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PREFACE

TO

'A CHAPLET OF VERSES'

PUBLISHED FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PROVIDENCE ROW NIGHT
REFUGE FOR HOMELESS WOMEN AND CHILDREN, 1862.


    THERE is scarcely any charitable institution which should excite such universal, such unhesitating sympathy as a Night Refuge for the Homeless Poor.

    A shelter through the bleak winter nights, leave to rest in some poor shed instead of wandering through the pitiless streets, is a boon we could hardly deny to a starving dog.  And yet we have all known that in this country, in this town, many of our miserable fellow-creatures were pacing the streets through the long weary nights, without a roof to shelter them, without food to eat, with their poor rags soaked in rain, and only the bitter winds of Heaven for companions; women and children utterly forlorn and helpless, either wandering about all night, or crouching under a miserable archway, or, worst of all, seeking in death or sin the refuge denied them elsewhere.  It is a marvel that we could sleep in peace in our warm comfortable homes with this horror at our very door.

    But at last some efforts were made to efface this stain upon our country, public sympathy was appealed to, and a few 'Refuges' were opened, to shelter our homeless poor through the winter nights.

    In the Autumn of 1860 there was no Catholic Refuge in the kingdom; and excellent as were the Protestant Refuges, their resources were quite inadequate to meet the claims upon them.

    In this country, as we all know, the very poorest and most destitute are in many cases Catholics; and doubtless our Priests, to whom no form of sin or sorrow is strange, must see in a special manner, and in innumerable results, the sufferings, dangers, and temptations of the homeless.  The Rev.  Dr.  Gilbert therefore resolved to open a Catholic Night Refuge in his parish, and to his zealous charity and unwearied efforts are due the foundation and success of the PROVIDENCE ROW NIGHT REFUGE FOR HOMELESS WOMEN AND CHILDREN; the first Catholic Refuge in England or Ireland, and still the only one in England.

    The Sisters of Mercy had long been aiding their pastors in the schools of the parish, and when this new opening for their charity was suggested to them, they unhesitatingly accepted a task, worthy indeed of the holy name they bear.  They were seeking for some house more suitable for a Convent than the one they had hitherto occupied in Broad Street, and when Dr.  Gilbert saw the large stable at the back of 14 Finsbury Square, he felt that here was a suitable place for his long cherished plan of a Night Refuge.  It was separated from the house by a yard, and opened on a narrow street at the back, already called, with a happy appropriateness, Providence Row.  To Finsbury Square, therefore, the community removed, and it was not long before the stable was fitted up with wooden beds and benches, the few preparations were completed, and on the 7th of October, 1860, the Refuge was opened.  At first there were but fourteen beds, but contributions flowed in from Protestants as well as Catholics, and in February, 1861, thirty-one more beds were added, making in all forty-five.  But as many of the poor women have children with them, rarely less than sixty persons are each night admitted.  Up to the present time, fourteen thousand seven hundred and eighty-five nights' lodgings have been given, with the same number of suppers and breakfasts.

    From six to eight are the hours of admission; but this is indeed a needless rule, for a crowd of ragged women, with pale, weary children clinging to them, are patiently waiting long before the doors are opened, and the place is filled at once.

    Means for washing are given them, they rest themselves in warmth, light, and peace, and at eight o'clock each person receives half a pound of bread and a large basin of excellent gruel.  Night prayers are said by one of the Sisters, and then the poor wanderers lie down in their rude but clean and comfortable beds.  They have the same meal in the morning.

    Those who come on Saturday evening remain till Monday, receiving on Sunday, besides the usual breakfast and supper, an extra half-pound of bread, and a good supply of meat soup.  There is no distinction of creed; Protestants and Catholics are alike admitted.  There are but two conditions of admittance—that the applicants be homeless and of good character.  This is the only Refuge which makes character a condition; and it is found that, in spite of all precautions, much harm arises in the other Refuges to the young and innocent, from the bad language and evil example of the degraded class with whom they are brought in contact.

