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  • The Life of Frances Taylor

The Life of Frances Taylor

Stoke Rochford Church -
Birthplace of Frances Taylor

Frances Taylor officially founded the religious order the Poor Servants of the Mother of God in 1872. Her spirit and values form the thread which runs through all the work undertaken by the Congregation.

Frances Margaret Taylor was born on 20th January 1832 in Stoke Rochford, in Lincolnshire. Her father was an Anglican clergyman and Frances was the youngest of ten children. Her happy country childhood came to an end in 1842 when her father died and the family had to move to London. The poverty and the squalor of nineteenth century London came as a shock to her and her compassion moved her to work with the poor.

Frances Taylor as a Lady Volunteer in the Crimea

In 1854 she went to the Crimea with Florence Nightingale's Lady Volunteer Nurses. The plight of the wounded soldiers, the faith of the young Irish men and the dedication of the Irish Sisters of Mercy inspired her to become a Catholic. She was received into the Catholic Church on 14th April 1855. 
On her return to London she continued to work with the poor and also began writing. Her desire to work for and with the poor, led her to found her own Congregation in 1869. Frances took the name Mother Magdalen and together with three companions began the work of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God. They responded to the needs of the time working with the most vulnerable, especially women and children, and recognising and valuing the dignity and worth of each person.

Mother Magdalen

Mother Magdalen died on 9th June 1900.

Today, the Congregation of the Poor Servants of the Mother of God carries out work begun by Frances Taylor in social, pastoral, health care, education and outreach work in the UK, Ireland, North America, Venezuela, Kenya and Italy.

During the past century the work has changed and the Sisters have responded to the new situations which have arisen but it is still carried out in the same spirit and according to the same values espoused by Frances Taylor.

Historical Outline of the Congregation, 1868-1900

Oct 1868: Establishment by Frances Taylor of a congregation at Fleet St, London to minister to the urban poor. [partly inspired by the Polish order, Little Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.] Closed Jan 1869.

Jan 1869: Moved to Tower Hill to assist the Oblate Fathers of Mary Immaculate with an industrial school for girls. Feb took a house in Chamber St. Had an industrial day school, night school, soup kitchen and visitation of the poor. Closed Jun 1870.

Sep 24 1869: Fr. James Clare S.J., rector of the church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm St, accepted 3 postulants, official foundation of the congregation.

Nov 1869: Cottage taken in Robert St, Grosvener Sq. for novitiate training (from Mar 1870 at 17 Robert St). May 1870 began laundry work. Closed Jun 1870.

Jan 1870: Novitiate began: Sr. Mary Magdalen (the foundress), Sr. Mary Colette (Frances McCarthy), Sr. Mary Elizabeth (Bathia Deverill) and Sr. Mary Joseph (Anne Cooling).

Jun 1870: Community first acquire a house in Thomas St., moved to Cavendish Sq., to continue laundry work more effectively. Closed 1873.

Mar 1871: House opened in Roehampton, opposite St Joseph’s church, for laundry work. Closed Jul 1871.

Aug 1871: Roehampton house re-located to Putney Heath. Closed Mar 1872

c.Dec 1871: Formal links with the Polish order severed, following the death of M. Edmund Bojanowski, its founder, in Aug 1871.

Feb 1872: Official founding date of the congregation, 12 February 1872. Foundress took final vows. Could be addressed as ‘Mother’. By this year, 25 Sisters in the congregation.

Apr 1872: House opened at Beaumont College Lodge, Windsor, for laundry work, schooling and mission work to the poor. Closed Jan 1882.

Nov 1872: House taken in Mount Street, Grosvenor Square, for novitiate. Closed 1880.

Jan 1874: Fr. Augustus Dignam S.J. appointed spiritual director of the congregation.

Feb 1874: First Irish house in Clongowes Wood College, Co. Kildare, to carry out laundry work. Closed Sep 1880.

Sep 1874: House opened at Limerick, to carry out schooling. Closed early 1876.

Apr 1875: House opened at Margate, Kent to carry out sacristy work, schooling (small private school and school for the poor) and mission work. Closed c. Apr 1878.

Jun 1875: Convent of St Aloysius opened at Carrigtwohill, Co. Cork, to carry out schooling and parish work, Later included sacristy work, visitation of the sick, supervision of sodalities, teaching in the National School.

