06 Sep Our 140th Anniversary 1878-2018 Part Two
The foundation stones of the Chapel and the monastery were laid on 16th July 1877 and the building commenced. Back in Paris, while the material preparations were being made to ensure that the new house would be supplied with all Carmelite necessities, a deeper, spiritual preparation was taking place in the secret realm of souls. Slowly, it became apparent which sisters were to be part of the founding group, in addition to the two Englishwomen already mentioned. Their families were generous in accepting the sacrifice of a further separation and in providing for many of the needs of the new foundation. Among their gifts were sacred vessels still in use today.
After many delays, including a masons’ strike, the building was finally ready and 29th September 1878 was fixed upon for the opening ceremony. After Mass on the morning of the 27th, the departing sisters renewed their vows. Almost their last act before leaving their beloved monastery was to hang round the neck of the statue of Notre Dame des Champs in the Ante-Choir a little silver-gilt “heart” containing the names of those going to London, together with the words: Ave Maria, monstra te esse matrem (Hail Mary, show yourself a Mother). After Benediction in the late afternoon came the parting of the ways. A letter of the Prioress of the Rue d’ender gives some touching details of the actual departure.
“Our dear Sisters left us last evening at half past eight. A few seconds of farewell, tranquil but deeply felt, then the recitation of the Itinerarium (a prayer for travellers) altogether in choir, filled the last moments. We hoped to have a few minutes left to spend together in choir in the silence we love so much, but they called us sooner than they had said, and I had to go at once and find those who were going, each in her stall. They all came at once, poor little sisters, but it was not so easy to tear them away from the feet of Notre Dame des Champs, their last call before the enclosure door. There they knelt to hear the Obedience read, and then begged to be blessed and embraced many times, each one supposed to be the last …. Everything here is peaceful and going well…. at Recreation everyone made such efforts to be bright that it passed off well, but oh! how many empty stalls and cells!”