Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 05

JOAN took her place at the head of the table with their priest at her side. The nuns arrived one by one and took their places. Sisters Amy and Louise came in from the garden and took their wellingtons off by the back door. Imelda had accompanied Flora downstairs and gently helped her into her place at the table. Father Anderson said grace. As Clare began to serve the stew Flora suddenly noticed their visitor and gave him a beaming smile.

“Are you dining with us?” she asked.

“Yes, Sister, I have been kindly invited . . .” He didn’t finish the sentence before Flora exclaimed, “Oh! A new Father! Are you a novice?”

“No, Sister, I’m fully fledged.” Father Anderson smiled.

Joan’s heart ached as she realised that Flora hadn’t recognised him.

“How nice.” Flora smiled. “I really must introduce you to Henry – but then you may already be familiar with him. He’s the angel with red hair.”

Father Anderson glanced at Joan quizzically.

“Is this what you told me about the other day?” he asked quietly.

“Yes, Father. Mother Catherine is making arrangements,” Joan replied.

“I quite understand.” He put his hand on her arm. “You have done the right thing, Sister. She could prove a danger to herself, you know. You can’t cope without professional care.”

“I know, Father, but we will miss her so much. We all love her.”

“Of course,” Imelda said softly, “Flora may see Henry quite jolly clearly, even if we don’t.”

“In my experience of this,” Father Anderson said, “her visions are as real to her as you or I. Never deny them to her.”

The Irish stew was a great success and even Flora finished a goodly helping.

“This is the best Irish stew I’ve ever tasted,” Father Anderson declared, putting down his fork in the empty dish. “I’m almost bursting!”

Sister Clare smiled.

“There’s some left in the pot,” she said with a twinkle. “Will you be having some more?”

“Yes, please,” Father Anderson replied at once. “I’ve never burst yet!”

There was laughter around the kitchen table that evening. Flora joined in the merriment and it was as if old times had returned. For that moment Joan could almost forget that those times were about to change.

“Well, now.” Sister Clare rose to her feet and began to clear the table. “Who would like apple-pie and custard? And I shall be making a nice pot of tea – if I can find the teapot.”

“Mother – the telephone!” Clare called.

Joan got up from her seat at the kitchen table where she had been shelling the early peas that Amy and Louise had harvested from the garden. They were the first of the crop and were to take pride of place at their supper table. She hurried to the little study and picked up the receiver.

“Stella Maris Convent, Reverend Mother here.”

“Sister Joan, my dear, it’s Mother Catherine. I have news.”

“Oh, I’m so glad to hear from you,” Joan said.

“You will be pleased to know that we have made arrangements with regard to Sister Flora. Next Wednesday, two sisters will arrive to escort her home to us. I have arranged for your doctor to examine her and hopefully declare her fit for the journey.

“In the event that she may be upset we will not tell her that the move is permanent. After all, she has to be assessed. Her condition may not be what we think it is but may have been brought about by another kind of ailment. We would like you to tell her that she is coming to the Mother House for a little holiday as she hasn’t been here for some time.”

“I’m happy about that,” Joan said. “It would make it easier for her.”

“That is so, Sister. Also I shall be sending a replacement nun.”

“So soon?” Joan queried.

“The sooner the better, Sister, to keep things running smoothly, you understand,” Mother Catherine replied. “This particular nun – in her recreation time – has written a book. To encourage her devotion to writing we sent it to a publisher, not expecting it to be accepted, but to teach her a little humility, gently, when it was rejected. It has been a best-seller and she has been feted and a little spoiled by all the attention. We think that her withdrawal from the limelight at your quiet convent would make her aware of her vocation afresh. It will give her time for contemplation.”

Alison Cook