NOW FROM THE windy ways of Omaha the scene changed to the hot and narrow streets of Cincinnati in mid-summer. Here Bethany Mission House was started on Freeman Avenue, an ordinary dwelling, 1711 by number, with its square of back yard which Eva industriously turned into a garden of sorts. Here Eva and Beatrice Henderson started their life together with such others as came as helpers. The work was to develop as they saw need to be fulfilled, and always there was the need of parish or mission helpers at St. Luke's, where Paul was beginning his ministry. Mrs. Henderson, the widow of Dr. Thomas Henderson, of Omaha, followed Beatrice into her new life, and with her came another daughter, Marian. They were both musicians and began at once to train the boy choir at St. Luke's. Miss Dixie Mitchell and Mrs. Nesbit were also among the first members of the household.
Mrs. Henderson, large minded and sympathetic, musical and humorous, showed great powers of adaptability. For many years a Presbyterian, she was yet able wholeheartedly to throw herself not only into her daughter's life but into the life of the whole household. "She came out," Eva averred, as a champion, "like an army with banners, for everything Churchly." She delighted in candles on the altar and knelt at the Incarnatus, she entered into all the exuberant young life about her and was "lots of fun." For eight years Mrs. Henderson lived with the Sisters and gave herself generously to the work with little children, calling herself slyly, "The Mother Inferior."
Eva and Beatrice began at once to live by rule, wearing a distinctive dress as postulants, the blue dress of serge and white linen cap, a long cape and hideously plain little blue bonnet for outside wear. The house began to take on a conventual look. One of the neighbors said:
"It's just like a convent here."
"In what way?" asked Eva, hoping that it did not look unhomelike or forbidding.
"Oh, it seems so clean and holy," answered the neighbor.
So there were those even in the "flat and arid spiritual soil of southern Ohio" in the '905 who could grasp the meaning of the infant community home and always, among the poor, there were many who understood and responded to that life of sacrifice and good will within their midst. The little chapel on the second floor with its altar of black walnut, the Jerusalem cross cut in a large panel in front, a Fra Angelico altar piece, a Raphael Madonna, and da Vinci Christ, and small Madonnas of de Fregga and Bouguereau while below stairs another da Vinci no doubt added to the holy atmosphere of the house. In the chapel the two postulants said their offices together daily, at first using only Dr. Pusey's little office book. The works were of many kinds and quite experimental:
"I went to the Flower Mission this morning," Eva wrote to her sister, "and came back with a basket full of flowers which I had great fun distributing this afternoon, the street boys being particularly eager for them. One small boy aged eight took me under his wing and escorted me about, confidentially remarking that those other kids might make snootches at me but that he never made snootches at a lady. On inquiry I learned that a snootch was putting one's finger to one's nose and waving the hand frantically in a derisive manner. His ideas of the country were extraordinary. He told me that a friend of his had climbed a tree and found a nest with three ducks and twelve eggs in it! I sent him off at last with a cookie and an apple which he punched to see if there was a worm in it; he assured me punching would bring it out."
When Eva and Mrs. Henderson went together to take flowers to the county jail they were refused admittance. It was a sterner day for the criminal than ours.
In visiting the poor of St. Luke's mission many children were found without shoes and with the minimum of clothes. Groceries were often provided and a mothers' meeting started. It was not long before they were asked to take little unwanted babies, and this work was tried for some months. Many of these poor little creatures were diseased and had to be handled with rubber gloves and required expert care, so they felt that if they continued that work they must give themselves entirely to it, putting themselves at the disposal of Dr. Forcheimer who offered to house and train them for it. The mothers' meeting, however, had grown from two poor women from the tenements, who began work one day in August at the mission house, closing the afternoon with tea and cookies and Evensong in the chapel, to over a hundred, who brought their children and spent one afternoon a week in the Sunday school room of St. Luke's, sewing and chatting and enjoying themselves and learning more than sewing from the Sisters; the little children who came with the poor mothers made a stronger appeal than even the fatherless infants, and after giving a number of them a summer in the country, they felt that they must choose their work definitely and chose the children.
