Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 16

SISTER Clare stopped clearing the table and signalled to Sister Jan to do the same. They took their places with the other nuns and waited for Father Anderson to continue.

“The fact is,” he said, “I’m being redeployed.”

“What do you mean?” Joan asked.

“I’m leaving – I’m being posted elsewhere.” he answered.

“Leaving!” Joan was shocked.

“I’m afraid that is so.”

There was a long silence as the sisters waited for their Reverend Mother to speak. Joan couldn’t quite believe what he had said. Their Father, their confessor, their rock, would no longer be there. In good times and in bad he had been the one person to whom she could turn when a difficult decision had to be made.

“I’m to be chaplain to a convent on the south coast,” he explained. “The powers that be have decided that this parish is a little too much for me to handle at my age and I need a job that is a little quieter.”

“Nuns?” Sister Imelda queried. “Are you sure life will be quieter?”

“Well.” His eyes twinkled “Maybe I don’t want life to be too quiet. However, that’s the way of it. I have to follow orders. I’ll stay for as long as it takes to show Father George the ropes, so to speak, then I’ll be off.”

Joan could hardly believe what she was hearing. First they must adjust to the departure of Sister Flora, and now their own dear Father Anderson. She glanced at the young priest who sat quietly at table. He looked so very young.

Could he cope with the parish on his own? She and the sisters were well aware of how much work that entailed. They played a part in the care of those folk who needed friendship and help because they lived alone. Sister Madeline set out on her bicycle every day to sit with someone or other, for which the local doctor was very grateful. It wasn’t an enormous district but it was a lively one with all the youngsters. The youth club would be a challenge, for a start.

The visitors who came to stay with them sometimes had numerous problems, both spiritual and secular, that needed the help of a kindly Father from time to time. She looked again at Father George. He must be up to the job or he wouldn’t have been sent. Time again would tell. They would miss Father Anderson, but priests were the task force and the word “redeploy” was a fitting one to explain his departure.

“Well, then!” Sister Clare rose to her feet and began again to clear the table of bowls and spoons. “We’re all going to miss you terribly, for sure.” Joan saw a tear glistening on her cheek. “But I hope that wherever you go the cook will be conversant in the ways of making a good Irish stew. Now – who would like apple-pie and custard?”

There was not one refusal. Joan noticed that the young priest who would be taking on the burden of the parish tucked in with gusto. He would probably surprise them all and cope very well. But, oh! My dear Father Anderson, she thought – how we shall miss you and your years of wisdom. Now you shall leave us and become someone else’s rock. Looking around at her sisters, Clare busy at the sink as usual and their new Sister Jan helping as best she knew how, she could almost feel the times changing before her eyes.

But tomorrow is another day, she thought, and when we awake in the morning we will still be the Stella Maris Sisters, and the future can rely on us.

Alison Cook