SISTER MARY GARSON, foundress of the Order of Our Lady of Grace and Compassion, has just moved her community, and all the aged residents under her care, from St. Mary's Dower at Hassocks, near Brighton, to a Gothic-style castle near Heathfield in East Sussex.
It is not a visionary castle in Spain or in the air, arid only a pedant would claim that, in strict terminology, it is not a castle at all. To you and me, who know a castle when 'se sec one, it cannot adequately be described in any other way.
Formerly it a as enown as the Mansion of Possingeorth. and for a time it was occupied by the Augustintans of the Assumption, who found it too large for their needs. Ti
as built in l864 by Mr, Louis Huth, an Austrian banker and art collector. Now, and for ever after, it will be Holy Cross Priory.
The estate or manor of Possingworth, on which the priory stands.. has a rich historical background, dating frorn 12131. In 1306 it was held by the Priory of Lewes, which assigned it to the Abbey of Robertsbridge in consideration of an annual payment of 10d. and a rental of 51-el.
At the Dissolueon, Henry VIII granted it to Sir William Sydney. and it has paused from hand to hand through the centuries. It covers 13 acres of lovely pastoral ground, outside the village of Cross-inHand. The old people living there have a magnificent vice of the green and gold a valid and miheg Miens of Sussev.
There are five pickets., and the
leans are wide and verdant, The interior is impressive, with two large chapels, one with a glass root', 41 bedrooms, and 10 bathrooms. The domestic quarters are on the same capacious scale.
It was bought for £26,500. borrowed from the bank. Catholics interested in social work will be familiar with the providential way by which Sister Mary received the money for her first home in 1954.
She was alone then and a comparative stranger, and she had set herself the enormous problem of doing something to alleviate the misery and unhappiness she had encountered in the course of her work. The odds against her were frightening, but nothing could daunt this quiet-speaking lithe Scotswoman.
With cheerful optimism she had already surveyed the ground for her first foundation and found the ideal place, St. Mary's House — now two houses joined together—to accommodate 35 residents.
St. Mary's House has earned a reputation in its own right. It is a favourite stopping-place for priests on vocation. or pursuing their studies in England. Many conic from the Commonwealth countries. and on sonic mornings there are as many as four Masses said—all served by Mr. Louis Reid, a Papal Knight.
Much of St. Mary's success is due to Miss Irene Bloor, a young woman of many talents; and she needs them all to do her job. Some very old people can be as difficult as fractious children and as tern. peremental as opera singers. hut alas Bloor is equal to all crnea gentles.
Hassocks was the first long sten.
Now, despite it, size, it has become too small for the increasing growth of the community; and more and more old folk are seeking a home where they can be taken care of and spend the end of their days in peace and comfort. For the last six months Sister Mary has been sleeping in her office.
The priory will be the sixth of Sister Mary's Sussex foundations, and another at Lynton in Devon is next on the list, Some of the houses are run by lay people and others by the Sisters.
Their upkeep is another problem. Where does the money come from? All the well-tried methods are used —bazaars, raffles, appeals and so on. Once the homes are under way, residents' pensions and a contribution from the welfare department just about cover expenses.
The big money is another item. All the houses are mortgaged and all financial deals are arranged by chanty trusts consisting of four of the Sisters, with Canon Callanan, Fr. Walter Smith, their ecclesiastical superior (a bank official before he became a priest), and Prof. F. Sewell Bray, a Knight of St. Gregory.
They have a vast task before them, a total debt of 04,000 including mortgage for alt the homes. The Sisters of the Order of Our Lady of Grace and Compassion and their supporters will pray earnestly that Cod will provide.
There will be an official opening of Holy Cross Priory soon, and all the flags will be out to herald the great occasion. If Sister Mary Gerson is asked. "How did you do it?" she will probably answer: "All t ir foundd t ions a re bui Ii on 1 doh-.