Bethany Home for Children was started in October, 1897, on Freeman avenue with half a dozen little children whose mothers were not able to provide for them after their summer in the country. It soon outgrew the city quarters, and the following July Eva was able to buy the Craft Wright place in Glendale, where there was a large old fashioned house surrounded by trees in the midst of a tangle of shrubbery. Here Ethel Lee joined them and became one of the first four Religious to take vows.
The beginnings were not without trials.
Marian Henderson, who had contracted tuberculosis, had to be sent west in the effort to recover her health. There was a corporate Communion of the household held in the little chapel with especial prayers for her recovery on the morning of her going and she went in hope.
The strain of the year's work, and the anxieties connected with the move to the country, had worn upon both Eva and Beatrice, so, while the old country house was under repair, they went to the North Carolina mountains for rest and change. They stopped at the Esmeralda Inn in Hickory Nut Gap. In September, 1897, Eva wrote:
I am continually thinking how you would enjoy this place, and the children would find it a perfect fairy land. The Colonel--the keeper of the inn--says it is not at all hot here in summer, the thermometer not rising above 84, but I am learning to distrust his statements as he said it did not go below 60 in winter, and we found it 52 just yesterday morning; so I think he only looks at the thermometer when the weather just suits him. But the weather has been glorious since the wild storm in which we arrived, and if somewhat cool, just right for climbing.
I have climbed about a good deal, though not half enough to suit the Colonel, leaving Beatrice behind when I thought it would be too much for her. We are now the only guests. We seem to possess the whole of this beautiful place to ourselves, and I have been longing ever since we have been here to have a convent here some day, where our busy city workers could come for rest and change, and which might be a center of religious life and work in this valley, which stretches forty miles from Rutherford to Ashville with hardly a Baptist meeting house in it, and just dotted all the way with tiny farms and log cabins and stray bits of human life.
Yesterday we took a delightful tramp and scramble through the forest where huge moss-covered trees lay fallen upon the ground while thousands more shot up in vertical columns toward heaven; where the sunlight never comes save in trembling gleams, and tender things that love the shade, rare mosses and ferns and fanshaped fungi, grow unmolested. A lovely glen, through which ran a silver spring over huge blocks of granite, made a good place for Beatrice to wait while I pushed on with the Colonel to see the Silver Falls, only a thread of water now, over a massive wall of rock, but a miniature Niagara--and not so miniature at that, according to the Colonel--in the spring.
Her dream was not without a certain fulfillment later. It was not far from this entrancing spot that a mountain side was purchased and a native farm house rebuilt for a rest house, Transfiguration House they called it, and during the years the presence of the Sisters on that mountain side and their influence has done much to change the life in the valley. There is a church now at the little settlement of Bat Cave, built by the Sisters, and many girls from those mountain homes have been educated at Bethany Home School.
Before the new beginning the two postulants made a three days' retreat, and on the eve of the feast day their first seven Associates were admitted. This circle of friends of the Sisterhood has since grown to a large number, spreading over half the world from England to China; women carrying into their lives in the world the blessings of the prayer life learned in retreats and quiet contacts with the Community.
On the Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6, 1898, an unusual service took place at St. Luke's Church on Findley street. It was soberly reported in the diocesan Church Chronicle:
THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRANSFIGURATION
On Saturday, August 6th, the Feast of the Transfiguration, Bishop Vincent admitted two candidates into the new Sisterhood of the Transfiguration. The two were Miss Eva L. Matthews and Miss Beatrice M. Henderson, who are now known by the names of Sister Eva Mary and Sister Beatrice Martha respectively. This is the inauguration of the Order of the Transfiguration, Sister Eva Mary being its founder.
The service at which the two Sisters made their profession was held in St. Luke's Church, Cincinnati, and was a very impressive one. The church was beautifully decorated, and the music was well rendered by the vested choir under the direction of Miss Alice K. Whetstone.
