The Congregation’s Patronal Feast day: Remembering Mary AikenheadPrint
The Feast of the Assumption – August 15 – is the patronal Feast day of the Sisters of Charity around the world. In Sydney, the occasion was marked by Mass and blessing of a bust of Mary Aikenhead at All Saints Catholic College in Liverpool. Congregational Leader, Sr Clare Nolan, and a number of the Sisters were in attendance at the event.
This is Sr Clare’s address to the gathering:
Today we celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven. A very significant day for all Sisters of Charity. This day in 1816, Mary under the title of Most Glorious Queen of Heaven, was chosen by Mary Aikenhead as the Patroness of the new Congregation founded August 22, 1815. This Feast of the Assumption became the Patronal Feast of the Sisters of Charity. What a glorious Feast to share with all of you and to be part of this blessing of your new statue commemorating our Foundress and her continued guiding presence on this campus.
Who is this woman we are honouring today? Mary was born on January 19th 1787 and at a very young age and despite her privileged upbringing she had a heart full of compassion for the poor of Ireland. That desire to help the poor, sick and suffering stayed with her and her dream and vision for a congregation of women who would devote their lives to giving to the poor what the rich could buy for money. And of course we all know the story now of Mary being driven by the love of Christ ( Caritas Christi Urget Nos) to serve the poor and needy of her time. Mary is often referred to as servant of the poor. She felt so passionately about this that all Sisters of Charity make a fourth vow of Service of the Poor. And many Sisters of Charity have served in this place and left their footprints on our hearts following that same dream. We celebrate them also today.
Mary was a woman of vision. She wanted a place where the sick poor could receive medical care and spiritual comfort. This required a lot of faith in the bank of Divine Providence and she was criticised greatly, but she moved ahead with faith and trust and from St Vincent’s Hospital Dublin opened in 1834 we have but to look around now and see her legacy growing, offering quality health care in many different ways both here and overseas. The same applied to providing education for the poor and needy and we have only to look around and see her legacy in places like All Saints this morning.
She was a woman of commitment and inspiration. She was fired with the love of Christ and the “more” of St Ignatius of Loyola. She did the majority of her great work for God from a sick bed. She was only 44 when her life became one of ill-health due to severe arthritis. This did not deter her as she continued to provide leadership to her new Congregation. Mary died on July 22nd1858 and her last recorded words were “If I die tomorrow do not tell the poor penitents until the day after as it would spoil their pleasure” Always a woman for others.
Today we celebrate Mary Aikenhead in the blessing of your beautiful statue. The spirit of Mary Aikenhead lives on in every healthcare, pastoral, educational ministry associated with the Sisters of Charity, and it lives on in every person who loves and promotes the charism of Mary; and it lives on in every Sister of Charity who has vowed her life to the service of God and God’s poor.
In conclusion a word from Mary Aikenhead on this great Feast: “May our glorious and ever blessed Queen and dear Mother obtain rich graces for us, and may she assist all our undertakings, direct our counsels, and guide us into the best path to promote the greater honour and glory of God. This is a glorious Feast and it is our patronal feast so let us pray for all we need.”
Blessings on the Statue of Mary Aikenhead. Blessings on you!
- Clare Nolan rsc
Sisters of Charity of Australia