Jess joined the Sisters of the Gospel of Life as a postulant on the 8th of September 2016. Here is a letter in which she reflects on her experiences so far…
Five and a half weeks in, I have finally managed to sit down and find some time to reflect and write about my time so far as a Postulant with the Sisters of the Gospel of Life.
I have gone through different phases – feeling like I was on holiday at the start (as I used to spend my holidays visiting the sisters), then feeling overwhelmed at my ‘to-do’ list and deciding where to make a start when it came to working as a GP, feeling homesick (for Pembrokeshire), having difficulty sleeping, feeling like I was just walking around in the shadow of the sisters but not actually one of them. Now that I have started to get used to the changes and life here, I feel I can walk alongside the sisters, in the light of Christ. I feel like I know what I am doing when it comes to locum GP work. I am excited about what plans God has for my life with the sisters.
There have been so many changes in my life… a different country, job, clothes, house… with Jesus and nuns as my new housemates.
Here are some of my thoughts about the changes involved…
A change in the focus of my routine – from work (with prayer at either end), to prayer (with work interspersed).
I have gained new family members – two lovely, inspiring big sisters and their families.
Moving countries – from Wales to Scotland. Different accents, no Welsh (either spoken or written on road signs), Scottish words which are entirely new to me, lots of football talk about Celtic and Rangers.
Moving from the countryside to the city. In Wales I used to wake up to the sound of birds, now I wake up to the sound of a train going by (as our small garden backs onto the railway line).
City driving – lots of motorways, changing lanes, one-way systems and traffic lights. I was terrified at the thought but have coped a lot better than I anticipated. I also seem to have been instantly gifted with the ability to parallel park when I moved to Glasgow, which is miraculous – as anyone who has seen me attempting parallel parking in Haverfordwest will know!
Changing jobs – no longer being a junior doctor or registrar, with an employer, but now a fully qualified GP and self-employed (I had no idea about the sort of paperwork that would entail!)
Working in multiple GP Practices in different geographical areas – new things to learn in each place – where the local hospital is, what tests can and cannot be done within the GP Practice, how to use a different computer system (EMIS). I am still exploring my options and trying to figure out what working pattern and what sort of GP Practice will best suit my weekly routine with the sisters.
Learning about pro-life work… how to put a Moses basket and its accessories together. Prams are a different challenge. Learning about what sort of clothing newborn babies wear… the difference between vests, long sleeved vests, babygros and snowsuits. Being amazed at the size difference between clothing for 0-3 months and 3-6 months. Admiring all the cute patterns on baby clothing. Checking the toys are complete and working – can be fun! Talking in churches about Rachel’s Vineyard post-abortion healing retreats – to raise awareness. I still have much to learn about other aspects of pro-life work, like natural family planning.
Being in a multicultural neighbourhood – I used to be quite exotic for West Wales! In Govanhil, many people are from Pakistan or Eastern Europe and still retain their own culture. I’d like to get to know my neighbours more.
Having everything on my doorstep – rather than most interesting things being at least a 3 hour drive away – Glasgow is a great city for events and places of interest. Also LOADS of Catholic churches, with lots of options for daily Mass and confession.
Wearing a long black skirt and tights – took a while to figure out what to do with all that skirt when going to the loo! Not an easy thing to run in either. Also a white T-shirt, which makes me a bit cautious as I don’t want to spill anything on it.
Moving from my own rented space into a house that is a convent. It is amazing to live with Jesus in the house (in the Blessed Sacrament in the chapel). I love sharing my life with others. Gone are the days of meals on my own. Come are the days of tackling disasters together… like cleaning out a cupboard full of mouse poo – after which I dreamt of flying mice and Sr Andrea dreamt of mouse poo glittering with precious stones … hahahaha!
Getting used to praying the Divine Office – still getting to grips with what should be done differently on an Optional Memoria, Memoria, Feast Day, Solemnity and Sunday. Learning new hymns and teaching my sisters new hymns. It is wonderful to share prayer.
Trying to do some spiritual reading – reading books is not one of my favourite pastimes, so I am working on this one and figuring out how to fit some daily reading into my routine. I’ll be meeting with a priest for some ‘spiritual direction’ on Monday, which I am really looking forward to. I am quite curious to find out what ‘spiritual direction’ involves!
Diary meetings – trying to keep track of what 3 people are doing, rather than just having my own plan for the week.
Being identified as one of a group of religious sisters – and pretty awesome ones! Having people greet me very warmly when they realise who I am with.
Receiving cards and gifts from people who are strangers to me but who have heard about me and been praying for me. Amazing to be supported by so much prayer.
Having much more time with other people and having time to just hang around and chat… rather than rushing around at work, trying to do everything in as short a time as possible, and then having to study for exams or complete assignments during a lot of my spare time.
Lunch breaks in the office – for a whole hour, uninterrupted – sitting around a table to eat with lots of other people, having a leisurely chat and sharing random food – quite a novelty for a doctor!
Less spare time – paradoxically – because most of an evening or weekend would be prayer or community time rather than my time to do with as I wish.
There is still so much for me to learn and figure out. Bit by bit things are falling into place.
Please keep me in your prayers and feel free to send me any prayer requests! We have a ‘book of intentions’ to write down the names of people and situations that we pray for daily.