by Arthur Waine
PRECISELY 20 years ago, in 1958, Sister Mary Garson formed an Order known as the community of Grace and Cornpassion.
In this short time the work of the order has developed so that today at its Head House, Holy Cross Priory, Heathfield, Sussex, not only is there a home for the elderly of both sexes but also a modern, well-equipped nursing unit.
The order also runs several residential homes and sheltered self-contained flats in other parts of the country. This is no mean achievement in such a short-time. But this is only part of the story.
In 1975, three sisters from the Holy Cross Priory left England and established a home in Tiruvanaamalai, South India (The name means "The Sacred Hill''
of these was Sister Elizabeth Fearon, and I had the privilege of meeting her recently while she was in England to attend the order's General Chapter. Sister Elizabeth is a Jamaican who made her profession at the Priory in Heathfield some years ago.
The Home of Grace and Compassion in Tiruvanaamalai has made tremendous progress since it was established three years ago. It provides care for the aged of either sex, of any creed or caste; and for good measure, five children in need of care have been adopted.
The home has its own dispensary which is used by the general public. An average of 45,000 patients are treated there each year. Altogether there are at present four professed sisters, four postulants and two novices there.
The postulants and novices are Indian, and one of the former, Sister Assunta, is at present at • Sister Fearon Heathfield and will make her profession at the end of November. She is accompanied on this visit to England by two novices, one of whom is her sister.
To cope with the steady flow of patients at the dispensary, two doctors are regularly employed and one of the sisters is a trained nurse.
Sister Elizabeth told me that the local population was mostly Hindu, but very co-operative. This had not always been the case, however, and efforts to build a church in Tiruvanaamalai in the past were always frustrated.
French priests stationed there had tried to build a church, but each day's work was secretly pulled down at night. Fortunately the situation has changed no doubt due to the influence and work of the sisters. The present parish priest, a Salesian Father, has nearly completed building a church which is expected to be ready by next month.
The Home of Grace and Compassion at Tiruvanaamalai is extending its premises, and the building of a labour and maternity unit, as well as extensions to the public dispensary, are already well in hand.
It is a sad fact that works of mercy and compassion such as those described above require money to support them. However, Sister Elizabeth is optimistic that soon their work will be financially self-supporting.