Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 15

THE following morning, Sister Benedict turned up for prayers in the chapel and joined them for breakfast. The porridge was perfect and instead of toast there were croissants.

“There is strawberry jam this morning, or marmalade, if you like.”

Joan was relieved to note that Sister Clare was smiling.

The mail on her desk didn’t take very much time to deal with. She rose to look out of the window at the garden at the back of the house. Sisters Amy and Louise were toiling away at the weeding and Sister Benedict was sitting under the apple tree reading a book from the little library.

The telephone rang, disturbing the peaceful moment.

“Hello, Stella Maris Convent, Reverend Mother speaking.”

“Good morning to you, Mother. Father Anderson here.”

“Good morning, Father, and what a bright one it is.”

“I have a favour to ask of you,” he said.

“I shall do my best to help.”

“Well, I would like to ask if I may come to supper with you all this evening, if that wouldn’t be putting Sister Clare out.”

“Oh, Father, we would all be delighted to see you, you know that. You know what time we have supper, just come along and you’ll be welcome. Sister Clare always cooks extra for the unexpected guest and I’m sure if she knows it’s you she’ll cook enough for second helpings,” Joan assured him.

“In that case, would you mind if I brought an extra guest? It’s someone I want you to meet, and I also have something quite important to tell you,” he said.

“My word, Father, that sounds quite mysterious.” Joan laughed. “We will all be very pleased to see you both.”

“Until this evening then,” he said and rang off.

“He’s here – Father is here!” Clare exclaimed as they heard the crunch of a car on the gravel outside in the driveway. “I’ll go.” She hurried to open the big front door.
Joan and Imelda finished laying the table for the evening meal. Father Anderson came into the kitchen after Sister Clare who bustled over to the stove to give the stew an extra stir.

“I’ve stirred it already,” Jan said.

Accompanying Father Anderson was a young man. He was tall and dark, very slim and very young. The white collar that he wore revealed that he was also a priest.

“May I introduce Father George Breadon?” Father Anderson smiled at Joan.

“It is very nice to meet you,” Joan replied, holding out her hand to shake that of the young man. “Are you here to help Father in the parish? Or are you just visiting?”

Father Anderson spoke before the young man could answer.

“Now that is what I am about to tell you, when all are gathered around the table. I thought it best to tell you all together.”

“How intriguing,” Joan said. “But before the others come, I’d like to make an introduction of my own. I’d like you to meet our new sister, Jan. She has replaced Flora.”

“How do you do, Sister. I know you’ll be very happy here. I can assure you that Sister Clare’s cooking is the best in the world.”

“Thank you, Father – you shall have an extra helping for saying that.” Clare laughed.

“Yes, I am learning much,” Jan said quietly.

It wasn’t long before the nuns gathered in the kitchen for supper. Sister Benedict accompanied them. When she saw the two priests she made to go out again, but Joan reassured her and she took a seat at the table with the others.

“Another sister!” Father Anderson was curious.

“This is Sister Benedict,” Joan told him. “She is a guest for the time being, from the Mother House.”

The young Father George said grace and Clare served the meal. Jan stood back and only helped to place the steaming bowls around the table, which, Joan noted, she did with flair.

“Now, Sisters,” Father Anderson said as he finished his second helping, much to Clare’s delight. “I have something to tell you that will surprise you greatly.”

Joan felt a sense of sadness in his tone.

“What is it, Father?” she asked softly.

He turned to look at her and she realised that it was the first time in all these years that she had noticed that his eyes were grey-blue. He had always been just Father Anderson, their parish priest.

“I must now tell you what I have come to say to you all,” he said. “First it is to introduce you to Father George and tell you exactly why he is here.”

Alison Cook