Cheap labour

Monday, 29th October 2018


Celebrating 125 Years in Sacred Heart Church Battersea 14th October 2018

My opinion

Men in robes occupying prominent places. Singled out for awards. Conducting the services. Surviving well beyond the life span of the females of the Salesian order. Glowing in their own esteem. Congratulations and back slapping their own achievements. Prominent Salesian priests eating elsewhere while older, (a least one ninety year olds ) nuns struggle to join the food queue and locate a seat, before making a seven hour journey back to her/their community house.

Sr Mary Tracey’s contribution references the behind the scene work of the Salesian Sisters.  Even though she was not in the Battersea community she had done her research. 

Reference bottom of page 35 of ‘The Church of The Sacred Heart….’

‘The Sisters work was hidden, humble and humdrum….domestic duties…….’

So what was it like being a nun/Salesian Sister in those days?

The rising bell rung at 5:20. A Salesian priest arrived from the Salesian community to celebrate Mass. After Mass he was treated to a cooked breakfast in the parlour while the sisters who taught snatched breakfast before making their way to school. The other sisters rushed down the ambulacrum to cook and serve the Salesian Community of priests.

To prevent physical contact with the clergy, the food was served through a drum! Priests gave their orders from the other side of this rotating device and the sisters cooked and served whatever was requested.

Dirty dishes were returned to be washed by the nuns. 

The sisters in the kitchen then began preparing the midday meal. The other sisters busied themselves with the laundry or mending and repairing.

After school those of us who taught, drank a cup of tea, said the rosary, read from a spiritual book before supper. Instead the sisters who looked after the Salesians, were in the kitchen cooking the priests meals. We walked down the ambulacrum to joined them in serving and washing the dirty dishes and pans after the priests had dined. There were no washing machines then.

I was not  surprised to find that none of the sisters who cooked were present on Sunday. The heat from the ovens and the demands of life in the kitchen had shorten their lives. The priests were there though. Hale and hearty and occupying the seats on show! While a number of Salesians were named very few Salesian Sisters were recognised.

What was also surprising was the fact that the Salesian priests now claim the Sacred Heart Church as the centre of their apostolate. In past years the Salesian College and community had to  be coaxed to take part or conduct any service prepared in the parish. Fr Carette and other Parish priests struggled to get support. 

Although I was a teacher and even deputy head of the Sacred Heart Infant School I was not invited to this event. Fortunately Michael Kennedy and other past pupils and staff thanked me. 

Where was the Rector Major of the Salesians Don AngelFernandez Artime?

A good effort but somewhat lacking! Re-read Sr Mary Tracey’s account.


Marion Dante 33 years in the Salesian Order.


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