~ A compassionate heartbeat in the world ~

Sr Mary Agnes

Sr Mary AgnesI was born in 1937 into a loving Methodist family. My grandmother was a great influence in our lives and a very active Methodist with no time whatsoever for the Catholics. All our social life as well as spiritual life was built up around the chapel in Shrewsbury, Shropshire. Along with a loving family the Lord gave me another gift and that was to suffer from asthma as a baby and for it to stay with me in various degrees for the rest of my life.

The end of the war came and the wonderful weekends of us all being together, dad, mum, nan and we three children able to go to the chapel together and have outings, the world was a wonderful place.

My asthma became very severe and it was suggested that I should go to Switzerland where the climate did wonders for asthmatics. As an alternative, our doctor who was a Catholic suggested that I should go to a school in Kent which was a Catholic school. My father found it difficult to decide which was the lesser of two evils! Although it distressed my father he wanted me to be well and so in November 1947 my parents took me by train to Port Regis school which was run by an order of Nuns known as the Daughters of the Cross.

We received a warm welcome from Sr Mary Bede after which, I was taken off to bed having been told that my parents could come and say goodbye to me the following morning. They never came and I felt abandoned but I learned much later that my father had said that if he came back he would take me home. God’s ways are strange and there is a saying, “God writes straight with crooked lines” and in a sense that is what he did with me.

I loved school but never went into the chapel. After being there for about six months, one evening I was passing the chapel to go to the sewing room and curiosity got the better of me. “What is it that is in there?” I asked myself I peeped in and saw the sanctuary lamp burning. I went back to my room and immediately wrote home saying that I wanted to become a Catholic. My parents gave permission but only because they were quite sure that when I returned home I would go back to the Methodist chapel as I had had one ambition which was to marry a Methodist minister and go to China!

I was in Port Regis for one year and day by day learned more and more of the Catholic faith. I continued my education at another convent school, not the Daughters of the Cross but I knew that God was calling me to be a religious Sister. How did I know? Difficult to explain. How do you explain why you fall in love? It is something that you know deep inside of you. This news was not at all good news for my parents even though by now, my mother, sister and brother had followed me into the Catholic Church. I agreed to do my nursing training first at St Anthony’s Hospital in North Cheam, which was run by the Daughters of the Cross.

It was at this time that ‘I fell in love’ with a good man, a good Christian and so the arguments began within myself. “You can marry, have children, bring them up as good Catholics and maybe even give a priest to the Church”, a struggle that lasted for a whole year. During that year, a retreat day for nurses was held and the priest asked us a question, “Do you ever sit and listen to the voice of God in silence?” I thought I did but I always had music on, so I began to spend fifteen minutes each day doing just that and soon I had connected with God in a deep way and knew that my first choice for the religious life was where he wanted me to be.

When I was twenty one years of age I could wait no longer and although my parents were not happy they gave their blessing. So began my life as a Daughter of the Cross, a life that has been fulfilled spiritually and professionally, a life of giving and receiving from my Sisters in community. Sometimes a painful life, sometimes full of joy, some disappointments like the fact that I haven’t become as holy as I thought I might be!! After over fifty years I have no regrets that I answered his call and would say to any young person looking for a purpose in life, Look deep into your heart and ask yourself “Is God calling me to follow him?” Take the risk of saying ‘Yes’ to God.