Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson: from witnesses in Devon

From the booklet Appreciations of Teresa Helena Higginson, Schoolteacher and Mystic, by Brian Honner.

Passing on now to Teresa's final year we move south to the Torbay area in Devon.  Lord Clifford, you will recall, had advertised for a teacher for the Catholic children on his estate of Ugbrooke, and she had answered the call.  The schoolhouse was about a mile from the house (where there was Sunday mass in the chapel) and a similar distance from the village of Chudleigh, the nearest town Teignmouth, being a few miles distant.  She came unknown, a frail, dowdily dressed little woman, some stranger from the North.  No doubt Canon Snow had communicated with Lord Clifford and his chaplain to give a good reference, and perhaps mention her delicate health, but would have hardly gone beyond that.  The school and adjacent schoolhouse were isolated and Catholics few and scattered, so that apart from the children she did not meet many people.  Yet four individuals from this final year bear testimony to her sanctity.

Ugbrooke house

First may be cited Fr. H. J. Dowsett, chaplain to Lord Clifford, and a man described by Abbot Vonier as being without frills or decorations in his religion.  Teresa's nurse (Sr. Mary Francis of Assisi in later years) writes:

"When I arrived at the church several people were waiting for confession.  I asked Fr. Dowsett if he would kindly give me Holy Communion before mass as I felt uneasy at leaving my patient so long alone.  He asked the name of my patient.  When I told him him replied 'My dear child, do not have any scruple about leaving her, for Miss Higginson is a saint'"  (From the Last Days of Teresa Helena Higginson, by a Poor Clare Colettine, pg. 8).

Extraordinary form mass in Ugbrooke chapel

Next there is a Fr. Dawson who met Teresa when there was a school outing to Teignmouth.  Then as a 'locum' for Fr. Dowsett during the latter's absence from Ugbrooke he got to know her well through visits to the schoolhouse.  He sought her advice on various matters, and according to Sr. Mary Francis she foretold things concerning him which later proved true.  So impressed was he by Teresa that after her death he made a report to his bishop and travelled around seeking information, thus becoming a pioneer of her cause.  In the presbytery of Stonehouse, Aberdeenshire, he called on Agnes Donnelly.  This was in 1905 or 1906 and at the end of his visit he said, 'I have had the honour of being present at the deathbed of a saint.' (from Agnes Donnelly's memoir).

Miss Emily Ewing is another who saw holiness in Teresa.  She was a nurse friend of Miss Casey and visited Teresa once or twice during her last days and writes:

"On standing in Teresa's room one felt one was on holy ground.  I shall never forget her and her sanctity; she seemed to radiate happiness; there seemed to be a radiance around her as she was in bed." (from a letter to me of 23rd August 1957).

No comments:

Post a comment