After the processional hymn the two candidates were presented by the rector to the Bishop seated in his chair. The Litany was then said by the rector, the Rev. Paul Matthews, after which the Magnificat was sung for the introit and then the Bishop celebrated the Holy Communion. The sermon by the Bishop was a very strong one. II Corinthians, iii, 18, "But we all, with open face, beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord."
After the sermon the candidates made their profession and took their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. The vow made at this time is for five years; it is expected that at the end of that period of probation to renew them for life.
The Bishop then solemnly delivered the veils, girdles, and crucifixes to the candidates to be worn as sacred tokens of their three-fold vow. The candidates were assisted in veiling by Mrs. Horace Gray, of Washington (a sister of Sister Eva Mary) and Miss Nellie Bechtel, of Cincinnati. During the veiling the choir chanted the 45th Psalm. The Bishop then solemnly blessed the newly-professed sisters, and the Order of the Transfiguration was established. The celebration of the Holy Communion was then proceeded with, and the newly-made Sisters received first.
The service was reported in more flowery style by a lady reporter for the daily papers who found it "news":
With the founding of the Sisterhood of the Transfiguration another chapter of usefulness has been opened in the history of Episcopalianism and the future only can tell to what magnitude the lately established institution will grow.
So wrote this romantic lady, an Episcopalian herself, who must be forgiven for not knowing that there were other communities of Religious in the Church, old and large and well established; there never had been a Religious, other than Roman, in Southern Ohio.
Immediately after taking their first vows, the two novices went again to Hickory Nut Gap for a month of rest and retreat. Again from Esmeralda Inn, Sister Eva wrote:
Sister Beatrice and I have just come in from a long morning on the rocks by the little river that seems in such a hurry to get away from as beautiful a spot as ever a river had to run in. It has not been a wholly idle morning either, for we copied one chapter of our Community book on The Religious Life, and read several chapters from Littledale on the formation and management of an infant Community, full of sound advice and practical knowledge. I am going to read and study and write as much as I can in this time of leisure, partly because it is a real rest to do the things I love to do and ordinarily have little time for, and partly for the preparation of taking up our work again under new conditions. I feel a little frightened sometimes. There are so many ways to failure and only one to success. May God grant me His guidance and wisdom. This place is most lovely and quiet and if only we could go into retreat in one of the caves on the mountain sides, certainly nothing could be more according to rule!
We started out for a walk yesterday afternoon intending to have Evensong on Chapel Rock, so we took Bible, Hymnal, and Prayer Book and left them on the rock while we pushed on up the mountain side in search of the Wizard's Pool. It had rained earlier in the day and everything was wet and shining with damp and most beautiful. We had to push through dense underbrush, make our way over fallen trees, or skirt around great rocks, and along with the massive and magnificent in nature there was such exquisite detail, toadstools of every size and most brilliant and unexpected coloring, bright orange or terracotta, crimson and brown, snow white and even pale blue and purple ones. A centipede whose scales were black-edged with a lovely salmon color lay asleep on a log and only bestirred himself when we poked him up with our sticks. A lovely pool lying still and deep under a cavernous rock fringed with rhododendrons at last rewarded our search. It was buried in a density of growth that gave me a better idea and impression of primeval forest than anything I have ever seen. Giant chestnuts towering up to the skies and mighty hemlocks lying prostrate across the stream, and such a thicket of smaller trees that I could easily conceive how a party of Indians could have lurked within earshot of us and we be unconscious.
We scrambled back to Chapel Rock wet and bedraggled, but charmed, and had a most beautiful service to the music of the mountain stream, singing the Transfiguration hymn:
"Lord, it is good for us to be
Here on the mountain side with Thee."
We came home in a very exalted mood, but we had to wear our bedroom slippers in to tea because we had gotten our shoes so wet. We hid them as well as we could under our habits. The Colonel is as kind as of old and now that he is getting used to our change of dress, about as intimate, confiding to us his opinion of the other people in the Inn.
The Inn is quite full now. A Presbyterian clergyman and his wife fill up our little table. There is also a dear old priest of our Church who arrived today and who is going to give us the Holy Communion tomorrow. He reminds me of Dr. Pise. He has charge of a parish and five missions scattered through the mountains, and all of them very poor. One of his missions is of colored people and he is very anxious to send some of them to Mr. Hunter's school at Raleigh and I have promised to help him out with one. Hold yourself in readiness for a donation!
