet has already been mentioned among the profiles for July; her sister Frances we will meet next month. Mary was educated at the Convents of the Sacred Heart in Hove (1915) and Tunbridge Wells (1915-1920).She entered as a novice in 1922, and made her Profession in 1930. She gained a Master’s in English at St Anne’s, Oxford in 1933. Evacuated to Stanford with the Roehampton school and community 1941-1946, Mary served first as Mistress of Studies and then Mother General. After this she was Mistress General at Woldingham (1946-1947) and then, between the years 1947 and 1971, was Superior, first at Oxford and subsequently at Newcastle, Woldingham, Hove, St Julian’s and Roehampton. Beginning in 1970, and together with Elise Brooke RSCJ and Grace Hammond RSCJ, Mary published translations of the two volumes known in English as ‘Letters of Saint Madeleine-Sophie Barat to Our Religious’. From 1971-1974 she helped with the novices and then worked as Sacristan and librarian for the community at Surbiton; she was then back at Woldingham (1974-1983) working as coordinator, then Sacristan and teacher. In 1975 she attended a course of lectures in Scripture and Philosophy at Heythrop College. Mary celebrated her Golden Jubilee in 1979. From 1982-1985 she was part of the parish apostolate at Durham. In 1985 she moved to Duchesne House.
Image: Mary Allpress RSCJ
Born in London, Honor (as she was always known) attended the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Roehampton between the ages of 9 and 17. Her sister Elizabeth also became an RSCJ; both of her brothers (Bernard and Edmund) were Jesuit priests. Between 1925 and 1927 she learned secretarial skills and worked in an office. In 1927 she entered the Society, taking her First Vows in 1930. She taught religious instruction at Roehampton and Brighton before making her Profession in 1935; after this she helped students with exam prep in Roehampton (1936-1937) and Oxford (1937-1941). Between 1936 and 1940 she also worked towards, and gained, a BA (Hons) in History from Oxford and a teaching Diploma (1941) from the same institution. She was then sent to the Sacred Heart school in Newcastle (temporarily evacuated to Swinburn) to teach religious instruction. After the war and until 1959 she was at the teacher-training college and school in Fenham, where she became Mistress of Discipline. After this she was at Hove as Mistress of Studies (1959-1963) then back to Newcastle as a lecturer (1963-1968). For the next year she helped in the General Secretariat in Rome, returning to take up the post of Provincial Secretary (1969-1971) and Superior for the community at Tunbridge Wells (1971-1973). She returned to London to look after hospitality and courses for RSCJ (1973-1982) before retiring to Duchesne House for the last six months of her life.
Image: Honor Basset RSCJ
Born in Dublin, Margaret was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Hove, 1920-1927. After studying architecture at the National University, Dublin (1928-1931), she entered the Society at Roehampton in 1932. After teaching subjects including Latin, religious instruction and needlework at Tunbridge Wells and Brighton Sacred Heart schools (1935-1941), during which time she was also Professed (1940), Margaret became Mistress of Discipline first at Albrighton (where the Tunbridge Wells school had been evacuated to) 1941-1942, then at the Primary and Froebel schools in West Hill (1942-1949). For the next 20 years she was at Woldingham school, teaching Latin and French and serving in posts as Class Mistress, Portress and then Secretary for the Vicariate. From 1969-1971 she was in charge of social works at the Provincial House, then spent two years employed in the Sacred Heart school in Monkstown, Republic of Ireland. During this time she also attended the Irish School of Ecumenics, after which she served as Superior of the West Hill community with additional roles at Digby Stuart College. From 1975 to 1979 she was Secretary to the headmistress, guest mistress and driver at Woldingham. Margaret was a member of the House of Prayer at the Society retreat in Llanerchwen, Brecon 1979-1984, then returned to act as Bursar and undertook general work for the Hayes community (1984-1994). She began her retirement with the community at Portsmouth (1994-2000), moving to Duchesne House in 2000.
