Living The life of a Novice nun….

While I was teaching I was also supposed to be studying for my teachers certificate in music and sewing, but I did not know this until shortly before the exams were announced. I was given a few old exam papers to look at to give me an idea of what to expect and was taught a couple of songs I would be asked to sing. Then one Saturday morning I was dressed back in my civvies and sent off down the road by myself to the Dunedin University to sit my first exam which was sewing. I should have passed easily but I was so keyed up and nervous I did not even finish the paper and of course failed. In the afternoon I had to go back for the music exam, which I had no hope of passing as I had to sing in front of the examiner as well as play scales etc. I think the poor guy could see how nervous I was and took pity on me because I passed and as it has never been revoked I am a qualified primary school music teacher. I never ever want to go through such an ordeal again.

Not long after that it was decided I was not well enough educated to be a teacher and was given the choice of going home or transferring to the lay sisters, which was the housekeeping part of the order. So rather than go home to that grotty old house in Birkenhead I switched to the lay sisters and learned to cook for small households as well as for large numbers -sometimes for more than a hundred. We cooked for the boarders as well as the nuns.

I was only just 19 by then and the following year I received the white habit and veil and was sent out to a small convent with three teachers as their housekeeper – first to Lawrence then to Cromwell in south Otago. Each term break we returned to the mother house in Dunedin and took up where we left off, just like one big family gathering.

After about two and a half years as a white novice it was time once again to decide my future. Either take vows for three years or go home. By now I was 21 and felt I could take on the world so opted to go home. It took a while to get things organised as I needed new clothes and travel had to be arranged. So it was about four and a half years I spent in the convent altogether.

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