St Barnabas Cathedral Magazine Article
February saw the opening of the Little Company of Mary Heritage Centre on Regent Street, just a stone’s throw from the Cathedral. When I spoke with the Province Leader from London and other sisters before then, they were glowing with a mixture of joy, pride and anticipation. There was a calm confidence and determination to get everything right to meet their particular and very unusual purposes.
I was shown round in early March as the builders were still “snagging” with painstaking attention to detail. It is an impressive building encompassing striking design, workmanship and artistry. The final result is educational, inspiring, thought-provoking, uplifting, peaceful, fun and beautiful and more.
Not many people in the city know much about Mary Potter, foundress of The Little Company. She’s got a tram and a health centre named after her but who was she? Circumstances brought her from London, via Brighton and Portsmouth, to Nottingham. After many earlier setbacks and discouragements, Bishop Bagshawe ( with “mixed” enthusiasm) allowed her to progress her intent to found a new religious institution. Within 10 days of meeting the Bishop, she had located suitable premises in Hyson Green and soon after the sisters had a pot of soup on the boil all day to feed those begging at their door. The building has now gone in redevelopment of Hyson Green but wood from the Pear Tree in the garden has been used to make a cross and the sound of the original doorbell is digitally reproduced as the new Centre’s doorbell.
By the time Mary Potter died, 16 communities had been founded around the world and the number has grown since.
The Heritage Centre has been established to recognise the life, work and charism of Mary and the legacy she left, which carries on today. Mary’s body is buried in our Cathedral and she is recognised as “Venerable” by the Church. The road continues to see whether she will be proclaimed a Saint. This may take some time as she wrote extensively. Every word must be read in detail to assess its value and the inspiration behind it.
A tour of the centre reveals displays and exhibits making full use of the range of technology and tradition:- audio-visuals, DVD, touch-screen, lighting to enhance display and mood... . There is a space to listen in peace to the words which inspired Mary Potter, as well as an array of artefacts and some good old-fashioned “stuff” in glass cases. It has been put together with a light touch so there is never too much. Sr Anita says collecting the material was easy; the difficult task was sifting through it to decide which small fraction would be used. The whole experience immerses the visitor subtly in the history, heritage, spirituality and charism of Mary Potter and the nuns who follow her.
You could easily spend a week there and keep finding more...
To reflect the now global spread of the Congregation, the centre has an international community of sisters: Srs. Anita from Scotland, Susanna from Korea and Margaret from Ireland. So we will not be losing our own Sisters, Margaret and Monica, from their work in the Parish Community. The opening itself was a relatively small quiet occasion but this may mark a significant development for the Parish, the Cathedral and the City. The sisters are pleased with the result and pleased they put so much effort into the Centre – “Because She’s Worth It!”
Groups of up to 10 are welcome to visit by appointment only. Sisters will show people round and guide them to use the equipment if needed. Anybody interested can contact the Centre on 0115 9505167.
With thanks to Jim Lee of St Barnabus Cathedral for this article.