The Golden Thread
The Life and Gifts of Miss Frances Ellis

Patrick Heren

Frances Ellis was a remarkable Catholic philanthropist who took seriously Jesus’ injunction: ‘But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.’ Born in 1846 to a life of wealth and privilege, Frances Ellis converted to Catholicism in 1900, and set about giving away her money to support the Church. Over the course of a decade, she was responsible for the building of forty new Catholic churches, mostly in the Archdiocese of Southwark, nearly all of which are still in active use. She sought no recognition for her intensely practical generosity and received none from the Church authorities; she was content with giving. Frances lived in west Cornwall with nuns of the Daughters of the Cross, an order she also supported financially, helping to build hospitals, schools and convents. Hundreds of letters preserved by the Order give a lively picture of her life and remarkable character. The Golden Thread tells Frances’ story and sets it in the context of the evolving Catholic Church in England and the many challenges it faced in the early twentieth century. The book sketches pen portraits of remarkable men and women: Cardinal Francis Bourne, Canon Edward St John and Mother Iphigènie Butner. All forty of the ‘Ellis churches’ are described together with a brief history of each.

Patrick Heren, a journalist who for many years specialised in energy markets, policy and procurement, is a trustee of Aid to the Church in Need UK. Born in Singapore and educated in Germany, the USA and Britain, he and his wife, the garden designer Fiona Cadwallader, have three sons and live in Oxfordshire.

978 0 85244 976 9

320 pages


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