It has rained all day and several parties of people came in drenched. One party had no baggage with them at all and the lady of the party was in a sorry plight with wet skirts and shoes and no change, so we lent her our blue gingham underskirts, which served her for both petticoat and dress, while my bedroom slippers adorn her feet. It seemed funny that we Sisters were the only people here who could help her out.
We had a lovely service this morning at seven o'clock. We dressed up a little altar covering a table with a clean table cloth, having a rustic cross twined with flowers, borrowing the bread and wine from the Colonel, who came himself and put in his dollar at the offering for Mr. Wet-more's work--that is the name of our priest--and the good old man was quite overcome at the amount, though it was only three dollars, and wanted to give some of it back fearing it might be a mistake! The service was lovely and I feel so content and satisfied.
Today we crossed the river with the Colonel's help and spent a lovely morning at the Tuscarora Falls, and I send you these verses which were thought out there though really they were the fruit of a conversation with our old priest, Mr. Wetmore, on the life vow, which he was objecting to, until I pointed out to him that his ordination vow was for life, which he admitted with a very comical smile, and owned himself beaten.
Life for Life--Yea, Lord, so let it be,
My life for Thine as Thine was given for me,
How could I think a lesser gift to bring,
Some broken, useless, fragmentary thing?
Nay, let it be the perfect crystal, Lord,
Offered up whole, unbroken, and unmarred,
No part kept back for self or sin or strife,
But laid at Thy feet, the full price of a life.
Men see the work which is the outer shell,
The humble vessel, be it ill or well,
That holds the life elixir for a space
'Ere it be poured from its discarded vase.
They only see the outside of the cup,
Thou seest within the Life that's offered up.
The heart of love in penitence immersed
Drink, Lord of Life, and quench Thy loving thirst.
August 19, 1898.
On their return they plunged into their life of work and prayer.
It was a happy household at Bethany Home in spite of the difficulties of those early days--twenty-five children and one bathroom, no linen room and no lockers, no room for more children though the eager desire of working mothers for such loving care for their little ones was an insistent cry in their ears. I think it was the Postmaster who said to me one day: "All the poor people in Cincinnati know Miss Eva."
The work was done entirely for the help and convenience of the poor, and the children did not need to be orphans, only in need; they were not taken away from their parents, unless the parents were unfit and they were assigned by the court to the care of the Sisters. They were not to be adopted away from their parents but educated and, if possible, returned to a rehabilitated home. Sometimes whole families of children were taken for a few months or a year and a suddenly made widow relieved until she could start her life over again. Or, a father left with the care of motherless children could get them off the street until they were old enough to make a home for him. The fathers who cared enough for their children to seek Bethany Home often gave what they could to its upkeep as a thank offering.
Sister Beatrice had a remarkable gift in the care of little children and babies. Very delicate babies were often brought to her for especial care and were returned strong and well to their mothers. Some were left to her by will, some were actual orphans with no one to care for them. One of these "daughters" of Sister Beatrice became a Religious herself, and one or two of the girls were later married from Bethany Home chapel. It was not thought of by them as an institution but as, indeed, home. Many of the children never knew any other home; they had been taken from the tenements and alleys of the city and the change in their mobile faces after only a few weeks' residence in their new surroundings of privilege and love was noticeable.
Here the little city children grew fat and healthy and learned of many animals and birds besides pigs and sparrows and horses. Eva said of them: "Now they point out the flickers and meadow larks, blue birds and orioles and yellow breasted chat with the confidence of naturalists, and if they still believe the rabbits lay the Easter eggs, they at least know what a rabbit looks like."
They at first sent their children to the public school in the village, but when epidemics began to break out they started their own school, which has since become a most important feature of their works at the mother house and in almost all of their branch works. In Bethany Home School, in addition to regular school work, time was given to sewing, to cooking, and general housework, and regular instruction in sacred studies. The whole household attended morning and evening prayer in the chapel and I think every hymn in the Hymnal was tried at least once under Mrs. Henderson's direction. She composed several beautiful new tunes herself, which have always been used in that chapel in loving memory of her. The city mission house was still kept up in spite of the move to the country.