    Each evening (and on Sundays more fully) simple instructions on the Catechism are given by one of the Sisters; but this the Protestants do not attend; they frequently ask leave to be present, but it is not permitted (without the special permission of one of the clergy), as the instructions on the practice of our faith would be to them comparatively useless and unmeaning.  The temporary shelter and food which is given in Providence Row, is not the only, perhaps often not the greatest, benefit bestowed upon the poor forlorn inmates.  They find advice, sympathy, and help from the kind Sisters; and the very telling their troubles to one who is there to serve and tend them, not for any earthly reward, but from Christian love and pity, must be a rest to their weary hearts, a comfort in their sore want and distress.  It is touching to see their eager desire to be allowed to help the Sister in the cleaning, cooking, &c., and the half-ashamed thankfulness with which they watch her busied in their service.

    One of the Nuns sleeps every night in the refuge, and no unruly sound, no whisper of murmur or disrespect, ever rises against her gentle sway.  Nay, even more, when she has the sad task of selecting among the waiting crowd the number who may enter, choosing generally those with children and those who have not applied before, the rest submit without a murmur.  Though the little ones are hardly counted, but creep in by their mothers' sides, there are still many—sometimes thirty or forty nightly—turned away for want of space.  They have had a glimpse of warmth and light, and then it is the cruel office of the kind Nun to bar the door against them; but no angry word, no remonstrance, meets her sorrowful refusal; they turn once more to their weary wanderings in the dark bleak streets.  And so will many have to do, night after night, until the Refuge is enlarged.  The present space will hold no more beds, but to build an additional dormitory is the earnest desire and intention of Dr.  Gilbert.

    No salaries are received by any who have charge of the Refuge.  Among the many causes for gratitude we have to our good Religious, surely it is not one of the least that what we can spare in the cause of charity goes solely and directly to its object; the more difficult and more perfect share of the good work being taken by them out of love to God and His poor.

    The Refuge is open from the month of October to April.

    It is placed under the special patronage of our Blesséd Lady, and Blessed Benedict Labré.

    May the Mother who wandered homeless through inhospitable Bethlehem, and the Saint who was a beggar and an outcast upon the face of the earth, watch over this Refuge for the poor and desolate, and obtain from the charity of the faithful the aid which it so sorely needs.

    I may add, that donations for the Refuge will be thankfully received by the Rev. Dr. Gilbert, 22 Finsbury Circus, or by the Rev. Mother, at the Convent, 14 Finsbury Square, E.C.

    We all meditate long and often on the many kinds of sufferings borne for us by our Blessèd Redeemer; but perhaps if consider a moment, we shall most of us confess, that the one we think of least often, the one we compassionate least of all, is the only one of which He deigned to tell us Himself, and for which He Himself appealed to our pity in the Divine complaint, 'The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has not where to lay his head.'

A. A. P.

MAY, 1862.

_________________________

 

 
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS
1914.
 
INDEX OF TITLES

Annunciation, The, 286.
Appeal, An, 287.
Army Lord, The, 273.
Beggar, A, 335.
Birthday Gifts, 330.
Castle in the Air, A, 327.
Chaplet of Flowers, A, 282.
Christmas Carol, A, 303.
Christmas Flowers, 291.
Church in 1849, The, 299.
Confide et Conquiesco, 297.
Desire, A, 293.
Evening Chant, 302,
Fishers of Men, 299.
Homeless, 338.
Homeless Poor, The, 311.

Jubilee of 1850, The, 290.
Kyrie Eleison, 285.
Legend, A, 329.
Links with Heaven, 337.
Milly's Expiation, 316.
Ministering Angels, 305.
Names of our Lady, The, 280.
Old Year's Blessing, The, 300.
Ora pro Me, 298.
Our Daily Bread, 295.
Our Titles, 304.
Per Pacem ad Lucem, 328.
Sacred Heart, The, 277.
Shrines of Mary, The, 306.
Star of the Sea, The, 276.
Threefold, 296.

 



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