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Deaconess community’s ministry during the First World War

01 August 2014


From the Revd Sister Teresa Joan White CSA

Sir, - When I read "a critical ministry in the parishes" and "curates volunteer" ("Conflict on the home front", Features, 25 July),I expected comment on the further opening up of ministry to women.

When researching for "(Dss) Community of St Andrew: 1861-2011", I found:

First, in October 1914, 50 wounded Belgian soldiers were received by our Sisters into their convalescent home at Westgate, which had become an Auxiliary Hospital. The Sisters did the nursing. After reversion to being a civilian home for the summer, from autumn 1915, four Sisters and local volunteers ran it as a 40-bed military hospital.

Second, Sisters were visiting soldiers who were patients in St Mary's Hospital, Praed Street, London.

Third, various Sisters were involved in the preparations in their diverse parishes for that great "mission" effort the National Callto Repentance and Hope, withwar hymns, Honour Rolls, aLitany of Remembrance, and war prayers.

Fourth, this National Call led to the Sisters' suggesting that the messengers and workers might find their chapel a place for a retreat or prayer, and wish to stay for a few days in St Andrew's House.

Deaconesses as early as the late 19th century had worked with military families at Wellington Barracks, London (from 1886), and the Royal Naval Depot, Chatham (from 1895). No doubt this would have occurred in many more places during the Great War.

The drafting in of deaconesses and Sisters in many parishes to cover some of the duties (e.g., parochial visiting) for which curates were no longer available was one of the factors that led to the Archbishop's Committee's report The Ministry of Women, 1919.


St Andrew's House

16 Tavistock Crescent

London W11 1AP

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