Sister Elizabeth Doreen lsp shares her vocation story
Jesus looked at me and loved me – He said – ‘Come, follow Me, you are mine!’
In 1941 I was invited by a Catholic workmate to spend my lunchbreak in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament in the National Catholic Girls’ Movement Chapel (now Allendale Chapel). As a non-Catholic this meant nothing to me, however, I accepted and daily went to the Chapel. My first reaction was that I had no idea of the meaning of Jesus being present in the Blessed Sacrament. My friend said: “Jesus will teach you – just remain silent and still in His Presence.”
Each day of the week I spent my lunchbreak in prayer and felt the desire to speak to a Catholic priest. Fr. Edmund McQuinn, an Oblate of Mary Immaculate explained the Catholic beliefs to me and I was so happy and looking forward to the day when I would become a member of the Mystical Body of Christ’s Church by receiving the Sacrament of Holy Baptism, and become a tabernacle of the Most Blessed Trinity.
On 3rd May 1942 I received the Sacrament of Baptism in St. Patrick’s Church, Freemantle (aged 18 yrs 4 months). Jesus said: “Come, follow me, take my Cross”. Yes, the cross came into my life. My family disowned me, convinced I was out of my mind. However, 2 of my younger sisters received Baptism.
In 1944, on 19th March, the Feast of St. Joseph, I visited Glendalough Home for the Aged with the Sodality of the Children of Mary. I was not interested in caring for the elderly, as I already had my own grandparents who needed love and attention. Just before we left the Glendalough Home, the Mother Superior came over and whispered to me: “You will come back, won’t you?” I said it was the last thing I had thought of! She answered, “We will pray for you!” How she must have prayed because the grace of God was working in my soul. Following the advice of my spiritual director I returned to see the Mother Superior. She said “What made you come back?” I replied, “He (Jesus) told me to go back – He was waiting for me”.
As I had not celebrated my 21st birthday, my mother’s consent was needed to enter the Religious life. She cried and said I was wasting my beautiful life, closing myself away from reality, and would not give her consent. I celebrated my 21st birthday on 21 December 1944 and on 5th January 1945 entered Glendalough for a trial period of 6 months.
Now, having served the Lord in His elderly poor in several countries, I thank God for 73 years of perseverance and love, in the family of Saint Jeanne Jugan
Sr. Bridget transfers from Auckland to Sydney
In 1960, a young Bridget Anne Donnelly left her home in Coventry, U.K. to join the Little Sisters of the Poor in London.
At the time that she was discerning her vocation, she felt a call that she had to follow.
“It’s hard to explain. No one can explain. You felt a call to give yourself to the Lord,” she said. “And you follow that call to where Our Lord is calling us, right down here. I would never have thought of that, would I?”She went to the congregation’s Mother House in Brittany, France, for her novitiate, went back to London for her nursing training and then went back to France for her final vows in 1968.
After her final vows, she was asked to come to the Oceania province which consisted of New Zealand, Australia, Samoa and New Caledonia.
Sr Bridget oversaw the building of various homes of the congregation in Oceania but she said those weren’t the important part of her mission.
“Over and above all that, we had the elderly who we looked after and that was more major than building,” she said. “Our main mission is the care of the elderly through the loving and compassionate heart of Christ.”
Sr Bridget said the elderly are looked after by nursing them, cooking for them and doing the laundry for them. The sisters also make sure they (elderly) are kept occupied mentally through various activities.
“In the old days, we didn’t need activities because the Residents were probably only 65 years of age. They came and they did the garden. They helped in the laundry. They helped peeling the vegetables in the kitchen,” she said. “The wonderful thing was they were needed and they took pride in their jobs.
”Today, they come in at 80, 90, 98. They are frail. And so we have more planned activities to suit the needs of each one and to improve their quality of life.
Sr Bridget said the Little Sisters accept lay people of any race or religion who are “of modest means”.
She noted that while there might be people who are destitute in the Philippines or in India, the term destitute does not really apply to people in New Zealand.
“Here they receive a pension, so they have some money. But we endeavour to take those who do not have much more than their pension. We’ve had to refuse quite a few because they had too much money,” she said.
Sr Bridget also said the elderly make the choice to come.
“That’s very important that they have chosen [to live here]. And then, it’s their home,” she said.
The sisters accompany the elderly through the last phase of their life journey.One of our hospitaller works is to be with the dying day and night. We take it in turns to be with them. We make sure they are free of pain, through the doctor and the nurses and that they are comfortable,” she said.
Sr Bridget hoped that more young women are encouraged to enter this vocation, even as she noted there are too many distractions in the world today.
She said young women are welcome to come and experience their apostolate.
“If they can, [they should] experience Mass every day. Go to Mass, receiving our Lord, having an intimate union with him. If they have an intimate union with him, they might hear the call, whatever that might be,” she said.
She said they can take inspiration from Isaiah 50:4, “The Lord has given me a disciple’s tongue. So that I may know how to reply to the weary. He provides me with speech. Each morning he wakes me to hear, to listen like a disciple. The Lord has opened my ear.”
“We need to be attuned to the Lord so that we can listen to him, like a disciple. In this way we will be open to follow his call in whatever path he asks of us,” Sr Bridget said.
(Interview with Rowena Orijana, NZ Catholic, May 14th, 2018))