I met the Little Sisters of the Poor for the first time when I was invited to go and play the guitar at a “Peace” mass. My faith story had been an “up and down” journey. But for about a year, following a retreat I had made to Caldey Island, I had felt that God was calling me to something but to what, I did not know. I had no experience of “old people”. I found that I “loved” them, working with them, helping them, making them happy.
The very first weekend I stayed with the Little Sisters I read the whole biography of Jeanne Jugan. I was so totally drawn by her person and spirituality; I remember writing a little sung refrain, about her which I played for the sisters. I had been ready to serve Christ, as I thought in the teaching profession, and here I was presented with another choice. Was I prepared to give up everything and follow the Lord?
I had a place at Trinity and All Saints Catholic College in Leeds, to study Teaching – RE and Computer Studies: I had my car, a job in a bar and part time work in my moms business as a cashier whenever I wanted it, loved dancing, cycling and just being with friends… and here was Jesus saying to me “Come follow me” on a path I had never imagined I would need to walk…… to a Congregation that cared for the elderly, hidden, obscure in homes for that purpose, a Congregation which at that time still had quite limited return visits to family, to a Congregation that lived Poverty in a very radical way, whereby the sisters truly own nothing at their disposition.
Two years after first meeting the sisters, I set off for Dublin to begin training as a Little Sister of the Poor. After 6 months in a community where we were initiated into the daily rhythm of prayer and work lived by the sisters, we moved over the other side of Dublin for the next 2 years where we were helped to develop spirituality. These were 2 years of intense preparation, necessary to deepen in us the spirit of prayer, perseverance, humility, obedience, availability to God’s will. After first profession, I was sent to Dublin, then to Glasgow and to France, where I completed a year of Doctrinal Studies in Paris. I then went to our Mother House to prepare for final vows; this is a year of intense spiritual preparation and separation from the world, deepening of faith and prayer life, as well as love of our Congregation.
After final vows, I spent time working in Administration in France, then returned to Ireland for 2 years before stating to train as a nurse in UCLAN and Blackpool Victoria Hospital. I loved my nursing, however, it was difficult at times and yet amazingly I met so many people who were happy just to meet a “nun”. On the wards patients saw me as a witness for Christ.
What I enjoy about being a little sister and being a nurse is that you can influence people’s health for the better; you can say the word to the GP about something you may have observed that can make a difference in treatment regimes. I am grateful to the GPs I have worked with for their genuine respect for older people, opening opportunities for tests, and treatment, not writing people of because of their advanced age. As a Little Sister of the Poor I believe wholeheartedly in the Church’s teaching of respect for life, in all its stages, and we show this by genuine care, concern, and creating a family atmosphere in our homes throughout the world.
As Little Sisters of the Poor, we live a life of prayer, of service, of contemplation, of community. The most important thing to remember is that we do indeed “live” life. We carry the needs of the world in our prayers; we are in contact with the brokenness and wounded-ness of humanity everyday in the caring environment that is created for our old people. Yet only one thing is important: put in Love and you will receive Love. Would I want to be anywhere else, doing anything else? With all certainty I can say “no”. I desire only that God’s will be accomplished in me and with the words of Saint Jeanne Jugan I can truly say “What a great grace God has given me in calling me to be a Little Sister of the Poor”.
Click here to watch a video about the vocation of Little Sisters of the Poor in the UK.