19 Nov HOLY SOULS – Day 17
Sr Mary of the Assumption (The Hon. Helena Sylvia Duggan) was born in the Argentine on March 23rd 1904. She was the fourth child in a family of twelve where, as she used to recall with amusement, governesses seldom stayed very long. When she was eight years old the family returned to England and the education of the girls was entrusted to the Assumption nuns, first at Kensington Square and later, during the war years, at Ramsgate. Such was Helena’s admiration of her teachers that, when she became aware that God was calling her to religious life, it was the Congregation of the Assumption that she entered at the age of twenty-one. Three years later, however, with the full understanding and support of her superiors, she transferred to Carmel, having realised that that was where her true vocation lay. She entered Notting Hill in 1930, during the years when vocations were numerous and regular foundations were being made. Her exceptional qualities were soon recognised and, while still a young sister, she was appointed Novice Mistress, an office she held, except for the intervals when she was Prioress, until 1981. Her first Prioress, Mother Mary of Jesus, once remarked of her, “Sr Mary of the Assumption is a very faithful soul”, and she was firm and uncompromising in requiring this same fidelity of those she formed. She could be severe at times, but no one could fail to be struck by the justice of her judgement and her sense of proportion, which gave those in her care great confidence in her as a wise and valuable guide.
In 1983, following a stroke, a hip fracture and a severe heart attack, she became a complete invalid, confined to bed for nearly seven years. Patient and always grateful, serene and as dignified as ever, she became a very precious presence in the house and to care for her was a joy. She retained a great love for the Divine Office and, when her infirmarian recited it beside her, she was able to join in from memory until within a few weeks of her peaceful death on September 6th 1990.