Centenary of death of Venerable Mary Potter

In the early evening of 9th April 1913, Mary Potter, founder of the Little Company of Mary, died at Calvary, Rome. It was not an uncommon dying. There was no struggle, no agony. According to eye witnesses, “she gave a small cry and went to Him whom she loved and for whom she had suffered so much.” She was 65 years old, in the 35th year of Religious Profession, and it was thirty-six years and three months from the day she had disembarked from the train in Nottingham, England. This Year of Grace 2013 is a milestone in our congregation as we celebrate the centenary of that historic moment in Rome 100 years ago.

What surprised Mary’s community was the effect of her death. All through the night and in the following two days, an incessant stream of people of all ranks in life came to kneel beside her bed, to pray and to kiss her hand. Mother Cecilia recalls: “She was visited by crowds, rich and poor, especially the latter to whom she had always been kind and generous. I shall never forget one old man who sobbed bitterly… We had to leave the door open all night to accommodate them all.”

To shed some light on the woman whose death made such an impact in Rome, let’s listen again to her story.

Mary was born in London on 22 November 1847 to William Norwood Potter and Mary Anne (Martin) Potter, both of the Anglican faith. Mary was the only girl after 4 sons and was born with a serious heart condition which caused her intense suffering all her life. Mrs. Potter, impressed with the faith of the Irish immigrant women around her, was converted to Catholicism when pregnant with Mary. By the time of Mary’s birth, the Potters’ marriage was in trouble, owing mainly to William’s poor business acumen (he was virtually bankrupt by 1847) and his dour personality. When Mary was but a year old, he left the family and fled to Australia to escape a bankrupt’s fate. Mrs. Potter reared the 5 young children largely on her own, with some financial help from her extended family. Continue reading


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