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Deaconesses in Europe and their Lessons for Americ

There are now sixteen deaconesses


The

institution was founded in 1841 by Rev. Antoine Vermeil, a distinguished minister of the Reformed Church, aided by a devout and worthy minister of the Lutheran Church, Rev. Louis Valette. It has grown up under the joint and harmonious patronage of these two State Churches.

A later deaconess home, entirely devoted to training and employing parish deaconesses, was started in 1874, under the sole control of the Lutheran Church. Some pastors secured the co-operation of a few young Christian women to consecrate a portion of their strength and time to the service of the Church. From this beginning sprang the work that exists to-day. The home is located in the Rue de Bridaine. There are now sixteen deaconesses, six of whom are probationers. Five of them are located in different parishes in Paris, usually at a long distance from the central house. Each goes forth early in the morning to her parish, where is a room of some kind serving as a center to the work. Materials used in nursing and medicines are stored here, and there is an office for the physician, who comes at stated periods to give free consultation. From the district house the deaconess goes in all directions and in all weather to look up families which have fallen away from the Church, to gather in children for the Sunday-school, to visit the sick, and to collect garments and money from the rich in order to distribute them among the poor. Such are some of their duties. Each sister is under

the direction of a pastor, and is aided by his advice, while still remaining a member of the community to which she belongs.

In both of the deaconess houses of Paris, as in the German houses, a special service sets apart those sisters who have passed their period of probation, and have been received into full connection. As one of the deaconess reports beautifully says: "When Christ calls the soul to a special vocation he gives it special grace, and those who consecrate themselves to him he consecrates to their task by the strength of his Spirit. So in conformity with the usages of the primitive Church we give consecration to our sisters by the laying on of hands. The consecration is not a sacramental act, conferring a particular character, greater sanctity, or special powers; neither is it simply a ceremony or pious formality. It is a real and efficacious benediction, which the Saviour accords to our sisters to consecrate them to their holy work, as he accorded it to the deacons who received the imposition of the apostles' hands."

The good that can be accomplished by deaconesses working together with ministers in behalf of the manifold interests of the Church is incalculable. The most faithful pastor can make only short and unsatisfactory visits. Many sorrows which he overlooks the deaconess can discern and assuage. She knows best how to reach the heart of a sorrowing woman, to care for her needs, to discern her wants, and to bring solace to the sorrowing and succor to the needy. Deaconesses who have been specially trained for service cannot be spared now that the world has learned to know of them. For "charity cannot take the place of experience, nor good-will replace knowledge;" and trained Christian service is the highest of all service.


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