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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

Meanwhile the deaconesses went about unmolested


evening, emissaries of the Commune

entered the house, revolvers in hand. Armed men were posted at all the entrances. The deaconesses were summoned to one of the parlors, and held prisoners until three o'clock the following morning. Meanwhile an investigation took place among the girls in the penitentiary, as they would be the most likely of any of the inmates of the house to have complaints. The officers of the Commune interrogated them closely. Their answers were favorable beyond all expectation. "Are you happy here?" "Oh, yes, very happy." "What have you done deserving punishment?" "Nothing that we need talk to you about." "How are you punished here?" "The sisters don't punish us; they advise us what to do, and warn us." "Now," said the chief to one, "just tell me quietly, no one else need hear; if you are not contented I will take you away with me." "What a coward you are," she answered, quite scornfully. Not one of them thought of escaping. All this time the prison wagon had been waiting in the street, and would have been filled with deaconesses had the slightest cause of complaint been found; but it went away empty. Later the sisters had occasion to go to the head-quarters of the Commune in their ward, and they met with polite consideration. This is not the only experience of the troubled political life of the great city that the deaconesses have had. The Faubourg St. Antoine has been noted ever since the time of the Fronde as being the haunt of all that is turbulent and revolutionary. In February 1848, a
great barricade was thrown across the Rue de Reuilly, men, women, and children hurrying with bricks and stones to help in building it. Then came the moment of storm and attack, and forty-two men lay dead in the street. Some of the wounded were received by the sisters, crowded as they were with the children whom the mothers had brought for safety. Meanwhile the deaconesses went about unmolested, bought food and medicine, hunted friends and relatives for the sick, and through all that period of excitement and strife kept up their ministrations of mercy.

There is no distinct home for women who are left alone and desire Christian surroundings, as is the case in several German institutions, but about sixty such ladies are received as boarders in the Paris home. Frequently also the hospitality of the house is enjoyed by young girls who come to Paris alone to earn a livelihood, or who have to stop here for some hours on their way to another place; a great advantage for inexperienced young women, unversed in the ways of a city, who find themselves alone in the great world for the first time.

The preparatory school for deaconesses is on the first floor, below the rooms of the sisters. For two years the candidates are under the instruction of superior sisters. They are received into the house gratuitously, and accept its regulations while they remain. They have to pass through all practical duties of house-work, and care of the sick and children. They also pursue practical and theoretical courses in hygiene, and receive lessons in singing and pedagogics. The chaplains of the institution give them courses of religious instruction, and lectures on Church history. Some (the larger number) need very elementary lessons; others come with a good education. Each is directed according to her education and experience. In fact, all classes are represented among the deaconesses; servants, teachers, ladies, and shepherdesses. They come from different parts of France, but in larger numbers from the South.


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