When did you feel called to religious life?
From the vantage point of more than 60 years as a De La Salle Brother and from the present stage in my vocation as Director of a community of similarly elderly Brothers, my boyhood memories suggest the ‘call’ was there and preparing me for what was to come. If I had to fix a moment, it would be on a lazy Sunday summer afternoon just after having left school and reflecting on my somewhat disappointed grades, my mother looked up from reading the Catholic paper: ‘There’s a two weeks’ retreat in a beautiful Berkshire mansion. You should go there and sort yourself out’. With not too much reflection I followed my mother’s advice and enjoyed the two weeks at the De La Salle Junior Novitiate of St Cassian in Kintbury. I was aware of De La Salle Teacher Training College in Manchester but knew nothing of the Patron Saint of Teachers. I was very impressed with the evident holiness of the Brother in charge of the house, expressed in a warm and cheerful kindness. This, together with listening to the reading of a novel on the life of St John Baptist de La Salle in the refectory, suggested that it would be a good idea to see what life was like in the Novitiate. After six years of initial formation I joined my first teaching community.
Were your friends and family supportive of your call?
My best school friend was a Polish boy who in 1939 had escaped across Europe to England with his mother. I was delighted that he came to my first profession of vows. Sadly I could not accept his invitation to his wedding. My parish priest was delighted that I was joining the religious congregation of a fellow student of Saint Sulpice. Of course my mother was so happy with the outcome of my following her advice.
Did you have any doubts?
I don’t think it would have been an authentic vocation if I did not have doubts that challenged my resolve. Sometimes I held on ‘by the skin of my teeth.’
Have you been able to maintain the hobbies and interests you had before you became a religious?
One of the reason I didn’t do well in my school exams. was my enthusiasm for the many games on offer. In my initial formation we had a game of football on Sunday and there was a rarely used gym. In my last years at school I trained every day on the track as well as being involved in many other sports. A wise Provincial sent me to the scholasticate at Talence near Bordeaux where I participated in an intense summer- long course in athletics and gymnastics. As a teacher I enjoyed training school sports teams.
What brings you the most joy as a religious?
What would be my advice to someone trying to discern a vocation?
The starting point is to recognize that you are a consecrated Christian from your Baptism and therefore God is calling you. Recognize the events of your life and the people who are part of your life as having meaning for you. Consider many possibilities before you recognize the right one for you.