Communion of saints

The saints are not those people who have arrived at the end, but those who have seen what the beginning is really about. They are not a strange group of people different from ourselves; they are who we could be, who we should be...

Stephen Wang

Two hundred and thirteen years ago today Sophie Barat, a few weeks short of her 21st birthday, made her first vows along with a small group of other young women. We know their names and a few bare facts, but little else about them. Whilst Sophie's life has been recorded and pored over in great detail, theirs have not. They are our forebears in the Society, and yet - as with so many of our great-great-great grandmothers - though we share their DNA and owe them so much, they remain largely unknown, shadowy figures.

The last two centuries have given us thousands more who make up the RSCJ communion of saints. Some we know well because their stories have been recorded and handed down: the superiors and pioneers, the mystics and those who founded and led institutions, or otherwise made their mark on people and the Society. Others live on in the memories of those who knew them: Sister Warren of the Woldingham kitchen; Mother Frances and Mother Shepherd, novice mistresses to so many, and a great many others, known to me only through anecdotes and reminiscences. But many more lived, served, loved and died in relative anonymity, remembered only in archives, inscriptions or lists of dead sisters. They form the bulk of our communion of saints, the Cor Unum we share with all those who have gone before us. They are not a strange group different from ourselves... no, they are part of us, of the institutions they helped to build up, part of our history and our heritage.

Today, our 213th birthday, we remember especially those very first pioneering women: but it's an excellent opportunity to remember with gratitude the thousands of women since then who have been part of the life of the Society; and to give thanks especially for all those whose lives given in love are now known only to God.


  1. Do you, as a society, keep obituaries of those who have passed on? It can be a lovely way of reading about the lives of the saints that went before us. I love to read little stories about the lives of past relatives, writers, actors, saints, etc. I love the idea of Sister Warren of the Woldingham kitchen!

  2. Yes, we do keep obituaries, written by a sister (usually someone who knew her well/had lived with her/been taught by her etc) These are kept in the archives, and copies sent to all communities - alas, here in Oxford we have a stack, but not including Sr Warren.

    Sr Warren ran the kitchen at Woldingham, where the noviciate was for many years, and had a succession of novices working under her. She was brisk and matter-of-fact, but also very kind to novices having a tough time. She probably saved quite a few vocations!


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