Sr Angela: What a difference Vatican II made to the CongregationPrint
1. When did you know you had a vocation?
The realisation came to me quite suddenly at the end of my final year at school. I worked hard at school as I wanted to gain a Commonwealth Scholarship and be a doctor. The Sisters who taught me at St Vincent’s College made a deep impression and I guess I knew that I wanted what they had; but in those days the Sisters did not associate with us as they do now so I did not know what to expect.
I remember being at home in my room and suddenly I knew that was what I was meant to do. I don’t remember when it was that I told anyone but by the time I finished school a few people knew – Mum and Dad, the Sister who taught me in my final year. She arranged for me to meet with the Superior General of the Sisters of Charity.
2. How did your family react?
My parents were amazing. I was their only child and I have often wondered if they thought about the fact that they would never have any grandchildren. But they were people of great faith and I had their total support.
3.What was the process like in 1962 of joining the Sisters of Charity?
There were two Entrance Days 2nd February and 2nd July. I was encouraged to go for the July Entry. I also applied to the relevant authority for permission to defer my university enrolment. I was told that it was likely that I would undertake university study at some future date. If I had my time over again I would have completed my first degree before entering. In those days, there was a meeting with the Superior General or her representative (if in another State). I guess I filled out an Application Form. I submitted a Medical Certificate and a reference from my Parish Priest.
The only thing I remember clearly is having to gather together the clothes and other items. There were warehouses which supplied religious “gear.”
4. How many joined with me, how many left?
There were ten who joined with me, two of those were from my class. All ten were accepted as Novices, six were professed (made first vows), four made final vows five years later. Now there are two and the other Sister is not one of those who had been at school with me.
5. You were a teacher (in the making) – what were you keen on pursuing?
In those days there were only the two options nursing or teaching. Even though I had wanted to be a doctor, I had not wanted to be a nurse, so I became a teacher.
6. What is the major difference you see in Religious Life compared to when you first entered.
The major difference was the implementation of the Decrees of Vatican II
7. What was your most challenging time
Dealing with the clashes which occurred between the Sisters who had lived in the Congregation in the pre-Vatican II Church and those who had not, such as me. The former were confronting the reality that values and rituals which had shaped their lives for many years were now being challenged; the latter saw the changes giving a new individual freedom. There were also sharply divided views on how soon the changes should be implemented.
8.Was there a time that was more than usually rewarding?
I do not have a specific time. It has been rewarding to be recognised at times of Graduation and times when my talents have been encouraged and in my present ministry when I know that I am making a difference in the lives of others.
8. When people discover you are a Religious sister what is their reaction?
They accept that my religious dedication is not just about external factors; people seem less aware of different religious Orders. I think they see me as a person who tries to have a relationship with God, but also an understanding of the human condition.
9. What do you see as the future for apostolic life in Australia?
Jesus promised “I will be with you always until the end of the world.” This makes me confident about the future of apostolic life.
Also I note the words of Pope Francis in his Address to the International Union of Superiors General (UISG), Thursday, 12 May 2016 on Discernment: “…. in order to engage in discernment with the Holy Spirit what is needed is prayer, dialogue and shared discernment. In this area I believe that we – and by this I mean priests as well – are not well formed in the discernment of situations, and so we must try to experience those things and those people who can explain well to us how to discern:
Discernment is vital in any apostolic activity and Sisters of Charity are fortunate in having the Rule of St Ignatius, especially his instructions on discernment. I think those of us who are able should share our knowledge at every opportunity as it is a good guide for all.