The Lancashire Lass from Rochdale
I am Nuala Anne Doherty, the youngest of three children and hail from the beautiful Lancashire town of Rochdale which sits at the foot of the Pennines.
My route to the FMSJ (Franciscan Missionaries of St. Joseph) was a little long and round-about, making my arrival to be at the “tender” age of 39”. Well, they do say that life begins at 40! Thus I am a legitimate member of the “late vocationers”. I am sure, though, that my previous experiences were all stepping stones to where I am now.
I have known the Sister’s from being “knee high to a grasshopper” as they have and still are very much part of St. John’s parish Rochdale where I was born and raised. The Sisters were frequent visitors to our home. I can still hear my mum’s voice saying “put kettle on” in her mixed Irish/Lancashire accent. There was always a “welcome on the mat” for whatever visitor, but the Sisters were given a very special welcome by my mum. Mum had a very high regard for men “of the cloth” and women “of the cloth” too! I used to love these “special ladies” coming to our house because they were so kind and friendly. Being the mischievous and somewhat cheeky child that I was at the time, never did I think that I would one day be one of them!
One could say that up to my last days in University I was a bit of a “rum ‘un”, as in I enjoyed life to the full – wine, “men” and fun. With the occasional prayer but never failing to attend Sunday mass. Then my faith took a turning for the better. I met this wonderful, Spirit –filled larger than life (in all senses of the word) lady called Beryl. She introduced me to Charismatic Renewal and prayer groups. To cut a long story short that’s when I started having a real and deep relationship with the Lord. I was hungry and thirsty for “things of God”. I read Catholic books, listened to tapes attended conferences and was very committed to my weekly prayer group. After 3 years teaching in Lancaster I then went to the US as a lay missionary for two years working in Evangelization. Then I returned to England and after another short spell of teaching I joined a community called Sion which was a lay, charismatic community working full time in evangelization. At that stage I was convinced that my vocation was as a committed lay person. At one point during my time with Sion there was even talk of marriage with a certain member of Sion!
As things transpired, my father died and my mother became quite ill. So I made the painful decision to leave Sion and look after my mum back home in Rochdale, which incidentally is the town of our Foundress, Alice Ingham. This again strengthened my ties with the FMSJ’s, only this time I was the regular visitor to the convent where I always found the kettle on, friendly faces and an ever listening ear when needed. During one of my visits to their chapel it suddenly struck me that maybe I too could live the life that they were living: a life of prayer, simplicity and service to those in need. That maybe I too could follow in the footsteps of “our Alice”.
So here I am, 12 years down the road, as a “legitimate” FMSJ, having passed through Canterbury (two years novitiate), Leyland (two years as a parish Sister) and Kenya (as a teacher). Now I am in Colinas del Norte, a town situated 10,000 feet up in the Andes of Ecuador trying to live simply and prayerfully, serving the needs of the poor people of this barrio. I work in the parish as well as teaching English to anyone that wants to learn, allowing the good Lord to use me in whatever way he wishes. Or, as our Mother Foundress beautifully puts it:
“Be as wax in the hands of the Moulder and let the Divine Artist shape and fashion you after His own loving design”.
PS. That “certain member of Sion” is now serving the Lord as a man “of the cloth”!