CHOLERA CAME THE SISTERS
IN every age it has been the special prerogative of women to console, sympathise with and bring healing to the suffering in mind and body on the precedent so long established by Veronica and the Holy Women in the Gospel.
According to the need of succeeding generations so have the opportunities for the expression of this charity varied, but in no age has this need been more felt than in the years following the French Revolution.
On all sides in Europe, spiritual and material miseries multiplied in the wake of total war and its attendant horrors. But this was God's hour, and His aid was measured by the depth of man's need. One after another, new religious congregations of men and women came into being, their founders fired by the urge to assuage the sufferings evident all around them.
Among these was a congregation of religious women known as the Daughters of the Cross, founded in Liege in 1833 by a woman of remarkable vision, Jeanne Haze. A born teacher herself, her first and dearest interest lay in the field of education, but her sympathies were too wide to be narrowed into one channel. From the outset she had said: "If ever I found a congregation. I will have sisters to care for the sick:" This desire was not long in fulfilment, for in the first year of her congregation's existence a terrible epidemic of cholera broke out in the town of Liege. Quickly she mobilised her forces to answer the appeal of the civil authorities, and from then until the turn of the century her sisters began that nursing care of the sick poor in their homes, now the more special field of labour of other religious congregations.
Before the Crimea
HER first regular hospital in Belgium was of an extraordinary nature—the annexe to the ghastly House of Vagrancy at Rcckheim and the Prison for Women in the town of Liege itself.
A new era was soon established in these notorious places, and the repute of the new nursing sisters spread abroad. In 1844 another hospital was established at Stavelot, and in 1848, after a further devastating epidemic of cholera and typhoid, a new nursing centre was set up. at Chende for the surrounding localities.
Two years before Florence Nightingale led her little band to the Crimea, we have this indefatigable foundress busily engaged in establishing her first hospital training school at Dusseldorf in the Prussian Rhineland, and coping effectively with the local authorities of those days on the question of official nursing training.
Dusseldorf was followed by two smaller hospitals, at Xanten in 1855 and Werden in 1857. Malmedy was the next scene of her labours. In the next two decades the work expanded steadily, till in 1876, worn out, Jeanne Haze went to her reward. But the seed planted was destined under God to grow and flourish. From Belgium and Germany the congregation extended its nursing work to England, the mission fields of India and the Belgian Congo.
BESIDES the general hospitals, it soon became evident that special establishments were needed for those chronic or incurably ill people who, needing long periods in hospital, were likely to he refused admission by the general hospitals.
Epilepsy, tuberculosis, mental deficiency, the chronic ailments of old age—these were the next needs to be met.
In 1883 at Dusseldorf-Unterrath was founded the first epileptic colony in the care of the Daughters of the Cross. Similar foundations followed in various parts of the world from Calcutta to Much Hadham in Hertfordshire.
Today, close on 1.000 epileptics are cared for in these colonies. Sanatoria to cope with the special needs of the tubercular patients were founded later. Small beginnings in Cornwall and Kent led the way to larger foundations at Haslemere in Surrey in 1919, Brois de Breux in the Liege province in 1922, Genck in Flanders in 1924 and Rome in 1932.
Homes for the aged sick and mentally defective children followed closely upon the establishment of the general hospitals.
With the development of medical science and the special needs of the mission fields, maternity work has also developed. In Pakistan and Bombay two maternity hospitals are among the most recent foundations, and nearer home a special hospital school for children suffering from rheutnatic diseases of the heart was begun in 1952 at Cabinteely in Co. Dublin.
Hospital in Surrey
N England. for half a century now, 1St. Anthony's Hospital at North Cheam in Surrey has been the centre of the nursing work of the Daughters of the Cross. It began in a small way in September, 1904, as a general hospital for 50 beds. Today the hospital has grown to four times its original size, and in 1934 it became a Staterecognised training school for nurses.
Every year, just over 2,000 patients pass through its wards, and outpatients number nearly 2,500.
Its daughter hospital at St. Michael's, Hayle, Cornwall, is a recognised training school for Part I of the State examination. At Haslemere in Surrey stands a most beautiful sanatorium for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. Here, annually, on an average, 200 women patients from Greater London and the Southern Counties are nursed back to health. Both these are associated for training purposes with St. Anthony's.
DODILY sickness, especially of a "'serious nature, is among the most dreaded of the many evils to which man is heir. It strips him of his defences, isolates and terrifies him, for often it is fraught with unknown possibilities.
In these circumstances the loving nursing care of women leading dedicated lives robs sickness of more than half its terrors. Pain is alleviated, resignation comes more easily, security and even a cheerful gaiety break through. for with the entrance into the ward or sickroom of the nursing sister comes something of the presence and Divine sympathy of One to Whom many sick were brought that He might lay His hands upon them and cure them.
All who have experienced the sympathetic attention of the nursing Sisters of the Daughters of the Cross in St. Anthony's will know what this means.
This year will see the golden jubilee of the good work begun in such a small way in 1904. May it continue to flourish as part of the wonderful work carried on in the Church by the various congregations of nursing sisters.