Day 187 of 366: Blog Challenge 2012
You know dear friends, as you travel through life you discover some dates from the past stay in your memory forever. July 5th is one of those dates for me.
It was on this day in 1966 – 46 years ago now – that I walked out of my childhood home dressed as a 20-year-old girl of the world to go and don the long black garments of a Postulant and become a nun.
I remember that day as if it were yesterday. No matter how many years go by, I always stop and reflect on the 5th July every year and how this decision changed my life forever. Perhaps I remember it so vividly because it was such a huge step for a young girl to take. I wonder sometimes how I had the courage to make it at all?
On the morning of the 5th July, I awoke early as sleep was almost impossible. All my bags were packed ready to go. My two sisters who were married with young children, came to spend the last few hours with me, my parents and two brothers still at home. Then we would head off for the ceremony at All Hallows Convent Chapel that would welcome all of us 28 girls officially as postulants.
Those last hours were a special time for me. As things stood at that time, I would never be coming to visit my home ever again. For me, a part of a very close-knit family of six, it was indeed daunting. I had gone around the garden the day before, visiting special places significant to me. I couldn’t imagine never being part of family gatherings here again.
I was saying my own kind of farewell to childhood memories, remembering how I loved the fish in the fish pond my father had made and the little hidden pathways that us kids had used as secret passages. Oh, and then there were the bottle caps nailed to boards under the house which as children, were our space ship controls.
On the day itself, one of my nephews Andrew (2 yrs) appeared with my little suitcase, waving his hands and saying “Ta ta”. We all laughed and then the realisation hit once again and we were in tears hugging each other. It made us aware that it was getting REAL now!
After lunch we knew it was time to go. My youngest brother was 10 years old and clung to me saying sadly: “I don’t want you to go.” It almost broke my heart.
I can still remember posing for a photo in a lovely dress I had made for my brother’s wedding the year before. I am smiling but you can see by my expression that I just wanted to go and not linger too much. I had no desire to change my mind, not like the TV show I watched recently where a modern-day girl was going off to an enclosed order and couldn’t leave her room such was her distress. I never felt like that at all.
To me, the hard and painful decisions had already been made and I was now looking forward to this new adventure in my life. I’d had my cry the night before and I was ready. I think I was partly excited and partly scared beyond my wits! I just took one step after the other until we set off.
Once at All Hallows, we were led to a room where we dressed in our postulants dresses. I wrote in my diary that night (yes I did keep an intermittent secret diary for the two years I was there!):
“My new address is Sisters of Mercy Novitiate, Bardon and how strange it is. There are 28 of us with ages ranging from 17 to 23 years. Today was a big step for us and it was a very happy day all in all.
“At 2pm we left this world, that is, the fashions and joys of it, behind. We threw aside our fine nylon stockings and donned our black thick ones. Our lace petticoats were replaced by heavy long black ones and our swish high hells were put away as we tried to squash our feet into heavy lace up shoes.
Our bright coloured dresses with frills here and there were unzipped and pretty soon we had our long black dresses on complete with cape making us look like quiet refined nuns.
Next we were given our cap and veil completing our postulants’ dress. When I had said goodbye to Mum and Dad outside, I had walked from freedom. As I went, I thought of one of the Disciples who had said to Jesus: “Lord show me where thy house is and I will go there with thee.”
Then a ceremony followed and with our lighted candles we gathered around Our Lady’s statue and said a Pledge. I have since been told that these same candles will be used at our Reception of the Veil in six months time, then our Profession two years later and every other occasion until our death. I think this is so lovely.
Anyway, I must close as it is nearing 10 am and lights must be out. I’ll write more later.”
I remember arriving at the Novitiate to be greeted by about fifteen Novices and a few nuns who taught there. They greeted us in song and came and hugged us, welcoming us very warmly into the community. It felt so strange but I had discovered a couple of old school friends who had entered which made it easier. My life in the Novitiate had begun.
And so dear friends, this is how I spent 5th July 1966 in what I thought was my last day in the world. It is a strange feeling to go and lock yourself away from all that is familiar and live a totally different life as I did for two years. One day I hope to publish my diaries and tell the story of the time in between these years.
Now you can all see why I remember the 5th July every year as I do. However I remember it quite fondly now as if I was the luckiest person in the world to be part of an experience that changed my life forever … and for the better.
(I have written in more detail about my call to enter and the decision to leave 2 years later on my blog on the 3rd Feb. 2012 if you wish to read it: https://tessross.wordpress.com/2012/02/03/time-for-some-disclosure-feb-3/ )