Oct 1875: Convent of Our Lady of Pity, Princes Row, Soho opened as a mission to the poor, later (1885) also refuge work. Closed by the Metropolitan Board of Works, Nov 1879. Moved (1881) to 3 Green Court, Little Pulteney St. Later moved (1886) to 4 Percy St, and (1898) 31 Soho Sq. Amalgamated post-1900 with Streatham Refuge, hostel transferred to Gordon Square.

Mar 1876: St. Mary’s Convent, High St, Roehampton opened for the novitiate, laundry work (from Oct 1877), and (from 1882) orphanage. May 1878, new chapel opened. Convent rebuilt c.1884 and c.1902.

Sep 2 1877: First General Chapter of the Congregation held at Roehampton.

c.Jun 1879: Three sisters establish foundation in Dartmouth. Sr. M. Camillus died there Jul 1879, when foundation cease.

Jul 18 1879: Constitutions, Rules and Customs of the order, written by Fr Dignam, received the Lauda from Pope Leo XIII.

Oct 1879: Agreement signed for the house in Cork. Works, schooling and feeding of the poor, lady boarders. Closed 1883.

Aug 1880: House opened at The Butts, Brentford. Purchased 1893. Laundry and parish work, later Orphanage and Preservation Home for girls (1894), schooling, and home for the handicapped, elderly and disabled Sisters. Novitiate house 1880-87.

Dec 1881: Convent of Our Lady of Lourdes opened at Monkstown, Co. Cork, for schooling and visitation of the poor. Work transferred to Carrigtwohill, 1884.

Feb 1882: House opened in George St., St Helens, Lancashire to carry out mission work with the poor, laundry work, school work and nursing. From 1884, night school for men. Second house in George St., Jan - May 1884. Closed 1982.

Oct 1883: Sisters begin working in the infirmary of St. Veronica’s orphanage, North Hyde, Mdx at the request of the archbishop of Westminster. Withdrew 1888.

Nov 1883: House opened in Hardshaw Hall in St Helens as the ‘Providence Free Hospital’. Officially opened by Cardinal Manning Sep 1884.. Building extended 1888. Closed Jun 1982.

Jan 1885: Death of Lady Georgiana Fullerton, friend and advisor to the foundress and the most important benefactor to the congregation.

Jan 1886: House opened in via S. Sebastiano, Rome, to carry out laundry work, schooling and mission work with the poor. Gifted to the congregation by Mr A G Fullerton.

Jan 1887: Opening of the church of St George and the English martyrs, built in Rome to serve the congregation by Mr A G Fullerton as a memorial to his wife, Lady Georgiana Fullerton.

May 1888: Opening of St Mary’s Convent, Russell House, Streatham for parish work. Refuge opened Jul 1888. Various improvements to accommodation, 1895.

Aug 1888: Congregation became administrators of St Joseph’s Asylum for aged women, Portland Row, Dublin. New wing built 1889. Closed Jan 1993.

Oct 1890: House opened in Boulevard Berthier, Paris, as an orphanage, school and mission to English working women and students. Closed Sep 1997.

May 1891: Refuge for women opened at Limekiln Lane, Liverpool. St. Saviour’s refuge, Paul St., Bevington Bush, opened Dec 1892, laundry work carried out; Limekiln Lane retained as night shelter. Re-opened as Lourdes Hospital, c. Mar 1929. Sold to Classic Hospitals Jul 2006.

May 1 1892: Official Approbation of the Constitutions and Institute received from Rome.

1894: Foundation at Hoxton, London, work with the poor. Closed 1895.

Mar 25 1894: Silver Jubilee of the Congregation.

Sep 1894: Death of Fr Dignam.

Sep 1894: Foundation made in Buckhurst Hill, Woodford, Essex, for schooling and visitation of the poor. Removed to Woodford Green, 1895. Closed 1896.

c.Oct 1897: House opened at Rhyl, North Wales, as convalescent home and laundry. Closed c.1899.

Sep 1898: House opened in Selkirk, Scotland, as convalescent home, laundry, and for visitation of the poor. Closed c.Oct 1901

Sep 18 1899: General Chapter, [first official Chapter].

Dec 1899: The Congregation became administrators of the Rathdown Union workhouse, Loughlinstown Co. Dublin. Closed Dec 1991.

Jun 9 1900: Death of the foundress.

Jul 1900: Final approbation of the Constitutions received from Rome.