Convent stories

I call Sr Silvana on the landline and she apologises for not having a mobile signal – she was in the basement. Not walking the cloister in silence but running a hostel and helping the students she works with.

Much of our conversation is spent talking about school (I went to one run by the Society of Sacred Heart) and people we know before I realise I’m wasting precious interviewing time, though she kindly assures me I was simply making a nervous guest feel comfortable before telling me about her life before joining the Society.

“I’m a cradle Catholic. I went to a convent high school where some of us flirted with notions of convent life, veils and religious names. But by my mid-twenties I was an independent, politically active, professional young woman.

“I was working for NALGO (which later became Unison), had my own flat, a boyfriend, career, social life… I even read the Guardian every day! And yet, deep down, I began to feel restless because I was searching for God. I came to meet and know the Society of the Sacred Heart when I discovered that one of our union members was a sister. That was way back in 1993 and I’m still here!”

Warden of a hostel for postgraduates in Oxford, Sr Silvana explains how the nature of her work means that no two days are the same.

“My door’s open most of the time so that students can say hello or if they need someone to talk to they can. I have a mantra which is that ‘God will provide’ which the students like and believe it helps for solutions.

“I’m also responsible for the province’s website and social media presence, so I ‘waste’ a lot of time on Facebook and Twitter! I think it’s vitally important to be in these places especially if you’re working with young people.” Continue reading

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