These beginnings were not without sorrow. Julia Henderson, the second daughter, came to Cincinnati only to die of malignant typhoid, leaving behind her an impression of beauty and loveliness never forgotten. On February I5th, 1898, the date of the blowing up of the Maine, she died at 1711 Freeman street. A year or two after they gave up this house in town and devoted themselves to the work for children in the country, going in town for mothers' meetings and other parish duties at St. Luke's.
Marian, who had come with her mother in 1896 and had had to return to the west in search of health, came back in the summer of 1899 to die of tuberculosis in the country at Bethany Home. Sister Beatrice in nursing her caught the sinister disease. It was a time of bitter trial to the two Religious.
God's will seemed to be difficult to know or to follow. Had He allowed the infant Community to come to its birth only to suffer destruction on the altar of family duty? Were the life and work they had planned together to be frustrated?
The prompt action of the Chaplain General saved the day. Sister Beatrice was sent at once to a sanitarium at Oakland where in six weeks she was entirely restored. Mr. Cooper Procter sent the money to cover her expenses.
Her severe interior struggle taught Sister Eva to be patient with herself. She wrote to her sister:
I think, dear, our feelings are not always under our own control as our thoughts and our actions are, and if we keep on doing our duty by people, the feelings in time come right of themselves. I know that my inner life has been very different from my outer during these last weeks; within, bitterness, selfishness, murmuring, rebellion--while outwardly the works of charity were going on with undimin-ished ardor, so the blessed and holy Spirit was faithful to His trust of holding me even when I was struggling to escape from His compelling love, and now He has brought the reward of harmony between the inner and the outer life again, and the real relief from my most pressing anxiety. A letter from Sister Beatrice this morning tells me that she has gained three pounds and three quarters this last week, which seems almost too good to be true! How quickly God answers our prayers: sometimes before we cease our calling, He has answered.
During all that summer she kept up both ends of the work.
I come in town every morning, she wrote, spend a few hours shopping, writing, making up accounts, cutting out garments, settling things generally, then go out in one of the afternoon trains, look at the chapel--it is nearly finished now--talk with the workmen, visit with Marian, read her my daily letter from Sister Beatrice, visit the nursery (they were still keeping the little babies), give the older girls a sewing lesson, talk with the family, and go to bed; it is too hot to light lamps in the evening.
On August 15, 1899, Marian passed quietly away. The funeral was from the chapel at Bethany Home. Sister Eva was touched at the friendship and personal sympathy shown to herself by a beloved and constant friend:
M--J-- said she was frightened at the funeral because my hands were so cold though the day was hot, and she was sure I was going to be sick. She said if I were, she was coming over to stay right by me even if I had a trained nurse! It was sweet of her, and there were tears in her eyes as she said it.
I would love to say more of this beloved friend of the young Community, a near neighbor, who spent herself in serving them in every way, playing the organ for their services, raising money for their Children's Home, but her life is written in the hearts of all her Village neighbors, and this is not the place for it.
This was the beginning of a somewhat serious breakdown which made the giving up of the city house necessary, and a quiet retreat in the North Carolina mountains a permanent feature of the Community life.
In the meantime Bethany Home was overflowing with children.
Within four or five years the overcrowding of the home was obviated, temporarily, by the building of a large children's house with schoolrooms, refectory, dormitories, infirmary, baths, and lavatories, and the gift of Mr. William Procter, a cold storage room. Sister Eva's method of institutional life for children seemed a new departure in that day of lingering class distinctions, and was more popular with the children themselves than with harassed housekeepers vainly seeking cooks and house maids. Each child was an individual, and whenever she showed particular gifts, they were cultivated, even to music and art if she showed industry. Her own defence of her system is interesting. It was written after the establishment of the Boys' Home:
THE CHILD IN THE TENEMENT HOUSE
There are people who seem to think there should be no institutions for the poor, who maintain that no institution can bring up children as well as even a very poor private home. I have wondered if such people ever visited in the tenement houses where the crowded poor find and try to make their pitful excuse for home. A stifling room reeking of soiled clothes and dirty dishes and perhaps populous with vermin is certainly no place for children. To them the streets seem better; the public playgrounds help out some, but there is a vast amount of child life in the city of Cincinnati that is dirty, wild, uncared for as the veriest little savages. It is the tragedy of our modern city and tenement house life.
