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New series looks at religious life in Diocese of East Anglia

In a new series about the Religious Congregations living and working in the Diocese of East Anglia, Fr Karol Porczak MS, Vicar for the Religious, introduces two communities in Peterborough – the Working Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth and the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette.

Working Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth (SOSCN)

Working Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth (SOSCN) – in Italian is Suore Operaie di Santa Casa di Nazaret.

“As Working Sisters of the Holy House of Nazareth, we are called to evangelize the world of work through work-sharing, pastoral care and service to workers” (from The Rule of Life).

The Congregation was founded in 1900 by Fr Arcangelo Tadini (1846-1912), an Italian priest of the diocese of Brescia. On April 26, 2009, he was proclaimed a saint by Pope Benedict XVI. At the foundation of his Congregation is the joyful awareness of belonging to Christ and of being called to manifest a particular aspect of His life, namely: Jesus the worker in Nazareth. The sisters live the continuation of the contemporary incarnation of the “Carpenter’s Son’s” life, as most of them are normal employees in factories and other public institutions.

The sisters choose to live in working-class neighbourhoods in small communities. They are present in the various bodies of social and physical employment, deal with internal and external migration and accompany young people on their journey of maturation and work experience. They also support parish pastoral work.

Today, they are about 200 sisters, who mostly live in communities of 3-4 members, in Italy, Switzerland, England, France, Burundi, Rwanda, Congo Mali and Brazil. The Congregation has only one General Government assisted by three Delegations: Europe, the Great Lakes States (USA) and Brazil.

They have been present in Peterborough since the 1960s, when they began co-working with the Congregation of the Scalabrini Fathers who took care of the Italian Mission.

Today, four Italian sisters participate in the liturgical and pastoral life of all three Catholic parishes in the city. They take special care of the families of Italian origin who have remained connected to their all-Italian community.

One sister follows the initiatives of the Jesus Youth movement, which is active at the national level. The community organises monthly meetings of prayer and reflection on social issues open to all, and they take special care of relations with colleagues, families and workers in general, even outside of their working hours.

The Congregation of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette (MS)

This Congregation came to life after the miraculous apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at La Salette village in the French Alps on September 19, 1846.

A Beautiful Lady gave a singular Message to Melanie Calvat (15) and Maximin Giraud (11) which She had told them in tears. Part of the Message was: “How long have I suffered for you! If my Son is not to abandon you, I am obliged to entreat him without ceasing. But you take no heed of that.” The Message also included two secrets, given to both children separately, and has never been any part of the legacy given to the Congregation of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette.

The event has drawn the attention of multitudes of people who have climbed to the altitude of 6,000 feet, in order to reach the scene of the apparition. In 1951, the Bishop of Grenoble, Philibert de Bruillard, took action in recognising the apparition as true and trustworthy, and requested members of his clergy to assist with the pastoral care of the sheer numbers of pilgrims visiting the place of the apparition. In 1958, Bishop Ginoulhiac accepted the religious vows of six priests from Grenoble diocese for the new Congregation dedicated to the Reconciliation in the spirit of the Message of La Salette.

The French revolution forced the religious orders of France to move abroad. One of the destinations for the La Salettes was North America, where two missionaries started their work in Hartford, Connecticut in 1892. There, vocations for four large Provinces quickly developed. Soon, England became the missionary area, and as a result of that in 1927, the La Salettes from America were welcomed by Bishop Arthur Doubleday of Brentwood. Two of them started work in East London parishes in Dagenham and Rainham serving the Catholic workers of the new Ford Motor Company.

In 1991, due to a decline of vocations in the Americans Provinces, it was agreed that the Polish Province would take over the mission in England.

Today, eight Polish Missionaries are in charge of four parishes in Brentwood Diocese and since 2014 three more missionaries work at the parish of St Peter and All Souls in Peterborough.

The Congregation of the Missionaries of Our Lady of La Salette in the world now reaches over 900 members in eleven Provinces on all continents, the General House being in Rome.

Pictured above, from left to right: Sr Erica Perini, Sr Raffaella Falco (Superior), Sr Marialaura Gatti, Sr Giulia Bertarelli.

Pictured below, from left to right: Fr Waldemar Smialek MS, Fr Adam Sowa MS (Superior) and Fr Karol Porczak MS, VR.