Tag Archives: converts

A convert, wife, mother, and humanitarian: Caroline Chisholm helped thousands of young female immigrants

Women settlers in Australia faced a life of prostitution, but Venerable Caroline was able to save many of them.

Caroline Chisholm                                                    public domian

By Larry Peterson

She was called “the Savior of Living Cargoes”

Caroline Chisholm was born in Northampton, England, in 1808. She was the daughter of William Jones, a wealthy farmer, who had been married four times. Three of his wives had died in childbirth, and Caroline’s mom was his fourth. She had seven children and Caroline would be the last. Her dad died when she was only six and he left the family some money and several properties to divide among the twelve surviving children. A prime lesson Caroline and her siblings learned from their father was to be generous and caring to those in need.

By the time Caroline was seven, she was displaying a pronounced interest in immigration. She had listened to the stories shared among the older people that frequented her home. These folks  included farmers, writers, religious and political leaders.  She invented her own immigration game using a washbasin as the ocean and boats made from pea-shells. She saved her money and purchased small dolls and would place them in the “boats” and send them “across the sea” to their new homes. This early interest in immigration would never leave her. It would only translate into a lifelong endeavor of caring and helping poor immigrants.

When Caroline was 22 years-old Captain Archibald Chisholm proposed marriage to her. Captain Chisholm was thirteen years older than Caroline and a devout Roman Catholic. Raised Protestant during an era when Catholicism was viewed with enormous suspicion and distrust, Caroline faced a hard choice.  She did want to marry him, but she had a significant concern, and it was not his Catholicism. Caroline insisted that she must always have the freedom to persevere in any philanthropic cause she chose. Archibald Chisholm readily agreed.

Caroline and Archibald were married on December 27, 1830. Deeply in love, Caroline soon converted to Roman Catholicism. Some suggested this was done for convenience. On the contrary, she embraced Catholicism and came to love her faith deeply. As one of her biographers wrote, “she was a MOST devout Catholic.”

Britain had established a penal colony in Australia in the latter part of the 18th century. Here they would send convicted criminals. Later on, they would begin sending people from England known as “free settlers.”  Many of these were single women who would arrive with little or no  money. They also has no  friends, family, or jobs and, desperate to survive, would turn to prostitution. The “welcoming” they were receiving at their “new homeland” was deplorable.

In 1838, Captain Chisholm was granted a transfer to Australia because of health problems. At the time, it was thought that the climate was better there. When they arrived and Caroline saw the wretched circumstances and conditions that greeted the poor migrant women who were there and still coming, she was appalled. She knew she had to help them. Her life’s work could not have been more clear.

Caroline was 30 years old and immediately began planning a course of action, developing job schemes, and lobbying the authorities for better working conditions. She started a group that set out to establish a woman’s shelter for migrants. In 1841, she had established the Female Emigrant’s Home in Sydney. Besides providing shelter, it also assisted unemployed young women in finding work not only in the city but even out in rural areas where work was more plentiful.

Deeply sympathetic to young women who were alone, Caroline wrote letter after letter seeking jobs for the girls and found many, especially as domestic servants. She would often accompany them to the far off places to make sure they were a safe haven for them. As time passed by, Caroline began housing men and then families. In her first seven years in Australia, she helped more than 11,000 immigrants.

Caroline Chisholm’s compassion, faith, and untiring devotion to the poor and lonely in a new country left an indelible mark on not only Australia and Great Britain but on the entire world. She is held in such high esteem that her picture is on Australia’s original $5 banknote. She was also awarded posthumously, the Order of Australia.

Caroline passed away on March 25, 1877. She was 68 years old. Her cause for sainthood has been put forward by the Archdiocese of Melbourne. The first Australian saint, Mary MacKillop, was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010. It is expected that Caroline Chisholm will be the second saint canonized from “down under.”

copyright©Larry Peterson 2020

St. Eustace the Hunter and the Magnificent “Stag”

Photo Credit: Flickr/jacquemart – Reliquary Head of St Eustace

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Larry Peterson

At the beginning of the second century there lived in Rome man named Placidus. Placidus was the commanding general of the Roman army under Emperor Trajan. He was an outstanding soldier who was also married to a woman who loved him dearly and respected him. He also respected her, and they had two sons.

Even though they worshipped pagan idols, Placidus and his wife always gave alms to the poor and helped the needy. They knew nothing of Jesus Christ, but indeed, God had filled them with the graces to perform the corporal works of mercy. They responded to these graces.  Many people receive these graces and ignore them. That is what is known as “making choices.”

Placidus was a great hunter and loved to spend spare time hunting with his soldiers. But there was one day that would change his life forever. He was riding through the woods with his men, following a herd a very fast deer aka “stags.” In unison, the herd would turn left and then turn right.

The men did their best to keep their eyes on the fleeing stags. Suddenly, one of the stags broke from the group and took off on his own. Placidus, telling his men to continue, turned his horse and followed the lone stag which led him deeper and deeper into the forest. Placidus tried to catch up to the stag but, try as he may, he could never quite get to it. Finally, the stag stopped.

Placidus reined his horse in and also stopped. He realized that they were on top of a high peak. Placidus quickly began planning how to catch the prize stag. Then the stag turned to Placidus and began staring at him. The magnificent animal had tremendous antlers.

Placidus became transfixed by them and just stared. Between the antlers was a bright light and within the light was what appeared to be a cross. On the cross was the image of a man. Then Placidus heard a man’s voice coming from the stag. “Oh Placidus, why are you pursuing me? For your sake, I have appeared to you in an animal. I am the Christ, the only True God.”

Jesus told Placidus that it was his acts of mercy that had  Him appear to him like an animal. Jesus told him that He could read all hearts and that and knew that Placidus searched for the truth. He was told that anyone who searches for the truth with good will, will always find Jesus.

Placidus, filled with fear, fell from his horse. When he recovered, Jesus explained who he was. Placidus said, “Lord, I believe you are the Christ, and that you made all things, and that you convert the erring.”

Placidus was instructed to go to the Bishop of the city and get baptized. He was also told to have his wife and sons baptized. Jesus told him he would come back with further instructions. Placidus went home, woke up his wife, and told her what had happened. Incredibly, she told him that she had a similar “dream” and knew what he was going to tell her.

They hugged and then gathered up the children and left immediately for the home of the bishop of Rome who was also The Holy Father, the Pope.  The Holy Father was thrilled with his new converts and gave them new names. Placidus’ wife would be called, Theospis, their one son, Agapetus, and the other, Theospitus. Placidus from then on would be known as Eustace.

It is recorded that Eustace and his family did experience much hardship after their conversion. But they were exalted in the richness of the Spirit and did not suffer long. It is reported that Eustace was martyred in the year 118, which would have been under the papal reign of Pope St. Sixtus I. How Eustace and his family died is not known.

Saint Eustace’s feast day is celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church and Eastern Orthodox Church on September 20. Eustace is the patron saint of hunters, firefighters,  a patron of Madrid, Spain, and one of the Fourteen Holy Helpers of the Church.

St. Eustace, pray for us.