Image: Margaret Tindal RSCJ
Elizabeth Basset followed her biological sister Honor as a student at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Roehampton (1921-1925), but then received her secondary education at Tunbridge Wells (1925-1930). She gained a Diploma from St James Secretarial College (1932) then again followed her sister into the Society, entering six years after Honor had, in 1933. She taught needlework and drawing and helped out in the Linen Room 1936-1939, and was evacuated with the students and staff of St Charles College to Cold Ash (1939-1941) and then to Lutwyche where the Brighton school had been evacuated (1941-1942). She undertook her Probation and made her Profession at Mount Anville in 1942. Elizabeth undertook three years’ study and was awarded a Diploma in Crafts from the National Froebel Foundation (1945) while teaching drawing, painting and needlework and then being made Mistress of Discipline at West Hill from 1942 until 1956. From here she was sent to the teacher-training college and school at Fenham for a year, then to Woldingham for a year, then to work for a year as sub-Econome at Hammersmith and in the same role, together with work in the dispensary, at Roehampton (1959-1961). Forthe next ten years she was Econome, first at Tunbridge Wells, then West Hill (in the Home Economics Department), then at Fenham. Elizabeth spent the year1971-1972 in Rome working at the Union Internationale des Superieurs General, returning to Roehampton to be Bursar until 1975. From that time to 1978 she was bursar at St Julian’s, Malta, after which she was Superior at the Surbiton community, then Superior (sometimes combining this with the role of bursar) at different communities in Roehampton, Hayes and Burnham 1980-1987. Part of the Mother House communications team (1987-1988), after a year’s sabbatical Elizabeth became a member of the Neighbourhood Community Archive Network(1989-1995). She enjoyed an active retirement 1995-2011.
Image: Elizabeth Basset RSCJ with Kay Killoran RSCJ, c.1980
Elizabeth Eleanor Fishwick did not become an RSCJ until she was 65 years old.
She was born in Ferry Hill, County Durham. She went to Ferryhill Station Primary School and St Joseph’s Coundon and the Immaculate Conception School in Darlington for her Secondary years. From 1933-1936 she attended the College of Domestic Science in Edinburgh. For the next 38 years she worked as a Home Economics teacher, chiefly at the Sacred Heart Grammar School in Fenham, Newcastle. In 1974 she entered the Society at Woldingham as a Postulant. She was employed giving cookery classes at Woldingham School (1974-1975), then as College Warden with the Barat community at Roehampton 1975-1982, during which time she took her First Vows (1976) and made her Profession (1979). After a year as warden in the students’ hostel in Oxford, Betty worked as Caterer at Duchesne House and for other Society communities (1983-1985). She then was sent back to Fenham to serve as House and parish apostolate at Cedar Road and Blyth. She retired to Duchesne House in 1994.
Image: Betty Fishwick RSCJ
Born in Penarth near Cardiff, Josephine was christened Alice Theresa Josephine but was always called Josephine or simply Jo.
Jo and an elder sister started school at the Ursuline school in Wimbledon, then were boarders at the Assumption convent in Kensington Square.
In 1928, Josephine went to a school in Valladolid, run by the Society of the Sacred Heart, who wanted an English speaker to help improve the English of their Spanish pupils. Because of political turmoil in Spain at that time, the RSCJ sent Jo back to England in April/May 1931. After returning to England Jo began nursing training, but she returned to Spain in 1934 to teach English in Bilbao. She came back to England in 1936 at the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War.
Jo became a Postulant at Stanbrook Abbey in September in 1936 but left six months later. She entered the Society in January 1938 at Roehampton. She made her First Vows at Roehampton in 1940 and made her final Profession at Mount Anville in February 1946.
Duringthe years of the Second World War Josephine taught at Albrighton and Tunbridge Wells. A former pupil recollects ‘I remember she had a great love of nature. I can still see a crested newt on the back of her hand as she showed it to us. She taught us about water boatmen and sticklebacks and set up an aquarium for the frogs and newts we caught. I seem to remember being introduced to a slow worm which she produced from her pocket.’
In 1949Josephine went to Hammersmith and taught there for 15 years, with particular responsibility for drama and literature. A former student at Hammersmith describes her as ‘a great and memorable teacher who cut a dramatic and engaging figure’.
