by Sr. Margaret Anne Meyer MMM U.S.A. 14.11.2022
The Ashes will sit in the front pew. This is what I remember from our reception into the novitiate on September 8th, 1956. I thought it sounded funny, but Sr. Gabriel Ashe had a large family, and it was good to see them at the ceremony. All my family and two high school friends came to share my joy. Our postulant days were over, and we sensed a new beginning of deepening our relationship with Jesus and the Medical Missionaries of Mary. We were getting to know one another and to learn what it means to be a missionary.
Our life was amazingly simple combined with household tasks, prayer, conferences, recreation, and outside groundwork. Every Friday we had adoration of the Blessed Sacrament from early morning to before supper. I loved the quiet of the chapel and the beautiful woodwork. It had once been a ball room for dancing. The orchestra were up in the present choir loft. Every evening at 7 PM the radio in the choir loft was put on to hear Cardinal Cushing recite the rosary. He had a loud melodious voice and I loved praying with him. In the summer months the windows of the chapel were open, and I could hear the motorboats cruising in the Mystic Lake near where we lived. My father had told me that he knew I had a vocation if I could spend the summer in the convent without wanting to come home and live in our bungalow by the sea. I must say, I often went out in the boat with Jesus in prayer. I loved the water very much.
During our Spiritual Year we had two visits from our family. After traveling back to New York in a blinding snow storm my father was hesitant to come again at Christmas. He doubted they would get home alive. Thank God, they did, and all went well.
Sister Visitation Chambers came to visit us. She was working in Ogoja with the leprosy patients. The first-year novices spent Saturday afternoons sorting medical samples which were donated. We took the extra wrapping off and put the tablets together and shipped them to Ogoja. We were delighted to hear all about Ogoja and the patients with Hansen’s Disease.
The second-year novices visited Holy Ghost Hospital in Cambridge and spoke to the patients. One elderly lady was in a crib and told me she liked the Scripture passage of Ephesians, One Lord, One Father of us all. I always think of her when I hear that passage being read or spoken of.
The second-year novices also were sent out to do Mission Appeals. There was a passage in the 1940 Constitutions which said that the Sisters must not blush at poverty. I came back from one appeal with a red face and told Mother Margaret O’Conor that I could not help blushing for poverty. When I extended the pole with a bag attached down the pew, I kept on almost knocking the ladies hats off. Thank God that practice did not last long.
Although we lived in a mansion, the spirit of poverty was always with us. We were conscious of the need to raise money for the Mission Houses as well as our own. We novices repaired holes in sheets for a linen company and made vestments to sell in our gift shop among other things like hosting Communion Breakfasts for the Women’s Committee and Lawn Parties.
Soon it was getting time for Profession and Mother Mary was going to visit us in June 1958. Matron Phelan from Drogheda was accompanying her. I asked permission to get up a little earlier and write a play for Mother Mary. It was the centenary of Our Blessed Mother appearing in Lourdes to St. Bernadette. I used the book “The Song of Bernadette.” All the novices picked out their parts from a hat. Sr. Bernadette Kenny picked out Bernadette and did an excellent job. All went well until Bernadette was dying and Sr. Catherine Ann did not get the music going on time and we all started to giggle. The play soon ended but Mother Mary seemed pleased with our efforts. Mother saw each of us individually which was a great thrill for all of us to meet her. She told us news of the novices in Drogheda at that time and we felt connected somehow.
Our two months preparation for First Profession was spent in the usual work but the afternoon recreation was given to quiet time outside or up on the hill. The day, September 8th, 1958, came when we, Gabriel Ashe and I vowed ourselves to God for one year as Medical Missionaries of Mary. My two brothers were there as altar servers and saw me smiling all the time. I was incredibly happy. I thanked God for His mercies in completing the novitiate and now begged for further help in traveling to Ireland to pursue medical studies and fulfill my dream of being a missionary to Africa.
That is another story.