Religion their own support. Trained sisters receive allowances necessary for their requirements. The time-table at Bowron House shows how carefullv the studies are planned and arranged. The training comprises biblical and theological teaching, a course of medical instruction, general reading, and practical Christian work. Two afternoons a week are devoted by those in training to district mission work and evangelistic work. The students study the Bibl Christian doctrine, and the preparation of addresses under three tutors, and also have a course in elocution. They are required to pass the St. John's Ambulance examination in first aid to the wounded and in nursing. The sisters attend Dr. Campbell Morgan's Bible school lectures, and receive very special inspiration in their work from the series of conversations on thodist history or some kindred topic by the lady superintendent.
The- Work Done by the Sisters
At the close of their training the sisters are set apart for their work, and are expected to accept any post of duty to which they may be appointed. They retain their connection with the institute, and all future changes are under the control of the committee. The sisters only serve the churches connected with the United Methodist Church. Their work is divided into two main branches - visiting and general church work, which is done by the sisters when stationed at a church for a considerable time; and special mission work, which is done by deaconess evangelists, who itinerate during the winter. The yearly reports show the abundant activities of the deaconesses in district visiting, work amongst children, the organisation of classes for youths and girls, mothers' gatherings, temperance work, and Gospel meetings.
It is a special feature of the institute that it recognises the fitness of women for the pulpit. To-day, when women on all sides are becoming prominent as public speakers and no audience seems too large for a woman to address, it is fitting that some should use their gifts in the Christian ministry. The institute has sent forth many talented women able to preach the Gospel with fervour and power.
A remarkable tribute to their power was given at a recent ordination service at Sheffield, when three young ministers received into connection with the United Methodist Church publicly stated that they had been led to religious decision through the evangelistic services of the deaconesses.
One woman in a district set herself against the visits of the sister. "She hated Methodists," and neither she nor her husband believed in religion. However, her little boy was taken ill, and the visits of the sister became more welcome. The husband came in during her visit one day, and said that he and his wife would like to make her a little present; and, after a thoughtful pause, he somewhat startled the sister by asking if she would accept a razor if he made one specially for her. It appeared that the man was a razor-maker by trade. The sister knew how to value the kind thought at the back of the incongruous present, and received the razor with a proper show of appreciation.
The names of the deaconesses who have passed through Bowron House have become household words in many poor districts of our towns and cities. I may specially mention the name of Sister Sarah, who did such splendid work in Bury, Lancashire. A gentleman of the district was so much impressed by her unselfish deeds that in memory of her noble life he left the sum of 200 for the good of the poor of the town.
The Order of the Little Sisters of the Assumption was founded in Paris in 1864 by the Rev. Father Etienne Pernet, of the Augustinian Fathers of the Assumption. Father Pernet's work as a priest brought him into close contact with the lives of the working classes. He was particularly struck with the desolation and distress which fell on the poor home when the member who was responsible for the housekeeping fell ill.
Neither alms nor charitable institutions reached the misery. He felt that its alleviation must be the work of kindly sympathetic women, and of women alone. Hence the germ of the idea of the Nursing Sisters of the Poor.
A tentative experiment was made with a couple of nurses, but the real work did not really develop until after Father Pernet met a Mademoiselle Fage, a woman of great
Religion piety and charity, who was in charge of a Dominican orphanage. He recognised in her the energy and the self-abnegation needed for the stupendous task of founding a religious order. Mdlle. Fage became the mother foundress of the Little Sisters of the Assumption, and took the name of Mother Mary of Jesus.
Father Pernet died in 1899 at the mother house of the order in the Rue Violet, Paris. In the course of thirty-five years the little community of two sisters, with which he had started the order, had spread to Belgium, England, Ireland, and America. Moreover, the order had become canonical by Papal decree, and Cardinal Vanutelli had become its cardinal protector. Rarely have founders of religious communities lived to see their work in so secure and advanced a state as was that of Father Pernet at his death.
A rigid spirit of poverty is the distinguishing characteristic of the Little Sisters of the Assumption. The rule of their foundation forbids them to receive any payment for their work; neither must they give their services to any who can afford to pay them. The poor, and the poor alone, must be their patients. The sisters go into the most wretched hovels; they may be seen passing through the slums and the dark places of London at all times of the day. In the home where the mother lies ill they take on her duties; they do all the menial work, prepare the children for school, and cook the husband's meals. In addition they act as skilled nurses to the invalid, sitting by her bedside all through the night if necessary. By their rules the sisters can take no food, not even a cup of tea, in the patient's house, nor can they, when night comes on, accept any greater comfort than that afforded by a chair.
All must be given, nothing taken; and so strict is this condition that the offer of a little present as a souvenir will be refused. The order is strictly non-sectarian in its mission. The religion of the applicant for the sisters' service is never inquired into. There are no lay sisters in the community, all take a share in all the necessary work of cleaning and cooking. In addition to this equality of sisterhood, each community has the privilege from Rome of accepting postulants without a dowry. In most orders a special permission is necessary for the admission of penniless girls. Of course, if a dowry is forthcoming it is not refused - it goes to the common funds of the house. The Little Sisters of the Assumption, in their organisation, follow the rule of St. Augustine, with special additions appropriate to the special circumstances of the order. Their day is divided into three portions - eight hours for work, eight hours for spiritual exercises, which include the Office of Our Lady, and eight hours for rest and refreshment. The life is not one of great austerity, but it demands absolute renunciation of self.
In addition to the actual service rendered to the poor during times of stress and illness, the Little Sisters of the Assumption aim at raising the general moral tone of family life by keeping in touch with their patients afterwards. For this purpose they have confraternities for men and women, which meet once a month, for homely lectures and chats.
The first branch of the order in England was established in 1880. There are now three houses of the sisters in London - at 14, Wellington Road, Bow; 6, Earl Street, Westminster; and 133, Lancaster Road, Notting Hill. There is also one at Norwich.
The rule of the community which exacts that all meals and rest be taken at the convent makes it impossible for the sisters to go beyond a certain radius; but each house has more demands for services than it can supply. Cardinal Vaughan, who was particularly enthusiastic about the work of the nursing sisters, said he wished they had twenty houses instead of one in Westminster. The motto of the order is "Thy Kingdom Come."