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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

After the deaconess home was established


Deaconesses

are constantly in demand to go out in the city as nurses in private families. Such requests often meet with refusals, because sisters cannot be spared for such duties. Their work is limited by the smallness of their numbers. The last report gives sixty deaconesses attached to the Home on the Rue de Reuilly.

The work is upon sterile soil as compared to Germany. The Protestants of France are in a small minority, surrounded by an overwhelming majority of Catholics; while in the beginning of the work some influential members of the Protestant faith, having an inadequate comprehension of the good in the movement, and a misconception of its plans, exerted a powerful influence that for awhile told adversely to the cause. The home has now passed beyond the stage when it can be affected by adverse criticisms; and it to-day not only has the approbation of Christians, but also of those who regard it solely from the point of view of philanthropy.[51]

There are but two parish deaconesses who are at work in Belleville and Ste. Marie. The directors of the institution would be glad to increase the number, as they regard the work of the sisters under the direction of the city pastors as that which presents the widest opportunities for doing good, while it perpetuates those aspects of the deaconess work which most closely resemble those of the early Church. But Calvin's reply from Geneva to the Church of France is theirs. When

petitioned to send more pastors over the boundary into France he replied, "Send us wood and we will send you arrows." So the want of deaconesses is a continual hinderance to the furtherance of the cause, both in the city and the provinces.

The prisons for women in France are under the supervision of women, save the office of chief director, which is filled by a man. The great majority of the prisoners in France being Catholics, the number of Sisters of Charity is naturally much larger than the number of deaconesses employed. At the prison of Clermont four of the Paris deaconesses are kept constantly at work among the prisoners.

In connection with the old prison of St. Lazare, the women's prison of Paris, the deaconesses have a mission especially concerned with caring for discharged female convicts. As was the case at Kaiserswerth, this, in its initiation, is closely connected with the saintly life of Elizabeth Fry. When she came to Paris, in 1835, a drawing-room meeting was held at the residence of the Duchess de Broglie, in which she told of her efforts to effect a reform in prisons in England. None of the ladies of rank and wealth who heard her were stirred to greater effort than was demanded by the keen interest with which they listened to her words; but a quiet governess was present, Mademoiselle Dumas, and with her the seeds of truth fell into prepared ground. She determined to attempt for her own country a portion of the work Mrs. Fry had accomplished for England. Obtaining permission from the authorities to visit the prison of St. Lazare, she went daily to the prisoners shut up in the rooms of this great building, formerly the monastery of St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of the Sisters of Charity. After the deaconess home was established, some deaconesses were set apart to aid Mademoiselle Dumas in her work. All these years the mission has continued, not interrupted even during the dark days of the Commune. A committee of ladies aids in providing shelter and work for the prisoners when they are discharged. The great publishing house of Hachette & Co., although the head of the firm is a Catholic, provides employment in folding paper for books.


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