It was an imposing door, dark and heavy, that led from the cloisters into the nunnery and entry was forbidden without permission. The gothic mullioned windows allowed the pale sunlight to cast a warm pleasant light onto the highly polished floors. From far away the bells of the Angelus tolled and the sweet sound of voices singing Panis Angelicus floated through the convent.
“This is unusual,” the lay nun whispered fiercely. She seemed more anxious than I was. “Mother Superior never summons a child to her office.”
I half expected her to empty a bottle of holy water on me.
She stops suddenly, pulling me unexpectedly to a standstill. Tucking a loose strand of hair behind my ear.
“That will do,” she says, grabbing my hand, “now come along and speak only when spoken to.”
The office we entered was very large. It was furnished with heavy furniture. A statue of the Virgin Mary clad in her usual white gown with blue cape was placed prominently in the corner and portraits of saints were fixed to the walls. The office smelled of candle wax and incense. A thin ray of dust motes sparkling like imaginary fairies held my attention for the briefest of moments.
Mother Superior came from behind her desk towards me.
She was a tall woman, reed thin and her white habit smelled of sun and fresh air. Her face was open and kind. Her demeanor calm and patient. She took my small feverish hand in hers before I could wipe them down the side of my uniform.
“My child,” she said, “ today you have been with us for six months. The end of the year school term is upon us and you have to make a choice. You are so very young but I see enormous potential in you. So today I must ask you, will you stay in the convent until you are ready or do you wish to go home?”
Without hesitation I chose to stay.
It was the correct answer and she seemed immensely pleased. There was an almost imperceptible smile on her face. One she quickly hid behind her veil.
With a slight nod from Mother Superior the lay nun gently nudged me out of the office.
The convent became my home for my formative years because of one woman who gave children who crossed her path a chance to grow up safely and with hope. I remember being one of the six youngsters placed in this convent and how we would look up to this nun the way sunflowers look to the sun. Basking in her love and wisdom. She never disappointed us and although she wasn’t our mother she was and is a woman to be remembered.
Mother Theresa of The Good Shepherd order.
Truly a woman to be celebrated along with the other nuns of her order.