When did you first feel called to religious life?
When I entered the 6th form I thought life would be fairly straightforward. After school I would continue my studies and then before settling down to teaching take some time out and be a flight attendant for a few years and see exotic parts of the world! Well, that did not quite happen!
During 6th form the notion of religious vocation appeared – again. I had thought about it in 5th year but dismissed it. In the 6th I met up with Elizabeth, a girl who was entering with the Sisters who taught in our school. She was interesting and sensible and spoke with such clarity and conviction. At about the same time we had a Careers Convention and apart from the usual professions and jobs represented there were groups of Sisters who came to represent their Congregations.
Were your friends and family supportive of your call?
After discernment and speaking with wise people I entered with one of these Congregations at the end of 6th form. I had also visited a contemplative group in my home town of Liverpool and felt quite drawn to the absoluteness of that life. However, my family was not at ease and at 18 years I could see it was perhaps too young for such a life changing decision. My father disagreed vehemently and thought it a waste (my parents were divorced and he lived at a distance). My mother was in agreement with an apostolic vocation but not enclosed religious life. All these encounters and opinions helped me to choose apostolic religious life; this was my calling at that time.
Did you have any doubts?
I loved my novitiate and all the study that was involved and in my 2nd year I was sent out to ‘experience’ life in community. After profession I taught in Surrey and then in a London comprehensive. I loved these years and have enduring friendships with former colleagues and students. However, an attraction for monastic/contemplative life still murmured within. I was also vocations director for my Congregation and in helping others to discern I was pushed back to my own questionings.
With my Superior General’s permission I began to look at different contemplative communities. Having spent some years (20 years) in my Congregation where I was very happy, I just was not sure whether I was being capricious or whether I was being called. Eventually I came to visit the Visitation at Waldron. After several visits and a ‘live-in’ during school holidays I asked to transfer.
I finished that academic year and the following one so as not to disappoint my students and at the same time continued useful discussions with wise and insightful people and friends who knew me well. I also had a psychological assessment to help me on my way.
Have you been able to maintain the hobbies and interests you had before you became a member of a religious community?
I love my vocation and I love that we very consciously hold the world, its needs, its longings, its anguishes in the heart of this community and in my own heart daily. Our ‘work’ is prayer and we welcome others who wish to find a place of stillness and peace and beauty.
Also I have discovered creative gifts that I so enjoy – the latest being beekeeping!
What brings you most joy as a priest or religious?
The Sisters with whom I live are not superhuman, they are human in a super way. They are diverse in backgrounds and experiences and are fun to live with, too!
What would be your advice to someone trying to discern their vocation?
To another discerning vocation: pray. Also seek some wise counsel. It is a wonderful life to be lived and loved. The mystery of God is never exhaustive and will lead you to a ‘place’ you could never dream of.