Elizabeth Prout, an extraordinary life

From UK Daily Mail Online Edition
Monday 28th July 2008
Will Manchester’s own Mother Teresa become Britain’s next saint?

By SIMON CALDWELL

A nun who worked with the poor in Manchester’s 19th century slums is being put forward as Britain’s next saint.

Sister Elizabeth Prout, who has been called a Victorian Mother Teresa, would be the first female British saint for almost 40 years.

The unexplained recoveries of two terminally-ill people after their families prayed to Sister Elizabeth are being investigated as possible miracles.

The path to sainthood: 19th century nun Elizabeth Prout

A candidate for sainthood must have at least two approved miracles attributed to them before they can be canonised.

Sister Elizabeth was renowned for her work with poor mill workers and refugees from the Irish potato famine, which saw her branded a ‘revolutionary’ in her own lifetime.

A 14-year inquiry into her life of ‘heroic virtue’ is sending its findings to the Vatican, and it could result in the Pope declaring her ‘Saint Elizabeth of Manchester’ in as little as five years.

A Roman Catholic convert, Sister Elizabeth opened nine schools in England’s industrial North West.

She also set up an order of nuns – the Sisters of the Cross and Passion, or Passionist sisters – who helped women escape poverty by training them in the skills necessary to make a living on their own.

The order now has more than 600 nuns in more than ten countries including Argentina, Peru and Chile, where the sisters are known for their work with the poor.

The possible miracles attributed to Sister Elizabeth involve the unexplained recoveries of two people in Chile – a man suffering from cancer and a woman with a brain injury from a fractured skull.

They are said to have recovered after their families prayed to Sister Elizabeth.

Sister Anne Cunningham, the Manchester-based superior general of the Passionist sisters, will fly to Chile next month to interview them and their doctors.

Catholic leaders in Chile will then set up tribunals to gather evidence for the Vatican, which will carry out its own inquiry to see if she warrants beatification and canonisation.

The process could make Sister Elizabeth the first British woman saint since Pope Paul VI canonised the Reformation-era martyrs St Margaret Clitherow, St Anne Line and St Margaret Ward in 1970 – and the first British saint since Pope Paul canonised the Scottish Jesuit St John Ogilvie in 1976.

Born in Shrewsbury in 1821, Elizabeth Prout became a nun in her 20s. Soon afterwards she began working in the desperate poverty of the slums.

She died of tuberculosis in St Helens, near Liverpool, in 1864 at the age of 43.

Tomorrow a Mass at her graveside in the town formally concludes the inquiry into her life.

Passionist Sister Dominic Savio Hamer, who helped prepare the documents for Sister Elizabeth’s cause, said she was a woman of ‘great integrity and great honesty’ who taught her followers to combine a life of prayer with social action.

‘She was totally selfless,’ said Sister Dominic. ‘She gave herself completely to God. She constantly searched for the will of God and she endured such hardships to carry out the will of God.’

Sisters in Sainthood

The last British women made saints by the Roman Catholic Church were all martyrs of the Reformation.

St Margaret Clitherow was crushed to death in 1586 in York for harbouring a priest in her home. A sharp rock was put under her spine, and a door loaded with rocks placed on top. She took 15 minutes to die.

St Margaret Ward was hanged in 1588 after she helped a priest escape from prison.

St Anne Line was hanged at Tyburn, London, in 1601 for harbouring a Jesuit priest in her home.

Other Britons being put forward for sainthood as well as Sister Elizabeth include Venerable Mary Potter, the London-born founder of an order of nursing nuns in the 19th century, and Venerable Margaret Sinclair, a 20th century Scottish nun who died of tuberculosis after tending to the poor in Edinburgh’s slums.

Victorian Cardinal John Henry Newman and aristocrat Father Ignatius Spencer are also being considered.

Read more about Elizabeth Prout, C.P.  here  and here

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One Response to “Elizabeth Prout, an extraordinary life”

  1. Michael Moran, C.P. Says:

    Saw icon I painted of Mother Mary Prout on your blog after a priest in Rhode Island, USA called me about getting a print of it. Where did you get the image? Passionist sisters in Memphis TN have the original and I didn’t know that the image was on the internet.

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