In 1966Jo went to Spain and Portugal where she taught English in Society schools, returning to England in 1976 at Cosham where she was very involved in the parish of St Colman’s ecumenical contacts as well as adult literacy. She also taught children with special needs. In 1997 she moved to Duchesne, where she enjoyed the community life and the opportunities it gave for art, tai chi and other activities. She had a good singing voice and was known for her repertoire of ditties. She was also always present in the Chapel; her prayer time was sacrosanct.
Image: Jo Heywood RSCJ's 90th birthday, with her sister Judith, 2004
Judith was born in Wimbledon in 1920. The youngest daughter of Francis and Monica Heywood, she made her First Communion on the Feast of the Sacred Heart in 1926 and, aged four, joined her sisters at the Convent of the Assumption in Kensington and then later continued her studies at the Convent of the Assumption in Ramsgate. After leaving school she had a year’s experience nursing at St John and St Elizabeth Hospital, then worked for two years in a small village inn. During the Second World War she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, where she was a driver. After the war she worked in the GreatNorthern Hotel in King’s Cross as a clerical assistant. In 1948 she entered the Society at Woldingham.
Judith’s practical gifts were put to good use in a variety of services in administrative roles, chiefly as bursar. As the bigger houses and communities were changing and new opportunities were opening up, Judith helped in all the practical ways that she did so well. She was bursar at Hammersmith, West Hill, Phillimore Gardens, Oxford and Durham. She also lived in Malta as college bursar where she was well respected and remembered as ‘fulfilling her role with generosity and care’.
At a time of changes Judith adapted and was able to explore and link her practical skills with community service. She worked with Fr Kenneth McCabe in Fulham with a small group of boys in need of care. She moved to Duchesne in 1987 where she helped with maintenance and driving. After a sabbatical year in 1990 Judith began visiting men in Wandsworth Prison. She joined the New House community as bursar, driver and general helper until she retired in 2002, aged 82 years. She joined Duchesne Community in 2003. Judith was well thought of and loved by the staff at Duchesne House, who found her kind, thoughtful and affectionate.
Image: Judith Heywood RSCJ
Prudence Mary Graham Wilson was born in Wellington, India on the 8th November 1921. She went to school at the Sacred Heart Convent in Hove (1935-1939). Before she entered the Society she served as a Clerk in MI5 and as a VAD in three hospitals. She entered at Roehampton (evacuated to Stanford Hall) on 31 May 1943. She made her Profession in July of 1951. Between the years 1953 and 1967 she taught religious instruction and held posts including Mistress General and Mistress of Studies at Tunbridge Wells. A former student, the time, the writer and broadcaster Libby Purves, remembers Prue’s charismatic presence at this time (in her book ‘Holy Smoke’, published 1998) as ‘learned, compelling and characterized by an ‘‘eccentric brio’’ and ‘‘certain gawky gung-ho enthusiasm’’ which spread its way down the school’. Prue then served as Mistress General at Woldingham School (1967-1971). After this she was Superior and then Principal at the Society teacher-training college at Fenham. From 1977 to 1983 she was Provincial Superior.
She went on retreat to Brecon for four months in 1983. In her Circular, compiled by Sue Acheson RSCJ in 2013, it states that while reflecting back over her life during this sabbatical, Prue in her book My Father Took Me to the Circus used the circus as ‘a metaphor that served to illustrate her understanding of religious life … At a time when there was still much post Vatican II soul-searching on the significance and future, if any, of apostolic religious life now that the outward signs of habit and of monastic structures had been abandoned by most orders, Prue found inspiration in Henri Nouwen’s description of religious life as ‘‘clowns in the circus of life’’ – those who are ‘‘always knocked down but never knocked out’’.
The years 1986-1991 saw Prue working as a lecturer in Eldoret, Kenya and then Kampala, Uganda. She returned in October 1991 and was engaged in an active apostolic retirement at Blythe Road (1992-1994), active retirement at Oxford (1994-2003) and then spent the last eight years of her life living in community at Duchesne House.
