Pioneer Franciscan Journalist
by Pauline J. Shaw
(Gracewing, 2009, 320pp, $43.95. ISBN: 978-0-85244-209-8. Available from Freedom Publishing)
This is an engrossing, thoroughly researched biography about a remarkable woman. Elizabeth Hayes was born and raised an Anglican, travelled through many countries and took up numerous occupations before (and after) her conversion to Catholicism to become Mother Mary Ignatius of Jesus, Founder of the Missionary Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
Mother Mary Ignatius was involved with the turbulent times in which she lived being active in the Oxford Movement, the romantic religious revival of the 19th century, missionary life in the West Indies, the Franco-Prussian War, the American westward expansion and the turbulent Rome of Pius IX.
She was inspired by St Francis of Assisi adapting his spirit to the needs of her age. Her ministry was that of the printed word, an apostol-ate of the press in the emerging era of mass newspapers, but prior to the advent of radio, cinema and television.
However, in all this movement and a very active apostolate she was a religious woman with a mission. In this regard, she founded the journal Our Lady of the Angels editing it as she moved through various parts of the United States, eventually doing so from Rome.
Mother Mary Ignatius was determined that the Catholic people should have reliable reading material, when so much of the media was secular, sensationalist, and variously anti-Catholic or anti-Christian.
There were of course solid theological journals in circulation but these were mostly too specialised or complex for the average Catholic reader. So she wrote convincing accounts of faith and devotion in plain, everyday language and in the process popularised Franciscan spirituality.
Mother Mary's Australian biographer, Dr Pauline J. Shaw (Sister Francine), has located her subject's work in the literary culture of the pre-World War I period, both secular and Christian, while identifying the contemporary journals that formed opin-ion in Europe and America.
Of course, Mother Mary was a woman of her times and some of the devotional articles and practices recommended may strike modern readers as overly sentimental, reflect-ing as they do the popular religious preoccupations of the period.
However, the point of this fine biography is to recall the ministry of Elizabeth Hayes, a valiant woman and an inspiration for our times.