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NEW DICTIONARY OF NATIONAL BIOGRAPHY

MOTHER AGNES MASON, FOUNDRESS, C.H.F.

 
 

I wrote the following at the request of the New Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press:

rances Agnes Mason, fourth child and second daughter of seven children, was born 10 August 1849, at Laugharne, Wales. Her brother, Canon Arthur Mason, became Chaplain to the Archbishop of Canterbury and wrote The Relation of Confirmation to Baptism. She assisted another brother, Canon Edward Mason, at Whitwell in Derbyshire, 1876-1883. He became Head of St Bede's Theological College at Umtata, South Africa. She entered Newnham College, Cambridge, taking the Moral Science Tripos in 1886, and becoming Professor of Moral Science at Bedford College, London. She was Secretary to the Guild of the Epiphany from 1887, founded by Canon Frances Holland for religious teaching, until 1895 when she resigned in order to found the Anglican Community of the Holy Family.

She first was called to found the Community while in Florence, a community to be dedicated to the religious teaching of women of all ages, world-wide, and to be expressly for scholars and artists. In this calling she was helped by Frederick Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury, Charles Gore, Bishop of Oxford, William Collins, Bishop of Gibralter, Walter Frere, C.R., Bishop of Truro, Father Congreve, S.S.J.E., Lord Halifax, of the Anglican Oxford Movement, and the Catholic Baron von Hügel. The four Novices of the new Community of the Holy Family were Professed, 19 October 1898, the Archbishop of Canterbury being Celebrant, Canon Gore, Gospeller, and the Archbishop's Chaplain, Arthur Mason, Epistoler. +Agnes Mason, C.H.F., following her immediate election by the Sisters, was next installed by the Archbishop as their Mother Superior.

She was drawn to Biblical Studies in Greek and Hebrew, and also the Mystics, such as St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, Gertrude More and Julian of Norwich. She published essays in Theology, books on various topics, and translated St Teresa of Avila's Foundations for Cambridge University Press. Bertha James, a fellow Cambridge scholar, supplied the Community with theological books and gave them St Pega's Hermitage. Mother Agnes Mason, herself a fine water colourist, collected the works of Myra Luxmore, whose family were friends of Gerard Manley Hopkins, and of Michael Fairless, sculptress and author of The Roadmender and Brother Hilarion's Passing. She had purchased sepia photographs of Italian art in Florence for use in teaching. Later, she arranged for artist Sisters to teach in the Community's school in India, Naini Tal, and on their journey spend time in Florence to study its religious art.

The Community's Rule is probably the best among the Anglican Communities. Learned, yet joyous, in it Mother Agnes Mason quotes Shakespeare 'Who chooses me must give and hazard all he hath', and states that 'Every Sister ought to be so systematically studying at least one subject that she makes real progress from month to month' and, elsewhere, 'A sin against beauty is a sin against God'. She held the Lambeth Diploma in Theology by Thesis, the Sisters of her Community shaping, and tutoring in, that Programme from its beginning. Though the Community never became large, due to the excellent scholarship of its Sisters it initially prospered, having its House of Prayer at St Pega's, its Houses of Study at Leeds and at Cambridge, the schools in London, Naini Tal, India, and St Leonards-on-Sea, the Lambeth Tutoring, and Sisters in parish work.

Mother Agnes Mason, C.H.F., died at 93 at the Motherhouse, Holmhurst St Mary, Sussex, 19 December 1941, having been Mother Superior of the Community of the Holy Family from 1898-1933, and was buried in the Community's graveyard under a cross of Sussex oak.
 

J.B.H.

The New Dictionary of  National Biography researches also information on the wealth of the persons at their death. Mother Agnes Mason, C.H.F., true to her Vow of Poverty, died intestate of a few shillings.
 



JULIAN OF NORWICH, HER SHOWING OF LOVE AND ITS CONTEXTS ©1997-2015 JULIA BOLTON HOLLOWAY  || JULIAN OF NORWICH  || SHOWING OF LOVE || HER TEXTS || HER SELF || ABOUT HER TEXTS || BEFORE JULIAN || HER CONTEMPORARIES || AFTER JULIAN || JULIAN IN OUR TIME ||  ST BIRGITTA OF SWEDEN  ||  BIBLE AND WOMEN || EQUALLY IN GOD'S IMAGE  || MIRROR OF SAINTS || BENEDICTINISM|| THE CLOISTER || ITS SCRIPTORIUM  || AMHERST MANUSCRIPT || PRAYER|| CATALOGUE AND PORTFOLIO (HANDCRAFTS, BOOKS ) || BOOK REVIEWS || BIBLIOGRAPHY ||