About our Foundress,
The Sisters of the Cross and Passion, as a branch of the larger Passionist family founded by St Paul of the Cross in the eighteenth century, traces its particular beginning to the historic border town of Shrewsbury, England (pictured at right). In this place Elizabeth Prout was born on September 2, 1820; she was baptized into the Church of England on September 17.
Her father, Edward, was a baptized, non-practicing Catholic. Her mother, Anne, was a devout Anglican. Edward worked as a cooper, a maker of brewery casks. Elizabeth would have attended Sunday School at the 12th century Benedictine monastery, subsequently immortalized in Ellis Peters' marvelous medieval whodunits, the Cadfael Chronicles.
We know that the brewery's closure when Elizabeth was 11 uprooted the family. But little else about Elizabeth's life is recorded until a number of years later. Sometime between 1843 and 1846, she became Catholic. By that time, the family was living in the vicinity of Aston Hall, where Italian Passionist Dominic Barberi (now Blessed Dominic) had established a mission.
John Henry Newman (right) was received into the Catholic Church in 1845 by Fr Dominic; it is likely that he also received Elizabeth. The news would have been, at best, difficult for her parents to hear. At that time, Catholicism was despised and vilified in England and Catholics were blamed for every kind of problem. Elizabeth's "yes" to God hurt and outraged her parents; they retaliated by disowning her and putting her out of their house.
Elizabeth turned for help to the Passionist priests she knew. Fr Gaudentius Rossi had joined Fr Dominic and following Fr Guadentius' mission to the Sisters of the Infant Jesus, Elizabeth entered their convent in Northampton. She about 28 years old. About six months later, she received their habit and the name Stanislaus, after the Jesuit boy-saint who had also braved his parents' opposition to follow his vocation.
Within a few short months, the convent sent her home because of a tubercular knee. A doctor felt the condition would make her an invalid for life. What a disappointment! But her peaceful resignation astonished Fr Gaudentius, who wondered what plans God might have for this fragile, yet fervent woman.
Her parents warmly welcomed her back to their home. Her mother, Anne, seemed to hope that this setback would occasion Elizabeth's return to the Anglican church. This did not happen and, eventually, this period of reconciliation between daughter and parents ended. At age 30, Elizabeth was once again out of the house.
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