An active element of joy

The most blessed thing is to be an active element of joy. Joy brings God himself near. ~ Janet Erskine Stuart

In May I commemorated the centenary of Mabel Digby's death. Today marks 100 years from the election of her successor as Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart - Janet Erskine Stuart. She was an intelligent, gifted, sensitive woman and a great educator, whose influence has extended beyond the Society, largely thanks to her prodigious writing on education and spirituality, as well as poems and letters.

She was the first Superior General to travel around the world, visiting all our communities, meeting all RSCJ, students, pupils and co-workers, leaving a joyous remembrance of herself in every place she visited. Sadly, within a short time, remembrance was all we had: she was already ill when she had to flee the German invasion of Belgium; despite treatment her health worsened and she died in Roehampton in October 1914, only three years and two months after her election.

You can read a short biography here, and more about the election here.

When I entered, almost 80 years after her death, I met a few people who had actually known her; such as a sister, almost 100 years old, who had been a child at school in Roehampton when Janet was still superior there. As a novice I met a sister in Spain who remembered playing the part of an angel in a play put on for Janet's visit to her school - this sister is still alive, aged well over 100, and is undoubtedly our last living link.

Over the next three years we will be celebrating Janet's life, and, especially, her legacy. I will do my little bit by periodically posting my favourite extracts from her poetry and prose. In the meantime, here is a slideshow of a pilgrimage members of our province made last summer to Cottesmore in Rutland, Janet's birthplace and home until she was twenty-one.