POOR SERVANTS OF THE MOTHER OF GOD

Blog January 2018

A Notable Addition to the Heritage Room

I am very pleased to report here that late last year we had a very attractive addition to the Brentford Heritage Room: a beautiful icon of St Mary Magdalene very kindly donated by Sr Mary Kenefick SMG, which is depicted here.

This icon was ‘written’ (as the painting of icons is traditionally described) during a retreat led by Amanda de Pulford at Minster Abbey, Kent, 16th-22nd July 2016. It fulfilled a long-held desire by Sr Mary to produce an icon, partly inspired by an icon of Our Lady produced by the late Sr Dympna Bermingham SMG. Those taking part were provided in advance with sketches of the saint to assist them in arriving at the form of the image.

Sr Mary has written:

‘We were in no way tied to the studio, in fact, we were urged to join in the prayer of the Sisters or go for a walk at any time to remain fresh and untroubled by time constraints. The rhythm of liturgical prayer and the enchanting summer weather will always remain with me as I journeyed with my icon.’

The symbolism of the egg held by St Mary Magdalene is derived from the traditions of the Eastern Orthodox Church. These include a story that the Magdelene visited the Roman Emperor Tiberius, presenting him with an egg, which miraculously turned red as a sign from God of the truth of Christ’s Resurrection. She also holds the pot of spices which she had brought to the tomb to anoint Christ’s body (Mark: 16.1).

A very interesting longer account by Sr Mary of the artistic process, and of the form and symbolism of the painting, will be made available in the room as a
hand-out.

The painting is also a reminder of the long history of artistic endeavour which goes right back to the founding charism of Mother Magdalen Taylor, and there are a number of SMG art works in the room. Amongst notable artists represented there are Sr Mary Clare Doyle, (1852-1880) of whom Mother Magdalen left a beautiful memoir; Sister Mary Tommaso (1881-1951) who executed the beautiful frescoes at St Mary’s Convent in Roehampton; and Sister Mary John Southworth (1904-2001), an experimental artist, who produced the beautiful embroidered banners in the room for ceremonies of reception and first vows. So Sr Mary stands in a very rich and varied living congregational tradition.

Also currently in the room on temporary display are a selection of library items received into the heritage collections, by purchase and donation. Included here are the recently published Children’s Homes: A History of Institutional Care for Britain’s Young by Peter Higginbotham; One Woman’s Journey: Mary Potter, Founder – Little Company of Mary by Elizabeth West (2000), donated by Sr Elizabeth Sheehan SMG; and The Changing Metropolis: Earliest Photographs of London, 1839-1879 by Gavin Stamp (1984). The latter book is particularly interesting in documenting the extraordinary transformation of the metropolis which took place in Mother Magdalen’s lifetime, the background to the works of many of the early Sisters. All of these items are available for loan.

If any one wishes to visit the Heritage rooms – or if they have any enquiries about the library collections – they should please contact the central archive via the details on the website.

Paul Shaw