Teacher, Youth Officer, University Chaplain, Missionary, Secretary! These have all been part of my life as a Dominican Sister. After initial studies I taught for a few years in one of our schools before joining the Diocesan Youth Service, first in the beautiful Lake District and then in Westminster. Five years of Youth Work and a return to full time study at Blackfriars, Oxford prepared me for University Chaplaincy, first in London and then north of the border. I met wonderful people and shared fantastic experiences during those years. I also made some lasting friendships.
My next port of call was Kingston, Jamaica. Two of us Sisters went to join the Dominican Brethren already there. I spent nearly ten great years on this tropical island and found myself doing things I had not dreamed of before. In answer to local need I raised money for a weekly medical clinic, still operational, with dedicated doctor and nurses. I worked on the Catholic Newspaper and started a small Theological Magazine. I preached in our Church and on occasion in another parish. I was welcomed into the homes of the shut-ins (housebound). We chatted, prayed, sang popular choruses, and I picked up enough patois to impress visitors. As a member of the Church choir I had to lose some inhibitions and even master the reggae rock. Hurricane Ivan, bringing devastation, passed close to the island shortly before I was due to leave. I was very sorry to say good-bye to my many friends who had given me so much but maybe one day I will get a chance to ‘go look for them’.
On my return to England I spent some months in Rome before being assigned to our convent in Oxford and returning to Blackfriars as Hall Secretary. Blackfriars is the Studium House of the Dominican Brethren in England and is a Permanent Private Hall of the University of Oxford. Besides Dominicans and other young Religious men and women studying in the Studium, there are students in the Hall reading for undergraduate and graduate degrees in Theology and Philosophy or doing the Diploma Course. Students from partner Universities in the USA come each year as part of their Overseas Study Programme. As Hall Secretary I work with the Regent and Vice-Regent on the administration involved with current, prospective and sometimes past students, academics and central university administration. As Blackfriars continues to grow so too do the emails, phone calls and papers on my desk. My computing skills have been greatly enhanced! Administration however, does not occupy my whole time. My office door is always open and I am very happy that often someone drops in for a chat, a quiet word, a query, a cup of coffee or just gives a smile or wave passing by.
I have always been involved with people and am glad that ‘Secretary in Blackfriars’ is not the stereotypical type of ultra efficiency with superior shorthand and typing skills or their modern equivalent. I have met some very inspiring people in Blackfriars. The experience I gained in Jamaica on the newspaper and magazine stands in good stead for my work on News and Views, our Congregation magazine. Another Sister, expert in printing and all things technical and I are the production team; she the designer and printer, I am the editor. Will something else be added to my list above? God knows! Our life of study and prayer in community prepares us to preach the Word in many different ways. I hope I will always be true to our Dominican motto Contemplare et Comtemplata Aliis Tradere, to contemplate and to hand on the fruits of our contemplation wherever I am sent.