Today, August 27th 2011, we celebrate a very important milestone in Janet Stuart's life story as, on this date in 1911 she was elected Superior General of the Society of the Sacred Heart.
Until then she had lived the whole of her religious life in the community at Roehampton, although for the last 17 years, as Superior Vicar with responsibility to oversee all of the houses in England, she had travelled extensively in this country.
This all came to an abrupt end in May 1911 when the then Superior General, Reverend Mother Mabel Digby died, and she was summoned to Brussels (where the Mother House then was), and named as Vicar General, responsible for the whole Society until the election of a new Superior General.
It is hard for us to imagine, in our day of instant communication and jet travel, how long such a process took, and the ensuing anxieties that could be experienced by likely candidates. But the new Vicar General was tranquil, firmly believing that a second English woman would not be chosen to fill the post. But it was not to be... and on August 27th she was elected Superior General as all, except herself, had foreseen. The first telegram of congratulation arrived from Roehampton, where the pain of losing such a well-loved member of the community was greatest.
However, her mandate was not to last long as she died in October 1914 after only three years.
As this double centenary approaches there will be various moments of celebration. Plans are in process and will be communicated once they are firmed up. But we can all begin this week by thanking God for the life of Janet Erskine Stuart, and, in particular, all she gave to the Society during her three years as Superior General.