‘To do God’s will’
Vocation story by Sr M.Jadwiga
I was at school with two different lots of Sisters for about eight years, but it never entered my head to become one myself. After Higher School Certificate I went up to University to read sciences, and thought about eventual research into some form of agriculture, but as in the first year of the (then) 4 year course at Keele (it opened the year I went up with c.155 students) I changed to arts subjects, that idea went out of the window.
There were very few Catholics at Keele in my day, so absence from Mass was very noticeable, else I might not have attended as regularly as, in the event, I did. During my last long vac. at University when I was in Denmark, I had a long correspondence with my then ‘boy’ friend - who was no boy but a mature student, five years older than I – and found myself defending Catholic positions on a variety of subjects, which surprised me. I am not sure how, on returning to University for my last year, I came across and avidly read the English edition of Thomas Merton’s autobiography Elected Silence published when he was a Cistercian Monk in America, and which had become something of a cause celebre. Possibly this among other things which I don’t recall got me thinking about religious life, but I also continued to think about and look at jobs for the following year - the BBC and UNESCO among them. I am not sure at what point the idea of becoming a religious sister - or, in the first instance a nun, since what I first contemplated was being a Cistercian - became something more concrete than a vague idea. What, eventually, decided me to try the Dominicans (with whom I had been to school) was a remark that I should do something with the education I had received (I had had a grant for University) and reading Bede Jarrett’s Life of St. Dominic. However, various people whose opinion I valued. Including the University Chaplain, thought I should wait a year, so, somewhat reluctantly, I applied for a scholarship for a year’s postgraduate study in the USA which Keele was offering. In the event I did not get it, though it went to someone whose degree was less good than mine – and many years later I learnt that the reason was that the Professor concerned in the decision had heard (not from me) that I had already decided to become a Dominican.
And so, the following September, I entered to Dominican Novitiate in Stroud…
I had thought Dominicans were all for study and discussion and the intellectual life to be shared with others…The Novitiate was nothing like that in my day. Let me assure you that it has now changed beyond recognition D.G. So, perhaps unsurprisingly, I hated the 6 months as a postulant, and a year as a novice. At the end of this period each of us was questioned by – I think – the General Council of the Congregation. I was asked if I wanted to make my first profession, to which I replied, honestly, that no, I did not. Upon which my Novice Mistress (a wise and kind woman, she) said: ‘But do you want to do God’s will?’ Well, what can you say to that? So, I remember replying somewhat sulkily, that I supposed so…And, not exactly to my joy, I got my votes for First Profession. Three years later, before Final Vows, the Prioress General (who was still in Office) asked me at an interview if I wanted to make my final profession. This time, having been out of the novitiate for two years, met like-minded people, taught 11 to 18 year olds and enjoyed it, I was able to say, also honestly, that yes, I did wish to make my final profession. Said she: Well, I wouldn’t have let you, if you had said what you said three years ago..
So I did make my final profession, and here I still am, having done further studies of various kinds in London and Cambridge Universities, taught children and undergraduates, and enjoyed life. Try it!