Elizabeth Prout, foundress of the Sisters of the Cross and Passion (Passionist Sisters) is being considered for sainthood by the Vatican. She is being described as a Victorian Mother Teresa for her work in the slums of 19th century Manchester, England where she and the first members of our community lived and strove tirelessly to improve the lives of poor workers and Irish refugees, especially women and girls.
Elizabeth Prout is being hailed in the British press as a pioneer for women’s rights because she educated poor women and girls and taught them the skills they needed to find work and support themselves, but she was more than a pioneer she was a visionary. She understood the value to society of educating women and girls long before most anyone else.
In 2004, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “Study after study has taught us that there is no tool for development more effective than the education of girls and the empowerment of women. No other policy is as likely to raise economic productivity, lower infant and maternal mortality, or improve nutrition and promote health, including the prevention of HIV/AIDS. When women are fully involved, the benefits can be seen immediately: families are healthier; they are better fed; their income, savings, and reinvestment go up. And what is true of families is true of communities and, eventually, whole countries.”
Elizabeth’s work among the poor women and girls of 19th century Manchester, even though it seemed insignificant at the time, must have improved the fortunes of hundreds of families. If you believe in the Butterfly Effect, the difference she made is still being felt today in Manchester, in the U.K and in the world.
People have always known that little things can effect society and change history. As children we learnt:
“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost;
For want of a horse, the rider was lost;
For want of a rider, a message was lost;
For want of a message the battle was lost;
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost!”
Today, Passionist Sisters inspired by the example of Elizabeth Prout continue to work among the poor; assisting refugees and asylum seekers and educating women and girls, believing that our small efforts can change the world.