SURPRISED BY JOY!
A History of the Community of Servants of the Cross 1882-2004 ]
Just over a year ago, Sister Jane of the Cross decided to set down this record, 'for those who care for our Community and for those who care about dedicated lives in every walk of life'. Not everyone has the talent, and determination, to write for publication at the age of 81, but Sister Jane has both, in full measure. The book is small in size but great in content. Bishop Eric Kemp calls it 'an admirable and encouraging story'. He has known the Community, as their Visitor, since 1974, until his retirement in 2001. He writes, '(They) have shown great courage in the way they have adapted themselves to the changes forced upon them by circumstances, (and) the Community has given long years of faithful service to the Church'.
Their Home was founded at Fulham, London, where Sisters of St. Mary the Virgin, Wantage were already looking after girls 'at risk'. The Community was founded 'in order to give working girls a life of Reparation and Service'. Its active work was caring for the sick and infirm. In 1895 the Community moved to Worthing, West Sussex, where they also ran a convalescent home for children. When Worthing began to expand, and a noisy night-club opened next door, 'we decided to move elsewhere! ' The book is packed with such wry little comments, pleasant happenings and moments of laughter, interspersed with the Sisters' unshakeable commitment to serve God however He seemed to require it.
From Worthing they moved to Findon, where the spacious Holy Rood Convent (as all their Convents were called) and Home were erected, to accommodate some 60 female patients, mostly terminal cases, and the Community. After 30 years numbers dwindled, with Sisters dying, others ageing, and no young Novices coming in.
So in 1960 it was decided to move to smaller quarters at Lindfield, West Sussex. One especially happy event there was the Community's Centenary Celebration on 20 February, 1982. An Ecumenical Eucharist was held for friends and other Religious Communities in the Chapel. 'One of the most notable changes during the past hundred years', writes Sister Jane, 'has been that in the ecumenical climate. Fifty years ago (such a Service) would have been unthinkable Thanks be to God indeed!'
Eventually seven Sisters went to join Mother Angela at Marriott House retirement home in Chichester, and two Sisters were at St. Peter's Convent, Woking. Mother Angela and Sister Jane, the only Servants left, are now preparing to leave Marriott House and live at St. Katherine's St. Mary's retirement nursing home, at Wantage. Sister Jane's 82nd birthday is in May, and it seemed fitting to publish the book on 20 May, Ascension Day: one of the most joyous Feasts on the Christian Calendar.
SURPRISED BY JOY! (Soft cover, £7.50) is published by SMH Books, Pear Tree Cottage, Watersfield, Pulborough, West Sussex RH20 1NG, to whom orders should be sent. Please add £1 toward, p&p, and make cheques payable to SMH Saer. All net proceeds go to the Trustees ,for the Communty.