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Reflection Day 38: Bob Chapman

Harriet Monsell, Monastic - Learn about Harriet's life. What example in her life inspires you most (as is written in the prayer we say to honor her) to "grow in the life of prayer and work of service so that in sorrow or joy, your presence may increase among us and our lives reveal the mind of Jesus Christ."


By Bob Chapman


The Collect: [BCP]

Gracious God, who led your servant Harriet Monsell through grief to a new vocation; grant that we, inspired by her example, may grow in the life of prayer and the work of service so that in sorrow or joy, your presence may increase among us and our lives reveal the mind of Jesus Christ, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit be honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.

Her Biography

Harriet O'Brien, born in 1811, was the third daughter and next-to-youngest of nine children born to one of Ireland's oldest families. Her father, Sir Edward O'Brien, 4th Baronet of Dromoland,

represented his county Clare in Parliament until 1826, Upon his death in 1837, his devoutly Anglican widow and daughters moved to London, then Dublin and other places. Harriet married Canon Charles Monsell, the third son of the Archdeacon of Derry, in 1839 while he was studying and receiving medical treatment at the University of Dublin, and they moved to Oxford the following year to complete his studies. Due to his delicate health, much of their later married life was spent in Europe.

Her Career

After her husband's death in 1850, Harriet Monsell began working in Clewer near the garrison town of Windsor among former prostitutes and unwed mothers at a House of Mercy. Soon, Harriet Monsell professed religious vows with two other women. Initially they were called the Sisters of Mercy, but later changed their name to reflect their inspiration from John the Baptist's call to penitence.


She became Mother Superior of the Community of St John Baptist, established on 30 November 1852, and one of the first Anglican religious orders since the Reformation. Because of their affiliation with the town of Clewer they are commonly called the 'Clewer Sisters'. The women followed the rule attributed to St Augustine of Hippo. Initially the order assisted marginalised women but under Mother Harriet's guidance their mission expanded to running about forty institutions, including mission houses in various parishes, as well as orphanages, schools and hospitals.


Mother Harriet retired to Folkestone in 1875 for health reasons. She died on the morning of 25 March 1883 (which was Easter Sunday that year). Since the Feast of the Annunciation is celebrated on 25 March, her Feast Day is celebrated the following day and occupies that date in the Calendar of the Church of England and in “Lesser Feasts & Fasts” of the Episcopal Church.


[Harriet Monsell. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved, March 23, 2021]


The Community of St John Baptist has a convent in Mendham, NJ. [See https://www.csjb.org]


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