Reflection on the Janet Stuart Centenary Celebrations

  • Pilgrims exploring Janet Stuart's childhood home in Cottesmore (Photo by Sergio Vasquez)
Forward!  I was struck to learn that the Stuart family motto coincided with that of the patron of my home parish in Camarillo, California, Blessed Junipero Serra, the Franciscan founder of the California Missions.  His Spanish motto, “Siempre Adelante” (always forward!) and his tenacity to establish a system of missions along the length of California has always inspired me.  The idea that one could travel a day’s walk along the hundreds of miles of rugged California terrain and find a hospitable place to stay was comforting; a traveler was never far from hospitality. 
This all came back to me at High Leigh Conference Center as we said goodbye and expressed our gratitude to our speaker-guides who shared with us not just information about Janet Erskine Stuart, but welcomed us into their own “terrains” of England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, Japan and Australia.  It was Sr. Rita Carroll rscj from Stuartholme in Australia, a colleague from another school named for Janet Stuart, who shared the Stuart family motto with us as she narrated the adventures of Janet’s own brother and his establishment of hospitality in the rugged terrain that was later to be the Sacred Heart community at Stuartholme.  So many points of convergence—from mottos to namesakes to roles; Rita too was working in mission and ministry with her own school community using creative and dynamic rituals and activities to make alive the message of the Society and the Sacred Heart.  No surprise that gathered together by the centenary celebrations of our namesake, our journeys would converge at High Leigh through the hospitality of the Society of the Sacred Heart’s England/Wales Province.  Aside from learning new information and adding to the rich narrative of the life of Mother Stuart, we shared the company of fellow travelers, pilgrims from all corners of the world. 
One hundred years after the death of this amazing educator who committed herself to maintain Sophie’s vision of a global community known personally to one another, we honor Mother Stuart’s herculean effort to travel around the world by following her own example and traveling from all corners of the world to return to the places she called home: Roehampton, Cottesmore and the ever expanding terrain of the Sacred Heart.
As a lay, male, Sacred Heart educator of eleven years, the hospitality and welcoming embrace of the Sacred Heart is what sustains me in my work and ministry.  To learn and experience first hand the far-reaching, global and yet intimately personal approach of our shared Sacred Heart mission is powerfully motivating.  I feel renewed and empowered to move forward in my work with adolescent boys at Stuart Hall High School—the first all boys’ high school in the expanding terrain of the Sacred Heart tradition—helping them to discover their own gifts and talents, and like Mother Stuart, challenging them to extend that message of hospitality and love of God’s Heart by their own examples, their own “lives lived.”  My hope is that each one of our “boys” will, like those early missions, be themselves places of hospitality and welcome.  That they will be men of the Sacred Heart and as “sons of Sophie” will engage a global reality with love, always moving God’s Heart forward!, bringing others to recognize as I did that no matter where they might be they will always be “home” in the Sacred Heart.
Sergio Vasquez
Sacred Heart Educator
Stuart Hall High School
San Francisco, California USA