Times Change For Sister Joan – Episode 32

BEN came to the chapel next morning dressed in jeans, shirt and trainers. Joan was uneasy, but felt she could hardly deny him some freedom, as long as he stayed indoors whilst dressed as a man.

It seemed a little quiet around the breakfast table. The nuns usually talked about their duties for the day, the weather and how the garden was growing. But this morning, the shadow of Father Anderson’s departure still seemed to hang over them.

“We shall all miss Father very much,” Joan said softly.

“I’ll say we jolly will.” Imelda reached for more toast.

“I hope they’ll feed him well where he’s going,” Clare said. “Father does love his food.”

There was another long silence broken only by the sound of spoons in porridge bowls and Imelda scraping low-fat spread thinly on her toast.

“The porridge is very nice today, Sister Clare.” Ben spoke quietly.

“Thank you,” she replied. “Sister Jan made it this morning.”

“We shall have many lovely memories,” Emma said. “I will always remember how he helped me to manage that difficult passage on the harmonium for the hymn at Easter.”

“And once in the garden,” Louise put in, “he told me that putting a bit of rhubarb in the hole before you plant young cabbage stops them getting club root.”

“Sounds like a good all-rounder,” Ben observed.

Another long silence reigned as Jan collected the empty bowls and put them on the draining board.

She turned and smiled.

“The new Father seems very nice, if a little young,” she said. “But he looks strong enough to take on the tasks of the parish.”

“They wouldn’t have sent him if he wasn’t capable of handling everything.” Clare sniffed.

“The youth club, too, no doubt,” Madeline agreed.

“Especially the youth club,” Clare said. “They need a lot of guidance, I can tell you.”

“Father George is going to have a service quite soon I believe – to bless the animals,” Sister Emma said.

The nuns began to smile.

“Shall we be going?” Emma asked eagerly.

Joan smiled.

“Sisters!” she said. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

“What about Old Jack?” Imelda asked. “He deserves a jolly blessing, living down in the meadow all by himself and with only the old stone shelter to sleep in at night.”

“We can’t leave him out,” Ben agreed. “I volunteer to take him to church on a leading rein. Dressed in my habit, of course.” He grinned.

“Then you’ll have to arm yourself with a lot of crusts, young man.” Clare shook with mirth. “For heaven alone knows what havoc he would cause if you didn’t keep posting treats.

“I expect Mrs Murray will bring their tabby,” Imelda said. “And I wouldn’t mind looking after the rooster. I hear him every morning crowing at just the right time to get out of bed. He never fails and deserves a blessing.”

Joan smiled. She was pleased that the nuns had cheered up. Although it was sad to say goodbye to Father Anderson, they understood what redeployment meant.

She glanced at Jan. She had been redeployed to be with them, replacing old Sister Flora. She seemed to be settling in quite well despite some disagreements with Clare. Joan made a mental note to have a word with her in private to make sure she was happy and to give Jan a chance to talk about worries she might have.

“Well, Sisters, we must be about our day.”

They put their hands together as Joan said the grace after meals.

Clare sighed.

“I just wish we had a little ginger cat to take to the blessing. Just a little no-trouble-to-anyone kind of cat.”

“Well,” Jan, up to her elbows in soapsuds and dishes, said, “there may be a chance to catch the old ginger puss who is causing Farmer Murray such trouble. He could certainly do with a blessing to make him behave.”


Alison Cook