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
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
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
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