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19 October 2012

by Sister Rosemary


JUBILEE is in the air this year, and our community has one as well. We are commemorating 50 years of the Community of the Holy Name in Lesotho. Sisters from England went to join Basotho Sisters who were already a community in what was then Basutoland, and, from the start, the Sisters were determined to live as one community, abolishing the racial divide that was official in South Africa but tended to prevail in colonial situations.

Some of the original Basotho Sisters are still alive, and, on 6 October, they, and all those there who have joined us more recently, came together to celebrate this anniversary.

In those days, the Sisters in Lesotho were under the care and direction of English Sisters, with an English Superior, but as they grew more experienced they took over responsibility for their own government, and, eventually, each Province - England, Lesotho, and the still newer Zululand - became autonomous under its own Superior. (I am pleased to say that our small instance of decolonisation took place without any rebellion or war of independence.)

MOST of us in England are not in our first youth, and we decided that our participation in the event would consist of singing a Te Deum in our own chapel. One of us, however, happily agreed to undertake the gruelling experience of two long-haul flights in less than a week in order to represent us in Lesotho.

I received the distinct impression that this would help the Sisters in Lesotho to hold up their heads among the Roman Catholic communities, who are clearly much in evidence there: "See - we are international, like you."

Our representative has just returned, energised rather than shattered by her experience. She described an exuberant church service, preceded by a great procession, and including a blessing for each Sister individually, at the hands of one or other of the two bishops present. The singing was assisted - or rather overwhelmed - by an enthusiastic brass band, and enhanced by dancing from the Sisters, not least from a contingent of Zulus from our other African province.

Then came an entertainment, including reminiscences of the community's past, greetings from England, songs from the church youth choir, and Basotho dancing, featuring an unexpected view of some Sisters in traditional figure-enhancing dress.

THE service began at 10 a.m., and the whole congregation moved to the convent and its grounds for the feast at 2.30 p.m. Not only the Sisters, but friends from near by, had rallied round to prepare mountains of food. This was an occasion at which all would enjoy the rare pleasure of satisfying themselves with fresh meat.

As our English Sister remarked, "In England, we would be wondering how we could use up the leftovers. In Lesotho, we knew there wouldn't be any leftovers."

IF OUR Sister needed anything else to make her joy complete, she found it at the airport in Johannesburg. She suddenly heard herself being called by name by an impressive African woman. Not recognising her, she had to ask who she was, and found that she had been a student at the school of which this Sister had been principal, back in the 1980s.

She struggled to connect this slim, elegant figure with the plump schoolgirl she vividly remembered, who had seemed to be on her way to a career in drama. Her long-lost pupil explained that she was now a human-rights lawyer working with the United Nations, on her way to take a case in the Ivory Coast. She said: "It was your RE and history lessons that inspired me to take up this work."

If ever we wonder whether what we do is really worth while, an encounter like that can give us hope

I AM currently making an effort to watch the series The Choir: Sing while you work, with Gareth Malone. I was moved to do this because a friend of mine is a member of one of the workplace choirs featured in the current series.

I had not seen any of his previous programmes, but I knew that their message seemed to be: "Even if you thought you couldn't sing, you can be part of a really good choir." I felt sceptical: good choral singing is not as easy as that.

Watching these programmes, I realise that the message is rather more nuanced. "Even if you think you can't sing, you may be mistaken - I can audition you, and find out if you have potential." Some, whom we did not see, must have been told, "Sorry, you really can't sing."

But the message to those who were chosen was: "You can be part of a really good choir - if you rehearse like mad, work as hard as you can, and take notice of all the advice you are given." Now, that I can believe.

The Revd Sister Rosemary CHN is a nun at the Convent of the Holy Name in Derby


Mon 04 Jul @ 10:48
100 years ago: ‘A cyclone of violence’ https://t.co/tvGNC10Zi1

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