Image: Prue Wilson RSCJ
Moira Russell was born in London. She entered the Society in 1951 at Woldingham, and took her First Vows in 1954. She gained a BA in Mathematics from Oxford and trained as a Montessori teacher. Her first employments included teaching Maths and being Mistress of Discipline at Woldingham (1954-1958). She was Professed as an RSCJ in 1959. She served as Librarian in the Society’s student hostel in Oxford (1959-1962), then taught Maths and religious studies at Tunbridge Wells. In 1965 she worked at St Julian’s in Malta for a year, returning to be Mistress General of the Junior House at Woldingham 1966-1968. For the next five years she was Mistress General and Superior of the Bridge community in Tunbridge Wells; for a year after that she worked as a teacher at the Sacred Heart school there. From 1974 until 1990 she taught and then was Headmistress (1978-1990) at Hammersmith. She moved to Duchesne House in 1991.
Image: Moira Russell RSCJ
Liz Smith was born in Bromley and received her secondary education at The Royal Commercial Travellers School, Hatch End, Pinner (1941-1950). She was baptised a Catholic in February, 1952, aged 20. She attended St Mary’s College, Fenham, gaining her teaching Certificate in 1958. She entered the Society at Woldingham in 1963, taking her First Vows in 1966. She read History at the University of Newcastle from 1969, gaining a First in 1971. She made her Profession in 1972. For the next five years she worked as a Lecturer at Society colleges in Malta and Fenham. From 1977 to 1989 she was a member of the Provincial Team, including a period as Provincial Superior (1983-1989). After a year’s sabbatical and further study, she worked as the Sacred Heart Schools Network Coordinator(1992-1995). Between 1992 and 1994 she also took a course on the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius and the Art of Spiritual Direction. She worked as coordinator of retreats at Llanerchwen, Brecon from 1995 til 2000, then served for three years on the Provincial Council. She enjoyed an active retirement at Blythe Road (2004-2008), after which she moved into the community at Duchesne House.
Image: Elizabeth Smith RSCJ
Born in Brighton, Margaret was educated at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Hove 1946-1949, then attended Brighton Technical College (1949-1954) and Cavendish Square College to gain her PGCE degree. She entered the Society in 1955, taking her First Vows in 1958. Among her employments over the next six years, Margaret taught History, religious instruction and Latin at the Sacred Heart schools at Woldingham and Hammersmith. She was Professed in 1964; after this she went back to teaching at Hammersmith for the next three years, followed by a further two years at Woldingham. In 1970 she was sent to Uganda, where she taught for the next seven years. She returned to Hammersmith for a year, then undertook a year of study in the United States. She returned to be Mistress of Novices and a member of the Provincial Team, first based in Oxford (1979-1981) and then Hammersmith (1981-1983). Between 1981 and 1990 she undertook ecumenical work with Society communities in Oxford and London. In 1991 she began studying gerontology, which she continued for the next three years. Her active retirement began in 1994, followed by a period of solitude at Brecon before joining the community at Hayes in 1997. In 1999 she moved to Duchesne House.
Image: Margaret Adam RSCJ
An alumna of the Sacred Heart school at Woldingham, the journalist Caroline Wyatt was born in a suburb of Sydney Australia; her father was Anglo-Irish and her mother Polish. Before the age of two she was adopted by a British diplomat and his wife. She is quoted as saying that languages have played a major role in her life: her adoptive mother spoke Swiss German; Caroline studied French at Woldingham School and then went on to study German at Southampton University; after this she received a post-graduate diploma in print journalism from City University, London. She joined the BBC as a news and current affairs trainee in 1991. Based in Germany from 1993 to 2000, she reported from Baghdad during the American bombing campaign in Iraq, and from Kosovo and Albania during the conflict in the Balkans. She covered the US invasion of Afghanistan (2001-2002) and the Iraq War (2003). She was also the BBC’s Moscow correspondent (2000-2003) and then their main reporter in Paris. In 2007 she became the BBC defence correspondent. In total she reported for the BBC for over 25 years, latterly serving as religious affairs correspondent (until 2016), when she revealed that she had been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Caroline continues to work as a presenter on BBC Radio 4.
Image: Caroline Wyatt