A Home in the cool, green country, with playgrounds shaded by spreading trees, with wholesome food of country milk and good bread and vegetables and fruit and eggs and meat, with plain but sufficient clothing and medical and nursing care in sickness, with a school whose teachers have had college education and whose standard of scholarship is so high that the children who return to their homes when reconstituted in happier times after several years of training and education here, always pass up one and sometimes two grades in the public school of the city; such an institution is Bethany Home.
INSTITUTIONS IMPORTANT IN THE TRAINING OF THE YOUNG
We Americans believe, as a people, in institutional life for the children of the rich and well-to-do. No family feels that its full duty toward its children is done until it gives its girls a year or two of boarding school life, most select and elegant of course, or its boys a college education, a privilege now almost equally shared by the daughters of the family. Millions are given to such institutions as Princeton University; the resources of a wealthy city are freely spent to develop such an institution as the University of Cincinnati. And should we not give to our brethren, the poor, some of the advantages we so earnestly desire and make for the rich? Of all classes they need it most. To be drawn out of the sordid conditions of tenement house life and given an education and a training for a higher and better scale of living, and knowledge how to secure it, how to make the most of a small income, or how to make a small wage a larger one by efficiency--this is what the Bethany Homes are doing for a limited number of boys and girls. As private schools they are giving service that seven or eight hundred dollars are charged for in open competition, but they are giving it to the children of the poor free of cost, or at such nominal and voluntary charges as the poor themselves wish to pay.
On August 6, 1903, Sister Eva took her life vows. She had reached her goal--and found it again a beginning. Her character was formed, she had become a devout Religious, a wise executive, with flashes of mystical exaltation.
Her Litany of Humility is that of the practical Christian rather than the contemplative:
My Lord Jesus, meek and lowly of heart,
May I learn of Thee to think not at all of myself. Teach me, Lord Jesus!
To think kindly of others, Teach me, Lord Jesus!
To think much and often of Thee, Teach me, Lord Jesus!
To speak kindly of others and to others, Teach me, Lord Jesus!
To speak without diffidence of Thee, Teach me, Lord Jesus!
To surrender all my self will, Teach me, Lord Jesus!
To be obedient to all rightful authority, Teach me, Lord Jesus!
To be patient and cheerful in my work, Teach me, Lord Jesus!
Not to despise others who do less work than I do, Teach me, Lord Jesus!
Not to feel imposed upon when more is asked of me than another, Teach me, Lord Jesus!
Not to be harsh or ungracious in manner or speech, Teach me, Lord Jesus!
To be pitiful, loving, and gracious to all and especially to those under my direction,
Teach me, Lord Jesus!
To be faithful in my daily self examination and meditation, Teach me, Lord Jesus!
Subdue my proud and hard heart and make it truly penitent, Hear me, Lord Jesus!
May I learn of Thee all that Thou wilt teach me, Lord Jesus!
I cannot forbear contrasting the vital everyday-ness of hers with the more exquisite Litany which she discarded with disapproval as unnatural:
JESUS gentle and humble of heart, hear me.
From the desire to be esteemed,
From the desire to be loved,
From the desire to be mourned,
From the desire of praise,
From the desire of preference,
From the desire of influence,
From the desire of approval,
From the desire of authority,
From the fear of humiliation,
From the fear of being despised,
From the fear of repulse,
From the fear of calumny,
From the fear of ridicule,
From the fear of injury,
From the fear of suspicion.
Deliver me, JESUS.
