Brief History

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Our Beginnings


The Congregation of the Servants of Mary London/Cuve took its first steps in Religious life at a small village in France called Cuves. A school for poor girls was opened by Marie Guyot and two companions. On June 10th 1845 our first three sisters received the religious habit. The name of this tiny new congregation was the Sisters of Calvary, consecrated to Our Lady of Sorrows. The Rule which they followed was based on the Rule of the Servites, probably that of the Tertiaries.

The numbers in the community increased as did the number of girls in the school. Owing to difficulties concerning the activities and reputation of the priest who had been closely associated with the foundation at Cuves it was suggested that the sisters amalgamate with another group of sisters. This they did not wish to do. By this time Marie Guyot had died at the age of 28. In order to do missionary work the sisters decided to go to England to learn English which was a prerequisite for that work.

The first two sisters departed in spring 1851, four more in November and the remainder in summer 1852. They arrived with letters of recommendation to the Oratorians in London and soon with advice changed the name of the Congregation to Sisters of the Compassion of Our Lady. For the next ten years the Sisters worked in the Oratory Parish in London. They taught in schools, ran an orphanage and did much parish visiting and instruction of converts.

When in 1861 Sister Philomena Morel was elected superior there was a need to re-establish unity within the congregation and the necessity of taking measures to assist the sisters to recapture the spirit which the Congregation had known in Cuves. To do this she withdrew the novices and young professed from the active apostolate to complete their formation and strengthened the spirit of prayer within the Community. This meant reviewing the apostolate and deciding which works could best be given up. Once again it was questioned whether the Congregation could survive or have to amalgamate with another group. The sisters were very clear on the fact that they were “Servites” and wished to remain true to the inspiration and spirit of Marie Guyot and the early community at Cuves.

In 1864 Mother Philomena Morel and another sister were to go to Rome with the intention of saving the integrity of the Congregation and putting it on a safe and Servite footing. With much assistance and the canonical expertise of the Servite Friars, the petition for the Sisters of the Compassion to be recognised as “ Religious “ and “ Mantellate “ was presented to Pope Pius IV. Against all odds this was granted and the Sisters became the first “apostolic “Servite Sisters. Once again the name of the Congregation was changed and they became the Mantellate of the Third Order of the Servants of Mary. At that time 24 sisters made perpetual vows as Servite Sisters.

The Sisters were invited to share their charism throughout the world. We have to date had missions in Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Congo, Guatemala, Jamaica, Peru, Scotland, Swaziland and the United States.