Tyburn Sisters' communities spread around the world

Tyburn Sisters' communities spread around the world

Tess Livingstone

Miracles can take the form of unexplained healings or extraordinary events, but they also come in small boxes as the Benedictine Adorers of the Sacred Heart (Tyburn) nuns have discovered in Rome.

The small black boxes - nine of them - were brought to the door of the Order's new Roman monastery 'Madonna dell'Eucharistia'' in Via Cardinal Bofondi just off the Via Aurelia near St Peter's on 2 February this year, the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord.

Just a few weeks old at that stage, the Tyburn Sisters' Roman Convent came about as a result of a promise made to the late Pope John Paul II by Mother Mary Xavier McMonagle, the order's Mother General. At the start of the Year of the Holy Eucharist (2004- 2005) the sisters promised to found a monastery near the heart of Rome, which would have perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, because so many churches in the city are closed during the day or are only open as museums.

As Mother Xavier explained, after many long and fruitless months of searching, a suitable property became available 'quite suddenly and unexpectedly'' not far from St Peter's Basilica. The first Mass was celebrated for the Sisters on the last Friday before the end of the Year of the Eucharist in October 2005.

John Paul II

In January this year, two Sisters from the Tyburn Priory in Sydney, Mother Lucy and Mother Columba, arrived in Rome to join the new community, and in a rare visit outside the monastery, accompanied Mother Xavier to pray at the tomb of John Paul II beneath St Peter's Basilica. Mother Xavier asked the late Holy Father to intercede with Our Lord to grant two special favours for the Congregation, one of which remains private. The other, however, was one she is happy to talk about.

'As the Holy Father had died before we were able to establish our Roman monastery which was our special Eucharistic gift to him and to the Church in the Year of the Eucharist which he had solemnly proclaimed, would he now, in a very special and personal Eucharistic way, give us a clear sign that he had accepted and would bless our humble Eucharistic offering of this foundation, and that he would continue blessing us all, everywhere our monastic family is present by the way he could answer my prayer.'

Confident that John Paul would respond to her prayer, but unsure of when and how, Mother Xavier recalls being filled with 'an extraordinary buoyant kind of peace and confidence.'

A few days later, on 2 February 2006, the Feast Day of the Presentation of Our Lord in the Temple, a man arrived at the Monastery door carrying a series of small boxes, each containing a well-used chalice bearing the Papal Coat-of-Arms of John Paul II.

With the extraordinary gift came a letter from a Vatican Monsignor who had been close to the late Holy Father: 'Together with all the Religious of your beloved monastic family, you have decided to offer to the Vicar of Christ the supreme gift of a Monastery, very close to the See of Peter, and where the Sacred Heart will be constantly adored in Its Eucharistic Presence,' the letter said.

'It has now been pleased, in the name of His Holiness, to offer a chalice to each of your Monasteries, in gratitude. The prophetic words of your revered Foundress, Mother Marie de Saint-Pierre, have been fulfilled: a House of her Daughters in the Eternal City is now a reality, thanks to the Giver of all good, to your Benefactors, to your Benedictine Nuns who have come to the Heart of Christianity.

'These chalices all bear the Papal Coat-of-Arms of our present Holy Father's predecessor, the Servant of God Pope John Paul II.'

Understandably, Mother Xavier and her sisters admit they were overcome and awestruck by the unexpected gift. 'In fact, it was so extraordinary that I am tempted to ask if it could form part of the testimonies to miracles wrought by Pope John Paul II.'

Tyburn Convent was established on London's Bayswater Road in 1903 by Frenchwoman Marie Adele Garnier (Mother Marie de Saint-Pierre) on the site where 105 Catholic martyrs - including Saints Oliver Plunkett and Edmund Campion - died for the faith during and following the English Reformation from 1535 to 1681 at the notorious Tyburn tree.

It was there, in 1585, that Father Gregory Dunne, about to be executed for the 'crime' of saying Mass told the crowds around the scaffold: 'The day will come when a religious house stands on this site'.

Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued night and day ever since the convent was established. Pilgrims and tourists from all over the world, including Australia, visit the shrine, finding a spiritual oasis in the midst of one of central London's busiest areas. While the nuns are an enclosed order, they welcome visitors warmly. Donations, which can also be made through the Order's website, assist with the Order's work.

While some religious orders are facing extinction, the Tyburn community is growing steadily across the world, with other monasteries in Scotland; Cobh in Ireland; Auckland, New Zealand; Riverstone, Australia; and in Peru, Ecuador and Colombia, each maintaining Perpetual Adoration.

Now, each has a very special chalice that arrived as a gift, a divine answer to the Mother General's prayer. Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson could not fail to be impressed - 'More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.'

Tess Livingstone is Cardinal George Pell's biographer and a Brisbane journalist.

See www.tyburnconvent.org.uk

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