That others may be loved more than myself,
That others may be employed and I set aside,
That others may grow and increase in honor and I decrease,
That others may attract the praise and I be forgotten.
That others may be preferred in all things;
Grant me the utmost holiness of which I am capable, and then let others be holier than I. Grant me, JESUS.
To her it seemed an arrogance of humility to take upon her lips the negativing of all desirable things. This was never her method, which was always positive, active, and constructive, with the "I" left out.
Hers was a worker's Litany, yet work was never meant to be put first, but the life of rule and prayer. The works followed from her natural joyous love of children and the great gifts of Sister Beatrice in their care and management. Her ideal was the Religious life. She was a brave young Catholic plant rooted in the driest of Protestant soil: would the atmosphere of love and prayer and the beloved community suffice for the full development of Catholic life in the midst of fogs of prejudice and conservatism? Her character was indeed formed: would it harden or develop? With two such well marked strains of heredity, how would the experience of life weave together in her the strange elements of her being? Would the dogmatic James Black find a reincarnation, or the philosophic spirit of Stanley Matthews breathe freely in his beloved daughter, or, through the years, would the indwelling Christ form a new and free spirit, close kin to both but nearer still to Him?
Eva, by her quiet, steady self giving through the years of her youth had certainly made herself a spiritual magnet to attract and hold and make practical the aspirations of many lives.
There was never any lack of helpers at Bethany Home besides the four Religious, for Sister Ellis Victoria and Sister Ethel Bertha soon joined the founders; there were others who came as friends, a few as paid helpers, others to try possible vocation, many of which failed for different causes to reach the life vow. Sister Ellis was of St. Monica's Sisterhood, and, after the breaking up of that community of widows, came and lived at Bethany Home with her sister, Miss Chipman. Sister Ellis wore the black habit and flaring bonnet of St. Monica, and by her age and experienced consecration lent an air of dignity to the very young community. By her advice and tact some mistakes were rectified and the hours brought into line with the devotions of older religious orders. For some months the three young Religious and Sister Ellis, living with them in all things as one of themselves, formed a limited procession into the little chapel.
The rules of the Sisters' day were as follows: Rising at 6 a.m., a half hour was allowed for dressing and putting rooms in order. Then the Lauds bell at 6:30 a.m. called them to the chapel, where offices were said, followed by the Holy Eucharist, and after a short interval, breakfast, which was treated as in itself a service, begun with prayer, eaten in silence to reading, and closed with thanksgiving and the usual commemoration of the departed. The silence continued until after morning prayer, which closed at nine, and was followed by an instruction to the Novitiate lasting half an hour, closing with conference in which directions for the day's work were given and requisitions made for such things as were needed by the Sisters. There was busy work in all departments until the hour of noon, when the Angelus called the Sisters to their meditation in the chapel, followed by Sext and dinner, also with reading. Nones followed hard on dinner at two o'clock, and at three the noon silence was broken by a bell calling the Sisters to their afternoon work. Choral Evensong at 5: 30, followed by supper, an hour of social converse in the community room, a half hour of preparation for the next day's meditation in the Novitiate, and Compline at nine o'clock, completed the Sisters' day of work and prayer. Happiness was not the object; it was the atmosphere of the Sisters' life, and it flowed forth from the Presence of God, the unfailing Source of all the happiness of the world as the sun is the source of all its light.
To Sister Ellis it seemed a calamity that the Sisterhood did not grow at once, and she set herself the task of constant prayer for the blessing of increase in numbers, a generous petitioning that the Transfiguration might not fail as had the common life of St. Monica's. It occurred to her upon her knees that she herself must be the first to answer her own prayer, and with the utmost humility she asked admittance to the Sisterhood, took off her own beloved dress, no longer that of any existing community, donned the blue habit and blue veil, and came under the rule of the young Mother of the Transfiguration. Her vows were taken on Ascension Day, 1904. It was not for long, though, as she died two years later.
But the postulants came in a quiet stream. Every two or three months would see the arrival of some new adventurous soul to try her vocation, and the Sisters called them "Sister Ellis' Postulants." They felt the blessing of her prayers in Paradise.